The Hive Five Podcast

5 Key Takeaways from Jonathan Russell

1. Don’t let fear rule you.

2. Make sure that you consider all of the opportunities/possibilities of what you can do.

3. Consider what those opportunities/possibilities will cost you.

4. Get out there and market.

5. No matter how bad things get, you have to stay calm and focused.


Today on the Person Behind the Professional, we are excited to talk with Jonathan Russell. Jonathan is an independent insurance agent with the Jonathan Russell Insurance Agency in Irving, Texas. Before he was in insurance, he was in the military and worked as a helicopter mechanic, military intelligence officer, served in Operation Desert Storm, and was an aviation mechanic for a commercial airline. Jonathan discusses how all of this unique experience has impacted him and influenced how he runs his insurance agency.

We talk to Jonathan about his time and experience in the military. He tells stories about his opportunities to travel and serve in Germany, Austria, France, and Italy on his first deployment. On his second deployment, we hear about his time serving in Korea and going to Okinawa, Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore.

After retiring from the military, he worked as an aviation mechanic for Delta Airlines. However, with commercial airline work came a lot of downtime. It was too slow for Jonathan and he decided he needed to do something a bit more exciting. During this time, he was browsing the internet and happened to see that Farmers was interviewing for new agents. His dad was an insurance agent, so when he was growing up, he was around the industry so he knew a little bit about what it entailed. He went to work as an agent with Farmers and worked with them until about one year ago. Due to some industry changes, he pivoted to an independent agency and created the Jonathan Russell Insurance Agency.


