Robert Zabbia – Zabbia Agency

The insurance world is an often competitive and misunderstood world.  We as drivers, homeowners, business owners and the like are essentially paying for promises we hope we do not have to ask our insurance company to keep.
So how do you grow an insurance agency when, in order to do so, you may need to have some difficult conversations with potential clients?  Asking someone to pay you to cover them in case they smash up their car, or worse, can lead to some tough questions.
Listen as Robert Zabbia describes how he has built his insurance empire.
Visit Robert at: Business Adventures Podcast

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My name is James Kademan, entrepreneur,

author, speaker and helpful coach to small
business owners across the country.

And today we’re welcoming/
preparing to learn from Robert Zabbia.

Robert has had his own insurance
agency for looks like over 25 years.

Is that right, Robert?
Yeah, I can’t believe it’s that long.

That’s a long time to do anything.


And it looks like you.
Do you I guess what interested me most

about you is that you have
a lot of other stuff going on.

Yeah, too much.

Besides just the insurance agency.

So let’s start.
Let’s start.

Twenty five years or so ago when you got

into the insurance business,
is typically this not something where

people are 10 years old dreaming
of being an insurance agent?

No, especially when your
dad’s an insurance agent

and he comes home cursing every day.

Oh, yeah that’s even worse.

So how did you end up in this industry?

Well, when I graduated college,

I was in the automotive business
and I graduated college.

So I went I stayed in the automotive
business because I’m into cars.


so I was selling computer systems to auto

parts stores and inventory management,
that kind of stuff.

And, you know, I was a senior
guy there after five years.

It’s one of those kind of companies,
a nice revolving door.

So, yeah.
So most most of my friends went on to work

for Microsoft, IBM, you know,
all kinds of companies.

It was like a launching point
for a lot a lot of people.

And, you know, so I was talking to my dad

you know, the opportunity that I was
looking at to make a move because I’ve

been there for a while and it
was kind of getting old.

And he said, well, Allstate has this new
thing where I can sell you the agency.

So I never really wanted to get

into insurance because I didn’t want
to be an insurance agent, you know?


you know, and again,
listening to the complaints that he had,

you know, being a one man band,
you know, the idea of running an agency is

what kind of drew me,
drew my attention to it.

All right.
So that’s why I you know, I made the move.

I ended up going to work for him.

And after a year, actually,
Allstate hired me to become my own agent.

So I stopped working for my dad.

I open up my own agency
and eventually I bought my dad out.

You know, he continued to run his we ran.

We ran them together.
He ran his agency.

I ran mine.
And then he was ready to get out.

So I bought him out.


So initially,
not only were you in the insurance world,

which you were not a big fan of,
but you also had to work with.

Well, for your dad.

Yeah, I worked my dad for a year.

So that alone had to be a challenge.

It was good though.
I mean, you know, being out,

I think if I went right out of college
to work for him, I think it would have

been different than me going out
and being successful on my own.

I own my own house.
At that point, I was doing really well.

You know, so I think I kind of earned his

respect that he wasn’t just you know,
I had the marketing and sales background.

You know, he was an entrepreneur.

You owned a Coca-Cola route.

You know, he was yeah.

He he sold that and then he came

into Allstate, you know, so he was always,
you know, but he was self-taught,

you know, he didn’t he
didn’t get a college degree,

you know, and he just knew
insurance really well.

So it was a good mix because he knew

the insurance side and and I
knew sales and marketing.

So it was a good fit
for us to work together.

And I think by being on my own,
I kind of respected him more,

knowing everything that he had to do
on his own without a formal education.

All right.
Very cool.

So when you had your own thing

and I guess for a few years, it sounds
like you guys competitors to a point?

No, well, we shared an office, so.

Yeah, so I had my own agency,
but we shared an office.

I mean, he had you know,

when I went to work for him,
my job was to bring in new business.

You know, I only worked on,

you know, on working on the new people

coming in, whereas he worked
on his existing clients,

you know, in a lot of his
business was referral.

You know, he was doing it
for twenty years himself.

So, you know, so basically I was out

networking and telemarketing
and doing all those things.

And he was just out writing me,
just doing referrals.


so it was good.

And, you know, and then,
you know, we hired staff.

We continue to grow,

you know, so we we just
kept going on from there.

And so we went from basically
it was three of us.

When we opened up the office,
it was my dad, myself, and we hired

like an office manager,
customer service person.

And now I’ve got thirteen
people working here.


It’s a big size for an agency.

Yeah we yeah.

We grew up quick.
That’s cool.

And my dad had a good size agency on his

own and then when we merged the two
we really

accelerated that.
All right, nice.

So in 25 years, what has
changed in the insurance world?

Oh, everything. Everything?

Everything, yeah. Back then,
people would walk in,

they’d have their copies of their
policies and say, hey, can you beat this?

You know, it was it was very much more
personal, whereas now people are just

going online, getting quotes and having
no idea of what they’re doing.

It’s so much easier for people
to change insurance.

So the relationship part
of it is much more important.

All right.
Three of my people, their only job is just

to reach out to our current customers
and make sure they’re happy.

You know, three of them.
Yeah, three of them.

Well, that’s all they call our customers.

The policies come up for renewal.

They you know, they do all those kind

of things, which is not common
in the insurance business.

But that’s why our retention is so high,

because people don’t know
what their insurance is like.

They think it’s just a matter of,
say, 15 percent or more.

But it’s not it’s know.

Yeah, you say 15 percent or more

by cutting your coverage,
20 percent or more.

That’s interesting.

Yeah, I would say that I don’t know how
many businesses, let alone industries,

where follow up is a routine,
a routine thing just to make sure.

Hey, are you doing OK?

You know, I know a lot
of it’s electronic now.

I mean, we have the email drips that go

out, so it’s not as much
dialing out as it used to be.

So it’s a lot of emails,

a lot of you know, even texting
is becoming a big part of it now.

So we’re using it.

We’re leveraging the technology.

And we only call the people
that we we feel are the highest.

You know, like if we see somebody rate
goes up a high percentage,

we’ll reach out to them because
usually something changed.

So we’ll reach out to see
what changed that that drove.

