WELCOME TO INSURANCE TOWN
After experience on both the agency and carrier side, “The Mayor” now focuses on insurance podcast
By Christopher W. Cook
Northwest of Little Rock, Arkansas, you’ll find a city of around 20,000 called Maumelle. It has recreational lakes and an extensive bicycle trail system. But what many people don’t know is that this city is also home to a town—Insurance Town. And while you can’t get there by stepping through a magical wardrobe or clicking your heels together three times while wearing the appropriate footwear, it is easily accessible by tuning in to a podcast.
So grab your headphones and queue up the sounds of a bluegrass harmonica. Welcome to Insurance Town.
The Insurance Town podcast is the brainchild of Heath Shearon, a 20-plus year insurance industry veteran. “I’m a second-generation insurance professional, so I’ve kind of been in the industry since I was in diapers,” Shearon says with a laugh. “I got my license in 2003, but prior to that I’d be in and out of my dad’s agency.”
After spending significant time on both the agency and carrier sides, Shearon found that the coronavirus pandemic provided an opportunity to do something different.
“[A podcast] is something that I’ve always wanted to do, but I never found the time,” Shearon says. “When the pandemic hit last March, I was working for a carrier and was not able to leave to go on the road. My wife and I discussed it, and she said that there were no excuses anymore, so I went on Amazon and bought a couple pieces of equipment and recorded my first two or three episodes in my bedroom. The show launched and I quickly saw that it was getting downloads and traction and it turned into something.”
Insurance Town debuted on April 13, 2020. The podcast releases new episodes weekly on Thursday mornings and can be found on services like Apple, Spotify, Google, iHeartRadio and Stitcher.
The show’s title was inspired by its host’s nickname. “My nickname in the insurance industry around Little Rock, Arkansas, and surrounding areas has always been ‘The Mayor’ because I know a lot of people in the industry,” Shearon says. “My friends tease me that they can’t go anywhere like dinner or to the grocery store with me without me knowing somebody.
“My wife was like ‘you’ve got to do something around The Mayor,’ so I decided early on that I would create my own town and be the mayor. Now it’s turned into something bigger than just local people calling me ‘The Mayor.’”
While releasing shows weekly, Shearon is always trying to stay ahead. “I usually try to record two or three episodes ahead of time,” he says. “I tried in the beginning to record every week, but it got to be stressful. As the podcast has grown, now I have a lot of people who request to be on the show, so that helps a lot. Friends of mine will call me and ask, ‘Why haven’t I been on your show yet?’” Shearon adds with a chuckle.
Along the way, Insurance Town has picked up three sponsors: Smart Choice, Cover Desk and Canopy Connect. “Smart Choice is the fastest growing agency network in the country,” Shearon says. “Cover Desk is a virtual assistant company, and my original sponsor, Canopy Connect, is a tech company that helps agents get dec pages from their clients or their prospects.
“I’ve had other sponsorship opportunities, but I wanted [sponsors] that I knew could help in different areas of my audience. My messaging is tailored to the general insurance community, but I have more listeners who are producers, CSRs, or agency owners.”
The show starts off with a prerecorded introduction, including a thank you to the featured sponsor. After the guest is welcomed on the air, “we’ll do what we call a walk down memory lane,” Shearon explains. “I give my guests anywhere from three to seven minutes to just give a backstory of who they are, where they came from, lay the groundwork. From there—and none of it’s ever scripted—we’ll talk about whatever they bring up. If they talk about something in their introduction that sparked interest in me, I’ll pivot questions about that.
“Before we record, I’ll ask them ahead of time, is there a soapbox you can stand on for 10 or 15 minutes, whether that’s culture or whatever it may be,” he continues. “We’ll talk about whatever that topic is and then we’ll wrap up with how the audience can find them and things of that nature.
“I usually at the end give them five or six minutes to report on what they’re doing. I want to give them an opportunity to connect their business if they’re going to spend an hour with me to help me with mine.”
Episodes generally last around 45 minutes, but more recent ones have been running between 55 and 65 minutes.
In 2021, Shearon began hosting “town hall” episodes once month to “add a little different flavor to what I’m doing and incorporate more of that community feel that I wanted,” he says. “I’ll bring on a guest and it’ll be kind of like an old-school call-in show on the radio, but it’s all done through Zoom.”
Before bringing on the episode’s guest, Shearon will speak to the “audience” members who clicked on the shared Zoom link. “I’ll open up the floor for anybody who has a question that they want to ask the guest of that day,” Shearon says. “It really gives me a lot of excitement to know that I’m connecting people. I’ll get emails every week—‘I connected with so and so that was on your show,’ or ‘after the town hall meeting, me and so and so got together and now we’re working together and sharing ideas and collaborating.’ I’m a real big proponent of relationships.”
When asked to provide specific episodes that truly represent what a visit to Insurance Town is like, Shearon offered what felt like half the podcast’s library. I narrowed it down. Here’s what you might be missing:
July 16, 2020—Ryan Mayfield. Mayfield, the owner of consulting firm Evrgrn, discussed using the Enneagram personality test to build successful teams.
