Playing Happily in the Small Group Space

A conversation with Amy Evans, president of Colibri Insurance Services in Sherman Oaks and founder of AlignWomen.

My focus in 2020 is happily growing my agency in the Small Group arena (100 or less employees) in Southern California. I’m passionate about taking good care of my clients. There’s a great need for brokers committed to making sure small employers feel it’s worthwhile to invest in employee benefits is. I continue to play in that space since stepping into my own agency in 2015 after 17 years in the business, with an ambitious goal of increasing my revenue by 50% in 2020.

This is a great place for women to find success. I’ve discovered that commissions are gender neutral–there’s no glass ceiling. I named my agency Colibri–French for butterfly–a symbol of freedom for me. It’s a natural fit since I speak fluently (and have a butterfly tattoo).

I plan to grow by 50% in two ways. First: by continuing to develop strategic partnerships with CPAs. It’s been my best source of revenue generating referrals. They’ve uncovered small business clients who want to offer coverage for the first time, or find themselves in a sticky situation with their existing group plan and need a broker who can straighten that out. Many don’t realize they are violating discrimination and ERISA rules when they start out covering a few, then grow to say 40. If they offer insurance to any, they must offer to all.

Second: via AlignWomen which I founded, born out of a desire to have more effective networking opportunities with women. Many in Align offer similar or complementary services, so we are a brilliant resource for each other. I started a Mastermind group of female agency owners that turned into Align Women (with a podcast and Facebook community), which became something much bigger as a mentoring and referral source. It’s allowed me to build my dream team of women specialists in legal, payroll, HR and IT to call on when I need that expertise.

Future vision
An expansion of Medicare may be the path of least resistance, but no time soon. I’m much more interested in what happens from here to there. Honestly, my biggest concern is carriers dropping commission rates as we’ve seen it drop a while back (in response to the upheaval caused by the ACA). It shoots carriers in the foot because we are their most effective marketing tool, helping consumers navigate the complexities of the marketplace. But agent compensation is a difficult conversation.

If we see that again, agents have no recourse or leverage to fight back–no collective bargaining on our side. So, we need to have an exit strategy to survive. I’ve been contemplating that “what if” with others because it would not be sustainable. Agents need to do all they can to stay informed and be of value of their clients.

Life philosophy

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.”
Henry David Thoreau

Reading list

The Myth of Stress by Andrew Bernstein. “Things don’t cause stress, your thoughts about them do. Dismantle your thoughts, change your life.”
—- Linda Lalande