That sometimes is just a rate increase
and we have to work through it.

But rates have been pretty stable
over the past couple of years.

We haven’t seen many rate increases.

So some of these rate does change.

Something changed so we can
kind of work them through it.

I think that’s why people stay with us
and they they do refer us all right.

So and then networking is becoming
like we’re doing the opposite.

Nobody’s going to Internet and, you know,
in Facebook and all that stuff.

And we’re spending most of our
time networking with people.

Actually talking with them one on one

with realtors, mortgage people,
the people that could refer us business or

spending a lot more time, you know,
with those in person, because, I mean,

obviously, this past year our
business totally changed.

Yeah, right.
Is that a little bit?


I mean I mean, now Zoome has
become a verb, you know.


Here we are already zooming out and so

we’re like we started doing
like we started teaching

classes to to Realtor.

Now we’re doing them on Zoome.

So we’re doing a lot of stuff to kind

of support our network, but like now we’re
finally getting to do in-person stuff.

So we just two weeks ago we had our first

in-person Realtor event
that we helped sponsor.

Oh so it’s.

Yeah, so that’s really where it comes when

you start doing these in-person
events and people get to meet you.

And, you know,
the realtors don’t really think about

the insurance because here in New York,
it’s months before you go to closing.

So usually it’s the mortgage people.

But we find that if we stay in front
of the realtors, they you know,

they just realize that it’s a good
thing to have us as a partner.


Yeah, I think that that’s a street

that goes both directions,
so it’s easy to refer.

You guys are both chasing
after the same crowd.

So exactly where split forces,
you can join them.

Let’s go.

So I did a little homework on you, and it
looks like you were the man of the year.

You’re a model citizen magazine.

Yeah, yeah.

Can you I guess I don’t know much
about model citizen magazines.

I don’t know if that’s more
of an East Coast thing or.

I think it’s.
Yeah, I mean, it’s pretty much I think

they have a little like that was
the Long Island version of it.

So yeah, it’s a magazine.

It’s been around for a while and they kind

of focus on people that
work in the community.

OK, so I met the I met
the editor years ago.

I won leukemia and lymphoma
Man of the Year.

Oh, nice.
OK, yeah.

So I ran for that.

We raised like one hundred ninety
thousand dollars in ten weeks.


It was pretty wild.

So I and I met John that way and then you

know, he would always be in a lot
of the fundraising events that I’d be at.

So I worked with a lot of different

charities and you know, not no,
I just saw him as a photographer.

I didn’t realize that the
entity affiliation and,

you know, and he’d be always
taking pictures of me at events.

And then he asked me to do a photo shoot

and he interviewed me and he said,
oh, you’re up for a model citizen.

You’re going to be you’re
nominated for model citizens.

We’re going to do a spread
on you this month.

So it was pretty cool.

I didn’t I guess they have a committee
that kind of picks, you know,

the people that are going to be
the model citizen of the year.

And it goes to people
that work in the community.

There was a woman of the year.

There was also a couple of the year.

And, you know, all of us kind of know each

other just because we’re all in the same
fund raising and charity circuit fund.

That’d be kind of cool.

Said Right.

We’re talking to you.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I was just last year.

That’s kind of give given.

I was, I was surprised.

I never, never expected it.

And then you have a shoe business it

sounds like now it’s something
that was there a foot thing going on.

There’s a mention in the in the
Man of the Year article

that it sounds like there are other
businesses that you have besides.

Well, I’m doing the C classes.
I started that.

No, I’m not doing anything with shoes.
Oh, no.

There was a guy, the other guy
who was up for Man of the Year.

He has a shoe business.



But you it looks like you do
something with houses as well.

Is that right or with real estate?

Well, I’m working with the realtors

and teaching them the classes C classes,
and I’m doing training for them.

And so that’s like our big thing is we’re
kind of we support the board of realtors.

It’s our local MLS and Realtor board,
and we do a lot of work with them

and helping them like we did a whole thing
on open house safety because they were


It’s been a big problem where realtors
had open houses are being attacked.

Because they’re they’re seeing these

realtors and they see their pictures
all over town dressed up all night.

So they think they have a ton of money.

So they’ve been you know,
they’ve been problems.

So we you know,
we’ve been raising awareness

for that and teaching them different ways
that they can help protect themselves.

I had no idea that was the thing.

Yeah, neither did I.

Not until I got involved with them.

I had no idea.

So the idea that some bad person comes in
there and says, give me all your money.

Yeah, well, yeah.

I mean, there are people
have been seriously hurt.


One woman I found out about it because I
was involved with a an event that I

sponsored and and it was
a class that they did on this.

And it was basically put together

by a foundation for a woman
who was unfortunately killed.

They kidnaped her

and they ended up killing her,
thinking that she was worth millions.

So, yeah.
So shall we teach, like,

different things to the realtors that they
need to do to protect themselves?

Requested for everybody.

Don’t be in the house alone.

You know, things like that.

We talk about you always arrange
to have somebody else there.

Or if you can’t have somebody there,
you have somebody like a phone call away

and know that you’re going
to be there all alone.


So all different things
that we try to help them with.


So these continuing education credits,

did you have to get
certified or how does that.

Yeah, I went to

a friend of mine.

She is a title insurance person.

And so I’ve actually sponsored a couple
of Hersi classes and I saw how she would

have all these people in the room and how
they treated her differently because she’s

teaching a class, not trying to sell
them on, using her for title insurance.

And I looked and there weren’t anybody

teaching classes on see
for insurance related type topics.

yeah, I hooked up with a school

and the school got me certified and they
they helped me.

I put together the classes and then
they kind of got them approved.

So they had to manipulate them to make
them a class for continuing ed.

And so, yeah, as a matter of fact,

my next one I have is tomorrow
morning I’m teaching.

I do them like every Tuesdays,

Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I try to do them like once once I’m on.

So I’ll do one Tuesday,
one Thursday a month that I do them.

And then also I’m having like some
of the really like the local Realtor down

the block, asked me to do
one just for their office.

So we started doing stuff like that.

So yeah, it’s really cool.
All right.

So you come up with the curriculum or is
this something that in this case I did I

came up with it, gave it to the school
and the school got it approved.

