The Hive Five Podcast
5 Key Takeaways from Richard Brown
1. Become a lifetime learner
2. Find a mentor
3. Hire admin as soon as possible to help with the non-sales aspect of your business
4. Research and duplicate
5. Take time to relax
On this episode of the Person Behind the Professional, we are glad to be sitting down with Richard Brown. Richard is the co-founder, vice president, and insurance agent with Centennial Insurance Group in Oklahoma City. Richard co-founded Centennial Insurance back in 2007 and has been growing it since. He loves spending time with his family and serving the people of Oklahoma through insurance.
Richard was born in a small community called Tupelo, Oklahoma and graduated high school in a class of 15. Originally, he wanted to become a registered dietician, but while he was working on his master’s degree, his ambitions changed. He had a buddy in insurance that was able to introduce him to the industry. In 2005, he started out working for a captive company doing insurance and investing. However, investing wasn’t really working out, so he and his business partner, Bryan, decided to branch out and start an independent insurance agency. So, in 2007, Centennial Insurance Group was born.
When they started Centennial Insurance, both Richard and Bryan went from having base salaries to nothing. However, neither of them had any kids at the time, so they were able to work long hours. Because they were just starting out, many of the people they were reaching, were hesitant to do business with someone that was new and untested. The carriers they worked with were also relatively unknown to their customers. Nonetheless, they both hit the pavement and started shaking hands in order to get things moving. With boots to the ground, they didn’t really take any breath of relief until the 3rd year mark when they finally started using automation in the business and really felt relieved when they hired help in 2013.
They’ve continued growing and now have a Medicare division in both Oklahoma and Texas. We discuss this growth, the benefits of serving clients as an independent agency, starting an agency with a partner, and much more with Richard.
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Yeah, you have two different people have different values and the way they were raised and you’re running a business together, so yeah, there’s going to be a little conflict and what I normally tell most people that are trying to get partnership and so as long as you guys can argue fight, you’ll be okay.
Hey guys, thanks for listening today. My name is Keagan Henson with BriteBee where insurance quotes don’t sting. And today on the Person Behind the Professional, we’re excited to sit down with Richard Brown, the co-founder and Vice President of Centennial Insurance Group in Oklahoma City. He started back in 2007 and Richard loves spending time with his family and is passionate about serving fellow Oklahomans through insurance. Also, I think he’s a pretty good. I’m a mountain biker, so I don’t even know if that’s how you say that. So thanks for being on with us, Richard.
I appreciate you guys reaching out and I’ll need to do this.
Absolutely. Well thank you for being on. And I want you to start and tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up co-founding the independent agency you today.
You want me to rewind it back to where I grew up or just straight up?
Absolutely. Rewind as far as you’re willing to go.
Okay. Well, I grew up in a small town on the southeastern part of the state. There’s a Tupelo, Mississippi where Elvis was born and I was actually uh, actually grew up in Tupelo, Oklahoma. So I graduated with 15, so I kind of gives you an idea how big but no. Elvis, Elvis. No, because every firm to flow though. Oh, Mississippi. And I’m like, no, no duplicate. Never want to do the best to look like, wow. Where’s that at? Graduated with 15. I have three brothers, one sister. So it was us and my mom and dad. Great community. That whole notion of it takes a village. That’s how it was. We were just a real good small community down there. Fast forward a little bit. I graduated from Tupelo. I went to school at southwestern Christian University in Bethany. That’s where I met my wife Tiffany. We both graduated there, she went on to nursing school and then I went to go to UCO to work on my master’s.
Originally I wanted to become a dietician and a registered dietician, so to combat the diabetes epidemic in the US and everything and just become a certified diabetes educator. But, and we long story short, that didn’t work out. I had a buddy that was in the insurance and I was like, Hey, I’m, I’m a little introverted, laid back. I really don’t want to be the shaking hands, kissing babies kind of guy. And was like, Hey, I have a buddy that’s the. I have a buddy that’s, he’s an introvert and he’s doing well at insurance. So long story short, I shadowed him for a day. I was like, Hey, I think I can do this. So, my, uh, first job was with the country insurance and financial services. So I worked there for a couple of years, hitting all my goals and everything. I had my series six, 63, I was doing the investing and I was just like, hey, the investing part is just not really my cup of tea. So my business partner Brian, he was working there as well and we just thought, hey, we discussed about going independent, so we got together, put a plan together and um, we started the business in 2007, so it was him and I and we had another business partner, let’s just say we grew apart. That’s the best way to put it. Anywhere he went, he went, did his own thing. Well, so
tell us a little how, how has it been, how has it been starting your own independent agency and have there been any struggles along the way? I mean, you started out from scratch, right?
