The Henkes Welsh Insurance agency was looking for a partner in the insurance industry rather than a private equity firm or bank that could buy it out. Heffernan Network turned out to be the perfect fit. Through Heffernan Network, Henkes has successfully competed with larger agencies to land large accounts while retaining the agency’s unique culture.
PROBLEM: HOW TO STAY LOCAL WHILE GOING BIG
Henkes is located in Reno, Nevada, a place nicknamed The Biggest Little City in the World. “People in this market like to deal with locals,” says Larry Henkes, President of Henkes Welsh Insurance agency. To succeed in such a market, Henkes needed to find a way to keep its brand identity as a local company. At the same time, the agency needed to expand to compete with bigger companies and win large accounts.
Heffernan Network made all of this possible. “They allowed us to retain our identity,” Henkes says. “Plus, we could expand beyond our existing offerings and bring the clients more options to better compete with the larger agencies.”
It was exactly what Henkes needed. However, it was also a big change – and that can be scary.
A SMOOTH TRANSITION
Building an insurance agency can be like raising a child – you’re emotionally invested and proud of your baby. Likewise, selling your agency is like sending your grown child to college. You know it’s probably the right thing to do, but it’s still painful. Fortunately, with Heffernan Network’s guidance, the process of changing ownership went easier than expected.
“The due diligence was a lot of work, especially when still trying to run the agency,” Henkes admits. Nevertheless, he says the sale went smoothly. “The transition was handled by Heffernan Network and had far less hiccups than I had anticipated.” He was also pleasantly surprised that the sale did not bring about a noticeable change in company culture. “Heffernan Network’s culture to me is like a family that gets along well versus a corporation,” he says.
This doesn’t mean nothing changed after the sale. There were noticeable differences – but they were advantageous. Henkes had a new support system behind him. He explains, “An unexpected benefit is having experienced people really wanting us to succeed and being proactive with ideas and suggestions.”
SCORING A BIG WIN
Now that Henkes is part of the Heffernan Network, there’s a clear path for growth. The agency is also better equipped to seize opportunities that might have been out of reach before.
One opportunity arose when an attorney client of the agency was having problems with his condo association’s property renewal. The condominium is located by Lake Tahoe in an area with growing wildfire risks. About one month before the policy was set to expire, the association received a notice of non-renewal. Suddenly, unit owners were looking at a limit decrease combined with a significant premium increase.
Henkes helps clients of all sizes, but, as a small agency, there were some issues it hadn’t dealt with before – and this was one of them. “I personally don’t have much experience in layering property risks, especially in high fire risk areas,” Henkes explains. “I reached out to Heffernan Network and they referred me to Ryan Flanagan at Heffernan Insurance Brokers.”
Ryan had a wholesale insurance contact who did some research, crunched the numbers, and determined the association could save around $100,000 by restructuring the program and replacing some of the carriers.
Henkes had a solution in hand. Now he just had to convince the association leaders. It took some work. Henkes reached out to the president and treasurer to inform them the agency would need to be appointed as the broker of record to proceed. Steve Williams, the Director of Business Development at Heffernan Network, happened to be spending his Fourth of July holiday at the Lake Tahoe property, so he was able to reiterate the proposal in person.
The hard work paid off: Henkes was awarded the broker of record letter. The account was a big win for Henkes, but it was also a smart move for the association. Henkes had promised to save the association $100,000, but the agency ended up saving the client $198,000!
“I would not have been able to secure this account without the help of Heffernan Network and Heffernan Insurance Brokers,” Henkes says.
A SMART OPTION FOR AGENCY OWNERS
For Henkes, selling the agency to Heffernan Network was a way to take the agency to the next level while retaining its culture and brand identity. When agencies join Heffernan Network, they gain access to carrier markets, cutting-edge technology, best practices, and help with large accounts.
Selling is a big decision, not to be taken lightly. However, based on his own experience, Henkes says he would recommend Heffernan Network to other agency owners and has actually already done so.
Are you ready to grow your agency? Heffernan Network, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Heffernan Insurance Brokers, is committed to supporting independent agencies. Start a conversation.