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Agency Management Experts

The experts.



Al Diamond has been deeply involved in all facets of insurance agency and company operations including merger, acquisition and divestiture, perpetuation and strategic planning, organizational development, compensation and salary administration programs, administrative and financial operations and marketing and automation planning, ESOP, and perpetuation issues.  Mr. Diamond also helps agencies create and develop direct marketing programs to enhance agency production.
Mr. Diamond has spent over four decades in the insurance industry working for both stock and direct writing insurance companies and as an independent businessman.  He has been Operations Manager of a major insurance company, Chief Operating Officer of three insurance agencies and has been President of Agency Consulting Group, Inc, a national consulting firm for insurance agencies since 1985.
Mr. Diamond is a past president and a current member of the American Association of Insurance Management Consultants (AAIMCO).  He was a charter member of the Quality Insurance Congress. Mr. Diamond is Chairman for the Appraisal Standards and Guidelines Committee in the design of appraisal standards for the insurance agency industry for AAIMCO.  Mr. Diamond acts as independent moderator for disputes arising from insurance agency operations, and as a facilitator for mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and internal perpetuation plans.
Mr. Diamond speaks to local, state and national insurance agency groups, trade associations and carriers in every part of the U.S. each year on a variety of topics critical to the growth, profitability and productivity of insurance agencies.
Mr. Diamond writes The PIPELINE, a national newsletter for insurance agency principals and insurance industry executives.   THE PIPELINE has been published continuously on a monthly basis since 1985 and is distributed to agents, associations, and carriers.
Mr. Diamond's practice includes annual valuation and analyses of insurance agencies throughout the United States.  Mr. Diamond and Agency Consulting Group, Inc. are one of the few consulting firms operating nationwide through the U.S. and Canada for agency valuation and consulting services from its Cherry Hill, NJ location.  Since 1985 Agency Consulting Group, Inc. has collected financial data and published the averages of common revenue and expense categories for independent insurance agencies in various size groups.  These averages have been published in the Pipeline and in various other trade publications annually and appears on-line at the organization’s website,


Agency Consulting Group offers the following services:

•  Agency Automation
•  Agency Clusters
•  Agency Valuations
•  Crisis Management
•  Expert Witness & Litigation Support
•  Marketing & Sales Planning
•  Mergers, Acquisitions & Divestitures
•  Organizational Development
•  Perpetuation Planning
•  Producer Acquisition,
•  Compensation & Management
•  Strategic Planning
•  Virtual Insurance Agency

Last updated: November 2020

cheryl.jpgCheryl Koch, CPCU, CIC, ARM, AAI, API, AAM, AIM, AIS, ARP, AINS, ACSR, AFIS, MLIS has been in the insurance industry for a very, very long time.  Now, you might think that makes her old, however, old is merely a state of mind.  Over the years, Cheryl has served in nearly every capacity in an Independent Agency, having been an Account Manager, Producer, and Agency Owner. She now devotes her time to agency management consulting and training and speaking at industry functions throughout the country.  She is the President and CEO of Agency Management Resource Group located in Roseville, California.  Cheryl consults on marketing and sales, sales management, agency operations, automation, and strategic planning.

Cheryl is also a devotee of lifelong learning and has earned a number of insurance industry professional designations including: CPCU (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter), CIC (Certified Insurance Counselor), ARM (Associate in Risk Management), AAI (Accredited Adviser in Insurance), API (Associate in Personal Insurance), AAM (Associate in Automation Management), AIM (Associate in Management), AIS (Associate in Insurance Services), ARP (Associate in Research and Planning), Associate in General Insurance (AINS), ACSR (Accredited Customer Service Representative) and AFIS (Agribusiness and Farm Insurance Specialist).  It is the last designation, AFIS, of which she is most proud, having created it along with the late Dr. Emmett J. Vaughan.  Some would say that Cheryl is a real insurance nerd, and she would not disagree.