Nice in the schools, I imagine.

Affiliated with the Realtor Association.
Yeah, I don’t know.

All know this one is like a school.

They just teach all different types

of continuing and real estate is
one of the ones that they teach.

And it’s cool because they have a really

nice platform that, you know,
when I hold the zoom class,

it logs them in, logs them out,
sends them out to see certificate’s.

So the school does all that.

All I got to do is show you get people to
show up and I show up and teach a class.

All right.
Well that’s cool.


And people say, hey by the way,
what do you do.

And I suppose it’s an
easy way to side market.

Well yeah, because we’re we’re talking
about what they need,

what they need to know about insurance,
whether it’s flautre home or whatever.

So eventually somebody comes they come
across somebody who ends up needing help.

So then they’re like,
oh yeah, I remember them.

They they taught that class.

Let me give them a call so
that it’s been working out.

It’s it’s been a good mix.
That’s cool.

And I imagine even though you’re

in New York, which everybody
like, it’s a big place.

Imagine in a little silo of real estate

agents, the strings,
the place awfully fast.

So, yeah.

Well, this just in my area, there’s
like twenty five thousand realtors.

Is there really.

Just in the association that I’m in.

Know a lot of them aren’t active,

you know it’s probably a third of them
are actually active selling homes.

A lot of them just carry a license.

But yeah.

But still even that you know,
five thousand, six thousand realtors.

That’s a lot of people.
There’s still quite a bit.

Oh are you having a typical class.

Usually we’ve had anywhere from 15

to my my biggest one I’ve had so far
online with Zoome has been fifty.

All right.

When we’ve done them in person we had like
we would have like ninety to one hundred

but then you’re feeding them so
more people show up for that

I imagine after a year or two of doing

that, you have at least
the movers and shakers.

Yeah, what’s good is yeah,

and then you develop a following and then
they come and they bring their friends

and they’re like, oh yeah,
he’s helped me out with this deal.

Or, you know, my team is really good.

You know, we really focus
on the needs of the Realtor.

So we don’t when we get a referral,
we’re not hard selling them.

We’re teaching them what they need to know
if they want to get a cheaper price

because, you know, with X, Y, Z company,
we just tell them what they need to do if

they’re going to do
that and what to look out for.

The beautiful thing about our business
is the policies renew every year.

Mm hmm.
So, you know, that’s

so if I don’t get them now,
eventually we can get them down the road.

That’s fair.

I want to talk about employees

as you and your dad and then you alone
essentially had to expand your business.

That had to be tough,

finding people to work as its
agents and all that kind of stuff.

That’s the hardest part, I think,

of any business is managing
and hiring and retaining employees.

Yeah, we’ve had some
doozies over the years,

you know, and it’s funny because when I
first got in, I never had an employee.

I worked for a computer company.

You know, I was it was just me, you know.

So when I had a fire, my first person,

it was like my dad was like, ha, you know,
you’re going to do it like he made me,

you know, he made me go through
the process of getting rid of them.

So it was good, though.

I mean, and now after doing it
for a while, you kind of realize that,

you know, sometimes you’re doing them

a favor by letting them go, you know,
because if you have somebody and they’re

really not doing well,
they’re probably not happy anyway.


And I’ve had people that, you know,
we’re we’re a much larger agency than most

and I’ve had people that it
just doesn’t work for them.

It’s higher intensity here.

It’s more pressure.

And I had one woman that just like,

you know, she had a lot
of personal stuff going on and

mentally, she just broke down and I just

had to let her go because
she was just not a good fit.

Now she works at a smaller agency.

She’s like pretty much like

running the place like her,
the agent and one other person.

And she’s doing really well there.

So I know sometimes,
you know, it’s better,

but it’s better to let people go
than really to hold on to them.

I think that’s the biggest the biggest
problem I’ve always had is, you know,

hiring too quick and firing too slow, you
know, and now we’ve kind of reversed it.

My my hiring process.

It’s it’s now several interviews.

They meet with me, they meet with my team.

I have a I have an outsourced sales

manager that I, I, I bring him
in for training once a month.

So I he’ll interview them as well.

I think that’s really a big part.
That’s the other part.

I think that a lot of business owners

have a problem with is none
of us have really ever done it.

So it’s not I’m a sales guy, you know,

I’ve sold from the candy bars when I was
a Boy Scout, you know, insurance now and

one hundred thousand dollar
computer systems in between.

You know, I was always a sales guy,
but I never had a manager be like.

To me, sales comes naturally.

It’s part of my personality.

I’ve been through so many videotape

trainings and in-person Brian Tracy
and all those all those guys.

Oh, yeah.

You know, so for me,

a lot of it comes natural and I’ve
had a hard time teaching that.

So for me, it was I found I was

in a training class and, you know,
and I’m like, I know all this stuff.

I just don’t know how to teach it.

So I’m gonna hire this
guy to teach my people.

And it’s made a world of difference

because they’ve really helped me
identify what I need to be doing.

Like I had one guy who was
just not working out.

I hired him during covid.

I was kind of giving them
a little benefit of the doubt.

He wasn’t selling anything.

And and I was like, you know what?

You know, let me just see how he does.

And the guy was like,

he goes, Rob, if this guy sells a policy
this week, are you going to keep him?

Like, No, he goes and just get rid
of them, you know, and and that, you know,

and it’s like, you know, sometimes
you need that, like, little push.

So I think having, you know,
a coach like I it’s funny.

I always said hired weakness.
I’m a sales guy.

I’m not very detail oriented.

So my first hire was
a detail oriented person.

All right.

You know, so I think you need to hire your
weaknesses first and then you need to get

coaching for those things
that you’re not good at.

And I think too many people are too proud

and they’re too cheap
to to spend the money.

you know, I mean, I paid a pretty penny

to this guy over the past year
to come in and help me out.

And you know what?

It was definitely worth
that my sales were up.

You know, I’ve identified
what works and what does.

And I got rid of the stuff,
like some of the things that you just it’s

good to have that outside
source to help you.

So, I mean, I would definitely recommend,

you know, there’s plenty of sales
training companies out there.

