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An Interview with Brent M. Crawley: Co-Founder, President of Sales & Distribution of The Premier Agency

by | Jun 30, 2021 | Uncategorized

The Premier Agency exists for the sole purpose of making our producers the heroes of the Insurance story in their clients’ lives. With our platform, tools, and experience, we strive every day to mentor or producers in such a way that will help them align with their biggest dreams of support clients in the best way possible.

Kindly give readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities:
The Premier Agency is best defined as a wholesale agency for Health Insurance products. What this means is, we give independent insurance brokers access to insurance products, training, resources, and compensation that they would likely struggle to get access to on their own. We want all of our brokers to strive high in their careers and provide well for their clients and families. With The Premier Agency, our brokers have the freedom to own their own company but know that there is a company besides them that seeks to help them prosper, hold them accountable to compliance and ethics, as well as helping them support their clients in ways they maybe couldn’t before.

Give us a brief description of yourself:
I have been in the insurance business since 2008 when I got my license. Higher education was not something that I saw as a reliable resource for me as traditional education settings did not do much to inspire me. I knew that getting my hands deeply involved in something that I could watch grow was my path.

The Insurance business however was my quickest way to a profitable business that could call my own. I quickly jumped into a captive seat with an Insurance Carrier on the Life insurance side but was not please as to the structure and support that was given to the producers. I found it hard to succeed while the commissions were low and so was the support.

Quickly seeing the writing on the walls, I transitioned only 6 months later to a Captive Career Agency that brokered insurance products of many kinds, primarily focusing on Medicare, Long Term Care, Annuities & Final Expense. I was able to cut my teeth in that field for 10 years as I climbed the rankings within that organization. I was a local sales leader for a few insurance carriers in the Medicare space and I learned much about what it took to succeed in that space.

There, I built a team of my own, where we hit production and training goals, and I discovered a newfound passion for training up other people to succeed in our business. I also was able to realize that it was not simply the ““training”” aspect that drew me into who I am today, but it was the process of encouraging other producers and incentivizing them to reach bigger goals in their business.

after 10 years with the organization, it was time to step away and seek a new challenge. I branched off and partnered with my current business partner, Justin Heubach. Justin was a dear friend who I came to know through his role at a leading health insurance company in the local market in Arizona. Justin was my point person at this company. As I was slinging sales, Justin was helping make sure things were going smooth for me and my team.

Here we are now, 4 years later, cofounders of The Premier Agency. We could not be happier with our current direction of seeking to help Brokers perfect their business so they can be the heroes in the lives of their clients. A win for the agents is always a Win for The Premier Agency.

What inspired you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business?
Over the first 11 years of my career, I had learned one big valuable lesson. “Always check for strings attached”. While this may sound pessimistic, I had come to realize that in most cases, if a producer was to receive support that truly helped them accomplish more than their market peers, it would typically be supported by contracts that lean favorably in the direction of the Agency that they producer works for/is appointed with. I found this to be saddening, and while I wanted to start a successful business, I did not want to do it in a setting where I made a higher commission than the producer that was selling the product. I did not want to be the agency that locked their producers into intimidated contracts with no-compete and commission assignment clauses that would shackle the producer to the floor of my company. I knew there was a better way and I set out to accomplish that.

How did the idea for your business come about?
When my business partner parted ways with the insurance carrier he had worked for in the local market for several years, and I was ready to move on to bigger things, we came together with a goal in mind.

Justin and I started The Premier Agency with the end in mind. The end goal was to provide brokers the support that would help them scale their business to a greater level without having to lock them into scary contracts. We want to be a ““No Strings Attached”” agency. We are very aware that what we are doing seems risky, or maybe even unwise to other agency owners, and for that reason, we knew we were on to something. To us, it made much sense to go where others were not willing to go and to succeed at it. We knew it would separate us from the rest. We knew that producers in our market deserved the best, and when they found it, the value is what would keep them there, not the strings attached.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Jesus Christ – In all things, I strive to provide the most value to those I work with. Not because of a business model, but because of a life model.

