Succession Through Acquisition Can Give Agency Principals The Best of All Worlds

By Bryan W. Adams

The thought of planning for business succession and retirement can torment entrepreneurs who’ve put in decades of dedication and energy into developing their own successful insurance businesses. However, succession is becoming a hot topic and more pressing issue as the industry ages.  A few years ago, a report from management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. reported the average age of an American insurance agent was 59 and as such, set expectations for the entire industry that a quarter of its workforce would retire around 2018. In keeping, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nearly 400,000 employees will retire from the insurance industry within the next few years.

Many successful business owners are motivated to keep their agencies growing and thriving, but want to spend less of their golden years working.  Luckily, the last several years have been ripe for consolidation. Done correctly, this can mean principals can see their legacy continue to grow, take some equity out of the businesses, and have the option to stay involved with company management. This situation becomes a win-win for everyone involved. 

Being Acquired Does Not Have to Mean Stepping Away

Owners have the choice of making continued investments into growing the business independently, and taking on the risk/reward element associated with that, or finding a partner that would provide the resources, skills and opportunities to grow more safely and efficiently. By entering into an acquisition agreement, owners can ensure security and peace of mind not only for themselves, but also for their family of employees.

An advantage of such an acquisition is that the acquiring company will have the priorities and programs in place to alleviate a lot of the work and worries that bog down business owners. Not having to worry about HR, IT, finance and compliance is a game-changer.  With these important areas of the business in good hands, owners can focus on sales and marketing.

Owners can also gain access to best practices from an industry leader and new products that they don’t have access to as a smaller entity.  Finally, management of the acquiring business can provide insight, support and guidance to leadership when needed.

Three Experts Share Their Advice

When asked what they wished someone would have told them in relation to succession planning, industry experts said the following:

  1. Maggie Fleming, co-owner, president and chief executive officer, Neishloss & Fleming, “Consider all of the options you have when starting down the path of succession planning. Don’t close any doors unless they strongly conflict with your goals and values.”
  2. Tom Fleming, co-owner and chairman, Neishloss & Fleming, “Put as much time and energy into a succession plan as you would put into other elements of your business. You should always be working on your exit strategy along with everything else, because if you wait until you need that plan, your choices may be limited and your appeal may be diminished.”
  3. Lenny Anderson, founder of Minneapolis-based GoldenCare USA, “Understand that selling your business is not the equivalent of walking away. Selling can mean maximizing the value of your business and still work passionately at building it.”

Bryan W. Adams is the co-founder and CEO for Integrity Marketing Group, the preferred partner for insurance carriers and the nation’s leading independent distributor of life and health insurance products focused on the senior market. The company serves over one million clients with more than 350 employees.