From standup comedy and acting gigs to selling insurance – not the typical career path for the everyday independent agency owner but that is how Jeff Arnold, founder of RightSure Insurance Group, this year’s winner of Insurance Journal’s Overall Best Agency to Work For, got his start in the business.
“I literally was an out of work stand-up comic returning from Hollywood where I had no gigs lined up for the next 10 weeks. I needed to eat and pay rent, so I answered an ad for the most cliche of things, “Wanted: Insurance Salesman,'” Arnold said. “From day one of my new career, I was hooked. I could not read enough, learn enough or digest enough about this wonderfully exciting industry.”
Arnold’s enthusiasm for the insurance business trickles down to RightSure’s employees who nominated the agency for its top-notch working conditions, overall employee benefits, supportive management, community involvement, and how the agency is maneuvering through COVID-19.
One employee described RightSure as: “a great company, feels more like a family than a business, they support their employees, the owner and management go to extremes to help us. Best company ever by far, without exaggeration.”
Arnold founded RightSure just 12 years ago, but he has been working in the insurance industry for nearly three decades. Through his company, Abbey Road Insurance Holdings, he is active in several joint ventures with online aggregators, comparison websites and insurance portals. That entrepreneurial spirit and tech-forward thinking is one attribute Rightsure’s employees noted as important.
“We are a technology company first, an insurance agent second,” one employee wrote. “We are constantly creating new ways for a better customer experience online and creating more avenues for clients to obtain and learn about insurance.”
Arnold says that RightSure is increasingly powered by AI initiatives, and he believes that gives the agency the “feel” of a tech incubator, which is attractive to younger, more mobile focused staff.
The agency, with 52 employees in two Arizona offices, reported property/casualty revenue of $4.4 million in 2019. Arnold says staff consists of a mix of millennials, Gen Z and more seasoned insurance professionals. “Having that diversity of more mature and experienced with younger, less experienced people makes for a great environment,” Arnold added.
“Part of our internal mantra is ‘do the difficult things.’ The things that most people want to avoid but if faced and accomplished will lead to more improvements, greater revenue, deeper employee engagement.” That’s what sets RightSure apart from others in the industry, he added. “Calling back an unhappy renewal client, solving a difficult onboarding practice, having that difficult conversation with that one employee,” he said.
One of the most difficult things in recent history has been COVID-19, and Arnold’s leadership through the crisis was mentioned by employees again and again.
“Our boss’s ability to get his employees through a pandemic seamlessly, without fear or panic, allowing everyone to continue in their role, working from home, and giving us all the technology needed to be successful in a different environment” was cited as one reason why they felt proud to work at RightSure.
Arnold said the single greatest challenge for managing in a COVID world has been making sure that employees are OK.
“And by OK we mean mentally strong.” That meant moving from one or two monthly company meetings to daily “check-ins” five days a week. Most of the meetings were to simply ask, “Is everyone OK?”
From those meetings an informal “Moms Group” developed. “Many of our moms wanted a non-judgmental place to share struggles or ask for guidance – for how others were juggling home schooling, workloads, family life,” he said. “People really are the single greatest asset any company has, so it is extremely important to make sure they are OK, engaged, happy and whole.”
Arnold’s best advice to other owners – develop a strong culture. “What culture are you wanting in your company and how does that integrate with your overall strategy.” The best laid strategy plans get destroyed by a bad culture.”
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