Tyrone Jordan II
Vice President, Client Executive, Education & Public Entity Specialist
Kapnick Insurance Group
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Guilty pleasure TV show: “Billions”
In your earbuds: the new Khalid album on repeat
The app you can’t live without: Nike SNKRS App (I’m a big sneaker collector—I have 300+ personal pairs)
Spotify or Apple Music: Spotify
Netflix or Hulu: Netflix
I was born in Ann Arbor and raised in the Flint area—that’s where my mother was from. I was a die-hard Michigan Wolverine fan and ended up going to school and playing football at University of Michigan.
My junior year of college, I pretty much knew I wasn’t going to the NFL, so my father and I started a company in business development and strategic planning. He was with a large automotive company at the time, so we leveraged some of his relationships to help suppliers, international suppliers, get into America. At a pretty young age, I was CEO of the company because of his busy schedule. So I was doing these meetings, flying to Germany and Brazil—it gave me business experience that normal 20-year-olds don’t get, which I was very blessed to have.
In 2008, when the automotive market had its downturn, we wanted to supplement our consulting fees because a lot of the people we worked with had stopped producing for a while. I ended up happening upon insurance and started off on an individual basis—retirement planning, that type of thing. After a couple years, I learned more about the group benefits side, and then ended up moving to a new agency that focused primarily on the public sector—school districts, municipalities.
I stayed there for a couple years, but they were a boutique agency, and I felt like I outgrew the pace as I started going after some larger clients. I looked at some of the bigger shops, but I eventually happened upon Kapnick. We’re large but still family-owned, so I liked the dynamics here. When I made that transition, I actually helped negotiate the purchase of my previous agency. I’ve been at Kapnick about five years now.
Public entities was sort of all I knew coming into Kapnick, because that’s all we did at my previous firm. Specifically, I learned all about school districts—their dynamics, the union work, collective bargaining agreements, all the nuances that go with them—and as I got into them more and realized the impact I could have, I really fell in love with it.
In Michigan especially, but all across the country, teachers are underpaid. The administration is doing the best they can to try to retain the good teachers, because they’ll jump ship for $5,000. Trying to create a good benefits program that helps retain top talent is tough for districts because of limited funding through the state. And in Michigan in particular, because of recent laws, all employees in the public sector now have to contribute to the plan a certain amount. It’s just become a different dynamic. As I’ve grown up in this space, I’ve become one of the go-to guys in the state to help come in and solve school districts’ problems specifically. And then we’ve taken that knowledge we have in the school sector and applied it to municipalities and other public entities, because they’re dealing with a similar environment.
The amount of times I’ve now been able to create a solution that ends up giving teachers raises for the first time in three to five years, providing benefits and putting money in their pockets, is pretty rewarding—much more than when I go out and write a manufacturing company, for example. It makes a bigger difference. My goal is finding a way to let the district focus on helping the teachers teach and the children learn. If I can take something people don’t even like to talk about and make it not a sore point at the negotiation table, they can focus on the reason they’re really there.
What’s to love?
I’ve had plenty of other opportunities. I have a pretty large network, coming from the University Michigan, playing college football. But I love the insurance industry from my family’s point of view because it’s recession-proof, and what I love doing about the actual job is how I’m helping people. The work I do for my clients and the joy I see out of them when we find a solution—that is extremely rewarding beyond the commission checks.
When I was growing up, my dad always stressed to me that there’s career time and there’s family time, but time in general is our most valuable asset. I live in Chicago, but my office is in Ann Arbor, so I’m doing the whole millennial remote work thing. I’m up here in Ann Arbor probably eight days a month. It works out really well because I get to be home with my family. I have a 10-month-old daughter, and my wife and I own a gym in Chicago—she started it a year before we met six years ago, and then we expanded it twice together. She runs it on the day to day and I help with the marketing business side of it.
When my wife and I first got married, we decided as a family that the gym was going to be something we were going to continue to grow. If Kapnick hadn’t been so flexible about letting me work remotely, I was going to have to consider something else, because I didn’t want to spend that much time away from my family. At this point in my career, my focus is of course growing, but not based on the type of opportunities that would keep me away from the home. My family is more important to me.
The role of technology?
I don’t necessarily need to be face to face. Between Go-To meetings and Skype meetings, clients are really receptive to communicating via modern technology. People are comfortable texting, emailing, hopping on Facetime—whatever it may be. I would say probably 80% of my communications with my current clients is through text message. We text all day long because it’s easy, it’s quick, you can do it in a meeting if you’re doing something else, you can send a picture, update this. If we need to get face to face we do, but half of my meetings, I’m setting through text. It’s crazy how I can get a prospect to respond to a text message faster than I can an email.
Kapnick actually just started a program to recruit millennials. We broke it down and formed committees to figure out how to retain young people, with a focus on creating a different type of training model. A lot of times in the sales environment, an agency will bring a person in, help them out for three months and then basically let them go figure it out. The ones that figure it out have good careers, but most of them end up quitting within a year because it’s just too hard to sustain a commission basis early on.
We created a program that gives new recruits a little longer leash with some guaranteed money. It’s less commission-based, and we pair them with mentors—one of the senior producers or a vice president. And whereas usually in those situations, there’s no incentive for the senior person to do it, we also created a financial incentive—extra commission points for us if we take the time to work with some of those new people.
These people are not coming in with any insurance experience. We’re hiring people in their low twenties, often right out of college, so the first six months, they’re just trying to figure out how to tie their shoes. And then after they’ve learned a little bit, they’ve been on some meetings, they start having a minimum sales goal. After about 18 months, senior leadership can pretty much tell if a person’s going to thrive.
It’s only been a couple years, but I think it’s working. Every person we brought into that program two years ago is still here, which is pretty rare, because I saw several people come and go before we started that.
Greatest role models?
Here at Kapnick, I’ve had two people who really showed me the Kapnick way: Kathy Wood and Angela Dean, both senior vice presidents here. I feel like out of all the producers who were willing to take their time and let me run things by them, those two were the best at it. Coming in as a new agent, it was awesome to have that type of guidance.
And then as far as general business, it’s my father. I always feel like I’m chasing him, but it’s impossible because the circumstances he came from compared to what I grew up with are like night and day. I’ve never seen anybody work harder than what he had to overcome. Both of his parents were deceased by the time he was 12, so he raised my family members, started off at GM as a security guard and ended up retiring as president of an automotive company. He went and got an executive MBA in aerospace at 53 years old because he was being looked at for a board position. He’s always been my guidance if I’m having a tough time. He’s the first call I make.
Advice for a fellow young agent?
Find a niche. If you’re not an expert in something, somebody is going to eventually come in who is, and they’re going to boot you out. Whether it’s manufacturing, casinos, restaurants—whatever it is, find your thing and be really good at that, and there will always be a place for you.
Jacquelyn Connelly is IA senior editor.
This interview is the first in a series that profiles 10 millennials in the independent insurance industry, based on IA’s July cover story.