Yes. So we went from a base salary, I mean from base salary at our previous job to nothing, I mean to no type of income. So it was a. luckily back then we did not. Luckily we didn’t have any kids, my business partner and Nora high so we could work 10 to 14 hours a day. So. And so the struggle was just, a lot of people weren’t familiar with the carriers that I used during that time. I mean everyone knows travelers, Safeco of the Hartford now, but back then everyone’s like, I’ve never heard of these carriers. So the struggle is more about name recognition and just name recognition and just the clients knowing that feeling that you will be there because there’s so many people that get into insurance and then they get out and just a lot of people are just kind of hesitant going in with someone that was new, starting a new shop and everything. They’re like, hey, where are you going to be in six months or a year? So the struggle was basically, uh, getting our name out there and bring it into the business. But it was just a lot of them hitting the pavement. Networking and shaking hands and kissing babies, babies and kissing babies. Exactly. So it was more just the grind I guess, but that’s just part of it. But I guess just trying to get the business in. So,
so when did you say, or maybe haven’t said it yet, but uh, but I bet there’s been a point where you’ve said, okay, I can take a breath like we have, we’ve worked really hard, uh, to, to grow this business and I’m not going to slow down, but at the same time I can take a breath when, when was that?
Not a huge breath, but a small burger is probably one of the three year mark residuals coming in. At that time we were starting to get more and more business. It was more of a flow, I guess we were hitting our stride at that time, so have automation in place. We were utilizing service centers to take care of some of the service work. So it was probably about two, the three year mark is one we really where he was able to breathe a little bit more. And then we, uh, we actually didn’t hire assistant in tool a 2013. So when we hired the two assistants, that’s when it really was able to take a take a take a breath. I guess. So.
Right. And I mean now you have, is it, is it like over 11 people? I am, I, am I wrong in that? Am I reading?
We have two full time assistants and then a couple of a 10, 99 employees and then we started a Medicare division as well. So we have about 12 here in Oklahoma City and another 12 in Texas. So we’re opening up the Medicare division as well. That’s awesome. Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s great. So we’re just trying to not put our eggs all in one basket. So definitely diversify. Yes.
So let’s talk about a little bit about what you enjoy doing. I said that you are a mountain biker and then, and I know that because I’ve actually seen you do that before. So tell me, I mean, what are some things that you love outside of work? Because I know that you’re not working all the time, right?
Of course it was my, uh, my wife and my kids, of course I love, I love spending time with them. Uh, boys are nine and four right now. So in that really activate. But Mountain biking is my stress reliever because, so if you think about it, when I’m on the trails, I have to think about what I’m doing or I’m going to hit this rock or this tree or run into this, a big bushes or whatever. So my mind is clear and it all work is out the door. So that’s why I enjoy mountain biking. And as I previously mentioned, I grew up in the southeastern part of the state. So we had woods everywhere, you know, outdoors. I mean, I was, I was the hunter, the hunter or the fisherman. I was doing all that kind of stuff. So I really enjoy the outdoors than becoming one with nature. I said, oh, cliché goes. And um, let me see. I love reading. I’ll try to read a book a month. And I listened to podcasts. So that’s, that’s how I get away. And as I previously mentioned, I’m an introvert, so I, for me to recharge, I get away and me getting away, maybe going to a local coffee shop, reading the book, listen to a podcast, just learning I guess. So that’s, that’s how I get away. So,
and yeah, I’ve heard you say that multiple times, so I would say that you’re, you’re really practicing. I call it self-awareness, like knowing hey, this is, this is truly who I am, so I have to deal with it a certain way and there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. I’m heck sometimes I wish I was an introvert so sometimes I get myself into a little bit of trouble there. Um, and so I think it’s, I think it’s really good to, to understand who you are and how you’ve got to recharge and rejuvenate so you can continue on through each day.
