WHEN IT RAINS ON YOUR PARADE, LOOK UP RATHER THAN DOWN
Feeling frustrated? Look what can happen with hard work and a little luck
By Christopher W. Cook
Most people will spend approximately one-third of their life at work, and it can be easy to become frustrated with the job. Maybe they aren’t hitting their deadlines or sales numbers or they’re not climbing that corporate ladder as expected. But hey, nothing worth having comes easy.
I’ve never worked in the insurance industry. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who reads my articles—I mention it periodically. One of my work-related frustrations is simply finding a topic for this feature. Sometimes I reach out to my young professional networks—usually on LinkedIn—to learn what their current frustrations are and what topics I should be covering.
Some time back, I developed a survey on Survey Monkey asking my networks for topic ideas. One of the top results was profiles of successful young professionals and advice from them regarding how they’ve achieved what they have.
I was introduced via email a few years ago by a member of our Editorial Advisory Board to Parker Rains, senior vice president of Fisher Brown Bottrell Insurance, Inc., the independent agency subsidiary of Trustmark National Bank, in Nashville, Tennessee. After receiving degrees in communications and marketing from Auburn University in 2004, Rains found himself working at a real estate closing firm in the Florida Panhandle, where he earned a regional top sales award with Fidelity National.
But then, he recalls, “I was 24 when the market crashed in ’06-’07, so I needed to find something else. I looked around at the most successful people I knew who weren’t doctors or lawyers. The one who stood out was a retail insurance agent. I decided, ‘Hey, I’ll do that,’ and started producing in 2008.”
A hard-earned career
The role came naturally to Rains, who had experience in sales during college. As an ad rep for The Auburn Plainsman, the student newspaper, Rains became the number one salesperson in the history of the paper and earned a spot in the top 1% nationally in sales for college newspapers.
“In the beginning of my insurance career I did it all—sales, marketing, and account management,” says Rains, who specialized in the hospitality and real estate industries. “The most challenging part was starting two offices from scratch in two different markets.”
The first office opened by Rains in Florida merged into the Florida offices of Fisher Brown Bottrell Insurance Florida in 2009; the second is the office where he currently works, where he is responsible for the property/casualty division, which covers three states and carries about $82 million in commercial premium.
“Starting any business from scratch is challenging for all the obvious reasons, regardless of the industry,” Rains says. “For an insurance agency, the challenges are unique from a carrier contract perspective. Many carriers require a premium commitment before they will give you a contract.
“Also, the sales cycle on the commercial side is annual for the most part. It might take several years to get only a couple of opportunities to onboard a new client. I was in an area where I had no previous relationships—I wasn’t from there and didn’t go to school there. That put me even more behind.
“To overcome these issues you must be a master of time management (see the Young Professionals feature in the March 2017 issue of Rough Notes), have a clear, consistent message, and have a psychotic passion to succeed and make it work.”
A little luck doesn’t hurt, either. Rains lives by the concept: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
In 2015, Rains created FBBI 365, a Fisher Brown Bottrell Insurance process that he describes as being “reserved for clients with sophisticated risk management challenges and exposures. It is our diagnostic approach that allows us to identify areas of need and align the appropriate solutions.”
The process begins by examining a company’s policies and procedures, like the employee handbook and safety programs. The client is then connected with HR professionals, loss control specialists and workers comp consultants who advise the organization on ways to minimize its exposure to loss. Throughout the process, a custom strategy is being designed and built based on the company’s specific needs.
“No two businesses are exactly the same,” Rains explains, “so their insurance and risk management strategies shouldn’t be either.”
With an impressive résumé under his belt, Rains believes that technology is a necessity to be successful in today’s business world. “With the technology available today, I’m basically on call 24/7,” he says. “At certain times of the year, that really seems to be the case.”
This tends to happen approaching the beginning of the year—around January 1 renewals—and also after natural disasters, like when Hurricane Michael made landfall across Florida last October, bringing with it a high volume of claims.
“To truly be successful today, you must embrace technology and make your life efficient by streamlining as many tasks and goals as possible,” Rains asserts. “Take that data and make it work for you.
“Some of the biggest frustrations come from the idea of success—or perceived success—being as on-demand as the rest of the world, and it is not. It takes time. A long time. You must have grit, stick-to-itiveness and determination to overcome the competition.
“Clients have many options for insurance—some now even without human interaction—so it’s harder than ever to acquire new business. However, I believe that at the end of the day a client still wants to look someone in the eye and believe that this person has their best interest at heart, will be there in their time of need, and will do what they say they’re going to do.”
When someone decides to be that person who acts in the client’s best interest and enter the insurance industry, where should they begin?
“There are so many great options in the insurance industry,” Rains says. “At the start of a career, I would be open to all avenues—underwriting, claims, operations, sales, and so on. From a sales perspective, I would find an agency that supports producers in their effort to attract clients in a way that helps them understand the risks that are unique to them and can provide them meaningful solutions. Once those agencies are identified, I would see what niche/practice areas they specialize in and go with what interests you the most.”
If you’re just getting started in the industry—or even if you’re a seasoned veteran—and are experiencing frustration with your workload, results, or the direction your career is heading, just remember, as Gilbert K. Chesterton said, “When it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.”