We all know them.
You know, if you’re having even the sale,

like if you if you’re a good salesperson,
if you’re going to bring in people,

then you might need a sales
manager to help you with that.

So you can hire these companies

and they’ll do the training and do
the one on one meetings with the staff.

Like I didn’t know how to hold.
Like I’ve been through plenty of pipeline

management things with my sales manager,
but I didn’t know how to really run it.

So those are the kind
of things I really learned.

Like I took advantage of the shut.

Out in the slowdown in business over
the past year to kind of re tool

and I brought in Pete and he’s
helped me with a lot of these.

And it was funny because he was like,
you know what, you don’t need me anymore.

And then I decide.
I’m like, you know what?

I’m hiring somebody.
I want you to through this process.

So let me extend it, you know,

for a couple of more months and then
we’ll see how we’re doing then, you know.

So it’s been really good.

Like our calls now are not as like I’m not

learning as much,
but it’s more validation.

And I think having that outside person is

really a big help to have
an outside coach.

Yeah, absolutely.

I can tell you and I see people all
the time when I’m coaching people,

I’m telling them
90 percent of the time I’m not telling you

something that you’re like,
well, that’s mind blowing.

You know what to do,
right? Sometimes you just need another

voice, another person that’s maybe not
your spouse or your coworker to tell you.

So even there’s little bracelet.

It’s the what would I do that I
give to people like this?

Ask yourself for advice.

And most of the time it’s
probably pretty good advice.


We’ve all been through this stuff,

but sometimes, you know, like sometimes
you could just be too nice of a person.

You don’t want to totally
you don’t want to do it.

Like, I had a guy.
I told him I just hired the guy.

I’m like, get licensed.

You know, you’ll start you know,
you get licensed and you’ll start.

I’m like, I want you to come in Thursday
so we could follow the paperwork and put

together a game plan
that really comes and goes.

I email him, no response, no nothing.

He sends me an email
ten o’clock last night.

I’m almost done with the licensing class.

I’m like, where were you Thursday?

No, you know, and it’s like,
you know, no office manager.

Like, I’m not training this kid.

You know, if you can’t show up and listen
to directions, we don’t want them.

You know, and he’s a young kid, right?

I mean, I was like, come in on Thursday so
we can, like, put together a game plan.

That was the hurdle
that he didn’t overcome.

Was like, no, exactly.

You know, Phil, I come in on a Thursday,

fill out paperwork and let’s figure
out where you are with the licensing.

You don’t need any, you know,

and it’s just like if that’s
going to be like the first thing.

And he’s like, oh, I apologize.

I thought you wanted you know, it’s like,

no, you were supposed
coming Thursday, right.

And you said, yes, I can come
in Thursday and Thursday came.

And when you weren’t here.

Yeah, there was no no miscommunication.

Yeah, exactly.

That goes it was a younger kid.

Well he’s like in his twenties, you know.

OK, no you wouldn’t.

You went into nursing and you know,

I saw a lot of potential like
this was going to be a project.

That’s the other thing.
He’s going to be a project.

He’s not going to come
in and and contribute right away.

This is going to be a guy that’s going

to be like a six month to a year,
teach him the insurance business,

teach him how to sell,
spend a lot of money on him.

And, you know, and I can’t be spending

money on stuff like I got
another guy who I hired.

I was hiring two at once.

And that’s my other thing,
is now I hire two people at once because,

you know, one of them’s
not going to work out.

Oh, sure.
I can see that.

Yeah, I did that.

I hired this guy,
that guy Jacob and carry it.

I hired Jacob and then Pete,
the sales trainer that I work with is

like, hey, I got this person,
Carrie, she’s a friend.

I helped her get a job
at this insurance agency.

And because of covid, they let her go and
he goes, she’s a really good salesperson.

I’m like, if you’re telling me she’s

a good salesperson, I don’t care if I can
afford it and I’m going to bring her in.


So I’m like one of them
are going to work out.

So and if they both hit their numbers,
they’ll both pay for themselves.

So who cares?

So, yeah, Jacob was gone and carries like
my number one salesperson right now.

So not that fast.

Wow, that’s cool.

So love when you hire someone and they
just knock it out of the park and then.


You know, it took her six months but you
know, she didn’t really know it,

she just got license when they let it go,
you know.

So I guess they didn’t want
a project through the pandemic and

you know, but we just hit it off
like she just had that personality.

My office manager is like, yeah,
we got to get her and we brought her in.

And it’s been great.

You know, it’s a family when
you have a small I mean.

Yeah, twelve, thirteen people.

Sounds like a lot, but it’s
still a small family, you know.

So, you know, having that that
chemistry is a big thing.

You know, she just fit in.

Are you all in the office now?

Are you guys remote.

I have two people remote.

The rest of us are in now.

During the pandemic we had
three to five people in at once.

That the most

my salespeople, I force them
to come in as soon as it was safe.

The salespeople I found just
didn’t really do as well.

Oh, yes.

Service people.

All right.

I think the camaraderie thing is a big
thing with sales totally helping each

other, especially people that are new
and being able to just poke over your

cubicle and say, I had
this problem, you know.

So I did that.

You know, so where’s my service?

People did well, but still even with them.

No, we’re doing a great job of servicing,
but there was no cross-selling.

There was no referrals coming in.

So as soon as you know,

as soon as they opened it up, you know,
we did this, so I made my desk.

Everybody’s got their own cubicles.

So they’re not sitting
on top of each other.

You know, we’re in a business where when

people sit at your desk,
you having conversations.

So I couldn’t have an open floor.

So I set up cubicles which ended up and we
moved during this, which was a Realtor.

Oh, yeah.
And November my lease was up.

And the landlord was just not like,
you know,

I’m like, you’re not even close to what
the market was before the pandemic, right?

And this this one building I was looking
at, he dropped the he dropped the rent.

Once the pandemic hit, he goes,
yeah, I really want you in here.

I’m going to drop it to this.

And I’m like, OK, I’m going to save all
that money and get a better layout.

Yeah, I’m in.
So we ended up moving in November.


And, you know, so it’s a nice this is
a better layout for a pandemic, too.

So we have everybody’s got a cubicle.

So they could be separate.