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No matter how bad things get, you know, you gotta, stay calm, keep your focus on the objective and just kind of settled down and think, okay, what do I need to do?
Thanks for listening today. My name is Keagan with BriteBee where insurance quotes don’t sting and today on the Person Behind the Professional. We’re excited to talk with Jonathan Russell. He’s been selling insurance since 2003, but just recently started an independent agency in Irving, Texas at the Jonathan Russell Insurance Agency. Before insurance, he worked in the military as a helicopter mechanic. Military intelligence officer, served in Operation Desert Storm and was an aviation mechanic for a commercial airline, so he has a lot of different things he has done and I look forward to hearing more about that. Jonathan, thank you so much for being on today.
Glad to be here. Thank you.
Well, to get started, I’m going to ask you a really easy question here. Just a little bit of an icebreaker. So what are some places you went with the military and which one was your most favorite?
Well, that’s interesting. I had gone in the first time. I was enlisted and I went to Germany and while I was in Germany I did get a chance to do some traveling to Australia, to France, a spend just a few hours in Italy. Uh, went to Shawnee friends of friends. We were skiing there, had also skied in Austria. And uh, let’s see. Then the second time I went in, I had been stationed in Korea and when I was leaving Korea I had, uh, gone to, went over to Okinawa that we got were call what were called Mac flights and for like 10 bucks you can fly wherever that airplane happens to be gone. And it was the largest aircraft or one of the largest and went to Okinawa. And then I went to Baguio in the Philippines. I went to Thailand, was in Singapore for a few days. And uh, I, I, and I, uh, so I, I, it’s, there’ve been a lot of places.
Interesting, I guess. So some things that come out in my mind, I mentioned I was in Germany. One of the things we did is we, uh, when it was still under communist rule at that time that the wall had not come down, they would have tours are trains that would go out to west Berlin, which was still held by the allies, whereas everything else was held by Russia and their allies of the USSR and their allies. And I remember being on that train and going over there and I’m going to West Berlin, but also we were permitted to go into East Berlin at that time. Of course you could do that today, you know, no big deal because it’s all under, you know, Germany. But at that time it was, it was a different sort of deal. So that was, that was memorable. Uh, you know, I remember being in Singapore and I remember seeing the palm trees, you know, when you think of, think of the ones that are kind of come out as an umbrella, but over there they’re like a fan. It’s a very, very interesting thing. So, I did a lot of unique experiences, a lot of, lot of, lot of the neat things that I’ve seen in each country, but those are a couple of them.
You mentioned people taking the opportunity while they’re working in the military to go skiing and everything else that, that seems like a pretty neat situation.
Yeah. Germany and Austria is just to the south. The short distance and you go down there, uh, they got the high mountains and had what they call, I can’t remember these places where you could stay. And I remember the uh, going into this one place, Fisher, uh, something house, I can’t remember what they call a place where you can stay kinda like a bed and breakfast and what it is. And I remember covering up with a blanket. The blanket was covering up with pillows, a quilt and I mean, you know, over here when we do a quilt, you know, they’re, they’re pretty thick. But over there it was like imagine having a, you know, about pillows also together. That’s what it was. Yes. Yes indeed
is very interesting. I appreciate you giving me that little insurance here. So tell us a little bit about how you got started in insurance. From what I can see your dad sold insurance. So did that have any driving factor for you?
I think it has played some part because I remember when I was growing up at our house, he had made one of the garages. We have a two car garage and he turned one of them into an office number. You had a couple of desks in there and uh, I don’t recall all the details, but that’s what stuck in my mind. And so did I. I didn’t get involved in it. I wasn’t a part of that. I’m part of the, you know, there were 11 kids in our family and uh, uh, you know, time with the parents, just not the same as if you, like, in my case, I got two kids, you know, I can give them a lot of time, but, um, and I bring my kids over to the office and I let him let him answer the phone, that sort of thing.
But, um, that, that played a part, uh, you know, what, what occurred was, I was, at the time, I was worked for Delta Airlines as a mechanic. I had been a mechanic in the military, gynecologist as a mechanic and went out while I was over there. We had a lot of downtime, you know, we would, uh, I was, uh, involved in a big composite repairs and, and what it required was you’d hook up the machine to a, uh, something made of fiberglass or composite a graphite material and, um, and, and so the aircraft’s aren’t made of complete metal these days. There’s, they’re made of things that are, that are called composite fabrics and other materials that are, that are lightweight and are installed on the aircraft so that they’re more fuel efficient and yet there are just as strong as a, of the other materials are similar.
Yeah. To say that, that
kind of scares me a little bit. You don’t airplanes crashing like they used to and you know. So anyway, I got into that. I, I was started off Delta Airlines and uh, I uh, was working as a mechanic and I had a lot of downtime and because we’d have to wait for these machines sometimes it takes eight hours to cook one of these repairs. Uh, they were kind of intricate and you had to suck the water out. We’ll clean it, suck the water out, and then put it on the fabric because it had multiple layers on there. You had to heat it up. Sometimes you have to do that several times in repairs, can take several days. And so you had to stay there and monitor the equipment. And I started thinking, no, I need to, I need to think about doing maybe doing something else because this is, this is just sort of a little slow for me.