“The Enneagram, you could say, is similar to some of those other personality-type systems like DiSC or Myers-Briggs, but it has some very big differences that set it apart,” Mayfield said. “A lot of those other ones look at kinds of external behaviors, like what you do, your actions, your habits, whereas Enneagram looks a lot more intrinsically at motivations, rather than the external actions.
“That’s a whole deeper level of self-reflection and introspection, so it can be really useful for your own personal growth, or relationships for work. I think that one of the reasons why it gets talked about so much is because it has such a wide range of applications, not just in your life, but also in your marriages and friendships and in personal growth and development.”
July 30, 2020—Cash McMillen. A long-time friend of Shearon’s, Cash McMillen, insurance and bond agent at The Cashion Company in Little Rock, discussed the importance of having a mentor and getting involved in insurance associations.
“Whenever you can find someone who can help you grow and learn, that’s the best training that you’ll ever have,” he said. “That’s better than any college course or class that you can ever take. A mentor isn’t there to just bounce questions off of and teach you what they know; they push you outside of your comfort zone.
“The value of associations is priceless. It’s the people; it’s not the name. At the end of the day, the question is who you know, and it’s the people that you will meet that will change your life or help you grow.”
August 20, 2020—Dustyne Bryant. Bryant, personal lines academic director with the National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research, and the host of its Awkward Insurance podcast (she referred to the episode in which Heath Shearon was a guest in the debut article of this series; see the February 2020 issue of Rough Notes), shared the importance of being a life-long learner.
“I’m constantly looking for more information. Even when I found the information I’m looking for, there’s always got to be more after that,” she said. “Be a champion for yourself. Education is a huge piece of that. ‘The more you know,’ the rainbow and everything. The more you know, the better you can do.
“The education of insurance is a huge passion of mine. It’s the foundation of what I do, and there are so many different programs that the National Alliance is putting out there right now.”
December 3, 2020—Ed Lamont. The instructor of the CPIA designation course that Shearon attended, Lamont, founder and president of Lamont Consulting Group, discussed among other things one of his firm’s training programs.
“I have a program called Know, Believe, and Communicate,” he said. “In other words, we need to know things; then we need to believe them, and then we need to communicate them. It’s super valuable to any of these folks who want to literally get the measurable increases in sales.
“One of my largest customers is a long-haul trucking insurance specialist. Anybody commercial has to deal with OSHA, so the protection plans, the risk management, and the regulatory stuff, we need to know. Then we need to really believe it, that we do make a difference—that we can help make our customers more profitable by knowing this stuff. And once we believe it, then we have a chance to help our prospects and clients believe it because we have a better ability to communicate it.”
December 29, 2020—Kim Angeli. An author and keynote speaker, Kim Angeli, the CEO and founder of Grateful Box, a business consulting firm that specializes with Nextdoor, shared the benefits of using Nextdoor for your business.
“Think about Nextdoor as where people are seeking services, and if it wasn’t well known before COVID by design, it became known during COVID,” Angeli said.
“If my neighbor Barbara says that her insurance agent is a rock star, and I’m on Nextdoor and I say ‘Oh, Barbara says her neighbor is her insurance agent and is a rock star,’ and I know Barbara, that recommendation holds way more water in my mind. Because I’ve known Barbara for seven years, compared to a Google review from John Smith. I don’t know who John Smith is; he can be fake. So, the reviews and recommendations on Nextdoor are highly trusted.
“It’s like the Yellow Pages but with recommendations from people you know.”
March 25, 2021—Troy Korsgaden. President and consultant at Korsgaden International, Troy Korsgaden discussed changes happening in the industry today.
“A tsunami of change is happening today; the waves are crashing against the shore,” he said. “As the waves pull back and you get a look at things, there’s still independence, but things are evolving. The customer is in control. That means that they own the keys to the kingdom; they decide when they want to buy, what they want to buy, and how they want to buy.
“The indie system works so well. When we put the customer first with everything we do, the winners will continue to be the winners if they keep the focus on the customer and customer control.”
While having a blast recording episodes (he tends to laugh a lot throughout the podcast), Shearon hopes his listeners gain something while visiting Insurance Town. “My message that I say every week is I want the content that I put out to make you a better insurance professional; it’s sort of a tagline,” he says. “From my sponsors to my guests to the audience, I really want to create a small-town community where people feel connected.
“No matter how much technology comes out or how big or small a carrier or agency gets, relationships will always be key. Whether it’s 2021, 2028, or back in 1995, I still feel that there’s a lot of value in relationships. Take advantage of face-to-face interaction, whether it’s on Zoom or in person; shake that hand or have a cup of coffee with somebody.”
Now that the podcast is his full-time job, Shearon is grateful that the chance to start a podcast had finally presented itself.
“This podcast has single-handedly changed my life, and that’s a powerful statement,” he says. “I’ve learned so much and I’ve had opportunities: I’ve been on other people’s podcasts, I’ve been asked to be a keynote speaker, and I’m seen now as an authority figure in the industry.
“When I started this, I just wanted to have a little podcast, have some fun and introduce some people to my Arkansas friends and family. It’s turned into a much broader spectrum for me, and it’s been just so much fun,” he concludes.
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