Keith Mercier and Patrick Wright, West Florida president and executive vice president, Cbiz Insurance Services
Company: Cbiz Insurance Services, part of the national Cbiz financial services network, based in Cleveland, handles employee benefits and commercial insurance for a range of clients on Florida’s west coast. Industries it has clients in include manufacturing, construction and hospitality.
Cbiz began the pandemic in triage: its two top area executives, Keith Mercier and Patrick Wright, spent weeks calling and meeting with every client they could to double check policies and re-adjust as needed. Triage eventually gave way to targeting, or trying to target, new business in a whole new environment. Mercier, Florida West Coast Cbiz president, says the region grew its book of business a little bit in 2020. But nothing like the pre-pandemic projections or like what it had been doing in January and February.
Opportunities. If not an opportunity within the pandemic, an advantage, or silver lining, is profits are up — and for a simple reason: expenses are down. From smaller dry cleaning bills to significantly less meals out with clients and prospective clients to curtailed travel, the costs of doing business have shrunk. “The expense load is way down,” Mercier says. “We were road dogs. Now we aren’t even traveling at all.”
Instead of traveling, Mercier and Wright, Cbiz West Florida executive vice president, have tweaked how they outreach with clients and companies they are wooing for business. With time on their hands, they are sending more handwritten notes, for example, and sending printed newspaper clips of stories that mention businesses on their target list. “We’ve gone retro,” Mercier says. “We have a whole new way of looking at prospecting.”
In retaining and landing new clients, it helps, executives add, that they split their work 50-50 between commercial insurance and employee benefits, to not get over-leveraged in one niche. “Most agents only do one,” Wright says. “That really helps us, that we do both.”
Threats: Idle time, on the flip side, can present a problem. With no events and in-person networking, the company has lost the edge of doing deals on the golf course, football game or restaurant, where executives can look someone in the eye. On top of that, with the uncertainty of the pandemic and the economy, clients, instead of a flat-out yes or no, are putting insurance firms like Cbiz in book-of-business purgatory. “It’s hard to get people to make a decision,” Wright says. “Everything has been pushed down the road.”