What makes you different from other businesses in your industry?
The Premier Agency is on a constant mission to improve who we are so you can better what you do for your clients. We make no excuses for lack of growth. We put serving our agents in a sustainable way over everything. We seek to provide long-term mentorship in developing your business in a way that provides for you, your clients and also delivers Work/Life Balance. A happy family comes first. That doesn’t happen if you don’t have someone in your corner helping you take things to the next level.

To what do you most attribute your success?
Our desire to provide as much benefit as possible with no strings attached. Over the years we have had people pour into us with nothing asked in return and others who have wanted much in return. We know the difference and we know where we belong.

What do you think is the best way to achieve long-term success in business?
Rubber Ball, Glass Ball.

What is Rubber Ball, Glass Ball?
Rubber Ball Glass ball is a way of having a concise state of mind and awareness when it comes to the priorities in your life. There are things in your life and business that are capable of bouncing back when the ball is dropped. While we do not seek to drop the ball in any aspect of life, and while we should be mindful in setting goals for ourselves each and every day, week, month, quarter, and year, it’s sobering to accept that eventually a ball will be dropped.

Ensuring that the Rubber ball is the one that is dropped is critical. There are things in life that simply cannot be replaced, such as your family, your marriage, your honor, your health, and your faith. These things represent your Glass ball. When the time comes, which ball will you drop?

in the end, the solution is not to drop the rubber ball, but to have the wisdom to make the right decisions when the time comes and you must make a choice. There is no way to put systems in place to preserve your family, your health, your faith, etc. You must pour into them each and every day faithfully, or they will shatter. However, in contrast, our business can in fact be systematically formulated to survive storms and hardships. We can create platforms where our business begins to work harder for us than we ever could for it. When we do this, and when we are concise and dialed in, the end result is a business that can afford to live without us in those moments of hardship when we must choose which ball gets dropped.

Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
Myself: On a hike with my family.
My Business: Serving over 500 active brokers across the country, providing mentorship and development to help them master the Rubber Ball Glass Ball.

Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
USAA 2015-2020 – USAA during this time had an unshakable reputation of putting its employees first. If you are unaware, just do some research and prepare to have your mind blown.

Unfortunately in the last year and a half, USAA has, in my opinion, lost its way, sold off a few divisions of their company to employers who do not have the same ethics when it comes to the workspace and work-life balance as USAA has/had. This has led to many employees losing what remarkable affection for their work they had and oftentimes no longer having that thirst to show up at work and thrive the way they once did.

Daily I strive to model my workplace ethics with that of USAA from 2015-2020.

Who is your target demographic?
Insurance Brokers on the Life & Health market.

Please list 3-5 talking points about your business that you feel are most relevant to your target audience:
2020 sent a shockwave through our industry with COVID-19 forcing our industry into an area of change that most of us saw coming, however, it pushed the hand a little too fast for comfort. Since then, many agencies have been promoting Agent By Phone platforms. This, in, most cases creates a scenario for the agent where the agent works more or less as an employee for the agency and collects a commission for each sale. This brings me back to the “Strings Attached” mindset.

We do not seek to lock our producers to the ground with contracts that will leave them with no book of business to call their own, and no commissions to show for it, just a paycheck from the agency that will eventually deplete as it relates to the contract that you have with the agency.

We believe our industry is going astray, being bought and sold by the mega-corporations and their deep pockets and this provides a path to a quick paycheck for most Agents, but not a path to success for a Broker looking to scale a business that they can put their stamp on.

Mentorship has become a thing of the past and the Golden Parachute has replaced it. We are in a society where the safety net is being dangled in front of our producers and we are losing sight of what made this industry so great. The ability to build your own business, provide for your family and Love your customers while doing it.

What are your overall thoughts on your industry? Any advice you could give people about your industry?
While you search yourself to discover where it is you exactly fit in this business, there is only 1 question you should ask yourself.

““Do I want a job, or do I want to own a successful business””. This is a daunting question and many people who ask themselves this question are not ready to say ““Yes”” to owning a business. This is wonderful news because you are beginning to be self-aware. Self Awareness is the most critical component to being a good business person.

