Spotlight on Kurt Kelley, Manufactured Housing Insurance Producer and Broker

 

Our producer spotlight for September is Kurt Kelley, insurance broker for manufactured housing parks and dealers and also a Renaissance man. Kurt’s the owner of Houston-area Mobile Insurance; he’s also an attorney and publisher of Manufactured Housing Review, a monthly publication. 

In the past couple of weeks, Kurt and his team have been dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Due to flooding in the area, he and the team couldn't make it into the office for a few days after the hurricane hit, but all were safe and working from home, contacting insureds in damaged areas. They provided information on how to mitigate damages, prepare insurance claims and how best to handle uninsured flood losses, "particularly when loss of income was involved," Kurt said. They also helped insureds get those claims reported immediately, "to get them nearer the front of the claims line." 

Kurt's also been busy creating lists of parks with homes, owners of manufactured home stock, financiers of manufactured home stock and available home sites. He's sharing these lists with his insureds and others in the industry as well as with FEMA.

We talked with Kurt prior to Hurricane Harvey, to learn about his experiences in the insurance industry and his advice to newbie agents.

As a manufactured housing insurance broker, why did you get started in publishing?

There simply wasn’t a good manufactured housing insurance industry-focused publication left in the market, he said. "With our staff and my industry contacts, I knew we could provide valuable information to share."

The digital magazine appeals to community managers, retailers, manufacturers and those who service and supply the industry, providing business and legal help and the latest manufactured housing news. The publication was started this year and is produced in an electronic format. You can view past issues and sign up to receive the magazine here

What else do you do differently from your broker peers?

"We focus on customer service and proper communication more than most," he said, drawing from his legal and marketing backgrounds. "It's rare we have an office meeting when we don't share specific examples of both poor and excellent communication techniques." For example, he said, don’t presume your email got through to your client or prospect, so always follow up. And when they ask six things, provide six answers. Don’t just ignore portions of their email. "Specificity matters, as does customer service skills."

When hiring, "we test to make sure the candidate rates high on empathy," he added.  "They tend to be the agents that care the most and thus try the hardest.  

"We can train people on manufactured housing insurance details, but we can’t train them to care or to communicate well." 

How did you learn about Arrowhead?

"We've done business with Jackie Miller and her team for about 15 years.  They understand our business, our applications and offer the manufactured housing insurance coverages our clients need at reasonable rates. It’s been a good marriage."

Learn more about Arrowhead's Manufactured Housing Program.

What’s the best – and worst – part of the job?

What Kurt enjoys most is having a key role in saving people and their business when something goes terribly wrong. "Many times over the years, we've had the right coverage in place when a catastrophe happened. That coverage saved the investment and livelihood of our clients and their employees."

Kurt said he’s had properties wiped out by tornadoes, but since they had the right property coverage, income coverage and debris removal in place, the owners were able to rebuild. After the storm, some communities were actually stronger than before, he recalled. Because surrounding neighborhoods also suffered major damage, leaving families homeless, the parks filled up to 100 percent capacity. In another instance, a flood cost a dealer lost millions in inventory, with flood waters covering the tops of his mobile homes. Thanks to his 100 percent replacement coverage, they ordered all new inventory and promptly sold out, once again due to displaced families and a lack of homes in the area.

The worst part of the job? "Discovering a client doesn't have coverage when they need it, due to either lack of the proper insurance policy type or due to an exclusion that possibly could have been avoided." Kurt cited an instance where a park owner didn’t realize he also owned an onsite power pole and power canister that had to be replaced at a cost of $300,000.

How did your career path lead you to manufactured housing insurance?

Kurt's mother and stepfather started the agency that Kurt now owns. He didn’t choose insurance at first, but took a rather circuitous route. First he headed to San Francisco and worked for a downtown bank, doing statistical analysis. 

"Back office number crunching and report writing was a valuable experience, but didn't fit me all that well," he reminisced. "And accordingly, I wasn't that great at that job."

Next he headed to Midland, Texas, in a marketing role with Southwestern Bell. "They offered excellent communications and marketing training in a big corporate setting," Kurt said. "Many of the things I learned there I still use today."

But working for a large corporation also wasn’t natural for someone who grew up in a family of small business owners. Instead, he wanted to start his own business. He went to law school with the plan to return to his hometown and practice law. Law school was an invaluable education and a great fit for an insurance career, Kurt said in hindsight, because agents deal in insurance contracts and contract law every day. However, "after four years of being surrounded by people during their most difficult times in life, I decided to look for another career path."

That’s when his stepfather recruited him to come work for Mobile Insurance, which specializes in manufactured housing insurance. His stepfather retired and Kurt bought the company in 1998. 

What are typical objections you hear, and how do you overcome them?

Most of the time, it’s regarding coverage a client or prospect doesn’t think he needs. So Kurt walks them through various types of problem scenarios, asking, for example, "If your property floods, do you want coverage for that? Do you know that you have no coverage if any subcontractors are injured on your site? Do you want insurance coverage if your employee is injured or accuses you of paying her incorrectly? How about if your computer system goes down?"

Kurt said he often sees a prospect that, yes, has low rates, but is also too thinly insured. His responsibility is to inform that business owner or manager that they’re not covered in case of a loss. "If they’re not being properly advised by their agent, I tell them. They’re getting bad advice. It’s time to change agents."

Insurance is a rewarding career, Kurt summed up. "It’s not sexy at first sight, but it is a solid profession. There's an endless amount to learn and there's ample opportunity to grow. Being competent with a complicated subject matter or service is a real value to a client." 

We couldn’t agree more, Kurt! Thanks for telling us your story this month.


Related: Workers' Compensation Producer Spotlight