Focusing on small/medium size businesses, East Yorkshire Insurance Brokers, based in Hull, began trading on the 16th March 2020, days before we went into lockdown No.1.
After an unusual first year, we recently caught up with John Roberts, founder of EYIB, to find out how the first 12 months have gone, how he overcame the hurdles of the pandemic and how he found starting his own business, as an AR of TEn.
TEn: How have you found your first year in business and how has the pandemic affected you?
JR: Whilst it’s certainly had its difficulties, the first year has been good, although in March 2020 we were still anticipating the effects of Covid.
The pandemic changed what I had planned to do initially, as I had expected to go out and about in the community, gathering leads from local businesses. As it turned out, I managed that for just one day, although I was able to pick up one piece of business from it.
So, I did a lot of telephone cold calling, which I don’t much like, but when you have to, you do. At least I gathered a few renewal leads that will be coming up shortly. I then got into networking.
Just before lockdown, I was able to attend one 4N meeting, but now I do it online. While this has taken time to materialise, I am starting to see enquiries as a result and, I do have several cases scattered right across the country due to this effort.
Networking does take commitment and it is not cheap, but it’s worth taking the time to establish connections and build trust within the groups. Of course, it’s not just about getting referrals, but, also, there has been a lot of learning, how to run a business, tips etc.
Although I may not have quite hit the targets I set for myself, I have been able to move into my own office, providing me with a better space to work from. TEn have helped me look at the way I place business, thereby not only helping me, but also improving the cost to my customers.
TEn: What were the driving factors behind starting your own business and taking the leap to work for yourself?
JR: From a young age, I’ve had an interest in running my own business and being my own boss.
I spent a bit of time managing a Swinton branch before it was closed. A colleague had already had a meeting with TEn, which introduced me to TEn and the network proposition. Before that I didn’t really know such a thing existed.
It then became a choice of working for another broker or setting up on my own. As I was fortunate enough to be in a position financially to survive a lean 18 months or so, after speaking at length to TEn, I decided to take the plunge.
TEn: Why did you choose TEn over other networks?
JR: One of the reasons I chose TEn was, from my initial contact, there seemed to be a genuine interest in me. They were willing and able to set up a meeting at my convenience, so that I could ask questions and share my ideas.
Other networks I spoke to gave me the impression I would be pushed into placing more business and partnering up with others. TEn gave me the impression they would support me from the outset and they understood my business plan, focussing on e-trade and smaller business. There wasn’t any pressure to place a huge amount of premium within the first year.
TEn: You have struck up a great relationship with your account handler. How has that been?
JR: My Account Handler is good at his job. From day-1 we have had a good relationship and rapport. We have shared interests and he is great to talk to. I trust him and I’m really happy with how this relationship has grown over time.
TEn: Are you utilising the Personal Lines Department, Accounts and Compliance?
JR: Yes, I speak highly of the Personal Lines Department. They have helped me secure a good competitive premium recently with a policy.
You need to have compliance and it saves me time to have somebody else guiding me. The compliance department at TEn are very fair. They ensure I am doing exactly what I should be doing as a broker. They are more than happy to answer questions and give me tips.
Equally, I am confident I can send a quick email request to accounts and it will be done. This frees up time to reach out to clients and speak to business’ etc.
TEn: What’s the biggest challenge you have faced in the last 12months?
JR: Getting my name out there and getting organic queries coming in, although I think that’s normal for any new business. I need to get my name out there. One of the ways I have done that is by sponsoring a local football club.
The biggest challenge, aside from Covid, is getting people to get in contact with me. Although I have learnt about this and have been improving my web presence.
I have also had to overcome the obstacle of people not wanting to move away from insurance companies.
TEn: What are your plans/goals for the next 12 months?
JR: After speaking to a local business coach, I changed the original name of the business to East Yorkshire Insurance Brokers, mainly to help my website from an SEO perspective. I am developing my site and some paid Facebook advertising.
I have started doing newsletters every other month. These are really beneficial, keeping me current in potential customers minds, especially when they are coming up for renewal. Also, I recently signed up for a lead generation site, to see how that goes.
In addition to these things, I am also looking at working with a local initiative placement scheme. The scheme is to give 18-24yr olds work experience. The idea behind this is to set them tasks around admin, social media, lead generation etc – stuff I currently struggle to find time to do. Depending on how this goes, perhaps in 6 months, I can condiser taking on an apprentice.
TEn: What advice would you give to someone looking to become an appointed representative?
JR: My main advice would be to go into it with open eyes. Have savings and, if possible, have a partner you can lean on financially, especially if you are starting from scratch with no book of business.
To summarise I’d say:
Try to find a mentor, they are a great thing to have and an outside perspective really helps. I’m also more than happy to pick up the phone to my BIDM, Account handler and anyone else at TEn for that matter. If I have a query, there is always someone within TEn I can speak to.
TEn: What’s the best thing about being a TEn member?
JR: The support I get and the fact that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do if it wasn’t for TEn.
Going Directly Authorised wasn’t realistic, I would have had to jump through many hoops and have had tens of thousands of pounds in my bank account.
TEn gives me the support I need to grow my business. It helps me focus on my clients rather than worrying about ringing various insurance companies, I can send these to my account handler and crack on with networking or reaching out to clients to discuss their insurance.
Being a member of TEn works well for me. It gives me the flexibility to gout and network and look for business. It also removes the worry of the PI insurance and other things along those lines.
I am more than happy with the relationship and would like it to continue for many years to come.
It’s been a pleasure working with John over the last year and we look forward to watching him succeed further.
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