If you want a JOB in the insurance business, you won’t have to look very far. They are all over the place. There are two ways to the top of a mountain. There is the easy way and the hard way. If you find yourself hiring a pitch from an agency that is telling you ““it can’t get any easier than this””, then please know this one thing. They are right, and it is going to be easy, and you are taking the easy path to the top of a low-hanging fruit mountain.

However, if you are looking to build a business, please do not fall victim to the outliers who dangle the carrots. The other path to the top of a mountain is the hard way. But you are climbing a completely different mountain than the rest. When you reach the top you will look down and see people who had different goals, and that’s okay. We all do not have aspirations of running our own company/business. But, ““it doesn’t get any harder than this”” is the best news a business owner can hear. Seek to master the difficult and painful. Once you do, there will be massive success in your future.

Is your business involved with any charitable organizations, social causes, or non-profit work?
Foodbank organizations and Human Trafficking Awareness.

How do you give back and support your community?
As a corporation, we woke with Local organizers on a mission to prevent Human Trafficking and Food Bank organizations.

How important have good employees been to your success?
Finding good employees is one of the hardest things a company can do. It is very hard to find employees who care about your business. This is why it is important for your employees to first feel like you care about them.

We have collected massive dividends from key employees who have taken tremendous pride in their work. We have the trust in those in particular who we know will extend themselves to meet the need of the company when the chips are down. We could not do this without them.

What motivates you?
Seeing other people love their space and seek growth.

How do you generate new ideas?
I go to Journaling. Typically ideas come from a free space mind – when I am out doing something completely unrelated to work or business. When I am with my family or out doing something social. This is why I almost always have my reMarkable Note pad on me. When an idea comes to mind I am able to quickly jot it down and know that I can return to it later.

How do you define success?
Rubber Ball, Glass Ball

How do you build a successful customer base?
Being an expert in your market, always willing to learn, knowing you’re never at your best, and giving each client 110% of what they deserve from you.

The truth is, most customers don’t show appreciation too well, while there are some people who live to show gratitude. So when a client is giving you a 91% of what you need from them, always give them more in return. The dividends will be like a flowing stream of life.

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Creative Freedom and Mentorship. (giving & receiving).

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Roughly a year ago I was hosting a seminar in a different county, about a 4-hour drive from home. It had been a long season and an exhausting one. I was playing with the thought that maybe I couldn’t keep doing these travel meetings anymore, that my time had come and it was time to hang my hat and move on to other things and let my Producers handle these travel meetings.

I had a client who had been a client for a few years stand up in front of a crowd of 20 others in a meeting as I said my farewells, and began to cry. She then walked across the room and hugged me for maybe a whole minute, while crying she thanked me for all the help I had given her and her husband. She turned to the crowd and testified to the service I had provided her and her husband, and that she would miss me greatly and that she refuses to stop calling me because she doesn’t trust anybody would take as good of care of her and her husband as me.

This moment to this day rocks me to my core and tells me that what I strive to do in my business has worked in at least one way or another.

What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
Our organization has actually avoided the philosophy that we feel most agencies try to hang their hat on. We have heard many business people in many areas of business say ““everyone here is family””. And while it’s extremely heartwarming as a gesture, I have come to realize that, in reflecting on the idea of “family”, I don’t believe my people within my organization should truly be treated that way.

Every single person within my organization is a customer, someone who I am blessed to be working with, and someone who is replaceable. My job each and every day is to prove this idea wrong, that I cannot be replaced. There are times when I will drop the rubber ball, but thankfully it will bounce back.

As I strive to ensure that each and every person within my organization is happy, I remind myself daily that, they do not have to choose this place, that there are plenty of other options out there, and that earning my place in their lives is critical at every step.

I do not believe this is necessary with family. I do not submit to the idea that my sister needs a reminder every single day that I love and adore her, yet she knows that if the chips are down, I’m there for her. This is what separates family from everything else.

Can employees become family? Absolutely, but I seek to love them differently. I want them to have a leader they can trust and someone they can confide in, but I always try to keep in the back of my mind, that my shot clock is ticking, and I need to get some points on the board with them as often as possible because it might be my last chance to keep them here and I don’t even know it.

