Steve Gannon 0:00
So in life, we’re all going to fail. In our personal lives, in our business life at times you’re going to fail, so there’s going to be lessons there you learn from them, but the key is just to continue to get up.
Angela Giovine 0:14
Pop culture has become obsessed with entrepreneurship stories from Silicon Valley, and big startup. But the backbone of our economy is made of small local businesses. Every day, millions of small business owners deliver quality products and services, support the local economy, employ their neighbors and follow their passion. We think their stories are worth telling. I’m Angela Giovine. Welcome to the extra ordinary small business podcast. Steve Gannon owns a successful independent insurance agency, providing personalized customer service and value to its loyal customer base. Let’s face it, the insurance industry can be confusing. And insurance brokers come in a wide range of specialties, experience and trustworthiness. How has Steve built an agency with a sterling reputation and engaged employees who are happy to come to work? That’s this week on extra ordinary small business.
Angela Giovine 1:21
Insurance. We all need it. Few understand it. Do I have enough? Is every circumstance covered? Am I going to end up in one of those horror stories where I’m under insured in a crisis? For most busy people, there simply isn’t enough time to do the hours of research it takes to become intimately versed on insurance needs. Most of us would see the value in buying our insurance from someone we know and trust. That, is how Steve Gannon has built his business. In an industry that took to the internet ahead of many industries. Steve has placed emphasis on customer service and quality. We sat down with Steve to hear his story from his entry into the industry from college, to his startup years, to growing his employee base and becoming an award winning firm. This isn’t just a story about insurance so much as it is a story about building a business with a strong foundation
Angela Giovine 2:25
Gannon Insurance company, how long have you been in business?
Steve Gannon 2:29
So I opened up the Gannon Insurance Agency in August of 2000. August 1st of 2000. I’ve been in business now 20 years. So I graduated from college with a finance degree,
Angela Giovine 2:39
Steve Gannon 2:40
didn’t really go into finance. My first valid offer was insurance. So I went into insurance, I did claims for seven or eight years, and then I decided I did not want to do claims for the rest of my life. And I got into the sales side and then I opened up my own.
Angela Giovine 2:54
So when you were doing claims you’re working for one of the big guys?
Steve Gannon 2:56
I was. I did Prudential Claims for the first five, six years and then my property manager went to Cigna, followed him to Cigna as a property claim adjuster. And then I finished my MBA and I decided I just didn’t want to do this for the rest of my life. I saw more opportunity on the sales side.
Angela Giovine 3:12
Yeah. So you got to really intimately learned the industry first, basically, by going through the back end and learning how the claims were processed. And that took you to the front, which I would think you would probably able to be providing more value to your customers that way, because you know exactly how everything works.
Steve Gannon 3:30
Absolutely. I know a lot of agency owners that have no experience with claims and that that is one of the things that makes us think a little bit different, and hopefully a little bit better. But we try and advocate for our clients, we help them with a claim process, with some of the carriers if they allow us, we upload the claim. And we work our clients through the process. We send them out cards to check in, we check in with phone calls, but yeah we do help them more with the claim process than I think most agencies would.
Angela Giovine 3:54
So how many years did you say that you were working for other people before you decided to go out on your own?
Steve Gannon 3:59
So after my the role in claims for those two carriers I mentioned, I was then got licensed as an insurance agent. I did that for four or five years. And it was going well, and I decided, You know what, I think I want to do this on my own. I was working for a captive care at the time, and I said, I wanted to be independent, so went through the steps, and I got appointed with our first and our top care, Erie Insurance and the rest is history.
Angela Giovine 4:22
When you were in college, first of all, did you know you wanted to do insurance? And second of all, did you ever see yourself as a small business owner or a business owner at all when you were studying?
Steve Gannon 4:34
So in college no, I really never gave two thoughts about insurance.
Angela Giovine 4:37
Steve Gannon 4:37
And the funny thing is my first job at Prudential Claims, we did training away for about three weeks, I don’t think one person came with an insurance degree or risk management degree. I was a little bit related with finance, but there was people from, you know, liberal arts, to accounting to, you know, whatever degree so many people in the insurance world kind of fell into it, so to speak. As far as in college. I really didn’t. think much about being a small business owner I thought I’d get a job, a finance job with a big company and work my way up the chain.
Angela Giovine 5:07
Insurance was your first job offe,r obviously. So you know you’re out of college it’s a great job you go into it, but what made you stay?
Steve Gannon 5:15
One of my finance teachers I remember way back in college said you know, insurance is a real solid nine to five jobs. That was in the back of my mind that’s I was just looking for nine to five but again, I didn’t study for insurance, but you know, I enjoy it. So every day in claims or something different all kinds of different claims scenarios dealing with different people. Now, that being said, they had a program where you could get a degree, the big MBA degree in insurance world CPCU certified property casualty underwriter. I didn’t think I wanted to stay in insurance, but they would also pay for an MBA. So you know, I let Prudential and then Cigna pay for 90% of my MBA, I figured that’d be more marketable in the business world. And 20 years later, I’m still in the insurance world.
Angela Giovine 5:55
And do you feel that way today that, no 2 days are the same, because this variety?
Steve Gannon 5:59
Absolutely, we love it in here. So, now many times there’s challenges as they’re on every business. But everything is different. You’re dealing with different clients, different claim experiences, different coverage options, sometimes when talking to commercial clients, personal lines clients, so absolutely keeps us on our toes is very fun and exciting in here.