Yeah, they can have we have plastic

shields from when a customer
sitting at their desk.

So we did all the things to make
sure that they were safe.

But I do have two people that.

One is recovering from

being sick, so she you know,

she’s high risk, so, you know,
she’s she’s working from home.

And then I have a telemarketer
who actually just works better at home.

So I just think.

All right. Was it a challenge or has it
been a challenge to communicate

with people were somewhere
in the office and somewhere remote?

Well, we were doing just like,
you know, like crazy.

But now I have a couple of moms, you know,

so there’s days where they, you know,
so even when I have a sales meeting,

sometimes they’ll zoom in
if they don’t happen to be in.

So the Xoom thing is really helped out.

So I set up our meeting area.

I set up with the with a camera and a TV.

So when we do meetings,
we zoom the people in

that aren’t that can’t be here live.
When we were going,

we were like pretty much except for like
the three or four of us in the office.

Then we just would do a daily zoom meeting
just to touch base and be like 15 minutes,

you know, just to touch
base as to what’s going on.

This is where we’re at is what we need.

And we really only had one bad month.

And that was April.
All right.

Know we were down last year, but I mean,

it was really only one month where
it was like really, really bad.

And that was nobody was doing anything.

You know, nobody wanted
to switch their insurance.

Nobody wanted to do, you know,

we were saving people money and they
were just like not having it right.

They just wanted to stay
where they were until things.

And then June we, like, killed it.

So nice.

And then but it was still like June,

I think it was the pent up from the two
months, but then it kind of slowed down.

So we were down last year overall as far
as new business,

but our retention actually crept
up because nobody was leaving.

You know, the big thing we have now is

people are moving out in New York
and going down to Florida.

That’s like that’s like
our biggest problem.

All right.
And is that because of weather or is it?

It’s I think it’s more

the the the political and taxing
environment we’re in now to live here.

My parents moved years ago.

They were just my dad was like,
I’m not paying these taxes anymore.

So they.
All right.

So I think that’s a big part.

Property taxes here or not.

You know, the income tax here is high.

All right, people just get to that point

and they’re like, you know what?
And I don’t have to deal with the winters,

you know? So something
to be said for that.

Yeah, I lived in Wisconsin.

My wife’s from Minnesota, so I.

Oh, yeah, yeah, I get it.
You know the story.

You know the story.

You guys East Coast gets it as well.
So yeah.

Hit that home I guess with the insurance
industry changing with employees and all

that kind of stuff would have been some
of the other challenges that you didn’t

necessarily anticipate even from your dad,
that you’ve had to work through.

Well, the like you know,

you’re always looking at new competitors
coming in, you know,

Amazon is talking about doing insurance,
Teslas talking about doing insurance,

allow technology like Allstate now has
a thing where they plug plug a device

in the car and you get a better, better
rate depending on your driving habit.

Now you have the car companies are now
starting to come out with their own

insurance like they’re partnering
with companies and creating their own.

Like there was a big scare that people
weren’t going to because now

the millennials, they’re not going to buy
houses, they’re not going to own cars.

They’re not going to do any of that.

And so, yeah, we’ve heard all this before.

So that was a big scare in the industry.
And it all, obviously,

now the millennials are buying houses like
crazy and there’s no houses to be found.

So with the house obviously comes to cars

because, you know, there’s only
so much you can do with Uber.


So, you know, that kind of was a scare.

But the competition is changing.

People are a little bit more
willing to do self-service now.

So we have to compete with that.

But the thing the good thing is, is that,

you know, they leave us and six months
later they have a problem and they realize

that they realize they
relied on us for the advice.

That it isn’t insurance is not really

a self-serving thing because you’re
putting all your assets at risk.

We had a client.

His daughter wasn’t paying attention.

We rented a Ferrari one hundred eight

thousand dollars and she
didn’t even hit it that hard.

It was one hundred and eight
thousand dollars worth of damage.


So if you go to one of these 800 numbers
and you take the standard coverage

that they offer, which is fifty thousand
more, you coming up with that extra fifty

eight thousand dollars worth of coverage
right now and people like, oh,

I’ll never hit a Ferrari, OK,
change it to a test that’s 80 grand.

Where are you coming up
with the extra thirty thousand.

And people don’t they
just don’t understand it.

They you know, they say, oh, yeah,

I want full coverage, but,
you know, what does that mean?

So it’s a it’s still a business that,

yeah, people are willing
to do more self serve.

And we find that,

which is why I like work on the Realtor
is a lot of these first time home buyers.


When you don’t own a house and you just
are going out to the dealership to pick up

a car, you’ll take the cheapest insurance
because you don’t own anything.

The car is the most
expensive thing you own.

Oh, now you’re buying a house and you call
that 800 number and they don’t know how

to pronounce your town,
much less where it is.

You know, especially I’m
in Massapequa, looked at,

you know, so and there’s
different home insurance.

Wisconsin’s got totally different
risks involved in Long Island.

Does you know, our thing is we don’t get

the big winter storms,
but we have the big hurricanes.

So with us, it’s like a once in ten
year type thing with you guys.

You can freeze every year,
you know, if you don’t take care of it.


you know, so, you know,
insurance is a Nichi business.

You need to really kind
of specialize in something.

So I think they’ll always be
a place for an insurance agent.

But we need to keep up
with the technology.

The texting platform has been huge.

You know, it’s like our phones
used to ring off the hook.

And I’ve been on this.

My phone’s hardly rang
because everything is email and texting.


you know, they still want that person
on the other end,

but it doesn’t necessarily have
to be on the other end of the phone.

It needs to be on the other
end of the email or the text.

Yeah, yeah.
I totally understand that.

Have with Calls On Call my answering
service, we are

we always say we’re a communication
service because there’s a lot of people

that are just afraid to pick up
the phone, even order a pizza.


Let alone get insurance
or something like that.

It’s different world.

There’s more channels to communicate and

you have to be prepared
with all of them so.

I totally understand that.


It’s challenging because
it used to be easy.

Just we got email and phone.

Which one do you want.

Well I mean I remember back in the day

when my dad was in the insurance business,
everything was on paper.

