Georgia

Lee, Hill & Johnston Insurors

(Bottom to top, L to R): Pratt Hill, Walker Hill, Mitchell Hill, Russ Taulbee. 2nd row: Candi Black, Jamie Smith, Amanda Morris, Marianna Brown. 3rd row: Alan Tyson, Carol Wynn, Tina Saxon, Kim Howell, Patty Dixon. Top row: Matt Hart, Win Lee, Mary-Ashley Burnett, Dana Roberts.

“Our number one piece of advice is to invest in your people.  It really pays off in the long run. Our favorite improvement has been seeing our young producers and junior partners get their legs under them and grow together.  One thing we specifically did to thrive was get involved in the local chamber of commerce which has highlighting businesses that were able to be open during COVID-19.  We sponsored the program and made use of our social media to extend the reach within our community.

The most positive change I’ve seen in my agency since joining Keystone is that we feel like we are a member of a community and have some great resources to rely on.  Keystone is a lot different from other groups because of the expertise in-house.  Our fellow agents are a great resource for bouncing ideas off of, and we feel like we are part of a big successful team rather than out on our own.”

Illinois

Joseph M. Wiedemann and Sons

(L to R): Dianne Raleigh, John Wiedemann, Ned Cooke.

“Our agency took many steps to thrive in the past year, implementing systems which allow our employees to easily switch between working remotely and at the office including a new phone system and switching to laptops with docking stations.  Our sales team has embraced using video in the sales process as well.  Our favorite improvement, however, has been bringing on the 4th generation of family, Daniel Raleigh!

Our number one piece of advice is to meet with principals from other agencies and get to know them.  Be open to share with them the challenges your agency is having as well as areas you are doing well.  We are a team!  The other agencies also want to grow and improve their operations.  The most positive change we’ve seen in our agency since joining Keystone has been streamlining our book of business to core carriers and maximizing the value of our book of business.  This has resulted in deeper relationships with our carriers.”

Indiana

Beatty Insurance

Beatty Insurance Agency Staff 

“In order to not only survive but thrive in 2021, our agency started using Zoom and technology much more aggressively to stay in touch with our clients and also to attract new clients. We are a small town agency, and most people are still very accustomed to coming into our office. We used a drop box for these folks so they could still come by but could not come in.  Of course, that made our staff so much more productive.  Bottom line we adapted to our customers’ needs.  We also adapted to our employee needs by transitioning to more work from home with employees who enjoy that and where it works well.  Now we have 3 folks out of ten working from home which has freed up space here in the office. Made morale much better.

Our number one piece of advice would be to identify the area(s) of your agency that you feel you need to improve and then work with your State Vice President to get the resources that are available at Keystone to help you improve in that area.   Bonds has been absolutely awesome to work with.  They have really helped us write some nice accounts due to getting a foothold with a bond.  We have used just about every division in Keystone, but our best resource is our fellow Hoosier agencies.  They have been very instrumental in our success and by far the best resource in Keystone.”

Kentucky

Peel & Holland/Riddle Insurance

(L to R): Keith Riley, Kelly Harding, Roy Riley, Skip McGaw.

“The most noticable improvement in 2021 has been our focus on operating processes. We have a strong vision and have honed in on both short- and long-term goal-setting in recent years. This year, we’re taking a step back, delving into the day-to-day nuances that make a huge difference, both for our team and our clients. Improving processes meant that we shifted to a single leadership role overseeing operations across all lines of our business. We’ve worked with every manager in the organization to document core processes. We are systematically refining operations based on team feedback. In doing so, we are providing more training for our team and have been able to better utilize individual skill strengths. Our retention rates are up, and our team is happier, all because of our intentionality around improved processes.

Our number one piece of advice is to build and maintain strong personal relationships. Too often, insurance becomes a price-based commodity, something you can buy through a website. But to succeed, there has to be more than a one-time transaction. Most agencies understand this and have a decent level of focus on their client relationships. For Peel & Holland, it goes even further. We are intentional about the relationships we develop within our industry. We treat our carriers more like clients than vendors, investing time in resources in strengthening those carrier relationships. Partnering with the expertise at Keystone is another perfect example. The more an agency can seek to engage outside support from sound resources, the higher the chances of success become. Our advice is to value and consistently build rapport with the Keystone team. For us, the relationship has become invaluable.”

Michigan

Nulty Insurance

From left: TG Nulty and Aaron Vorce (Michigan State VP), Tom Jager.

“In order to not only survive but thrive in 2021, we were very opportunistic in acquiring new clients.  If our salesperson met a business owner, they jumped at the chance to talk business.  Our referral game was also working very well.  Our number one piece of advice would be to never get complacent.  I feel like we have, and we can be better, grow more, and faster.  The most positive change we’ve seen in our agency since joining Keystone has been the ability to learn best practices from other agencies.  We recently had the chance to talk to a high performing agency in Tennessee and learn from their success.  The best resource for our agency within Keystone has been our state vice president.  He points me in the right direction and helps make the appropriate connections.”

Missouri

Midwest Risk Partners

From left: Larry Howe, Doug Clift, Susan Clift, Jerome Howe III, Heath Greer.

“Our industry is changing at a rapid pace.  I do not advocate change just for the sake of change, but change is needed and must be done in a thoughtful manner.  Our number one piece of advice is to listen to your staff and lean on them for insights (give them skin in the game); this applies to seasoned veterans as well and newcomers to our industry.  We were fortunate to establish relationships with a few staffing companies to add talent in an efficient and cost-effective manner.  We also are implementing a few technologies we feel will position us for future growth.