Angela Giovine 6:18
So what made you think, gee, like, I want to be on my own, it’ll be more fun, it’ll be more exciting, I’ll make more money. What were the drivers to say, I want to open up my own shop?
Steve Gannon 6:30
So when I was working for my last job before opening up my own I was working for an Allstate agent and the owner would typically come in Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, from like, 10 to 3. You know, I was in there early, you know humping it, helping these guys produce a lot of business and I said, I can do it better than this gentleman. He was definitely a natural born salesperson, I’ll give him that. He’s much better salesperson than I am. But I was always trying to be a complete agent and direct my clients, educate my clients and get them the best coverage at the most affordable rates. And that’s why I figured I would like to do this on my own, but have an array of carriers unlike just being a captive where I can just offer, one choice, one set of rate. So I said, You know what, I can do this and build a team and make it good for everybody.
Angela Giovine 7:10
So in the insurance industry, what’s more common, being a solo shop for one carrier or carrying multiple carriers?
Steve Gannon 7:18
I think the numbers across the country, there’s certainly a lot more captive agents out there. When you talk about the big carriers or State Farm, Allstate nationwide farmers. There’s a lot of them. I mean, in my town alone, there might be four state farms and three or four Allstate agents. So there’s probably more of the captive agents, mind you there’s plenty of independent agency owners as well but I think there has been more of a trend in the independent agency world to have more choices where you own the book of business. There’s just more ownership and more potential I think, in the independent side.
Angela Giovine 7:49
So when you started your business, how many people were with you? Was it just you, did you hire a team immediately?
Steve Gannon 7:57
So actually, my wife had a job, she ended up quitting her job. She was not working in insurance but so when I first open it was myself and my wife full time. And then shortly thereafter I brought in my father who was retired government worker, he was going to look to get a job at like Lowe’s or Home Depot, but it seemed like a good opportunity. He got licensed. My wife got licensed. My wife and I, couple years later started a family so she’s been doing stuff from home for the business, but in the beginning was just myself then my dad after the first couple years, and then we started to add, you know, team members and just kept going from there.
Angela Giovine 8:26
So how many are you today?
Steve Gannon 8:28
So on any given day in here, there’s nine or 10 of us. We have six licensed, we call them protection advisors. One of them is my office manager, Tanya, who also is like our team leader. We have two full time reception people who answer the phones, greet people. Do some of the marketing and mailing. I’ve got one protection advisor assistant and myself.
Angela Giovine 8:47
So when you started, because it’s a service based business, it’s not like a restaurant or a salon where you have to have a huge square footage for you know, hundreds of customers coming in through the day. What was startup like for you? Did you have to go to a bank, were you able to bootstrap to start the business? And then how did you grow that business? Were you able to grow that business through the growth in your sales? How did that work?
Steve Gannon 9:10
To get the appointment even with our carrier back then Erie Insurance, we had to provide a business plan with exactly how we’re going to do it from the startup capital, to where you’re going to be. They really discourage people from working from home, which is fine with me because I didn’t want to do that anyway. But they want the marketing plan financing, staffing, they want to see projections out for five years. So that really helped you kind of had to put pen to paper and figure that out. So I did have some money saved actually my wife and I borrowed a little bit of money from our in laws, which really helped I didn’t want to go get in a big debt with the banks to start off with that. We got leasing space and a small shopping center, right around the corner from where we lived and it was a lot bigger than we needed. It was 1600 square feet for two people to start, but I’m like we can grow into this thing. So it really turned out well. It was a great location, it was in a strip shopping center next to a bank, there was always busy traffic in there. So I took a bigger hit financially with that big rent to start, but in the end and to be in great location, we were there for 13 years before we move to our current location.
Angela Giovine 10:11
That’s great. So when you first started, how were you able to get your first customers? How did you get your name out there?
Steve Gannon 10:17
So I mean, there’s not a thing in the first couple of years that I did not try from the standpoint in marketing, everything. From postcards, newspaper ads, Val pack, actually back then the internet wasn’t nearly as big. So we weren’t doing anything like that. But we did mailings. I had some a client list from having been in the business for a few years. And I had agreed with my former employer that I could take a small select group of clients, so I reached out to them. So just with all the local marketing and traction, was writing actually a lot of business right from Jump Street, and then the referrals start coming in. So it was, it just kept, you know, like a domino effect going in the right direction. I scrapped a lot of the marketing things that weren’t working, and I try to put my money to those things that were.
Angela Giovine 10:56
Right. I imagine you have to keep evaluating year over year to make sure you’re spending wisely. You started with just the three of you and you’ve grown your team. You borrowed a little bit of friends and family money in the beginning.
Steve Gannon 11:08
Angela Giovine 11:08
As you began to grow your team, were able to grow your team from the growth of your business?
Steve Gannon 11:14
Yeah in fact, one of my early on hires, and I end upgrading her insurance, she was working for another big insurance carrier, not not an agency. And hit it off right away. Her her husband came in to do their insurance, she ended up being one of my first hires. And, you know, she was a rock star, right from the get go.
Angela Giovine 11:32
She wasn’t from the insurance industry?
Steve Gannon 11:34
No, no, she was from the insurance-
Angela Giovine 11:35
Oh she was, she was.
Steve Gannon 11:35
She had been working for another carrier for two or three years. So she came in with experience, which was a great help. Yeah, she came in, she was my primary person. She was with me for 10 years until she went on her own selling supplemental medical a different,
Angela Giovine 11:50
Totally different direction.