You know, so like he would actually go

to people’s houses and sit with them
at their dinner table and like right

there, auto and home insurance
applications right at their houses.

You know, but that doesn’t happen anymore.

I mean, everything’s now
done over the phone.

You know, people used to have to come
in like I remember when somebody was

buying a house,
they would have to actually come

in and get the original paperwork
to bring to the closing.

And they wouldn’t show the faxes
or emails or anything back then.

So so, you know, yeah.

You need to make sure that you’re keeping

up with the changes
and evolving with it and.

And keeping a keep a tab.

You know, I pay a lot of attention to,

you know, different sources,
like was it at all.

I think there’s a thing owl that has a lot

of industry type stuff on there, you know,
like email things where you get like

different things are
going in the industry.

So you can see what the competition’s
doing, what’s going on.

You really need to keep tabs on those kind

of things just to figure out
what’s happening out there.

I mean, I hired two of my great people.

They both work for Liberty Mutual.

And the reason I hired them is because I

heard through the grapevine
that Liberty Mutual was going to lay off

all the customer service people
and go to a call center in Texas.

You know, I went on LinkedIn and started

reaching out saying, hey, listen,
I hear this is what’s going on.

When you’re ready, give me.

Karl and I ended up hiring one and she
came in, she worked out real well and I’m

like, I had somebody who’s going out
on maternity leave, so I went to her.

I’m like, hey, any of your
I know the Liberty Mutual Money is going

to be running out in the
next couple of months.

You have any of your friends are looking
to introduce one of her friends and we

hired her and the two of them have
been here for several years now.

Well, so, yeah.

So if I didn’t keep tabs on what was
going on, I would have never knew.

So I had the groundwork laid
before they even were laid off.

Well, that’s clever.

So things like that are really important

keeping up on what’s going on in the
industry, in whatever industry you’re in.

Yeah, that’s awesome.

Does Allstate help you keep
tabs on stuff for the.

Well, a little bit.
I mean, they keep us.

It’s weird all she just went through
a big, you know, big change.

We used to have thirteen regions.

Now we have four zones.

So we used to get a lot more personal

attention because New York
was its own region.

And our our regional vice president was

like he lived five blocks
from me, you know?

I mean,

whereas now they’re now
the zone leader or whatever.

I don’t know what his title is,

but he’s down in the Carolinas,
you know, running from down there.

And so we don’t have you know,

we used to have like there was
one manager for every 20 agents.

Now it’s like 50 agents.

And there was like four layers between us

and them. And they flatten that out
because, you know,

there are a lot of the companies are
starting to realize they can cut costs,

you know, and flatten out a lot
of the management levels, which is good,

because a lot of times we’re looking
at like, what are these guys actually do?

You know, I’m a people person, so,
you know, so Nilla now it’s like,

you know, it used to be the regional vice
president, the the regional sales manager,

the territory sales manager,
and then my sales manager.

Now it’s the zone guy,
the territory and my manager.

So, all right.
You know, it flattens it out.

But we don’t also get that personal
attention that you used to get.

So kind of a little bit
a little bit on your own.

But you have a if you have a good manager

that keeps you up to date on what’s going
on, guys, you

know, so we have a Facebook group
of all state agents, and that is huge.

OK, so a sort of information is shared.


There’s a lot of stuff going
on that we all help each other out.

All right.

And his all state, in your opinion,
been able to adapt with

the geckos and whatever that short
version is or whatever.

Yeah, I know it’s tough because.

There, you know, there’s a big thing,
do you really want to try and, you know,

like I go past it, you know, as as the the
number one company or number two company.

Now, we used to be two
and now Geico passed us.

But they are because they’re right
in the stuff that we don’t like,

we wouldn’t even consider they really
Irish stuff for high risk drivers.

And, you know, so, you know,

we need to I mean,
all states got to do a better job

with the technology to make
it easier for customers.

But it still comes down to the advice.

And, you know, people are not going
to get that from Geico or progressive.

You know, you still need

somebody who’s in a call center who’s
never going to talk to you again.

You know, they don’t care.

They’re going to sell you whatever
you need to to get you off.

And I even see it with an Allstate
that all state agents have sold people

policies that didn’t meet their needs,
you know, so I mean,

it’s just the in general,
it’s it’s not just a company thing.

It’s just, you know,
just what happens in sales.

And my type of business, the way I

run things is I want to be
able to sleep at night.

So I’m not going to sell.

I’m not going to sell or tell anybody

whatever they need to hear
just to make a sale.

We’re going to explain things.

If they don’t want to pay the extra money

and they want to cut coverages,
well, that’s fine.

But that’s not going to be our game.
If they want to cut coverages.

Yeah, I’ll go with higher deductibles,
lower coverages, if that’s what you want.

But you’re going to sign the application
acknowledging that that’s what you want.

Whereas a lot of these companies,

they’ll say, oh, no, no,
it’s the same exact thing.

And I’ll get people like, oh yeah,

I saved a thousand dollars
by going to this other company.

And I go, OK, send me the new policy
and they send me the new policy.

It’s like, this is different.
This is different.

You don’t even have this anymore.

Like, I had no idea.

And that’s the thing is they don’t people
the companies know what people look at.

They look at the deductibles
and they look at their liability.

They don’t look at anything else.

They don’t know what any
of the rest of this stuff means.


So that’s really where we come in to make
sure that that’s what we teach people.

And like I said, when we get a referral

from a Realtor, it’s like, yeah,
you can buy a home policy from company X,

Y, Z that’s not even know
financially rated by and best.

Or you can go with an rating
company that we represent,

like Allstate or some of the other
companies that we write off.

Allstate won’t write it,

but I’m not going to write through these
substandard carriers because

in California, two of them went out of
business when they had those wildfires.


during Sandy, when we had that years ago,
there was a company that if it wasn’t

bailed out by a hedge fund,
they were going under,

you know, so we only deal with the
companies that we know we’re going to.

After going through with Sandy, you kind
of realize how important this stuff is.

Kind of solidifies.

You know what we do.

can you talk just for the people

that don’t know about the embassy
and the rating for insurance companies?

Well, yeah, at best rates, bonds,
they rate all different things and they

rate insurance companies based
on their claims paying ability.

