Quick Guide To Insurance

Pick An Agent Who Meets Your Needs

Too many entrepreneurs treat finding an insurance agent like going on a blind date. They randomly contact an agency, and then an agent is assigned to them. If coincidence played a role in the way you were matched with your agent, it might be high time to take stock of that relationship and start looking for a new one.

"Companies should market to a different agent every three years," advises Marcia Tepp, a director with Parker Services LLC and Sentry Insurance in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

How do you decide whether your agent is meeting your needs? Ask: Does your agent have expertise in your industry? Is he or she up on the latest in commercial insurance? If not, don't be afraid to switch.

"The person who did a good job on your homeowners' or auto policy may not have a clue about insuring a business," says Glenn. "Personal insurance agents avoid most commercial policies like the plague. Some, however, take on projects well beyond their ability."

Jeanne Achille, founder and managing partner of The DEVON Group, a high-tech public relations and marketing communications firm in Red Bank, New Jersey, chose her company's first insurance agent based on a referral from her accounting firm. But she discovered that she wasn't getting the level of service she expected. "We switched because every time we called, they couldn't recall who we were or what products we had purchased from them," Achille, 44, says. She found her new agent through networking and by seeking referrals from professional associations in the community.

Your current agent should give you personalized service and be a lean, mean question machine, according to Gary W. Eberhart, executive vice president of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents. The best insurance agents ask a lot of questions about the operation of your business-and they ask them often. To see whether your agent knows enough about your business, turn the tables and interview the agent. Eberhart suggests asking your current agent some general questions, such as: Can you recommend any new coverages? Does your company provide evaluation services? Why is this the best carrier? Have you asked me everything necessary to cover my exposures?

Again, if the answers fall short, start shopping for a new agent.

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This article was originally published in the September 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Quick Guide To Insurance.

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