Cheryl has a Bachelor's degree in Economics from UCLA and an MBA from Sacramento State University where she served as a faculty member in their Risk Management and Insurance program for many years.  She has also served as President of the Sacramento Chapter of CPCU and was on the CPCU Society's Board of Governors for three years.

Cheryl is a volunteer faculty member of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America Virtual University “Ask An Expert" service.  She is also a member of the Society of Insurance Trainers and Educators (SITE) and the Society of CPCU.

When she's not busy with her insurance activities, Cheryl enjoys spending time at baseball games and has been to nearly every major league ballpark. She is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan which should explain a lot about her.


Last updated: November 2020

ChrisBurandPhoto1.jpgChris Burand is president and owner of Burand & Associates, LLC, a management consulting firm specializing in the property-casualty insurance industry. Chris is recognized as a leading consultant for agency valuations, producer compensation plans, and E&O carrier approved E&O procedure reviews. He also provides the acclaimed Contingency Contract Analysis® service and has the largest database and knowledge of contingency contracts in the insurance industry.   

Chris's insurance career began in 1987 as a company underwriter and marketing representative. He established Burand & Associates in 1992. Since then, he has been a featured speaker across the continent for more than 400 seminars and educational programs. He writes a monthly column for the Insurance Journal, has published a book of E&O tips, and has been a monthly Agency Management columnist for 25 years for various publications. His articles have appeared in Rough Notes, The National Underwriter, A.M. Best, Insurance Thought Leadership, and many regional insurance publications. His articles have been published more than 500 times. He also publishes Burand's Insurance Agency Adviser for independent insurance agents.

Chris is a department head for the IIABA's Virtual University. He's an approved E&O auditor for Utica Mutual, Westport, and other E&O carriers.  Chris is a Certified Business Appraiser. 

Burand & Associates, LLC
215 S. Victoria Ave., Suite E
Pueblo, CO  81003
(719) 485-3868

Last Updated: November 2020


Judith H. Newman is president of Phaze II Consulting, Inc. and NetGen Data Security Consulting. This comprehensive data security resource available since 2013 is the complete process for developing the agency's data security as required by state and federal laws. For more than 10 years, she was partnered with FAIA to produce the Master Agency Manager, a former agency management resource.

Judi holds a degree in business from the University of California and has more than thirty years of experience in the insurance industry. She has served in positions with agencies and carriers, as well as in the private sector.

Her insurance career includes positions as Chief Operating Officer of a regional west coast agency, national accounts manager for a southwestern regional agency, risk manager for a major west coast retail grocery chain, and manager of the former CIGNA Agency Consulting Group. Prior to starting her own business, she was a corporate officer for the St. Paul Companies and established their agency consulting department. She has worked on site with over more than 500 agents across the nation on a variety of projects and has earned recognition in the areas of:

•    Errors & Omissions Loss Control/Audits
•    Agency Valuations
•    Sales & Marketing Planning and Management
•    Agency Perpetuation Planning
•    Sales, Mergers and Acquisitions
•    Strategic Planning
•    Executive Coaching
•    Agency Compensation Planning

She has conducted numerous seminars and workshops for State associations in the areas of Continuous Quality Improvement, Agency Perpetuation, Sales, Mergers and Acquisitions, Leadership Development, Strategic Planning, Budgeting and Compensation. In addition, she has bee an active participant in ACT security projects. Judi has developed a no nonsense approach to agency operations. She has long been a proponent of increased profits, sales and productivity.

Judi is available for individual consulting assignments and speaking engagements. She is both empathetic and pragmatic in her approach and is in tune to the changes necessary for the success of the independent insurance agency system.