Steve Gannon 11:51
Altogether, but she still sends me clients for property and casualty, I still, you know, try and reciprocate with people who need help with Medicare coverage.
Angela Giovine 11:58
That’s good. I talked to a lot of business owners, it seems to be one of the things that they attribute a lot of their success to, and also one of their biggest challenges is employees. You know, talk to me about how long have your employees been with you? How have you found them? What keeps them here?
Steve Gannon 12:15
We’ve done the whole gamut on that too, from ads on Craigslist, Indeed now, which I don’t think was available when I first opened around. But some have come from referrals, some were just clients. Matter of fact, Jeff, who works up front, he’s been declined here and Tanya said this, every time he comes in this kid to pay his bill, he’s got a smile on his face, he’s in a good mood. If we ever have an opening in that area, we’d love to bring him on. And when we did had an opening, we reached out to him. He came in, and true to point I mean, he’s got a great attitude, great demeanor, positive, he always got a smile on his face. So that’s the kind of addition we like in here.
Angela Giovine 12:49
That’s awesome. You know the old saying no risk, no reward. Tell me about a time when you took a big risk and it moved your business forward.
Steve Gannon 13:00
As I mentioned earlier, I spent a lot of money on marketing advertising, So, a little bit of that I would call risk. Because I mean, in my first two years, I probably expended for a startup and have sparked startup small business. Well over 50,000, in marketing and advertising, which, I kind of exceeded the budget quite a bit. So that was a lot of risk. And there was some reward there because we were writing numbers that a lot of bigger established agencies weren’t doing after 10 years. We were doing it after one.
Angela Giovine 13:25
Steve Gannon 13:25
One thing I’ll say is I’ve always had, like, I guess a lot of people but this phobia or fear of public speaking. So when I first opened up my agency, there was an opening in a local networking group for property and casualty guy, but a big part of this group is public speaking. So I’ve had to, you know, deal with that for the last 18 years I’ve gotten better. I’m still not a savvy public speaker. But sometimes you have to tackle that fear
Angela Giovine 13:47
Steve Gannon 13:48
and deal with it.
Angela Giovine 13:48
Steve Gannon 13:49
to get better.
Angela Giovine 13:50
Would you attribute getting over that to having like, a certain speech down that you’re able to just, you know, you’re comfortable with saying those things, so you’re able to get up and just rely on those things or is it just you’ve become more comfortable public speaking because you’ve done it over and over?
Steve Gannon 14:05
Yeah, more than I’ve gotten used to doing it over, I tried that back at a course in college on a public speaking class. And I would try and memorize the whole speech, that that’s a problem.
Angela Giovine 14:15
Steve Gannon 14:15
You forget a line or a word,
Angela Giovine 14:17
You lose your plate.
Steve Gannon 14:17
You kind of stuck. If you just have an outline, even if it’s just like the, the bullet points in front of you. If you get a glitch, you look at the next bullet point and you move on.
Angela Giovine 14:26
Steve Gannon 14:26
So just having done it, week after week, year after year, I’ve gotten better with the speaking, but yes still, some people can just rattle off a speech
Angela Giovine 14:33
Steve Gannon 14:34
And look smooth, and I don’t have that but I’ve gotten better.
Angela Giovine 14:36
And this is an interesting distinction because I would guess you’re probably the top salesperson in your firm, right? I’m sure there are other agents who are bringing in sales, but you’re bringing in certainly a lot of sales. And there’s a difference between being able to look someone in the eye one on one and sell to them, than it is to get up in front of 50 people I would say and and talk to them. Sounds like both are obviously really important, but which way do you think is driving more for you the the getting in front of a bunch of people or the getting one on one?
Steve Gannon 15:07
So I think it’s key to be in a strong networking group where you know, you’re the only person in that category. So you got, you know, whether it’s a 25 person group or a 50 person group, you got 25 salespeople out there trying to get you business, and I’m doing the same. If I know one of my clients needs, you know, a mortgage or this or that I have the person to send them to. But as far as being the top salesperson in my agency, I have been that but being in this business a long time now, I’m realizing I don’t want to be the top salesperson in here. You know, you want to surround yourself with people give them the tools to succeed, and get them out there so that they’re by far exceeding anything that-
Angela Giovine 15:42
You want to work on your business
Steve Gannon 15:44
Angela Giovine 15:44
more than in your business?
Steve Gannon 15:45
Yeah, I read a lot of articles keep up with everything and I you know, invest in myself go to some of these classes and more the successful agency owners keep preaching, you don’t want to be the top salesperson. You want to surround yourself with awesome people and give them the tools and help them to succeed and like you just said, work on your business not be in the trenches every day.
Angela Giovine 16:05
Right, totally. So, are you mentoring employees to become better at sales? Do you use outside sales training for them? What helps people become better at sales within your firm? Are you looking and recruiting people who just have that natural talent?
Steve Gannon 16:21
And right now, I wouldn’t say we don’t have any quote unquote, outside producers, like a commercial producer, where they’re literally out there, you know, knocking on doors and cold canvassing. We did transition one of our protection advisors Andrea, and now her full function is personal lines, you know, new business sales, order to what we call her auto and home specialist. So a lot of the leads that come in the door, I send them to Andrea and that’s her sole focus, she’s, she’s no longer handling the service calls like the rest of the team. So we’re working with her and getting her own networking group going and trying to give her the tools Tanya and I work with training with her. But I’m also right now we are actively recruiting for an outside commercial producer.