So there’s a lot of companies that sell

really cheap insurance, like there’s
one company I won’t mention the name.

There was one company they would like
and I would just like.

Yeah, well, that’s
that company, of course.

It’s nine hundred dollars
a year, one way or two.

You know, that’s just that’s what they do.

And they don’t write business anymore.

Or they just they got so financially

strapped that if there was a major storm
they wouldn’t be able to pay the claims.

So they had to shut down
writing new business.

So that’s the game is, you know,
there’s there’s a certain yeah.

There’s overhead and all that.

But there’s like there’s risk and reward.

So, you know,

like Geico writes,
all these high risk drivers,

they lose money on that and they’re
OK with losing money.

For every dollar that an insurance company

takes in, most companies pay
out like ninety ninety five.

Ninety six cents.
Guy who’s paying like a dollar ten.

So they’re losing money
on every dollar they take in.

It seems like one direction.

And there’s always going to be
able to do that, you know.


So and that’s what we see is a lot
of these companies that come

in with a real low price and then boom, 30
percent increase in the next year or two.

All right.

So ambitious, just like looks
at the financial stability of a company.

And what if a major thing,
are they going to be able to pay claims?

So like we had a company that we were

writing a ton of business for, if Allstate
wouldn’t do it right, it’s for them.

And they just took on so much
business, they got downgraded.

So we had to stop doing
business with them.

All right.

So that’s really what it is,
is the banks will require in a rated

company if you’re going
to have a mortgage.

So that’s you know, that’s one of the
reasons why we only deal with those.

So some of them will we’ll overlook it
because there’s other companies out there

besides Abess that will
rate insurance companies.

But OK, they’ll give almost
any company AAA rating.

It gets crazy.

So so, yeah, that’s what I invest is it’s
just it’s a rating, it’s a rating thing.

And they just look at it all states

and any State Farm travelers,
they’re all AAA rated carriers.

OK, imagine me

some government insurance regulation,
something or other that says in order

to be insurance company,
you have to be able to afford.

X percentage of claims I imagine.

Like it was a thing.


Well in New York it’s like
the worse like they are so crazy.

Ridiculous with the you know
with the regulations as well.

OK, what’s the other way.

New York is so regulated they don’t look
at the financial rating but they,

they will like they,
they will force a company to stop doing

business if they feel the company is going
to be insolvent because the state has

a fund if a company goes insolvent
to take care of the claims.

So so there is a point.

But the you know, a lot of these companies

you know, like this company that got shut

down, I don’t know if
that’s why they shut down.

I don’t know if the state shut them down,
but they just stopped running a business.

So the state does have some say in it,

especially in New York,
like you can’t get anything done

in New York without like you have to if
you want to do a rate increase

while they were been rate decreases,
that all state file that the state

wouldn’t let them do because they thought
it was too much of a decrease

and the company would be financially
strapped so they wouldn’t do it.

So, yeah, you have to justify everything.

And insurance is probably one of the most

heavily that in banking or
extremely heavily regulated.

OK, all right.

I just think if I wanted to start

an insurance company,
that’d be tough because then if you have

a huge knot in the bank,
then go out and sell from day one.

Insured person number one,

they get in the car accident when
I’m still trying to rate policies.


You need to have a huge reserve.

And that’s really like what Geico does is

the reason they’re it’s
an underwriting profit.

They’re making an underwriting loss,
but they’re making the money up

on the investments because Warren Buffett
is going out and buying railroads and,

you know, Goldman Sachs stock and
he’s doing stuff like that,

whereas most insurance companies are
buying, you know, shopping malls.

And I mean, the companies are starting
to get a little bit more

sophisticated in their investments because
they you know, they realize they got

to make because you can’t make money in
fixed instruments anymore.


But there’s a lot of consolidation
because of what’s going on with that.

You know, like.

20 percent market share
is like unheard of.

And, yeah, and that’s what
Allstate has in New York.

It’s like

one in five cars in New York
and insured by Allstate.

Oh, so that’s really so that whereas

in like in Wisconsin, you’ll have
20 carriers I’ve never even heard of.

You know, there’s no way you know, I mean,
he has State Farm,

Allstate or big companies out there,
but you’ll have American family and like

all these, like farm family and companies
that we never hear of when I’m out

in the Midwest, I see all these little
companies and never heard of before.

Yeah, because out there there’s not as I
guess it’s not as strict as it is here

in New York as far as what
the regulators require.

All right.
Yeah, interesting.

In Madison, romance,
American family headquarters, QVC,

a headquarters that is
the headquarters of a huge campus.

It’s progressive and I think
a few others to the north of us.

There’sa century.

There’s a bunch of them.

It seems like a little unlike the Chicago,

Wisconsin, a lot of them
are based out there.

I always wondered why,

especially about this area is a lot of
snow wrecks that they’re chasing,

whatever it is.
I’m going to talk really quick on a ton

of time, but I always like to ask people
about their family, how you balance

being a good father and all that jazz
husbands and running the business,

dealing with employees
and clients and all that jazz.

Well, I think

one of the reasons I did this is
because my dad was always at my games.

Oh, nice.

So it was always a you know,
you created your own schedule.

So I like that idea.

What you know, when you become an owner,
though, versus a sale, you know,

when you’re a sales rep, you hit
your number and you take your time.

When you when you’re responsible
for training and managing staff,

then it makes it a little bit different.

So having the right
people in place is huge.

Like right now my son plays lacrosse,
so there’s two or three games a week.

I’m at every game, you know,
I’m cutting out three thirty.

And I as a matter of fact,

they had AP exams,
so I had to go pick them up from school

because he missed the bus,
because the AP exam ended before the bus

left, you know, picked him up from school,
him and his friends, and drove to the game

and got them there just
in time for the game to start.

So that’s what’s cool about being,

you know, if you have the right people
that you can do stuff like that now.


And it’s funny because my wife’s like, why
are you working eight o’clock at night?

Well, so that way I could
take days like that.

So that’s the nice thing.

You know, unfortunately,

I’ll be down in Florida visiting
my parents and I’m on my email and stuff

like that, but I have the flexibility that
I can pick up and go whenever I want.

