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After leaving the army in the early 1970s, an acquaintance suggested looking at the insurance industry as a possible career path I soon found an opportunity assisting in the sale of retirement plans with a small company out of South Carolina. I then quickly became a detached licensed agent in Orangeburg, South Carolina.
After three years of developing my life insurance business, my insurance company decide not to sell universal life, which forcing me to pivot and develop opportunities in group health and life insurance. In 1978, a man who controlled almost all of the group business in Orangeburg passed away and I was able to purchase this book of business from his widow. Overnight, I went from having 10 groups to about 45.
In 1980, a major carrier that had not previously done so, began working with brokers, helping me further grow my business. In 1986 Blue Cross assigned me their previously direct groups, adding another 30 groups to my block. Before we got married, my wife Laura had worked her way up in the industry from underwriting to building her own successful agency. When we married in 1988, we combined her block of business with mine.
In 1989, Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina awarded us a General Agency (GA). It was the most significant event in our firm’s history and dramatically changed our business plan. Most GA’s do not have a block business, instead relying on agents coming through them to make their override. We would receive an override commission on our own block and also recruit agents to come through us, paying the override their block of business would have paid them. This increased our block of business which, in return, increased our override. We used our override money to finance agents into the business, who became some of our biggest producers and partners.
After my son, Jack, graduated from college in 1998 he approached us about getting into the insurance business. He had worked summers during college for Blue Cross as a direct marketing representative, but we felt it best he get some additional perspective. So, he went to work for Mass Mutual while also selling group coverage for us on the side.
Jack joined us full time in 2002 after we bought a friend’s agency with the help of Blue Cross, giving us 20 additional agents. He grew that business and later opened our third office in Mount Pleasant. In 2003 we bought an agency in Myrtle Beach, which Laura now runs in Pawleys Island, and has expanded that business steadily. In 2010 we started another revenue steam with national health insurance on the horizon and to fend off competition we began offering workers comp and other overages to our group clients, Laura started a property & casualty in Pawleys Island from scratch that has been successful.
Our plan for expansion, building and acquiring, was going pretty well, I thought. And then, in July of 2020, I got COVID-19.
While sick I did some thinking about my need to slow down after 50 years in the business. Jack had been pushing for us to upgrade and scale our systems - we still had a lot of filing cabinets. We also were hitting financial barriers in our efforts to expand and grow. Over the last few years it had become very hard to find capital resources to bring in new agents and compete for acquisitions.
After going through a careful screening process, we settled on Risk Strategies as the right partner for us and our employees to preserve and expand all that we’d built.
Joining Risk Strategies gave us the ability to implement systems to better serve our clients and grow our business and to access the markets and resources of a top national brokerage.
Throughout the process of joining Risk Strategies, everyone has been down to earth, easy to work with and very productive. With Risk Strategies, we found a lot of similarities in culture and values. Everyone we spoke to was as concerned about their employees and their career paths as they were about the business. As a family business this was incredibly important to us. It was essential to us to not just do what was best for our business goals, but to also protect our employees and ensure they’d have opportunities to grow.
I am excited for the growth of our people and business with Risk Strategies.