Meet Georgia Core Commercial Producer Azfar Haque, owner of Bulldog Agency
Meet Georgia Core Commercial Producer Azfar Haque, owner of Bulldog Agency in Forest Park, Georgia, a southern suburb of Atlanta. Haque and his team of 26 offer a dozen of lines of insurance coverage, from BOP, trucking and bonds to personal lines (home, auto and motorcycle). But it wasn’t always this way.
“When I purchased the agency in 1992, they offered only non-standard auto. We had no standard carrier contracts. We had no homeowners or commercial products to offer,” Haque recalls.
He acquired the agency after several years of selling life insurance for Mutual of New York. His career in the insurance industry started even earlier, while completing his MBA, selling life insurance.
“So I bought the agency with the idea of selling life insurance to these clients, but quickly found out that it wasn’t what they were looking for,” he explained.
He enlisted friends in the industry to help Bulldog Agency with carrier appointments and started marketing commercial insurance to their area. Within a few months, they wrote their first commercial package policy – and it’s still on their books.
“Now our book mix is 70 percent commercial and 30 percent personal lines. We write insurance in 30 states currently, and most of our business has grown by referral.
“We learned about Arrowhead when we lost some accounts to Arrowhead producers,” Haque explained. “That’s when we became contracted as a Georgia Core Commercial Producer. Arrowhead’s BOPs are easy to rate. I love your products and pricing all the way around. And my underwriter, Vanessa Ocampo, is awesome!”
We talked with Georgia Core Commercial Producer Haque recently to hear his experiences as an agency owner.
To what do you attribute your successes?
My attitude about getting an order is that it’s okay for the clients to tell me NO and not let it bother me. I just keep hunting for the right prospect. Once I earn their business, I make sure that I protect them with excellent service and policies that cover everything they need. It’s the major reason why we have very good renewal retention. That’s helped our growth and gotten us referrals.
Describe some of the rough times. How did you get through them?
Initially it was when carriers told me that they were not going to assign me the contract after I took over the agency, and I had to convince them as to why we both needed each other. That helped me keep the contracts.
Then there was financial aspect early on, when it was tough to make ends meet. That’s when I realized that writing commercial insurance was better than writing personal auto, and if we wrote enough then monthly renewals would stabilize and finances would not be a challenge.
What do you do differently from your peers in the same profession?
Taking customers service calls at all times of the day and even when travelling overseas. I want them to feel that they’re the most important client in our agency. I never avoid any calls. A quick conversation with both insureds and underwriters can save any embarrassment.
What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?
Haque outlined several tips for agency owners and aspiring owners:
- Acquire as much knowledge as you can and then make sure your team members are educated as well.
- Read, read and read.
- Never be afraid to ask questions.
- Do the best job that you can.
- Learn your carriers’ do’s and don’ts.
- Be honest with everyone. Ensure your relationships with both insureds and underwriters are on the up and up.
- Value everyone’s time – only then will others value your time.
- Remember we are not in quoting business but in insuring business.
- Value your time and effort; do not short-change yourself.
What’s the worst part of the job and how do you deal with it?
When an insured is not honest and upfront and wants to just get something as cheaply as possible. Will we make mistakes? Sure, we will, but those should be few and far between. Mistakes should be accepted and then rectified so they do not happen again.
What’s the most enjoyable part of the job?
An easy sale (LOL). Referrals make our day. A few words of appreciation from both underwriters and clients (doesn’t happen that often). Recognition from carriers about a job well done. And when a claim that comes in gets settled very smoothly. Those make my day.
What other advice would you give to
- Agency owners/managers: Be thorough and avoid making hasty decisions (although I’ve made enough but luckily did not land in any trouble). Never tell lies or cook a story. Work diligently and smartly. Enjoy your profession. Recruit enough people and train them so they can help you grow. Invest in your people: They are your best opportunities for success.
- Those aspiring to join your profession: It’s a great profession which I have thoroughly enjoyed over the last 39 years. You’ll meet great people. You’ll have an opportunity to help others succeed as well as improving your local society.
What do you look for when hiring a new agent?
I look for their willingness to learn. I want their commitment, so I can invest in their professional growth. We have trained a few agents from ground up who’ve done extremely well. As a result, we have too. Our staff retention has been awesome. A satisfied agent is one of our best advocates!
“Azfar and his team strive for success every single day,” said Underwriter Vanessa Ocampo. “We have an amazing relationship with this agency. I truly enjoy working with the entire staff – especially Mishri.”