How a New Independent Agent Is Finding Success As a “One-Stop” Shop

October 17, 2022

An abstract staircase and gray colored doors, orange colored one is open and a person going in.

Maria Del Mar Lopez, the owner and president of MDM Insurance Enterprise, has been in the insurance industry since 2006. Prior to starting MDM, she worked for a several different insurance agencies. She was very good at what she did, but she felt that her success was limited

“I wanted to be able to help anybody and everybody,” she says. Unfortunately, under the constraints of past employers, she couldn’t meet the individual needs of all her customers. For example, she wasn’t able to help people from other countries who needed insurance but had international licenses, and also had limited choices for people with less-than-perfect driving records. 

She knew she could achieve more … if only she could open her own independent agency.

An Opportunity to Do It All

Maria is from Columbia, so as an immigrant herself, she knows that understanding insurance can be challenging for people of other cultures. “I saw how many people were driving around without adequate coverage because they didn’t know any different,” she says. “They didn’t realize that they didn’t have good coverage until they had an accident,” she adds. 

She felt passionate about insurance because she saw firsthand how it impacted people’s daily lives. “I fell in love with this career because I realized that a lot of people need information and education,” she explains. “I knew I could teach them and help them have a better experience.”

As a self-described “people person,” Maria envisioned her own agency as an opportunity to help others while building a career for herself. “In the insurance business, I could do it all. I could help and teach people – all while earning a good living. So, starting my own agency was a no-brainer,” she explains.

Unleashed By A Smart Ally

Maria opened the doors of MDM Insurance in early 2021.

“I was reaching out to carriers directly, asking for appointments,” Maria says, “and that was one of the major hurdles I encountered as I opened my agency.” 

This challenge probably sounds familiar to anyone who’s tried to launch an independent agency, but Maria didn’t struggle with it for very long. One of the territory managers at an insurance carrier asked Maria if she had checked out Smart Choice. At the time, she hadn’t, but she was interested in joining the right program, so she decided to look into the agency network.

It was the beginning of a great partnership. “I honestly love Smart Choice,” Maria says.

Maria needed access to carriers, and Smart Choice delivered. “That, for me, is gold right now,” Maria says. “It has really helped me get through the first year.” I’ve been able to survive, and now we’re steadily growing. I'm just excited about the future.”

Maria especially loved how she could get access to premier carriers without an existing book and without having to shell out thousands of dollars as a starting point. “You can’t beat that. Trust me, I did my research. I looked at all the network options,” she explains.

“One-Stop” Solutions On-Demand

Maria is the president of her own company, but she also knows that someone has her back. That person is her Smart Choice Territory Manager, Emily McCall.

“I like the fact that she's always asking me how we're doing,” Maria says. “Because challenges come up almost every day.”

When Maria needs help securing coverage for a potential client, Emily has solutions. “Immediately she started connecting me with carriers to help meet customer demand,” Maria says. “I was blown away.”

Maria has used a direct agent program. She’s also used Smart Start, an online platform from Smart Choice that provides easy access to personal and commercial carriers without appointments. “I love it,” Maria says, in reference to the Smart Start program. “It is fantastic because once you send in the information through Smart Start commercial, the underwriters from the companies reach out and tell you exactly what they need. I love it. I love it. I love it! The guidance is great.” 

A “No Limits” Philosophy Boosts Retention and Referrals

“If I don't do it, somebody else is going to,” says Maria, explaining why she thinks it’s important to offer everything to her customers. This includes personal and commercial lines, as well as life insurance and other products. “Commercial is very profitable for us. Yes, granted, there's more underwriting and more paperwork, but Smart Choice is there if I need help,” she says.

Providing a range of insurance products helps business in two ways. First, by meeting all of a clients’ needs, Maria has very high customer retention. Second, she can get more referrals. In one example she cites, she sold commercial auto to a man who makes custom cabinets. Next, she started work on his general liability and workers’ compensation coverages, and is now also getting coverage for his family members.

To do all this, Maria must have a wide range of carriers and markets to choose from. “For me, access is everything,” Maria says, explaining that she can find prospects, but without the right carriers, it’s hard to close sales. 

Access is key, and the support from her territory manager Emily, is an added bonus. “Maria is great, and has really embraced what Smart Choice offers,” Emily says. 

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