The Hive Five Podcast

5 Key Takeaways from Michael Sanford

1. Treat every account and customer as if it is the biggest account you have

2. Network internally and externally

3. Self-presentation is big; Remember, you represent your company at all times

4. Learn how to interview well and show you are valuable

5. Buy automobiles responsibly. Test drive before you buy!


Today on the Person Behind the Professional, we have Michael Sanford, and independent insurance agent in Warner Robins, Georgia. He works with his dad and another partner at Choice Insurance Services. After graduating high school in 2011, and having no plans, he began working with his dad selling life insurance. However, he found out really quickly that he didn’t like life insurance much. So, Michael convinced his dad to start an independent agency in 2013 selling life, but also home and auto.

Starting in the industry at seventeen years old, Michael has had somewhat of an uphill battle. Most people don’t want to talk to a teenager about insurance. Michael also didn’t like the very old and traditional insurance environment. He is the youngest by over thirty years in Choice Insurance Services. Because of his age, he has pretty much spearheaded the tech aspect of the agency, but also become the IT consultant for his dad and other partner. While they understand that tech is important, they leave the implementation of it up to Michael. He talks about how he is doing this.

Michael also discusses where he thinks the insurance industry is headed and where he thinks it will be in ten years. He doesn’t believe that it will look like it does now. Currently, there isn’t really an easy way to get a home or auto quote. In many agencies, you still have to physically go into the agency to get a quote, even despite this tech driven world we live in. Efficiency is important, but pretty nonexistent in the insurance world. These are the problems BriteBee is working to solve, and Michael talks about how he feels it will help the agent.

Don’t forget to please subscribe, but also rate and review our podcast! Let us know what you thought of Michael and Choice Insurance Services!