So what is your wife thought about all of this starting a business? I mean, I, I assume she’s been extremely supportive, but has there, has there been anything there that you guys have had to work through of starting businesses and struggling together?
Just like any business. I mean there was a budgeting aspect to it when you first initially start, but we’ve always been good with our finances and everything, so we had a little cushion and stuff so long. Here’s a little funny story on our first, our first draw from our business was only like a thousand dollars or something on the first check or whatever. My wife got to look that she’s going to hate me for saying this. She looked down at it and it was a thousand dollars and she said, are you sure you want to do this? I was like, yeah, give me a little time. And then now of course she’s a stay at home mom now. And so yeah, she hasn’t worked in seriously is this, how, is this how we’re going to be able to live? You’re not gonna be able to do this. So yeah, she’s been 100 percent fully supportive. So if there was anything negative she may have said was that right there? But she was more joking. She’s being more sarcastic there. But, but outside of that, yeah, we just. And we make it a priority to have family time and time for just her and I. So we’re very, we’re very proactive. So she’s, she’s very proactive as well. So now she an introvert. No, she’s, no, she’s the, she’s the opposite. She’s, yeah, she’s, she’s all over the place, so, which is good, which, and it balances out. So yeah, she’s, she’s awesome.
Well, what would you say as starting an independent agency, what would you say have been some of the benefits of being able to serve your clients? Maybe you know better than, than a captive agency, you know, everyone has their views captive, lot of people like the captive model, but a lot of people also like the independent model. So what would you say has been, you know, a, a good thing for you? Uh, moving onto an independent
model. I mean a long preface. There are many excellent capital of companies out there. However, I believe a lot of agents prefer just like client’s preferred variety in choices and that’s why I liked the independent realm so I can take care of someone from a little to their scooter all the way up to their super Walmart if they have one. So I just like the, just being able to provide my client choices with everything. And um, and another thing I liked about the independent side is that I actually own my book of business, so if my boys were to get licensed I can actually pass it down to them. So it’s almost like I’m building the business to leave a legacy to our boys. So that’s another aspect of why I liked the independent realm. So
yeah, definitely. How has it been, how has it been with a partner? I’m a, I’m assuming it’s been pretty good and in most aspects, but how, how has it been, have you guys been able to, to grow more, do you think because of that or. Yes. What do you guys think about that?
Yes. And Brian and I, Brian is my branch and ours, my business partner and we, he’s with me being an introvert and he’s the, he’s an extrovert, he’s super extroverted so it kind of evens the evens out Kind of like, uh, my um, similar to my wife and I were like, she’s totally, totally extroverted. I’m introverted, so kind of. And so when I’m, when I’m lagging along too slow, he kind of pulls me up enough. He’s too gung Ho kind of pulling back so it really balances out and um, and we both, we both have great self-awareness and everything, so that’s why I kind of, that’s why it’s worked out so well for so uh, but the partnership, but I believe that we, because we have that dynamic that we were able to grow, we were able to continually grow each year just because we, we’re both aware of each other’s personalities, their work ethic and everything. So it’s been great for us. Our partnership’s been great. So,
so in the end, partnership has been really good for you because, you know, honestly, I’ve heard, I’ve heard good and bad things on that, you know, some people have said and when looking at partners, you know, if, if, if you can do it without a partner, that’s, that’s a lot better. But in your situation it looks like you guys have been able to really grow substantially in the last years because of that. I don’t think there’s any way that you can always do that by yourself.