And that’s where insurance came in. You said, okay, I’m going into something different.
Well, yeah. What happened was I started thinking, well maybe I know I was a welder role, so I welded tig and Mig and these are different types of welding for fully on the aircraft. So they had a crack or something, I could do that and I kind of looked around and see what people were paying on that and they weren’t paying very much. Man, it’s, you know, you know, $16 tops for welding was like good heavens, that’s not a way to make a living and would, would’ve been a major pay cut as a mechanic. So I thought, I guess I was just kind of browsing, looking on the Internet and I saw an insurance agent and uh, at that time farmers insurance was one of the districts was I’m saying they’re interviewing for agents. I thought my dad did that now maybe I’ll check it out. And so I went over there at the interview and then they said, okay, you can, you can become an agent.
So you went with farmers now you just recently moved over into the independent world.
So what was your, you know, and I know that you probably don’t want to go into too much detail, uh, in regards to the farmers versus independent, but what made the switch? What, what made you think, you know, I think I want to go this route now.
Well, let me tell you, the insurance industry just kind of preface all this. It’s hard. You go into your own, start your own business. It’s just very hard. And when I got started with farmers, I remember after I’d. What it is they put you in as a career agent, you have to sell so many policies. I can’t remember how many it is now and then after that you become a full time agent is. And so at that time what had happened is I, I finished all that. I remember the district manager talking to a group of us and he was saying, you know, in your class there were like, I think seven of us that were agents in that particular group that we all started together. He said we had interviewed 117 people. Of those 117 people, 27 of them we approved to go into the career program.
And of those 27 years, the only seven that it made it, you know, and now today of those, of those seven, I think there may be only two or three, there are still with farmers and maybe have them, maybe, you know, four of us that are still even agents. And so, uh, what happened was, so I, I was with farmers, uh, it was, it was tough, but you don’t want things thinks it, it came together. I’m very surprised that there were many times where I thought I was going to go bankrupt. I’ll tell you, it’s just, it’s just crazy. But, uh, somehow it came together and were able to make it. I didn’t, I wasn’t a superstar, but, um, I wasn’t at the bottom either. So we were able to pay the bills. We were able to live a decent life. And what happened was, is his pricing was competitive.
We were, you know, we’re doing all right. But something happened a few years back and um, you know, we were not as competitive in the pricing. And I, and I know that with other captive agents that’s been the way it is a difficult pricing. And, and I had no intention of leaving farmers. None at all. I mean, I already had a good book of business, had renewals coming in, but, you know, then then what happened is we had some, uh, they had some commission cuts which was on the home insurance 30 percent. And um, and then after that, uh, some cuts on the auto, now they had rate increases, but you had these uh, uh, decreases and decrease in my book of business was starting to shrink. Um, and I, I looked at my commissions that were coming in and started making some projections. I said, you know what, I cannot pay my bills. I, because I, I’m not able to sell insurance. This, this model is, you know, some of those agents or agents go in there. Man, that’s crazy. That 40,000 policies after four or five years now that, that aren’t, there aren’t many. But there are some. They’re superstars. I don’t know how they do it, you know, I had about 1500 policies when I left farmer’s, but uh, that I, I ended up at. I said, man, I, I, I just can’t, I can’t see making in year. I’ve got to do something else. Yeah. Yeah.
And how long have you been in the independent world?
Well, it’s been about a year now. Uh, what happened was a year when I gave farmers my notice, August, first of last year and then, uh, that, that, so I’ve been a three month notice, but I had to be careful because I still was under contract with them so I couldn’t be marketing heavily anyway to other companies. So it wasn’t really till about the beginning of November last year when I started really hitting it hard with the independent side.
Gotcha. Well, what would you say some lessons that you’ve learned in working in aviation, mechanics, welding, all of that. How do you believe that’s helped you and benefited you in your, you’re running the insurance agency?
Well, you know, it’s interesting because that question is a good one and it’s one that may actually go back to something I didn’t. I tell you that I used to, I used to play chess, I used to play amateur chess and compete in, in a tournament when I went to college at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida and I was president of the chess club and I, I, I, you know, I wasn’t a chess master. I was a class high rate of class a player and I would go to different tournaments and play what I, one thing that I think applies this is I would get into a certain situations on the board where I was, I was losing and I, and I and I remember, you know, going over the games and I would lose job and I would look and say, wow, look at this.
As I’m looking over at. I could’ve made this move and could have turned his game around one and possibly. And when. So I, it was a lesson in it. No matter how bad things get, you know, you gotta stay calm. You gotta keep your focus on the objective and just kind of settled down and think, okay, what do I need to do? What has to happen here? What am I hoping, what am I hoping my opponent would do? What, what, what situations am I, am I trying to, you know, a hope will occur and chest, you might be looking for the, uh, you know, your opponent to maybe expose this queen or, or, or maybe that’s a little bit blatant, maybe, maybe put a weakness in his situation with the ponds, you know, that they, they’re not in the right position. Then you can suddenly start going into the back and cleaning up cleaning house and the back of the, the ranks, you know, maybe taking off some high value pieces are getting better positioned. But in the insurance, you know, the question is what do I want to do I need to sell? Who do I sell to a and so, but it’s, it’s the question, you know, where do I go? What am I looking for? I don’t want to be focusing on my panic here. I, yeah, I’m gonna have a panic attack. Yes, that things could go wrong. Think all that, but so what, what? He’s settled down. Okay. It’s not the end of the world, at least not yet. What am I hoping will happen?