Angela Giovine 16:58
Steve Gannon 16:58
To come in here and again, same thing. We’ll train them, send them to some of the training with our carrier partners, and just give them as many tools as we can to succeed.
Angela Giovine 17:07
Sometimes, with taking these big risks, you learn more about yourself and learn more about your company, when it doesn’t go as planned. Can you think about a time when you took a risk and you had maybe a different outcome than you expected? Or even maybe it was a failure, but you learned something?
Steve Gannon 17:25
In like 18 years in business, you’re gonna have, tons of failures,
Angela Giovine 17:29
Steve Gannon 17:29
tons of successes. One thing I’ve we’ve tried to learn is, you know, we don’t call them failures. So we have wins and lessons in life, so
Angela Giovine 17:35
Right, no, you’re totally right.
Steve Gannon 17:36
Anything that doesn’t work out, you learn from it, like you just said, and you learn how to develop and get better. So I’ve had some failures when it comes to hiring people and anyone who’s got a business with staffing you’re going to have that, learn from that, I’ve learned never to hire in a pinch in a rush. So as they gone to enough classes, write enough books, the axiom is hire slow, fire fast. If you got anyone that you know as a bad seed, don’t let them be a cancer, you know, on your team.
Angela Giovine 18:04
Steve Gannon 18:04
You got to take action. But we’ve definitely done so much better with the hiring process. We kind of make it several steps along the way. One of the interviews, they sit down with at least two or three licensed agents, they can ask questions back and forth. And I get feedback from my team, you know, thumbs up, have personality profiles done. So we make it, it not a quick process, but as I tell them for the prospective hire, it’s a huge decision for you. It’s a huge decision for me, and I want to do what’s best for you and the agency and get the right people in here.
Angela Giovine 18:36
So when you’ve had employees that you had to, quote, fire fast, or maybe the issue was that you didn’t fire them fast enough. Was it a culture clash? Was it a performance issue? You know, it’s interesting to hear from different business owners that sometimes it’s the attitude, sometimes it’s the aptitude.
Steve Gannon 18:57
Yeah, I would definitely say it was it’s been more attitude and work ethic. Even with all the interviewing, we do before we hire, you really don’t know work ethic until the rubber hits the road.
Angela Giovine 19:07
Steve Gannon 19:07
and they’re with you. You just don’t. But you can tell us if you got people skills and you have to have that in a service business period, but you really don’t know how they’re going to work out and their work ethic until they’re with you. And I’ve never enjoyed it. Fortunately, I’ve only had to do it a couple times, but if the butterflies in the stomach you feel terrible. But the one young lady it was I had a couple team members complaining because she wasn’t doing any work, especially if I wasn’t in the office. And you know, she’s playing this golf game on her computer all day, didn’t want to take the calls, so if the team’s calling someone out, usually you know, there’s an issue and you have to take action. If I left on the team, it was just make things worse and worse for everybody.
Angela Giovine 19:43
It’s really helpful when you have other employees other than yourself in the business, who take pride in the business and have the courage or whatever you call it to come to you and say this isn’t right for our team, as opposed to you having to monitor everybody on your own and make those calls in your in a vacuum .
Steve Gannon 20:01
oh absolutely it makes a huge difference. Same thing any for any new person who comes on board, we asked them, especially if they’ve been in the insurance business working at an agency. In terms of our processes, procedures, we’re always looking to make things better. So if they know of any way we could be more efficient, we can better serve our clients. We’re always ready to, you know, take suggestions on, we always ask team for feedback we do, you know, team meetings, we want to know the pulse of what’s going on. And we’re always looking to, again, improve everything in here from me down.
Angela Giovine 20:29
What keeps the morale of your team up?
Steve Gannon 20:32
I mean, for the most part, like I said, we’ve tried to hire people who we know are number one, they’re good people, but they’re positive that helps.
Angela Giovine 20:38
Do you do like a lot of team building or stuff outside of work.
Steve Gannon 20:41
We don’t do enough. We’re trying to do more, but I had a consultant a few years ago, who’s just consulting the insurance industry. And one of the things she brought out are stuffed animals from Tigger and Eeyore and it was part of her spiel saying like you don’t want to be working with Eeyores. You don’t want to be an either Eeyore to your client, you want friendly, happy, team members, coworkers and you got to be that way with your clients because it’s too easy for people to get disgruntled and go elsewhere.
Angela Giovine 21:06
Steve Gannon 21:06
And we’re with each other as much as or more than we’re with our family. So you want to be around people who are positive and upbeat. Tanya does a phenomenal job being very positive. She sends out daily emails with positive stuff. We both try and pepper the team with that, but I will say Tanya, as my team leader does a phenomenal job. Keeping everyone upbeat.
Angela Giovine 21:25
To that point that clients can go anywhere, you’re in an industry where like you said, when you started your company, the internet was not as big of a thing and it certainly wasn’t mobile. Now you’re in a world where insurance is becoming globalized and that people can get quotes online from people that are not local. There’s e commerce but you as a business you continue to grow and thrive. So what has helped you stay competitive in the local market? Have you become more globalized? Or are you still focusing in a local market or both?