If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I embrace my past, it is why I am where I am.

What is your greatest fear in business, and how do you manage fear?
Fear is something that I have had to work very hard at conquering, and I realized that it was not something I could defeat in hand-to-hand combat. I eventually came to realize that life throws its punches at us and there are seasons of life that it is each and every day.

In previous years, I would try to be as prepared as possible for when life’s hardest trials would come and fear would set in. I have recently learned that if I am going to conquer fear, I must be the one to throw the first punch each and every day at life and its obstacles. I can now keep fear in its own backyard most of the time by being disciplined in my own habits and ethics.

When I drop this rubber ball and fear sets in, I quickly turn to reflect on what it was that caused this issue. Prayer, Journaling, reflection, and at times mentorship point me on the necessary paths to overcoming this fear that I have.

In closing, it’s critical that we realize, no matter how disciplined we are, we are not in control of the outcomes, only how we respond and engage.

How did you decide on the location for your business?
This one was easy, It’s close to home and in a great neighborhood!

If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
CS Lewis. – I would love to simply ask him, “Why”.

What book has inspired you the most (or what is your favorite book)?
Tortured For Christ By James Wurmbrand.

What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Sleep. Haha. mostly sleep.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Self Awareness. The Desire to Grow. Being willing to accept that you can always improve on the first two and being able to mind to put in the work to improve.

What three pieces of advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to get started in your industry?
Spend some time learning about who you are and where you think you belong. Some people truly can’t stand sales, and this is okay.

1) Do you desire to be a part of a team as a contributor? If so, find a Job with an Insurance company or Agency as a supportive role. Everyone needs help, and GOOD help is hard to find.
2) Never turn down free advice, but be wise enough to know when someone is giving you bad advice, and have thick enough skin to know that you may not always know the difference between good advice and bad. Sometimes, it’s a risk.
3) Find a mentor. If you don’t think you need one, then you need one more than you think you do.

Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Rubber Ball, Glass Ball

What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
This is such a remarkable question.

There is so much glory to be seen in both environments, whether you are working for someone else or for yourself.

When you are working for someone else, you have the ability to take on a supportive role where you can prove to the person you are working for each and every day that you are irreplaceable. I read a column once that said, “never give yourself 100% to your job because your boss can replace you at a moment’s notice”. I find this to be incredibly different and pessimistic.

We have an opportunity to honor our colleagues and superiors each and every day. As employees, your time may run out at your current place of employment, and that may be due to your own findings or your employers, but either way, if you are striving to blow the minds of those around you by honoring your work each and every day, without seeking self-glorification, but more to rejoice in the moments where you are able to see the team succeed and achieve greater things, there is a level of “sleep at night” that comes from this that no money can buy. This is the beauty of being a wonderful employee.

However, when you work for yourself, there is a massive shift that needs to be made, and many times people miss this mark. I hear people often suggest that working for yourself as an entrepreneur allows you freedom in your schedule. This is true to a degree but not the way some people think.

Being an Entrepreneur is not for you if you do not have the appropriate mindset. You will have more freedom in your schedule, but it will not be freedom FROM your work, rather, it will be freedom from your work dictating when and how you apply yourself to it, rather than how often. You have the freedom to now dictate your schedule. Not how often you work, but when you will do certain things, what projects make more sense for your and your company and what ones don’t. What days you will work late and what days you won’t. This has the ability to be horribly abused, and the bank account will take the hit when you don’t have procedures and benchmarks in place.

If you are an entrepreneur and you are willing to set goals, balance family and work appropriately, and are a machine who is dialed in when it is time to be dialed in, being highly effective in each and every area of life, you can win. This is an art that is learned, you may think some people just have it, but you are likely only seeing what is happening on the outside. Many people Gard their Glass Ball with their life and set the rubber ball down hoping it will start bouncing on its own. This is bankruptcy waiting to happen. Some people Put the Glass ball in a case, appreciating it, but never tending to it, and always working that rubber ball, not realizing that when the storm comes, that Glass ball will fall and break.

Be disciplined my friends, Be courageous and concise. Set Goals and Love others. This is the key to being a successful entrepreneur.