Right? Right. Because we um, uh, cause with my business, my business partner, he’s a really good at numbers. I’m good at, I mean I’m pretty good at numbers but he’s really good at numbers and we’re both good at looking at contracts and stuff. So yeah, it really, really works. Works well for us because I’m better at more of the mentoring with our systems and stuff like that. Just make them better service team numbers and everything. So it’s, it works, it works out well. So yeah, it wouldn’t, I don’t think neither one of us would have been this successful if we didn’t have either one of us on the team. So a great situation. And then the, we’re friends, we’re friends outside of work, his wife is friends with my wife and their kids play with our kids. So it’s just a great, great dynamics. So,
so let me ask you this. So, and we, we have that. We have kind of that same dynamic of that. We’ve known each other for the Co-founder and I have known each other for a long time. I’ve known actually a lot of the people who work here for a long time. And what do you guys do? I mean, there, there are times when you, you got to talk about the hard things. There’s times that you’re. I mean, you know, he, he must. It’s Brian, right? Brian must drive you crazy sometimes. I mean let’s be honest, you know, and, and vice versa. So what do you guys do a two to make sure that you’re communicating and you’re actually working through these things so that he can continue on this partnership relationship, but also this, this friendship that you have. I mean, do you go sit down and have ice cream and, and talk about the hard things. Where are you at?
Yes. What we do is him and I, we probably have lunch together two or three times a week. Just those because we can’t really, we’re in the office, we’re always working on the business or helping our assistance or are just working on the business and we meet outside. So if there is a little situation that we need to address a little argument, not a fight a little, you know what I mean, because everyone has bad days. But if there’s a yeah, we meet outside, outside of work. So it could be over lunch, could be over breakfast, it could be, will go to a, we’ll go to a movie after the Kiddos and the wife’s are in bed and just talk outside of the movie theater. You know what I mean? We’re just make it a point to make sure that we have to in a sense, put our emotions aside to make sure the business runs correctly. So.
But Richard, what do you say? I mean, are you like, okay dude, I’ve got some hard things to talk about or can he already see it on your face? Like can already see it on your face that your text and slash or you need to talk about something.
Yes, exactly. Since we met, we’ve been friends since basically 2005. So we can both sense one, one of us are irritated or something’s wrong. So in a fist, something that needs immediate attention, I’ll just walk into his office or vice versa and we’ll shut the door and we’re like, hey, what’s going on? What do we need to talk about? So you know what I mean, something’s wrong. So then we’ll, we’ll just put the phone on silent and, and talk about it or hash it out as they say right there. So you have to think about it. Yeah. You have two different people that have different values and the way they were raised and then you’re running a business together. So yeah, there’s going to be a little conflict. And what I normally tell most people that are trying to get into a partnership I said is as long as you guys can are you and not fight, you’ll be okay.
Yeah. It’s like this, this arguing with each other, but at the end, loving each other enough to work through all, all the differences and everything else. Right?
Because you’re emotionally raged at the time. We just both concept back, is this going to matter six months from now? Is gonna matter a month from now as you’re. Even when a matter tomorrow, so about the, the friendship first and in the business and then right. So it’s both the way we kinda look at it. So
that’s great. Well, what would you tell someone who’s looking to become an insurance agent and a little bit more about, you know, independent captive mean what would you recommend because you were both and so what, what would be some advice that you would give someone who was looking to maybe start in, in the insurance world?
Captive generally me generally means great training and great support because when I worked up the other, the other company for a couple of years, we have great training, great support and everything. And when we went independent, it’s more self-training. There’s some support but there’s a lot of choices there. So you must be disciplined for both options, but I think you have to be really extremely disciplined for the independent because you’re basically for a little bit. You’re basically the janitor all the way up to the owner. So you’re doing, you’re doing everything. So I would, um, I would basically ask the person how our discipline they are because it is so much, so many moving parts when it goes to independent because you have 10 or 15 different carriers you need to understand and know compared to one set of underwriting roles and it’s just a, I’ll basically give them the pros and cons of one night when I, um, when I went independent. So, but, um,
but then you also say that they could actually come work for you and sell some insurance, uh, with centennial insurance. Right,
exactly. We have great, great training and great team. And so that’s because
that is great. Now I do want, I’m a part of whoever, whoever comes to you and ask for ask for a job. So I want that, uh, that first year at 10 percent, 10 percent have to have a little conversation and you’re really good at reading contracts. I’ve got a very simplistic contracts for you to side. That’s great. Well, you said you liked to read books and you read, you definitely read a lot more than I do. Right now. I’m in the podcast phase and I think I’m in the podcast phase because I’m moving and all over the place and I’m driving or I’m trying to exercise and then I’ve got a three year old and a five year old and I can’t seem to be able to look at the words long enough to really focus and so I try to put something in my ears and listen there. But tell me a little bit about maybe some of the books that have that have been life changing for you and why that is.