Steve Gannon 21:56
Everything in life most people do for a living is pretty much going to be competitive. Unfortunately, insurance industry I will say, is definitely one of the most competitive. It’s crazy out there, you got some direct writers literally spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on advertising. So that has definitely been a challenge. And most small agency owners like myself don’t have deep pockets to put money out
Angela Giovine 22:18
Steve Gannon 22:18
to try and compete with the big boys out there. So we we try and focus a lot of our marketing hyper locally with companies like Bucks Happening and we put a lot of our marketing dollars into nurturing our clients, client nurturing and retention. To me that’s that’s money better served than postcard campaigns, newspaper campaigns, internet campaigns, where it’s hitting a ton of people, many of which aren’t seeing it or because of all the money being spent by the carriers everywhere you turn you open up your bills at home there’s there’s a notice from maybe Geico or someone so you know, we try and keep everything hyperlocal. We focus on sponsoring local teams, activities, nonprofits and getting involved with the community and by doing that, we try and stay in front of our clients and prospective clients. And that’s one thing that the big guys can’t do. They’re not in our community.
Angela Giovine 23:07
Steve Gannon 23:07
They don’t know what’s going on around here. We’re also involved in a local group pub Bensalem business directory, very tied in, to the local community here in Bensalem. So our focus is really Philly and surrounding counties, Bucks County, Philadelphia and Montgomery county, predominantly,
Angela Giovine 23:21
From a technical perspective, what are some of the things that have changed with the growth of the internet in the insurance industry?
Steve Gannon 23:28
People can go online and get quotes and get coverage instantly. So
Angela Giovine 23:32
I imagine they print them out and bring them in to your office?
Steve Gannon 23:34
Well, you know, the large percentage of them don’t buy online, they do some shopping, and we’re an independent agency. So you know, we can get you quote, unquote, inexpensive insurance, but our first goal is always to get you the top shelf coverage at the most competitive price. So we’ll check rates with all 12 or 13 of our insurance companies and say, Look, here are some options. And you know, we’ve enhanced our technology here so we can with almost all of our insurance companies, which were unable to back in a day, we can talk to someone over the phone, go over the application, send them the paperwork to be e signed, they don’t have to print anything out, they don’t have to worry about printing it out, signing on paper, scanning it and faxing the email back. You know, it can all be done via e signature, which people love that. So we’re trying, trying our best to keep up with that our carrier partners, a lot of them offer their own, but if not, we have our own e sign
Angela Giovine 24:19
Steve Gannon 24:19
technology that we use, and almost all the insurance carriers accept it. And it’s made a tremendous difference.
Angela Giovine 24:23
So from an operations perspective, it’s changed totally. What about from the sales perspective from you know, lead generation to communication, pre sale, what’s happening there?
Steve Gannon 24:36
Back in the day, internet leads were a big thing. I’m probably going back eight to 10 years ago, and they were a hot things we were getting internet leads, you pick the zip code you want. It was probably most lucrative for the company selling these darn leads, though. So I, you know, I’d be one of eight to 10 agents getting these things. I had one woman specifically doing these internet leads and the the return on investment just kept getting worse and worse and worse. So
Angela Giovine 24:59
You’re finding they weren’t qualified leads or they were fake?
Steve Gannon 25:02
So let’s say half these people never buy, they just went on to get a price. And then they’re getting bombarded by
Angela Giovine 25:07
They didn’t expect they’d be getting a call.
Steve Gannon 25:08
agents and some direct writer so it was frustrating to the consumer, it was frustrating to run to us taking all the time to work them. So I think a lot of people do shopping online, but I think a large percentage of people still want to talk to a local insurance expert on what is best. And again, if we’re not one carrier, one price we’re going to usually when we send out a proposal or give a proposal face to face, we’re going to show you here’s the best two or three options. And most importantly, we’re going to help you avoid any gaps in coverage. That’s one of the first things we look at when we’re reviewing policies. Let’s avoid those gaps in coverage. They might have a finished basement without a sewer and drain ride or backup, that’s huge. So were will recommend they get that. If they’ve got teen drivers if they got any assets to protect, we’re going to recommend the umbrella policies. We’re going to get into stuff that they may have not been familiar but the trying to educate them and help them make the right decision for them and their family.
Angela Giovine 25:57
That makes sense. You’re a sole owner, and you mentioned when you started, your wife came with you and your father. So I imagine you’ve done a fair amount of downloading onto them in terms of looking for opinions and feedback as the business owner and looking for advice. But I imagine also that you have cultivated a network for yourself of advisors and people you turn to, who do you turn to because being the sole owner of a business, that’s, that’s stressful.
Steve Gannon 26:27
It is. It definitely is. So I mean, I’ve relied on people, a good friend of mine opened up an agency right around the time I did. So we ended up turning out to be great friends. In fact, his daughter is my kid’s first non family member babysitter. So him and I bounce stuff off each other.
Angela Giovine 26:41
And that’s interesting because he’s in your industry, and you don’t feel like it’s like a competitive thing.
Steve Gannon 26:45
We’re not in competing territories. He sticks to his area as I do mine. But more importantly, I’m in a mastermind group. I’ve got this idea years ago, so probably about the last eight to 10 years I formed, a mastermind group of insurance agency owners were non competing. areas, there’s 10 to 12 of us, we have a monthly call, just to we’ll have a different topic each month. And then we try and get together once a year, to do a full day of bouncing stuff off each other. I’ll go over my marketing stuff, get feedback from these guys, etc. And then throughout the month, even though, you know, we may not have a call for another two weeks, if I’ve got a question whether it could be an hiring issue, a marketing issue, it could be a claim issue just could be something anything with the agency competing, it’s another carrier, I can bounce stuff off.