It’s very interesting. I’m thinking about your explanation of chess. It’s really interesting. You explain chess like a strategic and strategic, but you explained it. I don’t even know how to explain it. I like, wow.
Some people look at chess and they say, well, I got to go get the queen. I got to do a mood check. May, you know, the scholars made or there’s a to move checkmate. You can do a, which is the fool’s made, but people aren’t going to fall for that in a, in a tournament. Uh, so what you’re doing is you’re looking for a position, you’re looking for opportunities and you’ve got to realize that sometimes you get somebody does something that you weren’t expecting and it causes. You’d who just really, uh, get uh, uncomfortable, real uncomfortable, and suddenly your blood pressure’s going high and, and you’ve got to say, wait a second, let’s take a look at this. Okay. I wasn’t expecting that, but is there something else now that’s happening? Just because this happened doesn’t mean that other person has an advantage
as a startup founder and starting bright be. It’s really interesting. I’ve actually had two people, you and someone else talk about chess this week on our podcast and I think it’s really interesting and I’m going to be thinking about that more so and, and how we strategically go about doing things so that, that’s really neat. I think someone can. I think anyone can learn from that. So tell us, first off, since we’re talking about chess, do your kids, are they now a top champions and competing and chess?
I enjoyed it. I’m not great at any instrument. Can pluck out some things on the guitar and Bang on the panel a little bit and I want them to know what little I know. So I started teaching at the age of three, you know, what the notes were, that sort of thing. And uh, and now my daughter’s 10 and my son is six and they’re, they’re, they’re coming along real well. My daughter’s taking lessons with somebody else, a woman who’s giving her, uh, you know, helping her to really advance now, um, uh, the, the early years when you’re teaching a kid of a, an instrument I think are probably the most difficult. A lot of people won’t even want to say, I hate my kids. Five years old and they need, are three years old, four years old now. I want them to take piano lessons. They’ll be like, no, you’re going to have to wait until they’re older because they’re are so unmanageable.
But I would just sit down and like my daughter, she’s my oldest. She’s 10 now. And just, uh, you know, uh, we would go maybe five minutes or three minutes, you know, what she could handle. And uh, my son and now my daughter was somebody who didn’t want to put her hands on the piano. My son on the other hand, uh, I started teaching him some songs with please. He’s playing so much. I’m getting sick of him, you know, he’s crazy and he’s just all over that piano. But that’s what I want. I want them to, um, to play. And so that’s what I, uh, one of the, one of the focuses, uh, but not chess. I enjoy chess. There’s a lot of fun. Uh, the piano music. I, I have had a, you know, that’s where I’ve put my focus for now.
How do you balance all of that with one agency now you’ve switched over to some degree and there’s nothing wrong with starting over, but it does take some more time. So how do you balance all of that with, with the newness of the business?
That has been something that has been on my mind but last few months because I’ve got to pay the bills I’ve got right now with farmers. I didn’t have any kids when we, me and my wife, we married 12 years before we were even able to have children. I’m 57 years old and uh, and so for 12 years, you know, we were like, man, I don’t know if we’re even going to have any kids and know it wasn’t a big deal. Know if I work late either as a mechanic or as a, an agent. But now with kids it’s a different deal. And what, what occurred when I’ve been with farmers, uh, the, the, uh, agency, you had gotten a point where, where the incoming business had slowed down significantly, but I still had the renewables, I had a lot of time and I mean a lot of time, too much time, so much time kind of like it was Kinda like over Delta Airlines when I was kind of like, really one of the things I was thinking is like, is this going to last forever?
How in the world, you know, can I just be sitting around all day long? And so I started getting, having that same concern when I was with farmers. Uh, I just uh, didn’t know who, how do you know how to market the product. And so anyway, what’s happened now though is, I mean, I was here just three days ago, two days ago, whatever, uh, until 10:00 PM and a man, I tell you I was tired when I got home. I’m going to, did you know, like 20 rental homes all in one day? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, that’s how many falls you, I’d like doing one month, you know, if I had a good month before. So anyway. Uh, so it is a little weird is how to manage it. It’s really tough. I feel like sometimes my son who’s six years old is Ella, you know, I’m cheating him out because I need to spend more time with them on the piano or other things.
And so I try to work with you on the other side of this. I, you know, like I said, and I’m sure you’re well aware we got to pay the bills. So how do I do that? And uh, I got uh, you know, opportunities knocking right now. So I do what I, I have to, I try to, uh, you know, I had my kids over here, you know, uh, we’re homeschooling them and so my son comes over here, you know, or my daughter and I’ll have them do their homeschooling while they’re here. And uh, so just try to be home. Our house is just seven minutes from the office. So I’ll, I’ll, I’ll go home and eat and that way they can see me. You know, it’s not as much time as I had before, but uh, yeah, managing it, it is a little tricky. Uh, and we’re still not out of the, you know, we’re, we’re not, you know, out of a difficult situation because I just meant I had over 500 policies at, excuse me, 500 customers when I was with farmers and now I got about 130 with this. Uh, and so we still got a ways to go. It was just a matter of like you said, you know, it’s a managing it. I can’t let the business go, but you got to find some time to make sure the kids see me around
