Spotlight on Claudia McClain, Residential Earthquake Insurance Producer and Broker
Meet Claudia McClain, a Residential Earthquake insurance producer and founder of McClain Insurance Services in Everett, Washington. In the spotlight this month, Claudia describes herself as “founder, agent, president, janitor, coach, IT tech – you name it, I wear many hats.”
The McClain agency celebrated their 40th anniversary earlier this year. Claudia attributes the success and longevity of her agency to having a great team of fellow agents who work together to take good care of clients, with the goal of developing long-term relationships.
McClain Insurance Services is a Dave Ramsey ELP (endorsed local provider), one of the few agencies with this designation in the state of Washington. As one of the nation’s most trusted experts on money and business matters, Dave Ramsey has authored five New York Times best-selling books and hosts seminars and webinars on getting out of debt and building wealth.
“He does his best to educate people as to why and when insurance is necessary: to insure for the things you can’t handle on your own,” Claudia explained. “Clients who come to us from him have his recommendation that we’ll find the best value for them, providing the best protection at the best price.
“Being an ELP is tough,” she admits. “It’s a hard alliance to get, because there’s a limited number of agents chosen from any given area. I had to wait awhile. But if you specialize in preferred personal lines, it’s a good match, because Dave’s group provides leads to you from those who’ve gone through his Financial Peace University or read his books and asked for a local referral. The best part: they’re already educated in the basics of insurance and have a more advanced understanding of what they need.”
How did you choose your career path?
Claudia’s career started in the retail industry, overseeing the telephone sales operations of 119 Sears catalog stores in Southern California. “I learned and then taught cross-selling and up-selling customers: ‘Would you like to add an order of laundry detergent to go with those Toughskins® jeans?’”
In her early 20s, she was working 60+ hour weeks and traveling. “I realized I was facing a career of nights, holidays and constant relocation. It wasn’t that conducive of a lifestyle for me.”
She considered financial services and stock brokerage (“But who’d trust a young 20-something to give them good stock advice?”) and finally, insurance. After moving to the Pacific Northwest, she learned of a regional insurance company with an excellent entry-level program. She started in their customer service group, but also spent a quarter of her time building her own book of business. When the two-hour daily commute took its toll, she left with her small book and started her own agency in the basement of her home. For a long time, she said, she was the sole person in the agency.
What’s the most enjoyable part of your job?
“I love this business today more than ever. We are blessed to serve several generations of families who have trusted us with their insurance needs for decades. We know them. We know their stories. And coming to work alongside my terrific McClain Insurance team members makes each day a joy. They are committed to providing quality education and advice to our clients and prospects.”
What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?
1. “Embrace niches. Become the expert in a few areas that you are passionate about. I grew up in Southern California, so the earthquake niche (www.QuakeQuotes.com) was a natural for our agency.” Other niches in which Claudia’s team specializes include electric bikes, flood, mudslide and landslide insurance, home-based businesses, RVs, snowmobiles, wedding insurance and pet insurance.
2. “Invest in technology to make your team more efficient. For example, provide multiple monitors (I use three), an intuitive agency management system (I use Hawksoft) and comparative rater. Embrace new tools like e-signature and password software. Develop repeatable processes for every step in the agency (we call ours the McClain Roadmap) and keep it available to update on an intranet (we use Sharepoint).”
3. “Invest in your team’s professional development. Invest in your team’s physical health (such as standing desks) and mental health (paid time off to volunteer.) And have fun!”
What advice would you give to newbies in the field?
“Just do it! Choose the Independent Agency channel so that you can control your own destiny and not be limited by one carrier’s appetite or price structure. That being said, don’t think that it’s better to represent 10 companies than five. Until you have enough production to support more companies, make the effort to develop deeper business relationships with a few good companies than shallow relationships with many.
“Nurture your clients and community,” she added. “I wish that I had learned earlier the value of investing marketing dollars in my ‘acre of diamonds’ (existing clients already in my agency), instead of spending money on chasing after the crowd of non-clients. It’s far more profitable to sell three policies to one client than to sell one policy each to three clients. Cross-sold clients retain much longer and refer more frequently.”
Claudia’s team has no earmarked ‘producers’ or ‘CSRs’. Instead, her agents both sell and service as a team. They communicate frequently (18-24 times each year) with their clients using printed and emailed newsletters, notecards and email, all with an eye towards maintaining long-term, multi-generational clients.
What made you choose to become an Arrowhead Residential Earthquake insurance producer?
“Since I still have agent-friends and family in California, I asked what sources they use for earthquake insurance. Arrowhead’s name kept coming up, so I put in a call and asked to be notified as soon as Arrowhead had an admitted EQ product in Washington state,” she recalled.
With Arrowhead’s several different residential earthquake options and carriers, Claudia added, it’s easy to quote and also to offer clients the ability to customize their coverage to their needs with a variety of deductibles and coverage options.
“We chose Arrowhead for its earthquake program because of the ease of quoting, variety of deductible and coverage choices, and most especially Steve Goebel! Steve has been such a cheerleader and support for our EQ production. Arrowhead is lucky to have him.”
Thanks, Claudia, for your hard work and contribution in growing Arrowhead’s Residential Earthquake Program! Learn more about our Small Commercial Earthquake (CA only) or Residential Earthquake program. Ready to become a Residential Earthquake insurance producer? Start here.