From CSR to Owner: Creating a Path to Agency Ownership

Originally published by InsurBanc

Goss and McLain Insurance Agency imageTwenty-eight years after joining independent agency Goss & McLain in 1976, Deb Buckley purchased the firm. Her journey from CSR to owner is distinguished by a “can do” attitude, a view toward the next goal and a focus on people.

Her latest accomplishments: Paying off the debt to acquire the agency, and buying a new building to house the growing firm.

Deborah Buckley joined the Goss & McLain Insurance Agency in 1976 as a young college graduate who heard about a job for a customer service representative “requiring no experience.”

Her thought: “I said, ‘I have no experience. I could do that!’” She ditched a waitressing job and joined a business she knew little about, other than the positive review that a neighbor who worked there told her.

That “can do” attitude has taken Buckley on a 36-year career journey through every part in the agency, all the way to ownership. She is proud of the sticking power of her 12 employees.

“If you look at our average longevity, we’re about at 18 years,” Buckley says. “We have a couple of new people, but some have been here more than 30 years. That’s important. There’s a lot of consistency here. Our clients appreciate that.”
 

Earning Trust

While she had no family ties to create a predetermined path to ownership, Buckley earned the trust of owner Donald McLain, being appointed as executive vice president in 1988 and taking over day-to-day operations; and then as president in 2000.

Her thoughts turned to ownership during that period. “Around 2003, we started conversations around the actual purchase on an exploratory basis and got an agency valuation,” Buckley explained. “We worked very collaboratively toward it. I never really felt like we were on opposite sides of the table.”

This mutual feeling was to structure a transaction that “worked for both of us,” she added.

At the time of the closing of the acquisition in 2004, Buckley recalled, the seller’s attorney commented: “This is the way it was meant to be.” The relationship between seller and buyer, combined with a sound agency perpetuation plan and a bank that understood the insurance agency business, made it work for all parties.
 

Understanding the IA Business Model

After achieving her goal of agency ownership, Buckley set her sights on the next one.

After buying the agency with funding provided by InsurBanc, paying off the loan was her objective. She faithfully repaid the loan, and the next goal was buying a building for the agency, which had outgrown the space it had occupied since 1984.

An expiring lease added urgency. Buckley made an offer on a medical office in a prime business location. Unoccupied for five years, it needed top-to-bottom renovations.

But the mild winter of 2012 allowed contractors to add a new roof and remodel the interior space of 4,500 square feet in just three months.

“InsurBanc financed the purchase and renovations,” Buckley said. “The place is absolutely gorgeous now. People walk through it and cannot believe what this building is like.”

InsurBanc played a vital role not just in providing funding but understanding the independent agency business model.

“Trying to find a bank that understands the insurance business is not an easy process,” Buckley commented. “Dealing with InsurBanc from the beginning was so easy. When you talk about ease of doing business – that is what it was like dealing with InsurBanc.”

She added, “They asked all the right questions because they understood the value of an insurance agency. They looked at our track record and the fact that I had been with the agency since 1976 and managed it for the prior 15 years. They were willing to finance the agency for me.”
 

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