And I think technology has made it a lot

easier to do stuff like that because,
you know, now we have ways to track

we can track our sales and I can see

what’s going on and you emailing
back and forth like, you know.

So we’ve done a lot more digital than the
in-person sit down around a table type.

Like even when I set up this new office,

I put a couch in some swag
and have sales meetings.

It’s still good to do that,

you know, but still we now we’re able
to do things a little bit more virtually.

So I think being able to let go,
you know, my dad was a total hands on.

You know, we would get in a fight.

She goes, whoa, what’s going on with,
you know, with so-and-so?

And I’m like, I don’t know.

As Vicky is like, well,
why don’t you know what I’m like?

Because I pay Vicky to worry about that.

You know, I
was going to say that was the thing is,

he was a solo opener and we
came in and changed it.

So I think that’s the that’s
the advantage of scale.

And building a larger business is,
you know, if you hire the right people,

then you don’t have to you know,
you can balance that time,

you know, get your hands and everything.

Right, exactly.
So and there’s you know, I’m not that guy.

I mean, there’s like I like
to do the things I have.

I mean, they have

my staff got me a squirrel on my desk
because I’m a constantly off on a tangent.

So that’s awesome.

You know, so, you know,

and that’s where you really got
to kind of know what your thing is.

And that’s, you know, so I have people
that can worry about the detailed stuff.

And I am I focus more on that bigger

picture type stuff
and the sales and relations.

I’m good at the building relationship,

so I’m out meeting with the realtors
and meeting with the mortgage people.

And I had breakfast with with a real
estate attorney this morning trying to put

together game plans on how we can both
feed each other,

you know, introduce people like
we all we each have a network.

Let’s introduce our each other
to the other network,

you know, so that’s the kind of stuff
that I do instead of sitting down.

I don’t like if you called me

for an insurance quote,
I wouldn’t be quoting your insurance.

I’d give it to Carey or Shannon or
one of my other people.

And they would be doing that for you.

I would just get you in the door, right?

I think too many business
owners try to do it all.

Oh, to a fault.
Yeah, absolutely.

It’s a difference between owning
a job and owning a business.

Is that the myth?

That’s what that all.


I think the myth was a big you know,
for me it was like I’m reading it and I’m

like, yeah, OK, I know
this already but I know.

But that was me, like I came in here when
I came in to open up with my dad and it

was the three of us,
the location we even opened up with,

I had it in my head what it was going
to look like with 10 people there.

You know, so.


So, I mean, that’s really I think that was
where I knew I was going to I mean,

that’s why I came into this,
because this is the kind of business

that if you build it the right way,
you know,

a lot of my friends at this point in their
career, they’re out playing golf.

I’m not done yet.
You know, I got to I got twins.

You know, they’re going
to college in the fall.

So I got a lot of money to be laying
out over the next four years.

So I’m not ready to go and spend
half my time on a golf course.

I’m not a golfer to begin with, but but,

you know, so I’m still
in that building mode.

So that’s why I’m still like,
I didn’t need to hire somebody.

And much less to what I know.

I mean, there’s so much now that I’ve got

these relationships coming in and I
know how to duplicate that.

You know, I want to keep doing it until
I’m ready to the point where I’m going

to be like, OK, now I’m going to hire
somebody to manage that whole thing

and I’m going to become an investor,
you know?

And I think that’s where, you know,
the phases of business are.

You know, when you start out,

you’re doing it all and then you just keep
placing one task at a time until you

basically replace everything
and you’re now just an investor.

I got a friend of mine who, you know,
he’s always putting up pictures of him.

He’s an Allstate agent, Alabama,

and he’s got pictures of him
at his farm up in Ohio.

You know, I mean, you know,

the guy is all over the place and he’s
at that point in his career where he’s you

know, he’s got you know,
he’s got a coaching program, too.

He coaches insurance agents
as well as running an agency.

And he doesn’t even do
the coaching anymore.

You know, he’s got somebody doing

the coaching for him,
you know, so, you know,

so now he’s not done it only as an al
Qaeda agent like you replace himself

in the agency, become a coach,
and now he’s replaced himself as a coach.

You know, so I mean, that’s really,

you know, where
you know and I’m still learning

the skills, like he was
way ahead of me on that.

And I’m still learning
the skills on how to do that.

But that’s really what I’m constantly

investing in myself and,
you know, hiring a coach.

Because, you know, I always said,

you know, when you think you know
at all that you’re on your way down.

Because everything’s constantly changing.

You constantly need to update yourself

and you need that outside voice
to kind of tell you do what you need.

And, you know, and I’ve worked with a lot

of different coaches and all different
types of coaches

and and I’ve never regretted
a penny of that money that I spent.

Mm hmm.
It’s interesting.

I was at my son’s baseball practice
yesterday and he’s like, oh,

baseball practice is so boring
because I already know this stuff.

This is a seven year old kid like, well,

Major League hasn’t called yet,
but it’s really

just because it’s boring doesn’t mean
you don’t have to practice, right?

It’s just kind of funny.

And he’s he’s on top of his
game for a seven year old.

But not.


There’s room for improvement,
I guess, with it.

Start playing with a nine year
old and then see where you are.

Yes, man.

Twenty five years.

I feel like the way that you’re growing
now, you’re probably get one in three or I

guess to be one in three
if my ratios are right.

You’re one in five now.
All states got around New York area.

What do you mean?
Oh, that you guys have insured.

Oh yeah.
All states got one two five.

Oh yeah.
Yeah, you’re facing it.

One, two, three.
Let’s go.

Yeah, hopefully.

Oh this has been

Authentic Business Adventures the business
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We’d like to think you are wonderful
listeners as well as our guest,

Robert Zabbia of the
Zabbia Insurance Agency.

Robert, where can people find you?

[00:52:16] and Zabbia is Z-A-B-B-I-A. Yeah.

I made the mistake emailing you earlier, only one B.

So, Z-A-B-B-I-A. Awesome.
Past episodes can be found

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Found at the podcast

link at
Thank you for listening.

We’ll see you next week.
I want you to stay awesome.

And if you do nothing else,
enjoy your business.



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