The partnerships we have experienced since joining Keystone has been crucial.  Midwest Risk Partners is actually the combination of multiple agencies that probably would not have combined if it were not for our common relationship within Keystone.  Keystone brings a myriad of resources to their agencies.  Personally, I think the relationship our state vice president and our employee benefits vice president have been critical to our success.  They are both great resources to funnel our inquiries to the Keystone resources.”

North Carolina

Jones Insurance Agency

Jones Agency staff.

“We utilized a new management style that focuses on increasing accountability, transparency, and a consistent meeting format designed to reduce the ‘time suck’ that meetings often become. We feel this has been extremely helpful in addressing issues efficiently and ensuring good communication in what has become a very dispersed workforce.  Our favorite way to improve is taking care of our team. Like most, we added permanent remote options (hybrid) but also some schedule flexibility to assist working parents.

Our number one piece of advice would be to use the network.  This is not just a profit-sharing aggregation. Keystone has so many resources, and successful agencies will attend meetings and keep up with new resources as they are added. Those that use the resources will thrive. Use the forum for market help and answer other people’s questions. You get what you give. Pick up the phone and call your partner agencies. The ‘intellectual capital’ in this group is the biggest value by far!”

Ohio

Huesman-Schmid Insurance Agency

From left: Amy Roberts, A.J. Schmid.

“Our favorite improvement we made to thrive was the development of a multi-phase plan to restructure our Commercial Lines Department.  This new structure aligns our staff with a client base that matches their skill set and expertise, provides the staff a path for advancement, and lends internal support for training and development.  Phase 1 is complete and a success.  Phase 2 is in negotiation and once implemented will put us in a position to protect our existing client base and grow the Commercial Lines book.

The most positive change we’ve seen in our agency since joining Keystone has been the growth in agency volume and the agency value.  We have seen significant and consistent growth since joining Keystone in 2008.  We frequently utilize Keystone’s resources and expertise at the corporate level and the community of agencies.  By forming relationships with fellow Keystone agencies, you can share your intellectual capital with them as they will with you.  Developing such a partnership will allow you to emulate the best practices that make each of the agencies successful.  We will be better together.”

Pennsylvania

Deibler, Straub, & Troutman

Front row, L-R: Tom Troutman, Jean Smith, Darla Markel, Vicki Long, Nicole Bossler, Lisa Acey, Jessica Areford, Sandra Paul. Second row, L-R: Nathan Troutman, Sue Nice, Karen Keppler, Christy Lower, Amie Savidge, Jamie Long, Jennifer Phillips, Tara Schueck, Ryan Mock, Kelly Wagner. Back row, L-R: Michele Machemer, Eddie Koebke, Robert Gill, Colby Laudenslager, Andrew Kimmel, Dane Snyder.

“When life gives you lemons – you make lemonade!  It is essential to be positive in your outlook in this business.  Our philosophy in 2021 was to focus on the positive and move forward.  We attempted to maintain our normal operations as best possible, while accommodating the unique needs of each of our employees.  Our number one piece of advice is that to be the best you have to change, and you have to push.  No matter what stage you think your agency is at – you have to keep going.  When we rest and let off the throttle, that is when we are no longer dynamic and no longer the best.  Keystone at its core is a collection of new ideas, new initiatives and different ways of doing things.  Don’t throttle back and coast on what you have built – challenge yourself and your agency.  Embrace change, be different, and use Keystone and our great community.

We are not intimidated by the premium size, complexity or big-name broker and hence focus on larger opportunities.  We present ourselves as problem-solvers.  And our producers make calls and seek referrals with the confidence that we offer more sophisticated solutions delivered with a better, local in-person service model.  We are – Keystone.”

Tennessee

Robins Insurance

(L to R): Bruce Robins, Van Robins.

“Our ability to maintain productivity while working remotely was crucial to our ability to thrive.  I’m not only proud of our staff but our sales team as well.  Getting in front of prospects during a pandemic is challenging.  We’ve been able to find new business opportunities in spite of significant headwinds.

Our number one piece of advice would be to develop a vision of what you want your agency to be.  Seek out other Keystone agencies who have a similar vision for their agency.  Some of them will be further down the path than you; learn from their mistakes and emulate their successful practices.  You don’t need to be the innovative Elon Musk of the insurance business.  You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  Just do what other, more successful partners are doing.  You have to be willing to own your shortcomings and address them head on.”

Virginia

Brown Insurance

Brown Insurance staff.

“The ability for our associates to work remotely bar-none has been our favorite improvement and the one that has allowed us to thrive. We honestly have found most like working in the office, but we also found they are really happy with the option (and ability) to work from home. Whether they have a nagging cough and just feel better staying home that day, a doctor’s appointment, or simply have a half-day planned; being able to save the time and effort of coming in and heading back home looks to be a win for all.

Our number one piece of advice would be to get your agency ready for the future and prepared.  Take advantage of such resources like Emerging Leaders and agency perpetuation consultations. Keystone has greatly helped us in our perpetuation plan throughout the last couple of years.  The most positive change we’ve seen in our agency since joining Keystone has been goal planning! We took Keystone’s annual planning and adapted it to our goal setting for core and non-core carriers. We monitor these goals on a monthly basis by carriers and use this exercise as a team building activity between our personal and commercial lines departments…neither team wants to look bad. If we are not making goals with a particular carrier, we want to have that tough discussion with the carrier and/or make sure that carrier is getting their fair shot at accounts.”

Wisconsin

Family Insurance Center

Family Insurance Center staff.

“While change has been constant over the years, our goal of maintaining relationships within our community and providing the standard of service expected from a hometown agency has stayed the same. Family Insurance Center continues to be a progressive local agency placing high value on the strong traditions our company was built on.  We are excited being a part of Keystone provides us with stability and continued growth with our carriers. We’re also happy that our interest to be multi-generational in ownership is now more secure than ever.”