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So the steering wheel is on the other side, so it’s on the right hand side of the car, drive throughs, or you can do those lefthand turns are difficult. You can’t see. Traffic really is a horrible inconvenience. Again, I don’t really know what I was thinking.
Thank you so much for listening today. My name is Keegan with Briony and today we have a really great guest on the person behind the professional. His name is Michael Sanford and independent insurance agent in Warner Robins, Georgia. He is at choice insurance services with his dad and another agent, micheal is by far the youngest agent with. There’s nothing wrong with that and he’s also an exotic car owner. So look forward to talking to Michael a little bit more about that. Michael, how are you? Hey, I’m doing great. How are you doing today? Hey, doing good. Thank you so much for being on. I appreciate it. Look forward to it. Well, tell us a little bit about choice insurance services and how you got started in the business.
Yeah. So, um, started out, I was graduating high school all the way back in 2011 and didn’t really know what I wanted to do for college and at the time my dad worked with metlife as a life insurance agent and he had teased the idea of me just coming to work and just being kind of CSR for, for his life insurance and annuity sales. And I was like, yeah, I’ll try it. So in graduated in May and in June of 2011, I started working with him on that, uh, quickly found out that I did not like life insurance, a number based. Yeah, it’s, it’s very, um, it’s different. So, and then not a lot of people who are looking to purchase life insurance or annuities wanted to talk to a, to a 17 year old at the time about that. So I was like, Hey dad, you know, we should do, we should start and an independent agency and do auto and home. And he was, he was kind of hesitant at first and then uh, with enough prodding we kinda dove headfirst from the life and health side of the business into the property and casualty or auto and home side. So we’ve been doing that. We started the auto and home portion of it in 2000 late 2013, early 2014. So we’ve been doing that ever since.
That’s great. So I want to talk a little bit more about the, you selling life. So were there times where you were sitting there in front of a 30, 40 year old talking to them about why they needed life insurance and you’re thinking, I’m just a kid. I, I haven’t even, I haven’t started my life yet.
Yeah, it was, yeah, it was horrible. So I could, it was, it was difficult in the beginning. It was, I think there’s a place for it if you’re, you know, a lot of likeminded, you know, and maybe like a metro area, it would have worked a little bit better. But where I was at, it was very, very old, very traditional, and they just didn’t want any part of it, which was fine. I mean, it’s a, it’s understandable, understandable, but not an easy for you life insurance. That was it. I didn’t enjoy it. Right. And that makes it very difficult to sell it if you don’t enjoy it as well. So you kind of spearheaded this starting the personal lines part of the insurance agency. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s something that I was, I was passionate about that I, I joined the idea of a lot more than life insurance and health insurance, health insurance, if you remember at that time was also getting kind of crazy with the affordable care act and everything else.
So I was like know we need to. It’d be nice to have a backup occasionally, you know, I can’t sell life insurance and this health insurance stuff goes belly up. It’d be good to look into other avenues of reoccurring revenue while your dad gave you a big race. Right. When all the health stuff happened and people weren’t getting as many commissions or as much or any commissions anymore on the health that. Is that a big rise? Right. So that was, uh, in the beginning it wasn’t so bad. I know to be honest with you, when they first rolled it out we were making some pretty decent money on it and the companies, but that’s just because the companies didn’t know what they were getting into. So they were, you know, giving agents pretty decent commission on it at first and then they slowly realized that it was a lot more challenging to make to make money at it than they had originally thought.
So they turned all that back and basically told us we could sell it, but they weren’t really going to pay us for it. So wow, that’s always a decent sized book in the Individual Health Insurance to it basically being cut by 90 percent across the board within a day. Wow. That’s an encouragement. Yeah. But I mean at that time we had already prepared the PNC property and casualty auto and home side of it. So it kinda worked out really well because we knew we could see the writing on the wall, that it wasn’t sustainable. So I was really glad that we jumped into the auto and home stuff. So you’re the youngest in the agency, is that correct? Yeah, by about 30 some odd years. Oh my. So, so there’s a sort of, there’s a difference. So would you say that you’re spearheading the, the technology aspect as well for the agency?
Oh yeah. I have a dual job as it in the, in the agency. It is not something I studied or went to school for, but uh, you know, that is something that’s been plopped in my lap. What was the it job? Um, how do I open this attachment? Where did my downloads go? Stuff like that. So it’s been a, it’s been a rollercoaster, but um, as far as, you know, understanding the need for technology. My Dad, he’s not, he’s not too old. He’s early fifties and he understands the importance. He just doesn’t know how to accomplish it, if that makes sense. Makes perfect sense. We need to move in that direction, but he struggles sometimes seeing it.
Sure. Yeah. No, I completely understand. And, and my family, same thing. I felt like I’m the tech guy and I definitely did not go to school for technology. Uh, but, but something about it. I think it’s because we’re labeled as maybe millennials or something like that, that people just trust that we know what we’re doing.
Yeah. And for the most part it works out and I look like a genius, but there are some things that, I mean, it just always seems the other two older gentlemen in the agency have things happen to their computer that I have no idea. I cannot explain it.
That’s when I tap into the user error that write that down. That’s user error. That’s not my fault. And, and move on.
Oh yeah. Oh yeah. There’s a lot of that throwing up your hands and going, well you’re going to have to actually talk to an actual it person on this one.
Right. That is funny. Well, so tell me a little bit more about what you think the insurance world is gonna look like. And in the next 10 years, you know, we, we really are appreciative that you were one of the first, uh, the first in Georgia to come onto bright b and why did you do that and what’s your thoughts on what the insurance agents are going to look like in the next 10 to 15 years.
