Bernard Williams & Company
(L to R): Allen Williams, Charles McCoy, Alan Williams, Rob Bowden, Richard Williams, Dan Pavlin, Robert Daniels. Pictured in background: Founder Bernard F. Williams.
“The most positive change we have seen in our agency since partnering with Keystone has been having the added resources behind us that we did not have before. We are able to reach out to Keystone corporate as well as other agency partners for support, benchmarking, and feedback on markets and agency structure. Our State VP, Sheldon Palefsky and Tammy Erb, have been all-around resources for our agency. David Irwin has helped us with Commercial Lines Middle Markets. Mike Policastro has been invaluable for benchmarking and appropriate structure for producer goals and compensation. Our number one piece of advice would be to not try and be all things to all prospects. While you don’t have to be a niche agency; focus on a demographic of clientele, and work toward and for them. Don’t be afraid to turn down business that does not fit your appetite.”
(L to R): Dallas Peters, Brian Dolweski, Kevin Lesch, Bill Sullivan, Greg Mattingly.
“We have made many changes in the past year and focused on our employees. We made sure they knew their opinions mattered, and acted on suggestions they made. We invested in our team through advancements in technology; changing agency policy to give employees more flexibility; setting agency, department, and producer goals; and promoting community involvement. As an agency, we have helped our community by participating in Young Hearts 4 Life, Toys for Tots, Hanover Park Township Food Drive, and Meals on Wheels.
Benchmarking ourselves with other top agencies and being able to interact with other partners in our state and region has been a positive change and reaffirmed our commitment to working on growing our business. We have found several resources within Keystone who have helped for our agency. David Irwin worked with us on a large manufacturing account. Our State VP, Matt Fink helped us secure a market we have wanted for some time. Glen Pletz gave us his assistance in reviewing non-core profit sharing agreements. And last, but not least, the team who worked on making our benefits book more profitable, Klaus Knuth and Michelle Smith.”
Miller Insurance Group
Miller Insurance Agency Staff
“We’ve always been proud of our Keystone affiliation. Being recognized as the Indiana Partner of the Year is a humbling honor, considering the depth of excellent agencies in our state. Our website was overhauled and optimized to provide additional communication tools for our customers. We’re very proud of our record of service from the top down in this agency. In addition to our financial support of schools and local youth sports and community organizations, our ownership and employees hold numerous volunteer positions ranging from church leadership, to coaching to serving on hospital, school and town boards. Our number one piece of advice would be to support your employees with the technology and training to be the best they can be. Educated and confident team members service customers better. As our tools become more advanced, empower individuals with the knowledge to utilize those tools and become more efficient, more productive and more satisfied in their jobs. And don’t forget thank your team constantly.
The most positive change we have seen in our agency since partner with Keystone has been from knowledge sharing and partner collaborations. The Keystone forums provide great insight into what other successful agencies are doing to stay successful. High-level challenges need high-level advice, and we’ve found that between Keystone experts and Keystone partners, the resources are unlimited to help us overcome those challenges. The most positive change that comes from that kind of support is confidence that we’re doing business the right way with the right partners.
The Keystone resources are so deep. We’ve leaned on Keystone for everything from perpetuation planning, to carrier relationships, to loss management advice from Ralph Sitterson. From a revenue standpoint, the best resource has been the employee benefits team. We’ve seen our employee benefits revenue increase more than ten-fold since becoming a partner; realized mostly in the past three years. We’ve had great success in winning new business with Klaus Knuth, and have appreciated the increased focus on efficiency and client-focused service, especially from Justus Brinkerhoff and Janice Kopenhafer.”
Al Torstrick Agency
(L to R): Mike Johnson, Ali Johnson, Robbie Blain.
“There are so many positive changes in our agency, but the one that stands out, because it was unexpected and that we didn’t know we were missing, is confidence. Our Keystone partnership has given us the confidence to compete with national brokers, confidence in our carrier relationships, confidence in our expertise, and confidence in our agency. Our favorite changes we made is in staffing, working toward changing the culture of our agency to be more sales-focused, and updating our compensation plan. Keystone was an integral part of helping me establish a new compensation plan. I first saw this approach at a partner meeting; and with the help of Josh Morgan and Mike Policastro, we implemented it in our agency.
We have found several resources within Keystone which have been extremely valuable for our agency. John Hawkins and Jon Papp on the employee benefits team worked with our producer on a large group client. Brian Duncan and Jonathan Theys assisted our producer with two Term Life policies for a Buy-Sell Agreement on a complicated risk.
As an agency Principal, the agency management, consulting, and sales resources have been invaluable: Mike Azar, Mike Policastro, Robert Sutter, and Josh Morgan to name a few. The sales training for producers, the help with our agency perpetuation which as now been completed, and our new producer compensation plan have pushed us to be better equipped to meet and exceed our long-term goals.”
From left: TG Nulty and Aaron Vorce (Michigan State VP)
“We are proud to be part of Keystone. Joining has made us better and more profitable. Being named Partner of the Year for Michigan is a great accomplishment, especially considering the many great partners in our state. Our number one piece of advice is to continually evaluate your people and processes to find ways to improve. The goal is always long-term growth. Our management team sensed a disconnect in the staff. As a result, we formed a team of non-managers that we affectionately called the Culture Club. They surveyed our employees and used the information to provide a course of action to make us a more cohesive team.
The most positive change we have seen in our agency since partnering with Keystone has been access to additional carrier relationships and stronger relationships with all core carriers. As a Keystone partner, we have instant credibility with core carriers. Within Keystone, we have found many resources which have benefited our agency. Financial services and bonds have been a huge help to us and our clients. Additionally, we have used special programs such as the pollution coverage.”
