How I Went From Working at State Farm to Running My Own Insurance Franchise
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email email@example.com.
When Chris Cole bought a Brightway Insurance location, he knew all about insurance. Prior to becoming a franchisee, Cole ran a State Farm agency. While he enjoyed the work at State Farm, he wanted the opportunity to work as an independent agent, owning the revenue stream and making the decisions about his franchise himself. Here's how he made the transition from employee to franchisee.
Name: Chris Cole
Franchise owned: Brightway Insurance in Palm Springs and Boynton Beach, Fla.
How long have you owned a franchise?
I bought my first Brightway Insurance franchise in Palm Springs, Fla. in 2009, and, through Brightway’s assisted acquisition program, I bought a second location in Boynton Beach in 2014.
In my case, I picked franchising because of the support Brightway provides me as an independent agent. Prior to joining Brightway, I used to be a captive agent for another insurance carrier. This means I could sell policies for only one insurance company. While I enjoyed that, I wanted to own my own business and make decisions about my future. And, with a Brightway agency, I can sell policies from twice as many companies as my independent agent counterparts.
Brightway provides me the opportunity to own my revenue stream and make all the decisions about my agency, while providing me with unparalleled support, from training to systems to marketing to service after the sale.
With that kind of support, I can affordably run my own business and focus on new sales growth. In fact, Brightway recently quantified what service after the sale means for their franchisees. In a nutshell, it means we, as Brightway agents, sell on average twice as much new business by our fourth year as compared to other independent agents. Those other independent agents aren’t enjoying the benefits of a company that provides me with the greatest choice in carriers, superior support, the best technology and a nationally recognized brand.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I ran a State Farm agency in South Florida.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I bought a Brightway franchise to leverage the system they have in place. From start-up to fully functional, they offer the services and support that franchisees need along the way. I had insurance experience, but a lot of my fellow franchisees don’t. The Brightway system works—it gets everyone off the ground successfully, and it’s well documented and easy to follow. I come in to my office every day, motivate my folks to sell, sell, sell, and we’re very successful.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
The information Brightway provides on its brightwaydifference.com website is very accurate. They estimate an initial investment between $115,200 and $181,000. I invested in additional staff earlier than others so I could grow as quickly as possible, so my initial investment was around $200,000.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
During Brightway’s discovery process, we talk with existing franchisees. I strongly encourage anyone considering opening a franchise, no matter the type of franchise, to talk to people already in that business.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Since I came from inside the industry I really wasn’t surprised by anything in this process. I have spoken with others, though, who are unexpectedly challenged by how important referrals are in the insurance business. Referrals are the lifeblood of any insurance agency.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Do your research and ask questions. On first blush, something like service after the sale may seem like a nice-to-have bonus versus a “must have.” However, in this business, it makes the difference between selling and selling twice as much. And, Brightway offers unlimited renewals of my five-year contract term.
What’s next for you and your business?
I just acquired my second location. I’m very excited about turning up the flame on even faster growth now.