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Business Observer Friday, May 19, 2017 2 years ago

Sun Shines

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Steve Herrig, with multiple businesses during his career, emphasizes a key business axiom: Stick to what you know.
by: Beth Luberecki Contributing Writer

Steve Herrig is well versed in the world of insurance.

After working at an insurance agency, he started insurance brokerage Elite Agency Services (a managed general agent) and then Progressive Employee Services, a professional employer organization that handled things such as payroll and health insurance for clients' employees. He exited Progressive in 2010. In 2011 he began working as a consultant for Sunz Insurance, which provides workers' compensation insurance for PEOs, staffing agencies and large companies.

Herrig bought Sunz in 2013. The company had been struggling, but he's overseen a turnaround, with revenues at the Bradenton-based firm rising from $51.7 million in 2013 to $137 million in 2016, an increase of 165%. Things are going so well, Sunz recently purchased a 60,000-square-foot office building in Bradenton (now being renovated) and launched Next Level Administrators, a third-party workers' compensation claims administrator that's an affiliate of the company.

Herrig's also had ownership stakes in multiple businesses outside the insurance realm. The list includes Jetshare US, Leibold Irrigation, ProPump and ProGro. “I've always been entrepreneurial,” he says. “And if anything, it's just grown over the years.”

Team building: Herrig, 55, says his vision and competitive nature help make him a good entrepreneur. But he wouldn't be where he is today without the folks working alongside him.

“I have an understanding of the importance of surrounding yourself with really good people and of collaborating [with them],” he says. “That usually gets you where you want to go, and what keeps you there is integrity and relationships. Who you hire and surround yourself with are usually your best business decisions.”

Get real: One challenge Herrig faces is his tendency to think (too) positively. “If I have a fear of anything, it's being too optimistic about something,” he says. “That's why you surround yourself with good people and strong advisers, so you can collaborate and take calculated risk.”

Exit strategy: Herrig recently had longtime partner John Leibold buy him out of several business ventures after Herrig realized he'd served his purpose. “John was the brains behind the outfit, while I brought a little business acumen and some capital,” he says. “We just had some different skill sets that complemented each other for a while, and we'd been together long enough where I wasn't really of that much of value to the companies anymore. He was running with it.”

Learn from mistakes: Herrig says the worst business decision he ever made was “deciding I could go into the aviation business” right before the recession, referring to his unsuccessful Jetshare venture. “It's a very difficult business to begin with, and it's expensive,” he says. “It's not something you can do as a sideline, and it was a sideline business for me.”

He saw the downfalls that resulted from not having the time to fully commit to the business. “It taught me to do what you know,” he says.

On his mind: What keeps Herrig up at night is his to-do list. “It's the number of things that I haven't gotten to yet that I need to,” he says. “You just kind of think about those things. It's the price you pay.”

AT A GLANCE
Entrepreneur: Steve Herrig
Current company: Sunz Insurance, Bradenton
Year purchased: 2013
Employees: 120
Revenue: $137 million in 2016, up 63% over $84 million in 2015
Past companies: Elite Agency Services, Progressive Employee Services, Jetshare US

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