Last Updated: January 2021

LHH.JPGLisa H. Harrington, CPCU, CAE, CRIS, CAM, AAI, AAM, AIAM, AIP is the founder of Sapphire Enterprises d/b/a Abiding Strategy. She is a Strategy Coach, Vistage Chair and Keynote. As the Vistage Chair facilitating for the DFW mid-cities CEO peer group, she has advised executives from startups to a $500 million bank President. She can help you build your long term strategy plan. As a Keynote for your conferences, she'll be an engaging speaker with valuable leadership insights, such as those in her book, recently updated: "Taking in Strays: Leadership Lessons from Unexpected Places," which is available at

As an insurance professional for more than three decades, she's spent time in a variety of agency and company roles, including educator, writer/editor, underwriter, sales agent, field rep, and agency operations manager. She holds a B.A. degree in management and Spanish from Ball State University. 

Lisa knows the American Agency system and its needs very well. She spent time as an agency operations manager, the Chief Marketing Officer & Executive Vice President at IRMI (International Risk Management Institute), and both COO and acting CEO of NetVU (the Network of Vertafore Users). She also served as Vice President of Education for the Florida Association of Insurance Agents for 11 years. 

Ask Lisa if you have questions about strategy, perpetuation planning, vision mapping, operations, people, sales, or just plain “how to" when it comes to agency ownership and leadership. She can be contacted at:

640 N. Carroll Ave, Suite 100
Southlake, TX 76092
(850) 528-2121

Last updated: November 2020
marylaporte.jpgMary A. LaPorte, CPCU, CIC, LIC, CPIA, AINS is president of LaPorte Consulting, LLC. With over four decades of insurance experience, Mary is passionate about supporting the success of independent agencies. Acting as a consultant for agency operations, procedures and Errors & Omissions loss control, Mary helps agencies attain excellence in all areas of sales and service. She is involved in E&O litigation serving as an expert witness in matters of agent's standard of care. She writes a question & answer column titled “E&O Q&A" which is published in several association periodicals. She has written a book titled MISSION EXCELLENCE: Creating an Internal E&O Loss Control Program  which is available through her website.

Mary's expertise has grown out of earlier experience, holding positions of agency Claim Manager, Personal Lines Manager, Excess & Surplus Lines Manager and agency principal. She is licensed as a Property & Casualty Agent and Licensed Insurance Counselor in the State of Michigan. She attained the CPCU designation in 1987, the CIC designation in 1992, and the CPIA designation in 2010.  Mary currently is on the national faculty for the Society of CIC and is an active member of the American Association of Insurance Management Consultants (AAIMCo). She conducts a variety of continuing education classes and moderates CPIA and E&O loss control seminars.

Mary welcomes coverage questions, especially in the areas of Personal Lines. She is a valuable resource for agency management and E&O loss control issues.

You can contact her:

Or visit her website:

Last updated: November 2020


Nancy Germond, MA, ARM, AIC, ITP, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is Executive Director, Risk Management and Education, for Big 'I' national. With more than three decades of insurance experience, she gives her unique insights and abilities as an insurance marketing specialist, trainer, and consultant. She is a second-generation insurance professional and an accomplished risk and claims manager. Nancy has authored scores of risk-management related articles and presents to organizations like the Public Risk Manager Association (PRIMA), claims associations, and the Society for Human Resources. She is the author of Workers' Compensation in Two Hours: The Business Owners' Guide to an Exceptional Workers' Compensation Program.

After working as an adjuster for Fireman's Fund, Nancy entered the public sector at the Association of Bay Area Governments. She went into school administration as the claim manager for the Alliance of Schools for Cooperative Insurance Programs. She was the first risk manager of the City of Prescott, Arizona, taking that city from no insurance to a highly sophisticated self-insured program. She then became the risk and claims manager for Missouri Automobile Dealers Workers Compensation Trust.

Nancy is the former PRIMA Arizona chapter president and Glendale Rotary Past President. She is active in her community and supports a national non-profit through her public relations volunteerism. 

Nancy graduated with High Honors from Mills College and earned her Master's in Sociology from Lincoln University. She has earned the Associate in Risk Management designation, the Associate in Claims designation, and is a certified Insurance Training Professional. Nancy also holds the prestigious Senior Professional in Human Resources designation. Nancy's humorous presentations offer insight into day-to-day insurance operations, while also addressing societal impacts on today's insurance industry.