Angela Giovine 27:28
That’s awesome. Because those people they’re all in your industry. So like you don’t have to catch them up on backstory a lot when you’re looking for someone to just get a quick piece of advice from.
Steve Gannon 27:39
Absolutely yeah, there’s a lot of sharp guys in this mastermind sharp agency owners, and it’s just a good network. You need that because none of us are experts at everything. Some of the guys in the group has bought multiple insurance agencies. So I know down the road if the opportunity arises me to buy one, I can go to two or three of these guys to get a ton of great feedback and advice which is huge.
Angela Giovine 27:59
How long have you been doing this?
Steve Gannon 28:01
So we’ve had that that mastermind, at probably been eight to 10 years now.
Angela Giovine 28:04
Wow. So a large portion of your time as a business owner. So you’re able to find some some people to lean on pretty early on.
Steve Gannon 28:12
Yeah, I was on this task force with one of my carriers. And I met some of these guys, and like, these are sharp dudes. So you know, we had three guys, I’m like, let’s reach out to few more people, before we know we had seven eight guys started this mastermind for the calls. And we’ve had, you know, growth and recession over the years, but we now have about 10 to 12 members.
Angela Giovine 28:30
Do you try to keep it to a certain number?
Steve Gannon 28:32
Yeah, we don’t want it too big. I mean, on any given month, there’s always going to be two or three guys that have conflicts that can’t make the call and they’re all recorded, they can listen in. But as long as we have at least six, seven people on the call, it’s just good stuff, so we can each get feedback from each other, learn from each other. It’s a win for all of us, quite honestly, it’s great.
Angela Giovine 28:48
That’s awesome. I mean, being able to have that kind of rapport with people in your industry and not feel like you know, you’re competing with each other, no one’s withholding because they’re afraid that it’s going to come back to bite them and the people will give you their time and advice. It’s so valuable.
Steve Gannon 29:03
Right, yeah and I’m on another Facebook thread, it’s all Insurance Agency owners now, that’s countrywide, that does have a loc lot of local competitors. So there’s things I wouldn’t post a question there, because I know, local competitors are watching the thread. So um, like, you know, I’ll reach out to my mastermind on that. But this other group has good feedback for other stuff as well, though.
Angela Giovine 29:24
Right, and I guess you are able to manage it in a way that you, because since you’re running it, that it doesn’t turn into something where people are competing with each other. Have you ever had that issue in the group where like, people started to compete with each other and it becomes an issue in the group?
Steve Gannon 29:36
Not in my mastermind, but in the other group, yeah. There’s absolutely been some issues. I personally haven’t had any but I’ve seen some threads where people are cherry picking on their clients, and so yeah, it can get dicey when you have a lot of people, especially in competitive areas,
Angela Giovine 29:49
Steve Gannon 29:49
without professional courtesy. It’s a shame but it happens,
Angela Giovine 29:52
Right, yeah, totally. So you mentioned when you were first getting into the insurance industry, one of the things that attracted you to the industry was that it’s quote a nine to five meaning like, it’s a job that allows you to have time for your family and for your personal life. Has that stayed the same as you have been a business owner?
Steve Gannon 30:12
So let me let me clarify that so, he was talking about an insurance claim job
Angela Giovine 30:16
Claim job. So your first job
Steve Gannon 30:20
was really a nine to five job. Now mind you a lot of people working more than that just to keep up, But no, being an agency owner, a business owner, there’s absolutely not. So the first probably 10 years, you know, I worked six days a week, 70 80 hours every week, but now that we’ve got kids, and they’ve been playing travel sports for the last probably six, seven years, so I really haven’t worked the weekend. It’s been years now. Do I time sometimes on the weekend? Absolutely. I’ll remote in and get some stuff done, but I don’t have any set Saturday hours. And I’ve met a client on occasion on a Saturday but it’s definitely not a nine to five job as any business owner tells you a nine to five job would be highly rare. So you know I’m not 70 to 80 hours, per week anymore, but it’s it’s still in the 50 on the high end 70.
Angela Giovine 31:04
Do you think if you hadn’t put in those massive numbers of hours early on that you would have gotten ahead? Like you said early on, you were doing numbers that some of the big guys weren’t doing? Would you say a large part of that success was that hard work?
Steve Gannon 31:20
Oh, absolutely. I mean, the only thing I wish is I wish I’d started five years earlier, which
Angela Giovine 31:25
We all say that.
Steve Gannon 31:26
like man, it would have been great for that is extra five years of growth. But no, you if you’re starting up any business, I don’t care what you’re doing, from selling pretzels to insurance to whatever you have to put in the time. You know, nothing is going to come easy. You don’t just open up a shingle and people’s sudden clamoring down your door to get insurance here.
Angela Giovine 31:43
Steve Gannon 31:43
You have to go after it, come up with a marketing plan and then hit the ground running. You got to work,
Angela Giovine 31:49
Right, but it’s worth it for you. You feel like even though it is a lot of work it’s gratifying for you?
Steve Gannon 31:56
Oh, 100% yeah, it’s great when you have a business and you’ve seen it, I’d like it. So we don’t really hit any homeruns here in the property casualty agency. But look, after 18 years of versatile growing, I say as long as we keep hitting singles, and baseball as the chosen sport in the household, as long as we keep hitting singles and keep it going, keep it growing, keep our client base going, keep our team happy, yeah we’re heading in the right direction. I’m very thankful for that. But it’s absolutely very satisfying as well.
