Alistair: “Good morning Don, firstly congratulations for your recent two year anniversary of Highland Insurance Brokers. Can you talk me though your journey and what motivated you to start a brokerage?”
Don: “I have been in broking for over 20 years, with a couple of ill-fated forays into banking, which I’d rather not discuss! I cut my teeth in smaller, local brokers before ending up at Clark Thomson who are one of Scotland’s largest outfits.
“With a rapid acceleration towards middle age, starting my own business was an itch I needed to scratch. You can’t help but look at some others and think ‘if they can do it, pretty sure I can’. Then the jump into the abyss.”
Alistair: “Why did you choose the AR route?”
Don: “For me it was the only way to achieve what I was looking to do. The back-office support, particularly when it comes to compliance, was key for me.”
Alistair: “So choosing the right support is clearly an important part of starting up your business, what advice would you give to others thinking of taking a similar route?”
Don: “Take your time and speak to different suppliers before you make any decisions. How confident are you in your own ability, really? Will your clients follow you? If you are looking at networks, think about value for money, service and a willingness to work together to achieve the same end goal, reference them and ensure the cultural fit matches your needs and requirements.”
Alistair: “What challenges did you face in the first year and how did you overcome them?”
Don: “The first year is all about setting your stall out and making sure that you stick to your ethos from the start. Things you thought were wrong at previous employers, make sure you get them right. Service is paramount. Year one is hard work and you just have to suck it up and push through.”
Alistair: “So having been through the first couple of years of trading, how is your working life different today?”
Don: “There’s another kind of stress as the buck stops with you. More hours and less holidays? Probably, but that is to be expected; the business is still young and growing. Being able to take time off through the day to attend my son’s school events is a nice bonus.
“I enjoy being master of my own destiny. A cliché but true. Most of my clients are self-employed so an empathy exists. They have all taken the plunge at some time and this strengthens the relationship.“
Alistair: “What are the unique selling points that make your brokerage successful?”
Don: “Service, local knowledge and my network. I think I have built a reputation for being honest and trustworthy and this is what clients look for I believe.
There is competition out there at every turn so you need to make sure you add value. Service is key for me and the support from Momentum helps me to retain my high levels.”
Alistair: “You touched on the support from Momentum, in what other ways do you think a principal firm can be useful?”
Don: “Being able to have the enquiry dealt with by an individual with the appropriate knowledge and market contacts, and who is willing to take the time to discuss the risk. Momentum takes the time to get to know my clients – I am not sure you will get that anywhere else. They really are an extension of my business. I don’t work for them, nor they me. It really is a team effort. This allows me to handle the sharp end, safe in the knowledge that the back office will be up-to-date and accurate.”
Alistair: “So what does the future hold for you and what ambitions do you have for your brokerage?”
Don: “Continued organic growth with a view to looking at bringing in a helping hand perhaps in 2017.”
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