So I don’t see it looking really anything like it, it does currently just because I can see it from an efficiency standpoint outside looking in, there is not a really easy way to just get a quote for auto and home insurance. I, it is a fairly involved process which in a lot of agencies you still have to go inside and get quotes which is for someone of my generation just sounds crazy. So when, when I was talking to to avery about about bright b and he was just kinda telling me like, hey this is something that can do online and create their account and they can actually get quotes online and see the quotes online and have like an instant message type deal with whichever agency. I was like, I didn’t know that that was the answer. But like, look, it was like, that makes a lot of sense and is way more efficient than, than, you know, calling in and me writing all your stuff down on a piece of paper or are you emailing me your social and date of birth and all that stuff and people don’t want to give that information over anyway and true.
And now that, like I said, now there’s no real easy or secure way to do that. So I knew it had to change. So this was kind of a thing where it’s like, okay, this is how it’s going to change. I knew that there needed to be a change, but um, so I was really excited about it.
Well, and there’s not a lot of opportunities for agents out there to reach people online. So, you know, you’ve got your lead Gen sites, which have you ever experienced lead Gen sites yourself or for your agency clients? Something we’ve dabbled in and honestly, a lot of people stray away from him, which is completely understandable. And then there’s not really a good way for people to see who the agent is. And, and that’s one reason why bright was created so that people could actually see the agent and feel as if what they see, what they read, what they hear, and they feel like they’ve actually been in the agency once or twice. Yeah. And that’s,
that’s. I really liked it. It was, it was almost like a social media type approach to still being personal without being in person. Um, and that’s, that’s something I really liked about it.
Well, pivoting away from this insurance, I want to talk a little bit more about, about your personal. And I hear that you are an exotic car lover. So let’s, let’s talk about these exotic cars.
Oh Man. The best worst decision I ever made was, was here. Oh Man. So I owned a fairly reliable 2015 civic Honda, civic, SSI, and loved it. Little manual, a fun car could take you anywhere in the country, no issues. And, and yeah, I had gone to a couple of car shows and I went to one of the Chattanooga and saw they had some important vehicles like from, from Japan. And among those were the Nissan Skyline. And I just lost it, I was like, this is the coolest thing that I’ve ever seen. I’ve got to get me one of these. So I went to the car show and within two months I had one, I had already sold the civic to get it. So no, that was the worst idea. But as I said, it’s the worst, best idea. I mean, I got it and it’s a 25 year old, a 1992 Nissan skyline and no AC. It ran on like three legs when I got it was an awful idea. But uh, no, I’ve, I’ve been, you know, working with them, had it for about a year now and you know, just if you throw enough money at it it will run and it’s running all right. Right now. So it’s been.
Okay. So you went from a 2015 to a 95, you said?
Yeah, yeah, for only like a couple grand less. It was, was basically a wash
on the, on the,
on the payment there. So it was a. okay. So what were you thinking? What was going through your head? Why? Why was it so amazing?
You’re asking very good questions right now, which I don’t really have the answer to. I remember seeing it and going, wow, this thing is super cool. And looking into it and going, hey, they’re not that expensive. It’d be kind of what I’m paying now and you know, an ideal world where you get it. And so the steering wheel is on the other side. So it’s on the right hand side of the car.
Yeah, it’s drive throughs or you can’t do those. Um, lefthand turns are difficult because you like, you can’t see traffic really is a horrible inconvenience. Um, again, I don’t really know what I was thinking but a insurance business, I mean it was, it was horrible to get insured and I, and I worked for these companies, you know. Right. And so did you buy this from Japan or did you. So they have importers and it was an importer in Virginia and it’s basically like a used car lot for important vehicles. So they do all the important importing. They pay all the fees or whatever and they actually get it tagged in and registered in Virginia, so I just had to buy it and do a, uh, a lot of paperwork at the DMV, which was also helpful.
Now since it’s from Japan, are you driving on the, on the correct side, or are you actually on the other side?
So the steering wheel is on the other side, so it’s on the right hand side of the car. Oh my gosh. Yeah. It’s drive throughs or you can’t do those. Um, lefthand turns are difficult because you like, you can’t see traffic really is, is a horrible inconvenience. Um, again, I don’t really know what I was thinking but uh, so, so when are you going to sell this vehicle? Are you going to say never as as the best of the worst decisions I’ve made and you know, I just got to hold onto it eventually it will be not so much work and it will be rewarding. Wow. You are extremely positive and that’s one way to put it. I’ve been encouraged by other words, describe what I’ve done that have not been positive. We’re going to stick, where’s she going to stick to the positive because I can only imagine what your dad has said to you.
He was actually, you know, when I brought it up to him because he’s a very logical thinking person and when I brought it up to him he said, I think this is a bad idea. He said, but now in your life, being as young as you are is the time to make those bad choices because you can recuperate. And I was like, oh, thanks. Good wisdom. Yeah. So that was done dad seal of approval and I was like, all right, mom, buying it. Wow. That. And then now I told you so. Stairs every once in a while.
Oh Wow. That is hilarious. Well, let’s jump back to insurance for a second. So tell me about your agency. What else are you guys doing to continue growth and continue to be at the top of technology and uh, you know, at the forefront of what’s going to happen in the next 10, 15 years.
