How a Single Person Agency Has Achieved Larger than Life Results

January 23, 2023

Mary Anne Connelly is an owner and broker at Connelly-Weiss Insurance Services.

Mary Anne Connelly is an owner and broker at Connelly-Weiss Insurance Services. In fact, she’s the only broker, but an outsider would never know it. She got her start in life insurance, but she’s larger than life now – providing customers with personal, commercial and excess/surplus lines when needed. She is successfully growing her business, while also providing exceptional service and choice to her existing customers.

Want to know the secret behind Mary Anne’s success? Here’s the inside story…

The Path to Independence

Mary Anne’s insurance career began when a friend convinced her to start selling life insurance with New York Life. She quickly discovered she had a knack for the business. “I received a wonderful sales background from New York Life,” she says. However, she had to step away from insurance for a while to focus on other family and life priorities.

When she was ready to return to her insurance career, she answered a State Farm ad for a position as a part-time life insurance agent. “The agency owner needed someone who could produce 40 life applications by the end of the year, and I got that done for him,” Mary Anne says. Then, she decided she wanted to tackle selling home and auto insurance as well.

She worked under a few different agents to learn the ropes, until one day she realized that what she really wanted was to blaze her own trail. “I decided go into business for myself,” she says. However, there were some challenges to solve. As she points out, “You can't knock on people's door and ask them to quote their home and auto.” She needed to learn how to operate and market her own company. She also needed carrier contracts and commercial lines market access and knowledge.

Behind-the-Scenes Support

Ultimately, Mary Anne launched her own business, relying on the support provided by an insurance wholesaler. “I worked with them for about 10 years, but over time there was a shift in their staff,” she says, explaining that she found it increasingly difficult to work with them. “I began searching for a new partner, and that's how I found the Smart Choice network.

She needed an organization that could provide better support, and the online reviews from other agents made her feel confident that Smart Choice would indeed be the smartest choice. She especially looked forward to receiving home and auto quotes in a timely fashion – a service that was lacking in her previous relationship.

Early in the relationship, reached out to vice president of Smart Start Personal Lines, Jason Hamstra, at Smart Choice. “He provided personal attention and made sure that I got comfortable with the process,” she recalls.

Some organizations leave agents to figure things out on their own, but that wasn’t her experience with Smart Choice. “They answer the phone. That's a big deal. When I ask a question and they don’t have the answer, they find out and get back to me. When I have a service problem, they endeavor to help me,” Mary Anne says. “They help me even when it's not a new sale. They will help me on an existing policy, and as an agent, that’s wonderful because business retention is so important to me,” she adds.

For a solo operator, having a full team of support without the overhead associated with this level of support can make a remarkable difference to the bottom line. As Mary Anne explains, “It's really important to me that I perform well for my existing customers, and I can only do that if I properly service an account. To properly service an account, I need help, and that is what Smart Choice provides.”

Multi-Line Carrier Access

Smart Choice provides access to carriers, and that’s some-thing that many independent agents need. As a one-person agency, Mary Anne explains that securing direct appointments with large carriers just isn’t always a viable option.

“Access is more important than premium or commission because I need to have a place I can go that has multiple carriers so that I can quote business that's going to be attractive to a prospective client,” she explains.

Through Smart Choice, she gets the access she needs to run a successful business. Her mix of business is roughly 50% commercial and 50% personal, and she uses Smart Start for both lines. She’s also been able to secure direct appointments. “When I have a risk that looks like they'll qualify for standard market, I will run it through Smart Start Commercial,” she says. “In fact, Smart Start got me a direct appointment with Traveler's Commercial.”

Carrier Advocacy

Carrier access is important, but it’s only one of the many advantages a network can offer.

“There are some carriers that are extremely frustrating to deal with,” Mary Anne says. “Smart Choice has done every-thing they can to expedite matters with carriers like that. Even if the carrier is a pain, Smart Choice is not.”

As an independent agent, it can be hard to navigate underwriting processes and requirements. Sometimes, Mary Anne needs help and Smart Choice has been an effective advocate.

“Smart Choice has gotten involved and gone all the way to the top of the management to help me resolve issues,” Mary Anne says.

Many Hands Make Light Work (and More Closed Sales)

There’s no need for independent agents to go it alone. With the Smart Choice network, you can leverage a robust, experienced team of people and provide your customers with options for all lines of coverage. Whether you’re running a one-person agency or you have a few partners and employees, network support can help you succeed with access to more than 3,000 multi-line products, plus training and sales and marketing support – all with no fees.

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