Experience Guides South Dakota’s New GSN Insurance Agency

By | March 25, 2009

GSN Insurance in Madison, South Dakota, only opened its doors on January 5 but already it has a veteran staff, a stable of loyal customers, and a carrier roster that would be the envy of many long-time independent agencies.

GSN owners Scott and Nancy Gusso may be new at running their own agency but they are hardly new to insurance. Each has nearly 20 years experience in insurance.

Most recently, Scott was the producer for Wells Fargo Insurance in Madison and Nancy, general manager for Northern Plains Insurance in nearby Watertown.

The couple got married a few years ago and even during their courtship, they often mused about how great it would be to have their own business, according to Scott.

Scott was employed by Wells Fargo Insurance 14 years. Then one day early last November, Wells Fargo told him it was closing its Madison operation where he was the lone producer. Meanwhile, Nancy had become disenchanted with her long-time job in company management. Clearly, change was in the air because the two didn’t hesitate on their next move.

“Within minutes of them giving us the notice that they were closing the office I knew I was just going to start my own agency,” Scott said. “I came home and told Nancy that I was no longer employed. We both said. ‘Oh my God,’ but then said we need to pick ourselves up and start our own agency. Everything kind of came together so maybe it was meant to be.”

The day after he was given notice, the two began calling around for carriers. “We were successful with some 90 percent of them gaining a contract,” said Scott. Today GSN represents Western National, Columbia, Auto-Owners, Safeco, North Star Mutual, State Auto, Progressive, and has contracts with key surplus lines brokers.

The Gussos are counting on these providers to help them target middle market commercial accounts, between $50,000 up to $130,000 in premium, as well as ones in the $5,000 to $10,000 premium range. They are also writing personal lines and some life and health.

Among their clients will be some of the people and businesses in Madison, a town with about 6,500 people north of Sioux Falls, that Scott has been serving for years at Wells Fargo; where he built a book of about $300,000 in commissions.

The Gussos approached Wells Fargo about buying Scott’s book but they thought the asking price was too high. “Ultimately we made the decision that we’ve got enough customer loyalty that we can retain 75 percent of this business without blinking an eye. So we decided not to buy it and it’s coming in the door anyway,” said Scott.

As for financing, the Gussos had managed to save some money to put into the business. They also were eventually able to convince Wells Fargo to lend them some funds– although it wasn’t easy. The Gussos were initially told that they didn’t qualify because they did not have three years of experience running a business; Scott’s 14 years with Wells Fargo and their combined 40 years of experience in insurance apparently were not enough. Eventually they were able to get a $20,000 loan out of Wells Fargo but the bank president, in the Gussos’ words, “had to make an exception” to do it.

The Gussos hope to add a customer service representative within the next six months to free up Scott for outside sales and Nancy for inside sales. They expect to have about $250,000 in revenues within two years and close to double that within five years.

They also have some other goals in mind, according to Scott. “In five years, we’d like to have a couple more employees and be able to take some vacation in the winter.”

Other agents are also starting new agencies across the country, according to an Insurance Journal report profiling some of the industry’s newest entrepreneurs. The other profiles include:

Florida’s VanDyke Norman Agency
Chattanooga Insurance Agency in Tennessee
California’s Timothy Gaspar Insurance Services
Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC
Bridge Partners in Dallas

Nevada’s Trenchant Insurance

Topics South Dakota

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