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Business Observer Friday, May 4, 2018 4 months ago

Startup insurance agency doubles in size

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After a decade handling a major hospital’s risk assessments, an insurance pro finds success in his own venture.  
by: Ted Carter Contributor

In Dennis Slabaugh's world, trouble visits your home, business or nonprofit uninvited, steps inside and reaches for your cash and other assets.

The unlimited risks that accompany everyday life partially explain why Slabaugh and his business partner and wife, Maribel Slabaugh, are, after barely a year in business, doubling the size of their Concierge Insurance Partners agency. While the firm doesn’t disclose revenue, Slabaugh says it’s already signed on more than 100 clients. The first four months of this year is ahead of last year's sign-up pace by 150%, he says. Concierge works with businesses and individuals on property and casualty insurance, and also handles workers’ compensation insurance.

“We're recruiting a third service employee,” as a start to the expansion, says Dennis Slabaugh, who spent a decade tackling risk issues for NCH Health Care System in Naples. He later ran his own insurance consulting firm in Naples, The Risk Man.

NCH, Slabaugh says, “offered a tremendous education” he uses today to provide corporate-level insurance and risk guidance to smaller businesses. “That is where I built my expertise,” the Cleveland native says. “Ultimately, I decided I wanted to deliver those services to the business owner.”

Maribel Slabaugh, the firm’s managing partner, works with affluent clients and nonprofits. She spent 20 years in the nonprofit sector, including a dozen years in management, before joining her husband in business.

Dennis Slabaugh, meanwhile, has a dual role as senior risk manager. He's one part gumshoe on the hunt for trouble and another part trail boss riding herd on clients to keep them vigilant to risks all around them. An oversized catcher's mitt also helps. Without one, crucial policy omissions like business interruption coverage and misinterpretations of coverage become costly pass balls, Slabaugh says.

‘We are providing our service at a different level as far as the technical expertise and the understanding of the needs of the client.’ Dennis Slabaugh

An independent insurance agency, Concierge Insurance earns a commission by placing coverage with appointed carriers and through wholesale brokers. “That said, we are providing our service at a different level as far as the technical expertise and the understanding of the needs of the client,” Slabaugh says. “When it comes to their coverage, we spend more time explaining to our clients what is not covered than what is covered.”

The forensic review and analysis is especially likely to find omissions when a business has changed some of its operations, says Slabaugh. “That sort of policy tends to copy old mistakes where errors have crept in,” he says.

Before September's Hurricane Irma, the Slabaughs began reviewing policies of their business clients, many within a couple miles of open water. A lot of windstorm and hail exclusions turned up, Dennis Slabaugh says. Coverages were neither “protecting the stuff in their buildings,” he says, nor providing business interruption protection.

A typical review, Slabaugh says, entails examination of a businesses' working tools, its leases and its contracts with vendors.

Slabaugh says Concierge often finds that a business has “per claim” coverage when it needs “per occurrence” coverage. Say water damage occurs after a pipe breaks in a fire sprinkler system a plumber has installed in a condo building. With per claim coverage, the plumber must pay a deductible on repairs for each unit. With per occurrence, the plumber pays a single deductible.

Slabaugh's advice: Pay an extra $1,000 a year and avoid a big burden on deductibles.

Concierge gains most of its business through referrals. But rather than chase new business, emphasis is on client preservation, with Slabaugh saying the agency targets “somewhere between 96% and 99%” retention.

On the personal lines side, the Slabaughs have mostly wealthy clients who need protections for collections of cars, jewelry, art, furs and other valuables. “We're able to understand these clients and their personal asset exposure,” Dennis Slabaugh says. “We are able to utilize that to their advantage.”

Slabaugh says he can’t turn off his risk radar. A lifetime of looking for risks will do that. He can't walk into a building without looking for a backdoor and wondering if it is locked. And he can't walk away from a spill on a supermarket floor. Says Slabaugh: “I kind of live and breathe this stuff.”

(This story was updated to reflect the correct name of the company and the length of time Slabaugh spent at NCH Health Care System.) 

 

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