So with over of recent, we’re actually redoing our website. So we had done a website years and years ago when we first started in the business and you know, looking back at it, it was not optimized, it was pretty messy and needed a lot of cleaning up. So we’re actually having a new website launch it within the next month or so. And gonna hopefully, you know, it’s got a lot of, we’re having someone manage it rather than just having someone build it and just let it sit. We’re having some, some people manage it and search engine optimization rather than just kind of setting it and forgetting it. We do facebook, we actually have, my brother in law is coming to join us, uh, at the beginning of the year in January and he’s going to be doing a lot of the facebook posting and social media managing. He was actually a, he managed the Garmin fishing and hunting instagram want when, when he was working for them. That’s fine. Yeah. So we’re really excited to have him come work with us and uh, and hopefully bright b will be able to integrate with that website and we can have links and stuff to. We’re getting a quote isn’t just sending us an unsecured email with all your
personal info, so we’re really pumped about that. Really pumped about. Yeah, definitely. We’re working on it. So what products and companies do you do you offer it?
The agency. So Mike, the, my dad, he’s still does primarily life and annuity and a and group benefits. So he’ll do group health insurance, group dental, vision plans, group life insurance and then he still does his own life insurance and annuity stuff. Um, and then I mainly handle the auto and home and business and commercial insurance for small businesses or large businesses alike. So, and then companies on the life insurance and there’s over 50 of those and then we write with about 10 to 15 personal auto and home carriers. And those, the ones that I mainly deal with. What are some of the top ones on the personal line side? Um, we do a lot of work with nationwide travelers. Um, there’s a lot of progressive and liberty mutual. I’m grange is also really big in this area as well. Great.
So we, we like to come down to the five key takeaways and there’s got to be a five key takeaway in there about, about buying cars, but I’m not going to put words in your mouth. So tell me, tell me a little bit on these five key takeaways. What would those be?
Um, by stupid cars, young and, and then, and then just note it. Note.
Uh, I don’t know. Um,
let’s see. I would, I would say treat every. I do a lot of work with the commercial insurance as well with small businesses. And I would just say if you’re new in here trying to adult and start going out on your own, I would just treat every account or every customer as if it was the biggest account you had. Um, we’ve really, in our agency, found a niche niche with small businesses accounts that a lot of insurance agencies would just kind of pass up just because they’re not that big. They might bite me one contractor doing some work, but I couldn’t tell you how many times we’ve written one of those people and then two, three, four years down the road they’ve got 20 plus employees and you know, they’re really knocking it out of the park. So I would just say treat everyone as, as if though you’re gonna your be your biggest customer, biggest client.
And that’s really helped us in our agency. A second one, I would say internal and external networking. So even if they’re your competitors, you know, we have other insurance agencies that we work with and that we talk with, um, facebook groups that were in that follow different insurance agencies. I mean, like I said, you can be in direct competition with them and a lot of our templates for, you know, proposing business insurance quotes have come from us seeing other agencies putting together something that looks really slick and they, you know, they kicked our butts on it and we’re like, man, that is, that is a really good proposal. They did. We need the, we need to step our game up. So I am just getting in contact with people who are in your, in your line of work and um, and even adjacent lines of work, like getting together with his, as far as insurance is concerned, real estate agencies, um, you know, they, they come in contact with a lot of people who were buying homes oddly enough.
So, um, I would say I would say networking is huge both inside and outside of your field of work. I’m third one. Self presentation is pretty big, especially if you’re going out on your own and going to be working for someone. I’m just knowing that you represent that company at all times and not just while you’re, while you’re clocked in, um, you know, you can be on break and, and still need to present yourself because you are representing that company, whether you just never know who’s watching I guess. Um, and that’s, that’s especially true for me because I’m a part of the company and they know that, you know, I work at choice and it’s a family type deal. So anything that I do directly reflects choice insurance. Absolutely. So I think that’s a really big one, say interviewing, learning how to interview. Um, there’s, nowadays it’s, it’s, you’re running up against a bunch of people with the same degree as you, you know, everyone, it seems has a business management degree.
Um, so being able to do interviews well and really being able to show how you’re valuable to them rather than just saying, you know, hey, here’s my resume, I’ve, you know, done this and that in the past. Being able to propose, you know, hey, this is why you should choose me. I think interviewing is a, is a pretty big scale if you’re just kind of up and coming into the adulting world so then you can never be bad. Like never stopped practicing yet. And then number five. Uh, let’s see. Yeah, I’m going to have to say just just by automobiles responsibly a test drive before you buy a
keep your Honda preach brother.
That was a, that one hit me pretty hard was I bought it, I bought it sight unseen. So I’ve never actually even seen the vehicle in person and bought it and had it shipped here. So I would always say take a mechanic up there if you’re not mechanically inclined, take someone who knows what they’re talking about to purchase a vehicle.
Definitely. Well, what’s the best way to reach out to you if anyone wants to get to know you more of the agency or wants to get a quote, what are some good ways to get in touch with you in the agency?
Yeah, so our website, like I said, it’ll be launching within the next month or so is your choice You can give us a call or follow us on facebook choice insurance services and work right here in Warner Robbins so they can reach out via the phone number on our facebook or on our website. That’s great.
Well, we’ll have. We’ll have all this in the show notes as well. We want to thank everyone for listening today and thank you so much for being on.
I want to remind everyone to subscribe and to review for this podcast and others that you listened to and don’t forget that if you’re looking for insurance quotes that don’t stain, which everyone should be doing that, check out [inaudible] dot com and click get a quote and you can definitely find our man, Michael Sanford on there in Georgia. Michael, thank you so much and we will talk to everyone else the same.

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