Members of the Florida Risk Partners team. From left: Grayson Carothers, Andrea
Carothers, David Carothers, Kyle Houck, Nicole Medina, and Jeramie Van Acker.
Florida Risk Partners lives up to its name by
establishing a true partnership with each client
By Dennis H. Pillsbury
Back in 2016, David R. Carothers, CIC, CRM, wasn’t even dreaming of having his agency appear on the cover of Rough Notes magazine. That’s because he was thinking about leaving the industry. He’d had an unhappy experience and had started, with great success, to find a position in another industry. Several Fortune 500 companies had made him offers.
However, the person who knows him best recognized that this was the wrong thing to do. “My beautiful wife Andrea reminded me how much I loved this industry,” he recalls, “and encouraged me to not let one bad experience chase me out of it. She strongly suggested that I remove my head from … (delete that). She said that I should start my own agency, so I could stay in the business that I love.
“Needless to say, I got right on that, and by July 1 had established Florida Risk Partners, with an office in our dining room at our home in Valrico,” David recalls. “I was able to get several appointments and started writing business. However, there were a number of insurance companies that told me I needed a physical location other than our dining room, so I moved into our current location on Bloomingdale Avenue.
“I started out primarily focusing on middle market commercial and emphasizing the concept that remains where we hang our hat: We seek to become risk management partners with every client. A big part of that starts with workers comp, where we use Mod Advisor to run an experience mod analysis for every client that has a mod higher than one.”
People and tech
David realized that there were two key ingredients he needed if he wanted his agency to sustain the kind of partnerships with clients that he felt was the right way to do business: great people and great tech. With both of those in place, he believed, Florida Risk Partners would be able to achieve the 100/100 partnership that the agency sought to achieve—one where the agency and the client were both committed to good risk management 100% of the time.
So, he set out to build a team of employees committed to this concept. And he started creating a tech stack that would essentially allow the agency and the client to build an individualized website in the cloud, one that would provide tools clients could use to continuously track their progress in cost-effectively mitigating and eliminating risk.
One of David’s early hires was Kyle Houck, who had a strong background in business-to-business marketing. David had met Kyle earlier and admired his ability to reach out to businesses cold and almost immediately establish a trusted relationship. “When I started the agency, he was on my list of people to approach to come work with me,” David says.
The admiration was mutual. “I was impressed with David when I first met him,” Kyle says, “and even more so when he approached me to offer me a position.
“I’ve pretty much made my living by reading people and gaining their trust,” he adds. “Well, the first thing David asked me to do was trust him. He offered support and a path to equity. Both of those were missing where I was employed, so I did exactly what he asked me to do. I trusted him and took the job.
“I felt a level of peace after my conversation with him,” Kyle recalls, and today that level of peace is as strong as or stronger than ever.
What Kyle did was essentially join a start-up and help it grow—all while learning the business of insurance. “I was relatively green in that area,” he explains. “However, the promised support was there, along with a growing tech stack that supported my efforts to quickly learn the business.
“What was amazing to me was the fact that, particularly in workers comp, all the information is public domain; we have the software to use that information to show prospects ways we can help them reduce their cost of risk and to help current clients do the same.”
Focusing on risk management
Kyle continues, “Because of this, before I approach a business, I can learn a great deal about their risk—sometimes more than they know. That kind of knowledge can quickly turn a cold call into a new client.
“Our technology has allowed us to be a player at all levels,” he adds. “We can compete for large commercial businesses and we can handle small businesses efficiently and profitably. Clients all get a level of service that is best-in-class. This has helped us to expand out from our middle market commercial specialty and to spread the risk for the agency.
“We were leveraged when we were just in the middle market; the loss of one client could really hurt,” Kyle admits. “Now, we’re at that point where Florida Risk Partners is about to get really fun and grow exponentially, and that’s really all thanks to David’s vision.
“He’s the mad scientist who created this.”