Last updated: July 26, 2022

MartinPaul.jpgPaul Z. Martin, CPCU is an education consultant and owner of PZ Martin Education Strategies, Inc., a firm dedicated to making insurance industry professionals better through customized education and support.
Paul Z. Martin, CPCU is an education consultant and owner of PZ Martin Education Strategies, Inc., a firm dedicated to making insurance industry professionals better through customized education and support. His varied insurance career includes experience as an adjuster, underwriter, special agent, company manager, independent agent, and over a decade as an insurance educator in Texas.
Paul is a Texas native and graduate of Texas A&M University where he earned a BBA in Management.  He began his career in insurance right out of school becoming a multi-line “old school” claims adjuster where he was given a brief case, camera, a stack of settlement forms, and some drafts and instructed to take care of every claim in his territory – car accidents, workers’ compensation claims, homeowners losses, everything. Fortunately that territory was familiar, surrounding his hometown of Tyler, Texas.  The experience not only gave him a wide-ranging education in insurance coverage, but it taught him what insurance policyholders and claimants alike really want, to be treated in friendly and respectful manner during a stressful time in their lives.
Eventually, Paul was given the chance to widen his experience in insurance by becoming what was then an endangered species, and which today is practically extinct, a special agent for a regional insurer.   As a special agent, Paul was responsible for the commercial underwriting, and marketing, for over 60 independent agencies in Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia.  There he developed particular expertise in writing large difficult workers compensation led accounts.  Tutored by experienced veterans in the business, Paul thrived as he continued his professional education. 
The underwriter gig eventually turned into a chance to become a partner in a family agency in Jackson, Mississippi.  Here he learned how the bills really get paid as an agent, with sales.  He learned what it took to sell to oil and gas operators, poultry processors, manufacturers, municipalities, schools, and much more.  Again, the theme was large accounts, often with problems needing special attention, and working with underwriters to find a way to get accounts written.  Eventually, the tug of home lead Paul onto his next insurance adventure, joining the fledgling Texas Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fund in Austin, Texas.
The Fund was operating in a period of market anxiety in Texas and Paul was recruited to speak to the public, the current and future policyholders of the Fund, about its mission, its services and the environment that a new workers’ compensation statute had created in Texas.  His public education efforts were followed by new agency education programs, which eventually lead him into management.
Paul left the Fund to join the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas in the mid 90’s as a staff agent educator and course writer.  He later became the director of education for the association where he lead in the development of new course programs, new education formats, new certification programs, and managed delivery of over 250 days of classroom training all across Texas.  He also was the central contact for new producers and young agents in the state, a natural fit given his many years of training new producers.
Today Paul enjoys pouring his experience and teaching into industry professionals however and whenever he can. 
Paul Z. Martin
PZ Martin Education Strategies
163 Ficus Ct.
Driftwood, Texas 78619

Sara-Bradshaw-Ray.jpgLike many agency principals, wearing a variety of hats on a daily basis is not new to Sara Bradshaw Ray, CIC. As a full time wife and mother of college-age twins, which she claims as her greatest accomplishment to date; Ms. Ray also has over 30 years in agency ownership and management. She is a licensed Property & Casualty, Life & Health independent agent and also maintains her Certified Insurance Counselor designation of tenured distinction. Her agency management experience is complimented by a background in company commercial underwriting which enables her to uniquely step into the shoes of her agency principal clients with empathetic eyes to help evaluate and manage their agency ownership challenges.

Not only does Ms. Ray bring a wealth of industry expertise, resources and knowledge to the table, her vast experience coupled with a keen sense of the dynamics of efficiency, and its impact on productivity uniquely suits her to meet a variety of operational, management, and marketing needs in agencies today.