Scott Agency, Inc. and Melahn Insurance Agency
Scott Agency staff.
“The most positive change we have seen since partnering with Keystone would be improved carrier relationships and the community of partners. One of the best resources Keystone has provided for our agency is access to their employee benefits division. Billy Bridwell and his staff has been great, and the support from Mark Blassie has been tremendous.
Our number one piece of advice for other partners is to set producer goals and hold them accountable for those goals. Also, be aware of all the Keystone programs and vendors available. My favorite improvement for 2019 was upgrading to Forge3 on the website. Forge 3 is a Keystone vendor and a great web marketing partner. The exposure we’ve been able to get online from their expertise has driven new business to the agency that we would not have gotten a chance to quote in the past.”
Jones Insurance Agency
“Our agency participates in a number of community service programs including Meals on Wheels, SPCA, Habitat for Humanity, Juvenile Diabetes, Wake Enterprises, and NC Autism. Our number one piece of advice would be to talk to your peers within the Keystone community. It will get you motivated, and you’ll get great ideas by coming together. Keystone has provided our agency with a many resources which have been extremely helpful to our agency. Jim Trotter, our state VP, has been able to connect us with the resources that we need to grow. In addition, Mike Policastro has been very instrumental in establishing a perpetuation plan.”
The Wiseman Agency
Staff holiday picture.
“The past year has brought many changes for our agency. We have had several long-time employees retire. Their dedication to the business was phenomenal but allowed us the opportunity to add new, enthusiastic people to the team and make our future very bright. Additionally, the investment of our fourth-generation family members coming in as owners is a very proud moment for us. The most positive change we have seen in our agency since partnering with Keystone has been the additional company representation, professional development and networking, and access to tremendous resources. The best resource from Keystone we’ve found for our agency has been our fellow partners. There are so many experts in a variety of fields. If you have an issue, with just a simple email or phone call, there are friends volunteering to offer advice and assistance.
Our number one piece of advice would be that data matters – but so do people!! It’s important to listen to both.”
Kilmer staff photo.
“The most positive change that we have seen in our agency since partnering with Keystone has been being able to compete with the big dogs. We can compete large scale with local flavor. We have embraced the book, “The Wedge.” It has helped us leverage opportunities to involve clients with an asymptomatic approach. To do this, we use a lot of the resources available to us including Ralph Sitterson, Risk Management, the portal forums, David Irwin, and benefits and programs teams. Our number one piece of advice is that we have is to define what the agency offers to the client using Keystone resources.”
(L to R): Bruce Robins, Van Robins.
“Our favorite improvement we made in the last year is formalizing our Work From Home (WFH) policy. Our staff was so appreciative of the flexibility. We gave everyone monitors and docking stations. When the pandemic hit, we were prepared. Our folks were used to working from home, and no one missed a beat. Our number one piece of advice is to focus on hiring and validating producers. If you can do that successfully, you’ll grow faster than other agencies, you’ll dramatically increase the value of your agency, carriers will clamor to give you a contract, you can negotiate higher commissions, attract high caliber account managers, etc. If successful – and it’s not easy – validating a pipeline of new producers into your agency creates a virtuous cycle of good fortune.
The knowledge sharing among partners is the most valuable thing Keystone offers. We incorporate what we’ve learned from others into our daily practice. In addition to the community, we have found the benefits division to be extremely valuable for our agency. We have traditionally focused on P&C and don’t have a competitive competency within our agency when it comes to benefits. Having access to Keystone’s benefits division has allowed us to write strategic accounts which generate revenue and keep competition at bay.”
Watkins Insurance Agency, Inc.
From left: Catherine Olmert, Patrick Olmert.
“The most positive change we have seen in our agency since partnering with Keystone has been growth in size, knowledge, profit, resources, access, and partner friendships. Our favorite improvement we’ve made to our agency has been increasing our marketing efforts dramatically. We co-branded everything with Keystone to highlight Keystone’s scope and size and a foundation of our agency. We re-created our website and made significant investments in digital marketing. It’s extremely difficult to track ROI on these investments, but we feel it is a necessary footprint for a modern successful agency.
Our number one piece of advice would be to use your resource. We have amazing Keystone partners and are honored to be included in such an outstanding group of professionals. Ask for assistance. Don’t hesitate to reach out to partners for advice, assistance, or guidance. The same goes for Keystone Corporate: they offer so many avenues to assist and grow your agency. Plan with your state VP every year; if they know your plans, they know how to help. Other than our fellow partners, Mike Polocastro has been instrumental in assisting us with several acquisitions. We are building a dedicated life department backed by Robb Stottlemyer with the financial services team, and Alan Klein with the Agents for Life program. Strong core work comp carriers and comprehensive knowledge of claims management has helped us turn a low profit line of business into a tool, separating ourselves from the pack and bringing additional value to the table.”
Burns Insurance Agency, Inc.
From left: Cindy Burns, Dan Burns.
“We designated 2019 as ‘everything education and improvement.’ We attended Hawksoft National Users conference, Keystone conferences, IAOA and National Alliance programs. The most positive change we have seen in our agency since partnering with Keystone has been the collaboration with our peers and the sharing of intellectual capital. Those from Keystone Corporate have also been extremely helpful including our State VP JoAnn Hartung, Margo Mackedanz, Neal Williams, and Melanie Rachau. To be honest, everyone from David Boedker on down are always willing to pick up the phone and help you.
Our number one piece of advice would be to embrace the ‘Humble, Hungry and Smart’ approach. Step away from your agency every year and look at it as though you are looking at buying it and perform a SWOT test.”