Angela Giovine 32:22
What’s the most gratifying part about it? Is it being the business owner? Is it the industry? Is it the employees? What is it that is most gratifying?
Steve Gannon 32:29
So I mean, there’s a lot of things. So I mean, helping people first and foremost is obviously gratifying. I don’t care what you do in life, if you’re able to help people, it’s great. So sometimes, you know, a new client, we just saved them some money and we got them covered. That’s as good if not better. That’s awesome. That’s great. But there’s been a lot of situations with insurance. The rubber hits the road when there’s a claim. So the insurance company we represent we’ve hand picked, so for the most part, they’re excellent when it comes to claims and service. So we’re not the claim department for any the insurance companies but we do get involved there’s there’s a problem. I’ve gotten some claims overturned by advocating for my clients. I’ve gotten the claim settlements increase. So helping clients when they do have a loss is absolutely very satisfying.
Angela Giovine 33:10
Right, because I imagine when you’re processing a claim, you’re dealing with some of the lowest points of your clients lives.
Steve Gannon 33:16
Yep. I mean, people often call us from the accident scene, sometimes literally crying.
Angela Giovine 33:20
Am I covered? Please tell me I’m covered.
Steve Gannon 33:22
So a lot of times, we’ll say let’s the police get there, take care of that, call us back, we’ll get the claim uploaded. But in the end, you know, we stay in touch with our clients through that claim process. My team is awesome. I mean, we’ve got over 100 combined years of experience here and they do a phenomenal job, our protection advisors helping our clients. April is the point person when people either walk in the door or call as my reception person and she’s invaluable. She does a phenomenal job, always has a smile, ready to greet clients and help them out. So it’s a great team and they do a great job for our clients and I’m very thankful for that.
Angela Giovine 33:54
That’s awesome. What’s the most challenging or the hardest part of what you do?
Steve Gannon 34:00
So I I think you alluded that a little bit with the big guys out there, these big insurance companies spending millions and millions of dollars. I guess one of the biggest challenges is what they’ve done to a degree as like the commoditization of insurance in particular auto and home insurance. The message is just, you know, get it cheap. You can get online, get it cheap. And guess what? They do suede, a lot of people to do that I get it, they’re spending tons of money to do so. Our first goal, again, we want to get people the most competitive rates possible, we want to make sure that they’re properly covered. So you know, we don’t preach the message of cheaper is better. When it comes to insurance cheaper, honestly, is definitely not better. You want to get a good value and get a good competitive price. But if you get cheap, you’re not going to care that I saved you 300 bucks if when you have a claim, you find out it’s cut rate insurance.
Angela Giovine 34:48
Right. It’s like going to the used car lot and buying the cheapest thing on the lot, you know, that’s not going to run very long.
Steve Gannon 34:54
Not at all. No, you we want to make sure our clients are fully and properly protected, but they’re they’re getting the best value they can, the best,
Angela Giovine 35:01
Right, So you’re maybe not buying the maserati, but you want to buy something you can rely on, you want to buy something that’s going to get you what you need?
Steve Gannon 35:08
Yeah, many of our carriers have, you know low to competitive rate, they really do a very competitive rates. But that that’s not our first goal is to save you money. Our first goal, is to make sure that you and your family are properly protected.
Angela Giovine 35:19
Steve Gannon 35:20
That commoditization messages tough the break through sometimes, so that that’s been a challenge.
Angela Giovine 35:24
Right, I imagine that message is really hard to break through, because people are just thinking, Oh, you’re just trying to upsell me. You really have to get through to them that you know, you’re you have their best interest in mind. Would you say that a lot of that is pre framing, meaning like, you’re out there, like you said, like a lot of what you’re doing, you’re into the growth of your business is being in the community. So they go, Oh, Steve, we know he’s a good guy. He’s got our best interest in mind. Would you say that’s like a pre frame, a lot of the times?
Steve Gannon 35:50
I would say that it helps. I mean, you know, in the local area, Gannon Insurance name is fairly well known and it’s respected, which is awesome, and we’re thankful for that and we continue to try and keep doing that with, doing the right job our clients, staying involved in the community and supporting our nonprofit companies that we sponsor. But yeah, it’s just really continue to do the right job for everyone. And that does help but we’ll also to give comparison. So when they send us their policies, if I see that yeah, you’ve got a low home rate, but you’ve got, you know, a 1% deductible, you don’t have water backup, you have a finished basement, and your home might be under insured. So we’ll point out a bunch of things and say, here’s an apples to apples I highly recommend against. Here’s option two, here’s option three. And I’ll do that with two or three different insurance companies and show them that look, we can do a lot better for you with getting you properly protected. Sometimes you can still save money and sometimes it’s the same or even just the hair higher, but you’re covered if a loss goes down.
Angela Giovine 36:43
So backing it up with facts essentially and letting people come to their own conclusions?
Steve Gannon 36:48
Like the way you said that Angela, yes, thank you.
Angela Giovine 36:51
I can become an insurance agent. So who are business leaders or one business leader that you admire either within your industry or just in general?
Steve Gannon 37:00
One of the guys I admire most in my industry, well, there’s a couple of them, but one I’ll say is Peter Wallin this guy’s in my mastermind group. He’s got an agency up in Elmira, New York. He’s written a couple books, and they’re actually their insurance books, so for insurance nerds, they’re good reads, but it’s actually good stuff about running an agency. He does it right, very positive guy. He’s been one of the mentors for me. And he was one of the first guys I went to for my mastermind, because I knew him, sharp guy,
Angela Giovine 37:27
Steve Gannon 37:27
He’s been invaluable in that mastermind group for the last, you know, eight plus years.
