Clint Ivy, Vice President Fleming & Riles Insurance in Albany Ga.
He serves on the national Young Agents Committee and is also involved with the Georgia Young Agents Committee.
I remember like it was yesterday, I was a student at the University of Georgia studying a degree in insurance. I was ready to make a switch to another degree because this insurance gig—it was not for me. It seemed anything but exciting and I wasn’t interested in working for a large insurance company. Luckily, trying to get out of the insurance field is what launched me into a great insurance career path. Let me explain…
When I had the great epiphany to change my college major to anything but insurance I decided to talk to my college guidance counselor about my plans to change majors. He suggested that since I was so close in hours to earning an insurance degree, I should look into an internship for the summer. I would earn credit hours towards my degree and I would get paid for it. What could I lose? So, I decided I would go to my hometown for a summer internship. It made sense to visit family and friends since I wouldn’t be back for a while once I graduated. My plan was to move anywhere and back home wasn’t on the list.
I quickly discovered the only businesses that I could do an internship with were insurance agencies. There were no insurance companies in my hometown. So, I called a couple of agencies and only one called me back the same day. After a brief chat, the agency principal was willing to meet for an interview and discuss how an internship worked toward college credit. This is the agency I am with today.
That summer working at the independent agency it really opened my eyes to the career opportunities for agents. I went back to UGA and decided to finish my insurance degree and began researching the ins and outs of being an insurance agent and broker. I interviewed with all size insurance agencies and brokerage firms. I also got a call from the owner of the agency that I interned with that past summer. He offered me a position as a producer and mentioned that he did not have a perpetuation plan and needed a young person to take over the agency when he was ready to retire. The possibility of owning my own business one day was too great for me to pass up. So I quickly packed my bags and moved back home. Little did I know the road to ownership would not be quite as easy as it sounded.
I started my first day on the job by being introduced to everyone and then was shown where my desk was along with the phone and phone book. After some encouraging words from my new boss I began the unforgiving process of smiling and dialing for insurance appointments. The other two producers in the agency were already AARP members like the owner and living contently off their books of business. They were not real interested in having sales 101 talks with the new kid at the agency.
Thank goodness I found Young Agents pretty quickly! I ended up meeting a lot of successful young agents through events who took me under their wing. I built a network of trusted young agent friends across the state that help each other in the business and still do to this day.
I spent the several years building a book of business and was successful enough I could start perpetuation talks with the owner. His response was always that he would sell the agency to me when he was ready to retire. We’d plan later.
Well, the plan happened without me when a bank attempted to buy the agency one day.
Lucky for me, the deal did not work out between the bank and my agency. So, after I dodged that bullet I began to persist that we draw up a purchase agreement. After many conversations that went nowhere, I realized if ownership was my end goal I might need to look into other plans. So I did.
I sat down with the owner and explained two options. One, I would stay with the agency and we would have a purchase agreement. Two, I would move to another agency that offered the ownership opportunity. Well, we know how that story goes.
Today, the owner is my partner and I am managing our 16-person agency. I always had a great relationship with the agency owner and still do. The disagreements and time spent shopping other agencies was hard. I loved my job and I didn’t want to leave, but I knew I would not be happy if I did not achieve my goal of being an agency owner or partner.
Thankfully, it all worked out for me. I hear so many young agents say they want to be agency owners one day, but they don’t have a plan. You can’t sit back and wait for someone to do the work for you, even if you are a successful producer. You need to have a solid plan. It is not easy, but it can be done.
A word of advice when talking to agency principals… Please keep in mind how much these independent agents have invested in their agencies—they consider them children. They have nurtured them and watched them grow over the last 30 to 40 years and now some young kid is asking them to hand it over. So, please be sensitive to their side of things when discussing ownership opportunities—that’ll be me one day and I know it can be you too.