Another more recent hire was David’s son, Grayson, who joined for a much more personal reason. “I wanted to spend time alongside my dad and to help his agency help people,” he notes. “Even before I joined, I saw the impact that good insurance and risk management can have on businesses.
“I’ve been on vacation with Dad when he took care of clients, and I’ve heard how grateful they were,” Grayson adds. “And now that I’m here and meet with prospects, I’ve seen how many businesses don’t have that level of commitment from their agent.
“[W]e offer a day off with pay every month for employees to help out at their favorite charity.
All we ask is that they come back and share the experience with the other team members.”
—David R. Carothers
“Even before I joined, I saw the impact that good insurance and risk management can have on businesses. …
I’m pretty new to this, having just recently received my license, but I’m committed
to my purpose of providing insurance and risk management the right way.”
The tech stack
This year, the agency added a new person to the agency to interface with clients on their use of technology. “I’ve always tried to bring young people into the industry by bringing in an intern every summer,” David explains. “One of those interns—Abby O’Brien—is a young woman from Florida State. She has a strong understanding of technology and is great with people. That is just what I was looking for, and she’s turned out to be perfect.
“Abby is the primary interface between us and our clients when it comes to technology usage,” he adds. “She provides them with answers not just on how to use the technology, but on why they should. She shares information on the positive results in terms of fewer losses and lower premiums that will result from things like lowering the mod and implementing effective safety and loss control procedures.
“Essentially,” David explains, “she makes sure that all we promise happens.
“As I said earlier, great technology is the second ingredient that’s needed to really become best-in-class,” he adds. “And it’s readily available to any agency that wants to aim for that goal. Here are a few of the resources that have worked for us:
“Mod Advisor, which provides experience mod analysis, is one of the most revolutionary products to hit the insurtech space in the past five years. A slick user interface is only superseded by the exported reports and sales tools that the software provides. It’s helped us land a number of middle market accounts.
“Zenjuries provides injury and claims management expertise that helps us settle claims quickly and accurately.
“We use YellowBird to find the top experts in areas where greater expertise than we have in-house is required. It’s a gig service that vets the top professionals in various aspects of workers comp from around the country.
“We also use a phone app—The Insurance Agent App, created by Matt Aaron—that lets clients put inventories of property, including autos, into the cloud, as well as report claims instantly.”
“Our technology has allowed us to
be a player at all levels. We can
compete for large commercial businesses and
we can handle small businesses efficiently and
profitably. Clients all get a level of service
that is best-in-class.”
“We’ve also identified an important nexus between the younger generation and insurance—a connection that we don’t think the industry has effectively pointed out,” David notes. “The younger generation wants to have a job wherethey help people and have a positive impact. Insurance and risk management done the right way does that.”
Agency leaders also understand the need to help all team members get more directly involved in helping others. “So we offer a day off with pay every month for employees to help out at their favorite charity,” David explains. “All we ask is that they come back and share the experience with the other team members.
“We also offer a day off every quarter for self-improvement. Same deal goes. We want them to share with the team.”
Florida Risk Partners reached just shy of $4 million in revenue at the end of last year with 18 employees, several of whom are located in Pakistan. “These people have skills and education, and they are being trained in our processes, “David explains. “One of these people is being used to set up appointments in markets where we have expertise and are looking to grow.
“He’s been especially helpful in our effort to reach down into smaller commercial businesses where we can offer risk management services that they’ve never had access to before,” he continues. “And we can write that business profitably. This has allowed us to scale the agency at a good rate.
“Because of this,” David explains, “we’ve reached a point where I can dedicate parts of the agency to the team and start giving them equity.”
Rough Notes is proud to recognize Florida Risk Partners as our Agency of the Month. Their “mad science” could well prove to be a recipe to bring more young people into the business to the betterment of the independent agency system and the industry it represents. n
Dennis Pillsbury is a Virginia-based freelance insurance writer.