The founder of SynerDynamics Group, Ms. Ray is also an executive coach and heads up the consulting firm which has come to be known as an "agency asset maximization resource" in the insurance industry today. Regardless of the economics or industry cycle, agencies today are looking to maximize the power of their dollar. A renowned speaker on the subject of agency efficiency, Ray advocates that capitalizing on the power of synergy result in maximized productivity adds strength to the agency dollar and ultimately a blacker bottom line.

With a lifelong passion for developing leaders in the insurance vertical, Ms. Ray founded MyNetwork.ins which is a nationwide network of facilitated mastermind groups. MyNetwork provides leadership, management, personal and professional development, executive coaching, training for current and up-and-coming leaders.

When not coaching executives or helping agencies identify their organizational efficiency issues and tackling them head on, she's an avid volunteer in her community, church and alumni affiliations, making her home in Stillwater, OK.  While she'd love to be a better golfer, she's happy with "good enough" when playing with friends and family. She's always happy on a beautiful beach, a black diamond ski slope, or even just on a "mental vacation" in the tangled web of a good mystery novel.

Last updated: November 2020

sak headshot 2019.jpgSharon A. Koches, CPCU, RPLU, AAI, AU, ITPis the 2021 President of the CPCU Society, serving over 20,000 members globally. As founder and CEO of Managing Performance, LLC, Sharon provides P&C consulting and human capital development solutions for insurance companies and their agency distribution networks.  Sharon's areas of expertise include Independent Agency Operations, Large Account Alternative Market Underwriting, Insurance Association Management, and Training. 

Sharon was Vice President of Insurance Operations & Technical Affairs at the Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina (IIANC). A member of the Senior Management Team, responsibilities included technical affairs, management of IIANC's Errors & Omissions Program, Group Insurance Program, Market Access Program and the insurance operations for the North Carolina Association of Insurance Agents (NCAIA), an affiliated corporation of IIANC which is responsible for placing the insurance coverage for the State of North Carolina, including state agencies, departments and universities.  In addition, she was responsible for special projects, creating and instructing educational courses and symposiums, and consulting on agency procedures and technical issues.

Prior to that, Sharon was with The Institutes (previously the American Institute for CPCU/ and the Insurance Institute of America) serving as a sales executive in the Southern Region, as well as liaison to the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA).

Sharon was an account manager, a field underwriting/production position, for Selective Insurance Company's Alternative Market/Large Accounts Department (SRM). Her other positions at Selective included specialty lines account manager and agency management specialist (small/middle market field underwriting/production). She also handled Casualty Facultative Reinsurance.

Sharon's background on the agency side includes serving as director of Membership & Member Services and assistant director of E&O for the Independent Insurance Agents of New Jersey (IIANJ). She also held the position of vice president of The Harjes Agency, an independent insurance agency in Flemington, NJ, specializing in Commercial Lines and Professional Liability. While at The Harjes Agency, she was a member of the IIANJ's Board of Directors and served as vice chairman of the Education Committee and Project InVEST state chair.

In 2006, Sharon was elected to the Board of Directors of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of New York (IIABNY) where she served as a member-at-large. Additionally, she served on the Council for Best Practices of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I") and is the past Education Chair for the Eastern North Carolina CPCU Chapter.

Sharon holds the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU®), Registered Professional Liability Underwriter (RPLU), Accredited Adviser in Insurance (AAI®), Associate in Commercial Underwriting (AU), and Insurance Training Professional (ITP) designations. She has taught numerous Institute and other insurance courses.  She is a member of the Eastern North Carolina Chapter of the CPCU Society, the Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS) and the Society of Insurance Trainers and Educators (SITE). In 2007, Koches was presented with IIABNY's highest honor, the 2007 Distinguished Service Award, which recognized her “unselfish sacrifice" of time and effort to better the insurance community. In 2006, Sharon received the inaugural Spirit of Education award from the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA) in recognition of her efforts with the Accredited Customer Service Representative (ACSR) designation program.  In 2014, she was presented with the Society of Insurance Trainers and Educators (SITE) Henry C. Drewes Loyalty Award.