One of the books is why should anyone be led by you? So this really makes you. That’s a hard question. Yes, exactly. Then I read a lot of um, with you being in the media, I’m pretty sure you heard of a Gary v. I like his stuff. He’s a little, he’s a little rough around the edges sometimes, but the, so I’m Kinda all over the place when it comes to reading and they’re not always specifically business oriented. It could be a faith based. They could be. There was one that I just read last, last month is called warnings is just about all the different things are happening. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but just warnings when they talk about machines and the rise of machines and all this other stuff. I just like the uh, like the read all kinds of different stuff and then there’s one I read was the rocket fuel.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of that but I haven’t by Mr. Wickman and that’s really good for a partnership because it Kinda, it Kinda gives you in all these books are like buffets she takes on you leave, some of it doesn’t always apply, apply to you, but um, it kind of gives you an idea who’s the visionary and who’s the integrator in the business if you’re in a partnership and it kind of gives you an overview who can do what better and stuff and as a few tests and everything. So there’s just a, there’s a lot of moving parts to that. But that’s a great book and the less faith based one I read was killing Kryptonite. So it’s just Kryptonite. What is that about? Is about how, uh, how you dress some of the weakness, a weak points in your life. So, if someone’s struggling with the comparison trap, no matter how much money you make, you always want to, you always see this person on Facebook, in the bigger house, a nicer car, and you’re like, hey, why don’t you know what I mean? You’re always comparing yourself even though you may be making more money than you ever have in your life. And then other one was up. Someone’s struggles with other particular sins and stuff like that. And how as a man, you’re supposed to rise above it and they give you steps and stuff to keep yourself accountable and everything like that. So. So it’s a great book. So it was easy, easy read too. So it’s not too, not too, too crazy. So
yeah. And so are you one of these people who read books all the way through to the end? Or are you one that reads some of it, skipped some, you know, and then by the end of it you’re like, okay, I’ve got them. I’ve got it. I understand what they’re, what they’re talking about. Move on to the next
next. Are you 60 to 80 percent is about six. I read about 60 to 80 percent of it, unless it’s really, really, really good. Like the rocket fuel book. I read that from cover to cover of course and killing Kryptonite, but there’s a few books that I will probably only read about 60 percent, 60 percent of them, so 60 to 70 percent and just make really good notes.
Now is Brian a reader as well? Are you, are you the one walking into his office and saying, okay, I’ve read this book. Let me tell you about it because I know you’re not going to read it.
Exactly. Yeah, he’s not, he’s not a, he’s not a reader, so he’s a. He always jokes I read when I read to my daughter, so he’s just, he’s a and I kind of give him the cliff note version of it and everything so, but he knows always do my really good.
The deal is, is that you then you get to actually tell him what he needs to hear and you can kind of lead them in the right direction. Right? Exactly. Exactly. That’s great. Well, tell us a little bit about the products and the companies that you offer. I know that you are on the home and auto side, but also on the commercial side. Um, tell us about your, your niche or your niche or however anyone wants to say it. What do you guys do?
All right now we’re about 60 percent personal lines and then about 40 percent commercial and trying to get to about 50 slash 50 in our niche right now on the commercial side or lessors risk or commercial landlord properties, lrs and a commercial auto and general liability and basically bought business owner policies. Those are a really niche but Mros and didn’t for some reason as a good reason, but we’ve got Mitch into gas stations, so we have a lot of gas stations as a welcoming and stores and everything. So that’s our big niche right now. And then I’m, I’m putting the program together to really go after cyber liability and cyber liability here in the next. Hopefully you all have it in January, you’ll, you’ll, you’ll be seeing me everywhere in January probably. But um, and then we’re going to cyber, but those are basically our main niches right now.
And you’ve really, you’ve really gone out and you’ve, you’ve jumped out as an introvert going into the YouTube space mean you’re trying to be a hot item on YouTube right now. I see, I see. Uh, I see, uh, all over the place. So why did you decide to jump out there and do YouTube and do a customer testimonials and also informational videos?