Angela Giovine 37:31
Steve Gannon 37:32
So I’m very thankful for Peter Wallin. My another guy is Mike Stromsoe who’s an independent agency owner on the west coast. I met him at an insurance conference probably 10 years ago. He’s an agency owner, but he also runs a consulting business for a lot of us property and casualty agency owners, and I usually go out to his boot camp once a year, it’s three days. He’s one of the most positive guys he’s a phenomenal guy, very giving generous, genuine. It’s just the positive three days recharge your batteries, learn how to be a better leader, learn how to be a better person, marker, the whole nine yards. So Mike’s Stomsoe’s has been a true inspiration to me, honestly,
Angela Giovine 38:09
That’s awesome. I love asking these two questions of all of my guests, finish this sentence. I would not be standing here today, if not for
Steve Gannon 38:20
My skinny legs, No. So I’d have to stray from my first and foremost, my wife because way back in the day when I talked about going into business, you know, leaving the claim career I know my parents were against leaving the said job with a salary and bada bing,
Angela Giovine 38:35
Steve Gannon 38:35
And back then I was engaged, but wife was always supportive of if this is what I want to do, you know, go after it. She helped me when I first opened when we started a family. She’s done her stuff from home with the marketing and the bookkeeping, all that stuff. So she’s definitely been a big part of my support for this. And then otherwise, I’d have to say, you know, my team, I never dread coming in here because I know I got a team of people that are awesome. They’re good people, you know, they do a phenomenal job. There’s no egos in here. Everyone’s happy, friendly. And it’s just a pleasure to work with them day in and day out.
Angela Giovine 39:09
And what is one piece of advice that you would give your 18 year old self? So put yourself at 18 your, freshman in college, what is one piece of advice,
Steve Gannon 39:20
I guess, I would say, to really not worry about failing. And again, I read enough books and listen to enough tapes. And in fact, like, I should encourage my kids more to actually look to fail more because failure’s a part of life. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying. So in life, we’re all going to fail in our personal lives, and our business life at times you’re going to fail. So there’s going to be lessons there you learn from them, but the key is just to continue to get up and that’s how you’re going to, you’re going to get better and improve as a person as a business owner, as a leader. Admit it yourself Angie, you walked away from a nice job in the farmer world.
Angela Giovine 39:53
Steve Gannon 39:54
to start your own and you got this growing, booming, Bucks Happening. So you know you’re an inspiration to me as well.
Angela Giovine 40:01
Steve Gannon 40:02
But I’m sure you’ve had failures along the way, we all have to take that leap of faith,
Angela Giovine 40:07
Well, it’s true. I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately that I haven’t failed enough. LIke you, I love reading, I love listening to podcasts and to audio books and some of the biggest, most successful business leaders had huge failures, but right after that failure comes the big success, I almost see it like a pendulum, like you know you could go along and and keep going small and not take a lot of risk, and there’s nothing wrong with that and you can be successful, you don’t get that high though, and so I’ve been looking for more ways myself to take bigger risks because, I might fail but might not. I might succeed, and and so you know for me, learning from different from different business leaders gives me the courage to just say like So what if I fail? You know.
Steve Gannon 40:57
That look kudos and I I acted what you’re saying, I mean I need to do myself actively look to take more things on bigger risk here.
Angela Giovine 41:04
Steve Gannon 41:05
And you’re going to fail but maybe you know, with failures going to come learning and lessons and then eventually growth
Angela Giovine 41:10
Steve Gannon 41:11
Angela Giovine 41:11
So what do you see for the future of Gannon Insurance Agency?
Steve Gannon 41:16
I see as just continuing to grow, I do want to have, you know will continue to expand the team, I want to have this place so itself running, so I don’t want to be as involved. I definitely want to be down the road working more on the business and the agency than working in it so to speak. I don’t know if I see my kids coming into the business, well see. As long as Ronan becomes a professional baseball player, I’d really be happy.
Angela Giovine 41:38
Yes and you’ll be set, right?
Steve Gannon 41:38
I’ll be set.
Angela Giovine 41:39
Steve Gannon 41:39
So I just want to see everyone here continue to be happy, growing, thriving and like I said to the point maybe fast forward 5 years where I can really just be more working on it.
Angela Giovine 41:51
Steve Gannon 41:52
not in the trenches so to speak everyday.
Angela Giovine 41:53
You’re beyond that start up decade where you want you’re in a meteor place and it will be really interesting to watch for for me to see how that that works out for you.
Steve Gannon 42:03
I appreciate that, we’ll see how it goes right?
Angela Giovine 42:06
Right, well thank you Steve thanks for joining us today.
Steve Gannon 42:09
Thank you very much Angela.
Angela Giovine 42:11
Thanks for listening. For more information about our show and our company, head to extra ordinary small business dot com. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook or Instagram. We would be so grateful, If you could help us reach more listeners. All you have to do, is go to iTunes or wherever you get your podcast and rate, review and subscribe. It would mean the world to us. Ratings, reviews, and subscribes are how iTunes decides which podcasts are worth sharing. Help us continue to bring these stories of extraordinary small business owners to the world. By rating, reviewing and subscribing, you’re helping our small business. It’s free and it takes just a minute. Thanks!