Stuart Ganis was handing out health club guest passes in a parking lot in 1989 trying to get prospects when he walked by an insurance agency. He was curious what they did because their phones were ringing constantly. So Stuart went in to ask and realized that they weren't cold calling. The leads came to them, and agents would quote more than 20 new prospects per day and wrote a lot of business. Two days later, he had a job at an insurance office as a producer.
In 1997, Stuart went to work for AIS in southern California and met his wife Mary. They started an agency together in March 2000 in a 700 square foot office. Within 18 months they occupied 7,000 square feet and employed 30 people. They sold the agency in December 2005 with more than $20 million in premium on the books.
Stuart launched Ganis Consulting in 2006. He has worked with more than 700 agencies to review their sales and customer service processes, marketing strategy, people, retention, cross-selling efforts, tracking, culture, and seller representation for agency owners looking to sell.
I talked with Stuart about his more than 25 years in the industry and about starting another agency in 2012. This is the way Stuart Ganis works.
I live in Redondo Beach and have been there for 15 years. Been a South Bay resident since 1997.
My wife and I own an agency, and I also consult the industry in sales, marketing, and M&A advisory.
One word that describes how you like to work.
Current mobile device:
iPhone 6 Plus
MacBook Pro for consulting and personal use; a Lenovo for insurance.
What is it you like about the industry?
I've always loved the fact that you never stop learning. There hasn't been a day in 25+ years that I haven't learned something new. There are so many avenues you can take in the industry, and it's always changing, which I love. It's a great feeling when you help someone protect their assets and are one of the first ones they call when there's a loss of any kind. And the money isn't bad either.
Project(s) you're currently working on:
Growing a company, developing processes, making sure we maximize all the tools we have. Hiring the right people. The same thing most readers are doing.
Accomplishments you're proud of:
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
To be as cool as Laird Rixford, although I may need more time. The next 12 months we're trying to develop leaders in our agency that can help us take business to the next level. Make sure our clients are raving fans and are served better than they ever imagined possible. Personally: to be the best husband and father possible.
What technology, apps or tools can't you live without?
- Tech: I'm not a windows fan so Mac.
- Apps: Things by Cultured Code is a great app for getting things done but is MAC only. MyFitnessPal to record calories and Fitbit to get me off my rear end.
- Tools: AgencyBuzz of course!
Describe your workspace.
Believe me. I know where everything is!
How do you manage your to-do list?
The app I mentioned Things has been great. I generally use a pen and notebook, then upload photos of my notes to Evernote. I take the to-do's from those notes and enter them in Things. I've tried different systems, but this has worked well for me. Something about pen and paper that I love.
What are your biggest professional challenges?
People are a big challenge. Every agency owner knows you need people that actually care about your clients and don't come to work solely for a paycheck. It's hard to find high quality people. We have several, but it's not easy.
Another challenge is making the phones ring. If an agency isn't making outbound calls to online leads, lists, x-dates, cancels, etc., it's hard to write any volume. The phones don't ring like they used to with most ad placements so you have to be an effective marketer in order to grow.
What motivates you?
My wife and kids. You want your kids to have opportunities you didn't and that motivates the heck out of me.
What's your best time-saving tip or hack?
Recharge your batteries. It's so important to disconnect and rest your brain.
What is your best everyday habit?
Eating right 80% of the time and breaking a sweat 2-4 days per week. The bad habit list is much longer though.
What's the most recent app you've downloaded but have yet to use?
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Some creaky knees. (chuckles) See question about what motivates me.
How do you like your coffee?
Black. It's an acquired taste, but I love it.
How do you decompress?
Lift heavy weights while listening to loud music. And, of course, Netflix.
What do you listen to while working?
My wife directing traffic in our agency. It's a thing of beauty.
What are you currently reading?
Plant Based Nutrition for Dummies.
What are you watching on Netflix right now?
30 Rock (again)
Who are your business idols and why?
My grandfather ran a factory in New York City and was the smartest man I've ever met. Great people skills, financially savvy, great sales person, leader; the whole package. The man was a genius.
My dad because his work ethic was unlike anything I've ever seen and has a personality that everyone loves.
Of course my wife. She's the greatest insurance agent on the planet by such a far margin it's ridiculous. She has the capacity of 5 to 6 of your best people. It's insane.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
From my mom: The only one that has to carry the burden of your negative attitude is you. Positive people live far better lives than negative people.
From my dad: Whether you're a clerk, laborer, sales person, executive, be the best. You may not be the smartest, best looking, most knowledgeable, but there's absolutely no reason anyone should outwork you. Show up every day.
From an insurance veteran more than 20 years ago: As big as the insurance business is, it's very small. Don't burn bridges, because someday it will come back to bite you.
What is your motto or personal mantra?
'You can have whatever you want in life, if you just help enough other people get what they want.' Zig Ziglar
What would you be doing if you weren't working in the insurance industry?
It's so hard to say because this is all I've ever done. Probably something in sports or teaching.
Who would you like to see in a future This is the Way post?
I would love to see Derek Jeter, but since that's probably not an option, I'll go with Jim Dougherty from Infinity, Carrie Basteri from Mercury or Jon Spaugy from BIG.
The This is the Way blog series asks ITC employees, agents, carriers and other people in the industry how they work and to share their tips. Is there someone you want to see featured or questions we should ask? Tweet us or leave it in the comments below.