I just wanted to kind of stretch. I’m big on quotes as you can see, but uh, yeah, you’re either getting better or getting worse, but you’re not remaining the same. So I just thought to push my stretch myself a little bit. I thought I’d put a go on video because it, me going back to me being an introvert, I was nervous in front of cameras, in front of a speech class in college and high school. And everything, so I just thought, and it’s just in the advertising is free if you think about it right now I’m doing a, uh, excuse me, a Facebook live video where I interviewed local business owners about once or twice a week and as free advertising I shared on my page, they shared it on their business page and was just about give us some more brand recognition and of course no one will have it personally solve videos like, hey, I need a buy that I need to purchase that, but we’re just putting our name out there just to get, let us know that we’re in the community where local or dollars were being spent here just like you are more about getting in.
Plus we’re highlighting the business. So all the entrepreneurs that I interview, I understand what they’re going through because I went through it as well as one time. So, and uh, and it just. And I guess to answer your original question, I just did it in order to not only stretch myself but to get us more brand recognition here in our great state.
Yeah, that’s great. So one of the things we like to make sure that all of our listeners ended up with our five key takeaways from you that they can benefit from when they leave. So what would those be?
Okay. Number one, become a lifetime learner. Read, listen to podcasts, listen to stuff that’s in and out of your industry. And thus what I. So I’m listening from. Listen to stuff from a faith based stuff to x attorneys, to FBI negotiators. Just everything. Just always learn. That’s all. That’s my first takeaway. Number two, find a mentor. Someone’s who’s further along than you and the process and they can kind of help you. I think woody Allen said it best. He said, I stand on the shoulder of giants and that’s what you want to do. I just don’t trust her. Learn from their mistakes so you don’t have to go through the same thing they do. So find a mentor. Uh, let me see. And on the agency side, hire admin as soon as possible to help anyone with the non-sales aspect of your business.
Because I was bogged down, we were bogged down so long. Excuse me, on service work and everything that I wish I would have hired, administer someone admin lot faster. I wish I would have hired them like the first year, but that’s the. That’s agency specific. They’re a C and R and D in this research and duplicate files. What’s working with other agents and companies? Please try to be innovative but don’t, but don’t try to completely reinvent the wheel. Remember Michelin, they didn’t invent the wheel. They just continually find a better way to help the will row and that’s what I meant by that. Just research and duplicate and find out what’s working for other carriers. I mean other agencies in a take time to relax. We all need time to recharge, reset. Definitely invest in your family, your friends because, uh, a quote I recently read said it best. Stop acting like you. You will live twice. Life is too short. You definitely need to spend that quality time with your spouse or your kids and because you can never get that time back. But yeah, you’re absolutely right there.
Well, I, I always say this last question, but another question we always have for you is how can people get in contact with you if they’re, if they’re looking for insurance quotes, uh, if they, if they want to hear more about who you are, the and your partner and, and learn more about centennial insurance, what’s the best way to do that?
Great. Well, our phone number is four. Oh, five, two, eight, six, five, zero two five. Or you can reach us on the firstname.lastname@example.org or just stop by the office? Twenty eight, 14 West Briton road in Oklahoma City. Seventy three. One, two. Oh, and on our website it has all our bios where we’re from, all the products and services that we carry and pretty much anything you want to know about us, but yeah, those, those are the easiest way to get in contact with them.
That’s awesome. Well, we really appreciate you being on today and we want to make sure that everyone subscribes and reviews at this podcast and tells us what. Tell us what you think about Richard Brown and his agency and also don’t forget if you’re looking for insurance quotes that don’t sting, you can go to BriteBee.com and you can click and find Richard Brown and if you go to his blog, you’ll also see as podcast there and we’ll have all of that information in a way that is easy to read and learn more about him. Richard, I’m expecting to see some videos coming our way so we can put those on there as well so people can really see who you are. This introverted guy getting out there on YouTube and in making a change and that difference and so really appreciate your time today and guys, we really appreciate everyone listening today and we hope everyone has a wonderful day.
Check out Richard’s BriteBee Profile: https://app.britebee.com/agents/richardbrown171
Check out Centennial Insurance Group: https://centennialins.com/
Read Centennial’s Blog: https://centennialins.com/customer-resources/blog