nine to five and the dad comes home and the children were welcomed him at the door and everything else. You know, I’ve, I’ve had to bring my kids to work so I can see them so that they know I am present so you know, as, as much as we would like to not do that all the time because also we don’t get as much things done I think is important to have them see dad is working. But he, but he’s present and so I think that’s, I think that’s unique, especially in the insurance world and that we can do that. And so I think that’s really neat. Well, tell us a little bit about what products you offer and, and also the companies that you offer since you’re worth an independent agency. Now.
Obviously the rental properties, we do a lot of those. We do life insurance companies. Well, you know, we’ve got a company that a lot of people probably are not familiar with the when they get into insurance. I wasn’t familiar with them, been around for 100 years. I had no idea about that. So we’ve got that progressive camper travelers. Uh, I can do mission select, that’s a company that won’t run credit on homes as sometimes it works, sometimes it won’t, but that’s it. We got encompass. Uh, we can, we can. This is a nice thing because one of the painful things about being a captive agent was somebody calling up, my insurance is too high and I say, you know, well, I can’t do anything about it, you know, or we can reduce coverage or something. There’s no alternative, it’s a trapped feeling and just get beat over the head and shoulders and every six months a rate increase.
It was horrible. And now, I mean, now, now I can say, okay, let me shop it out for you with the companies I’ve got, you know, maybe I can do something, maybe I can’t, but at least I can say, hey look, these are some quotes I’m getting from other companies. So the customer feels that there is, you know, they, they can look and say, okay, you know, the market in Dallas, Fort Worth for home insurance is just a tough market and it is, uh, wind and hail over here is just a constant problem with claims. And uh, you know, you show some other companies, you say, look, these are the other options. It changes everything. It changes the conversation and it’s not so antagonistic. And I’ve had people say, you’ve been charging me too much over these years, you know, you’re really stole from me. And it wasn’t the one as a farmer’s agent, I wasn’t the one doing the pricing. This is just the price. But now we’ve got this ability, you know, to say, Hey, look, here’s some other options, you know, if, let’s see if any of these will work for you.
Yeah, no, that makes complete sense. We always like to make sure that our people listening are bringing something away from this podcast. And so we’d like to ask five key take away something that you feel is very important to you and that other people should, should leave with.
Well, I would say one is that when I made a decision to do this, I, I considered the, you know, the options that I realized, although this was an uncomfortable decision to make, you know, it, it was the, it was the one that had to be. Now we’ll, we’ll see how this all works out. But I’ve had that situation before, you know, like I said with pharmacists many times I thought I was going to go bankrupt, but I don’t. I guess so, number one, uh, I don’t want fear to be the thing that rules me. Okay. I, I, I want to make a rational decision based on my circumstances. So, uh, what is the best thing to do and I still have no doubt that this was the right thing to do. So, although there was a lot of a fear factor in there, don’t, don’t be fearful, don’t let that rule you.
I guess the second thing is, is, is to make sure that you consider all of the, um, you know, the, uh, opportunities or the, uh, the possibilities of what you can do and what it’s going to cost you, you know, just to say, count the cost. You know, we need to think about that. Uh, you know, think about, uh, you know, in, in, in part of all of that is what’s the impact on the family, you know, how’s that going to affect them? You know, I have to have to think about that. And then in regarding insurance, you know, what, what are the opportunities in marketing specifically, you know, I, I, I need to be reaching other people and uh, how is this going to help me out? And uh, there were, uh, you know, going from a captive agent over to this and that was very appealing.
And I, I suppose, uh, the last one is, is to just, uh, just get out there and market find what works. I’ll tell you. Um, I, uh, I start marketing in one area and it costs money and that’s a problem a lot of agents don’t know, maybe companies, but I know insurance, they just don’t want to spend money on marketing and I understand that. But the thing of it is, is, is somehow we’ve got to get our name out there and see what works in some markets. I spent, man, I don’t know if I spent $12,000 a year marketing to commercial companies and nothing came out of it. I mean almost nothing. But on the other hand I did, I did a little bit of marketing and in a, in another area and, and, and it’s working out with the certain customers and we’re seeing homes and autos and personal. So I mean, I don’t, you know, and the thing is this is a changing environment. Constantly changing what works now may not work in six months.
Why? So that we can actually serve insurance agents and help them with these growing changes, especially online. So really, really look forward to talking to you more about that. But thank you again for being on the podcast today. Now, Jonathan, tell us how do people reach out to you if they want to learn more? If they want to receive quotes from you, what is the best way?
Jonathan Russell? Russell Insurance, or the other thing is they can call me four, six, nine slash seven slash 300. The phone number here, or uh, the uh, the is
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