Formerly from New Jersey, Sharon lives in Wilmington, NC.

Last updated: November 2020

BatesVirginia.jpgVirginia M. Bates is the president of VMB Associates, Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in education, agency management, and automation issues.
Virginia Bates has over twenty years of experience consulting to agencies and carriers and managing insurance operations for both a carrier and a large regional agency. She has a background in all property and casualty lines, experience as director of a country-wide underwriting school and direct involvement in many automated systems. As co-founder of VMB Associates Inc., she has worked with many agencies and brokerages on intelligent selection and use of technology, profitability, reducing E&O exposure, internal operations, marketing strategies, merger/acquisition planning and implementation, valuations of books of business and agencies in total, carrier relationships and successful automation.
She speaks often on the evolving exposures and preventive strategies related to automation, web-based sales & service, electronic processing and documentation. She has conducted E&O audits and rehabilitation projects for agencies at the request of E&O carriers such as Fireman's Fund. She developed and produces the Vendor Comparison Workshops that have helped thousands of agencies determine their automation needs and options.
She is a member of ACORD's People and Computers national faculty and Alumni Seminar Team. She is a certified E&O instructor and regularly creates and conducts educational programs for many state agents' associations, carriers and vendor groups. These programs encompass both technical subjects (such as personal and commercial risk management, direct and indirect property coverages, advanced workers comp coverages and rating, and umbrella coverages) and management subjects (such as E&O prevention, business planning, disaster recovery, profitable use of automation, and procedures manual creation and implementation).
Rough Notes asked Virginia to coordinate and edit parts of its property and casualty continuing education materials. This series of intermediate and advanced subjects encompassed over thirty volumes of both personal and commercial subject areas.
Virginia's educational background includes an honors degree from Swarthmore College and graduate work in management science. She is a licensed broker and licensed insurance adviser.
Sample Review Comments (from classes and consulting work):
"Her positive attitude is always inspirational. Her knowledge of material is always enlightening."
"The industry should be proud to have her."
"The Best!"
"Virginia explains everything and she is able to keep it interesting!"
"Excellent - Good sense of humor."
"Real life examples and time went by so fast!"
"Relaxed yet comprehensive"
"She was fantastic!"
"I wish I had Virginia Bates for all my classes"
"I look forward to Virginia Bates teaching seminars"
"I love to have you in our office. Everything seems possible at the end of the day!"
Industry Educator:
Sponsors Include state and national trade associations (IIABA and PIA); national and local vendor groups; carriers, and agencies/brokerages.
Certified Best Practice Leader (IIABA National Program)
Programs for over 30 technical insurance topics (business income, commercial property, all personal lines, umbrella/excess coverage; commercial case studies, etc.)
Programs for Management and Agency Development (E&O loss control; Business Planning; Client Service Improvement; Agency Financial Management etc.)
Massachusetts Licensed Advisor Preparatory Educational program developer and deliverer. 
ACORD’s – Originating member of “People & Computers” National Faculty.
Expert Witness Cases:
Marilee Koval v. Communicare.  Attorney David Mellot, Benesch, Friedlander Coplan ARnoff (Chicago); workers comp process & coverage provisions. (case research, formal report).
Eliza Drews Case.   Attorney Tyler Kolle, Berman & Simmons;  Agent’s duty to secure coverage;  (case research, formal report deposition, pre-trial testimony).
Morse Brothers Incorporated v. Desmond & Payne, Inc. Attorney Ralph Dyer, Law Office of Ralph Dyer; alleged negligence of broker in the procurement of insurance coverage;  (case research,  formal report, deposition, trial)
Insurance24.Com, Inc. and Doucette Insurance, LLC.  Attorney Jeffrey T. Edwards, PretiFlaherty; alleged violation of binding authority; (case research, case in progress).
3 2016
​127 South Peyton Street
Alexandria VA 22314
​phone: 800.221.7917
fax: 703.683.7556

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