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When Julie Danna and I left the agency started by my great uncle and grandfather to start Danna-Gracey, our primary motivation was specialization. Working at that agency, we had experienced first-hand the complex challenges medical professionals faced in obtaining and retaining affordable professional liability coverage.
My ancestors’s agency was a generalist, but had a number of dentists and oral surgeons as clients. I gravitated to helping medical clients navigate what was rapidly becoming a “wild west” market for the liability coverages they needed in order to practice. One carrier we worked with was writing doctors at a good rate, so we created a whole division dedicated to doctors and built it into a significant part of the agency business.
I enjoyed the challenge, but believed an agency with a laser-focus on the problem would be more effective and find success in the market. So, in 2001, Julie and I left to co-found Danna-Gracey.
Not all of our doctor clients came with us, but after some hard struggles, long hours, and precarious early going, the thesis panned out. Danna-Gracey’s specialty focus drove real innovations like our risk purchasing groups –a kind of “collective bargaining” structure for doctor groups - and made us a leading medical malpractice insurance provider in Florida. It was all great, until it wasn’t enough.
The doctor groups began getting bigger. They’d sell to a hospital or a private equity group, merge with a big umbrella group. Groups began expanding out of state. Programs began expanding out of state. We started getting those dreaded phone calls, “we love you but…” We’d be left at the curb with a glowing referral and another cancellation request.
We knew we needed to get more horsepower on our side or resign ourselves to a shrinking market of small doctor practices. But we wanted to keep the great client service and specialty focus, just on a bigger platform. We believed we could have it all.
A local agency specializing in employee benefits made a strong push, but wasn’t a cultural fit - they were largely interested in selling benefits programs to our client base. Our focus was helping clients meet their goals, not just finding ways to sell them more coverage.
We knew Risk Strategies had a leading national health care practice, so it really caught our attention when they approached us. We also saw they had strong in-house specialty capabilities we lacked –sophisticated actuarial services and alternate risk structures, including captives.
Beyond scale and capabilities, what initially impressed me was finding just really good people all up and down the line - business leaders to practice leaders and associates. They were also really interested in our team.
Making sure the deal would benefit our people – a real career path, not getting fired or kicked to the curb doing some menial dead-end job – was a primary concern. Risk Strategies asked about our team – the people, not just the positions - as much as they did our business and clients. I also saw a path for myself. I didn’t want to just cash-in and go surfing. I wanted a career for the next chapter of my life that would benefit my clients and help my team be part of an even bigger team that I fully respect. We’d been an innovator in creating risk purchasing groups. Risk Strategies had some experience with these, but our deep expertise will make a real contribution in this area as we expand that capability nationally.
Sir William Osler, the doctor who started the Johns Hopkins hospital, said, “patients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” That’s been our guiding principle and that’s what we found at Risk Strategies. A specialty broker with a real culture of caring. It’s not some roll-up, buying agencies and brokers just to triple the stock. This is a real insurance broker centered on clients and their success. That’s why we joined.