Are you thinking of starting a business as an independent insurance agency? Let me tell you about our experience.
I went to a seminar called the dynamics of sales management in San Antonio, Texas in 1997, and I met this guy who was talking about just blowing it up in the insurance business. I was really intrigued, so I went to lunch with him and learned of this organization called Strategic Insurance Agents Alliance. The opportunity to become a master agency for SIAA was presented to my partner, Ken and I, but we couldn't take advantage of it because three of our five insurance companies had threatened to fire us by the end of the year if we didn't hit production goals.
Staying in Business
So we were like every other independent agent, out there selling as many insurance products as we could, as fast as we could, looking over our shoulders and staying up at night, wondering if we're going to be able to keep the markets that we needed to stay in business.
The good news is, we saved two out of three insurance carriers, and our small business kept growing. And three years later, I met this same individual at another Dynamics of Selling event, and we decided it was time to start as SIAA master agents. Oklahoma Agents Alliance, better known as OAA, started at the very end of 2000, and we signed our first member at the beginning of 2001.
Originally our territory was essentially Oklahoma City. After signing our third agency, we moved into the Tulsa area. And when we had signed our seventh agency, we purchased the rest of the rights to the state of Oklahoma. Like most businesses, we didn't turn a profit for a few years - we knew what the start up costs would be, and it was all part of our business plan. We kept working hard in our beloved insurance industry, and by 2003 we were both profitable and growing fairly rapidly.
Our growth accelerated between 2000 and 2008, and by 2010 we expanded into Arkansas with the northwest part of Arkansas in our territory. We later added the rest of the Arkansas territory. We knew we had a lot to offer to business owners who wanted to take their insurance agency further than ever before, and we kept helping ambitious agents start their insurance agencies as sole proprietorships, even without office space or a big book of business.
Starting from scratch
By 2015, we'd been in business for 15 years and ahead had helped start up over 100 insurance agencies from scratch. In fact, we got to be real specialists at doing that. And as of today, we've helped over 250 entrepreneurs begin their entrepreneurial journey by starting an independent insurance agency.
Along the way, many of you have become very successful, and that really excites me. We're not a millionaire factory, but we have helped make lots and lots of millionaires. More importantly, though, we have many agency owners that are achieving their own personal dreams, whatever those may be: whether it's to make a lot of money, to have a big impact in their community, to build a business for the future of their family... We're just a facilitator of those things.
Helping starters get started
But what I've been most pleased to see OAA become over the last 20 years is not just a market access provider, not just somebody who gets contracts with people, and not just somebody who helps their agents make more money, but an organization that really asks the question:
“What is it that you want to accomplish? And how can we help you?”
What OAA has become over the last 20 years is really a result of the answers to those questions.
As members asked: “Could you do this to help us?” Our answer is almost always “Yes!”, if it's within our capabilities. And so we've now grown to over 20 people, and over $500 million in premium volume, and 10s of millions of dollars of commission on a collective basis, because of our members’ aggressive, growth-focused ambition, and our teamwork. And that's something that I've been really excited to participate in for 20 years.
My business coach Dan Sullivan says if you give yourself 25 years, it's amazing what you can accomplish. What I would say is, it's really amazing what you can accomplish in 20 years. We're laying the groundwork, not just for next year, but for the next 20 years, because we want to be a part of your future, your success and your dreams for many years to come.
When I look back over the last 20 years, it's really remarkable what we, you and I and all of us together have accomplished. And as I think back over those 20 years, I recognize two things.
The first is we had no idea that we would be here. When we started this organization, we didn't know what we would be in 20 years, and we certainly didn't even have ambitions or vision that we'd be as large as we have turned out to be. So one of the things I've learned is, is that having big dreams and big goals is important, and that you need to keep revising those.
The other thing that I think about from this vantage point is how grateful I am. I'm grateful to every single OAA member because you trusted us with your future: you started an agency or you moved your agency to a new level, by taking a risk, trusting that we will be able to help you and that we would do what we said we would do.
I think, on balance, we've all been very successful because of your confidence and your willingness to trust us, and our response to that. And that just floods me with gratitude. I really am thankful to you. I'm thankful for our relationships. I'm thankful for your confidence. I'm thankful for your trust. And I'm thankful for your dreams and ambitions that I believe will power us to even bigger heights. So let me just say on behalf of myself, my family, and every member of the OAA: Thank you!
Always keen on helping others make their dreams come true, Tony and his team have helped independent agents grow into more than 250 independent agencies. This has made OAA the number one ranked Strategic Master Agency of SIAA for the last 5 years, and one of Oklahoma's 25 Best Companies to Work for.
Tony loves to share his knowledge, insight and wisdom through his bestselling books as well as in free mediums including podcasts and blogs.
Tony and his family are members of Crossings Community Church, and he is very active in community initiatives: he’s chairman of It’s My Community Initiative, Inc., a nonprofit working with disadvantaged people in Oklahoma City; and chairman of the Oklahoma Board of Juvenile Affairs., and he has served through many other organizations including the Salvation Army, Last Frontier Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the Rotary Club.
In his spare time, Tony enjoys time with his family. He’s also an active outdoorsman and instrument-rated commercial pilot.