Episode 25: Full Transcript

[00:00:00.71] WILL SHAW: Our mission is agency success. We want to help insurance agencies sell more premium. We want to help them streamline their workflows.
[00:00:09.85] SPEAKER: This is the Insurance Technology Podcast, where we bring interesting people from across the insurance ecosystem to discuss and debate technology's impact on the industry. Join us each episode for insights and best practices from industry stewards and tomorrow's innovators.
[00:00:29.53] REID HOLZWORTH: Welcome back. We're here again with Will Shaw. What an awesome dude, you'll hear it again in this episode when we hear why he left the NFL and got into insurance technology. You'll hear once again, when this dude is faced with adversity, how he just pushes through and overcomes.
[00:00:52.69] That is a recipe for success, long term, just pushes, pushes, pushes, pushes. We're also going to get into, deeply, better agency, the company, the technology, the whole thing. And you're going to see, this thing's no joke. This dude's no joke. Stay tuned, really awesome stuff. What happened on the NFL? And how did you get into insurance technology?
[00:01:20.95] WILL SHAW: Yeah, I will say, the NFL, after reaching that, it probably was the most depressed I got in my life. It was very lonely just living in Philadelphia. I met my then girlfriend, now wife, in high school. So we did the whole long distance thing, and obviously wanted her to keep working because from week to week basis I didn't know whether I was employed at the NFL or not.
[00:01:46.71] So I struggled through that. I was back in Arizona training in 2014. And I ruptured the abdominal wall. I ruptured the abdominal wall, where next to your pelvic bone. And basically that's an extreme version of a sports hernia. The surgeries put what they call a mesh to reconnect it. But the odds of that injury happening are very high.
[00:02:09.79] So we chose to not do the surgery. I never really wanted. I try to avoid surgery at all costs. But that basically ended my career. I wasn't coming back from that. I was low man on the totem pole just trying to hang on to a roster anyways.
[00:02:23.04] So at that point, I made a decision. All right, I'm going to reinvent myself. I didn't want to go into coaching. I was really burned out on football. That's 2014. I didn't start even watching or really talking heavily about football until probably 2018, 2019. I got away from the game for a significant amount of time because it's only new for me, basically.
[00:02:41.31] Yeah. I walked away. Football was my only focus from probably about 16 to 24, maybe 15 to 24. I just walked away. I achieved what I had set out to achieve. And I probably could have achieved more, but I'm grateful for what I was able to accomplish. I walked away in relatively good health. And I have a lot of friends that can't say that.
[00:03:02.64] So when I got injured my wife was working at a company at the time called Infusionsoft, now Keap. Local here to where we're at in Arizona, in Chandler. She was in the marketing department. I got to know that team, the CMO, really well. And basically, we were just like, all right, well, let's reinvent yourself, come work in Infusionsoft. It's a great company. It's great culture. It'll be a great quote unquote "first job."
[00:03:30.63] Because what was happening is nobody was hiring me. I was trying to apply everywhere. I was applying to insurance companies, whether it's insurance, not by because I want to be insurance, I just wanted a job. Different construction companies, I was trying to-- at that point, I was like I'm not going to join the military. I'm married. I want to have a family.
[00:03:50.44] One of the things I hated about the NFL was being gone for periods of time from my family. So I wasn't going to go down that path. So that shifted my mentality on the way I was going to do. So I was like, all right, let's just try a job. And let's see. At this point, I'm 23, 24.
[00:04:05.56] I didn't have a prototypical college or early 20s experience because I was playing football. I've never had a chance to do an internship or see what I was like. Let's just go try a tech company. Like let's go try doing that and see what I like and don't like.
[00:04:17.53] And so I got a job on the customer success team. And I approached it with the same mentality I approached football, which was like just be the hardest worker in the room. Just outwork everybody. Learn as much as I can. And I quickly got promoted. And like within a year, I was at the top of the customer success team, and then started moving into more of the product realm. And I was learning as much as I could.
[00:04:41.94] And then basically, a year and a half in, summer of 2016, I decided to leave. I was like, you know what? I've learned a bunch. I have a lot more that I want to learn. And I'm not going to be able to do it here. I see some opportunities to really create my own business, which was something I really wanted to try.
[00:05:02.70] And so I went for it. And I basically started what I would call a tech enabled services company, so like customizing whether it was Infusionsoft, HubSpot, Salesforce. For different businesses, we were implementing those tools. And then, basically, sold one insurance agent who happened to be local, who happened to refer us to a friend, who referred us to another friend.
[00:05:24.57] And from summer 2016 and 2018, we probably worked with close to 100 insurance agencies, implementing the same four, five key core systems. And eventually, I decided to leave that company because they wanted to stay focused on the consulting side, because they were in other niches and industries.
[00:05:43.77] And I said, you know what? We need to build a system from the ground up. End of 2018 is when I left. And I basically did a lot of side consulting through 2019 and 2020. And basically, beginning of 2019, that's when I transitioned out of what I was doing and into creating the idea of what became Better Agency.
[00:06:06.59] REID HOLZWORTH: Wow, that's wild. So you were doing, primarily then, consulting and work around marketing automation, focused primarily on the insurance agencies and that world, which is tough. It's an interesting world. And historically, agencies haven't really adopted the big boy-- I mean, some of the big agencies have. But they haven't really adopted the big marketing automation solutions like Marketo or HubSpot--
[00:06:34.33] WILL SHAW: Yeah, it's hard to do that unless you're a large agencies, because they're really designed for somebody that's-- we call them the franchise tools. Those are the tools where you're 50 to 100 employees plus. Organization is more important than-- organization streamlining is more important than leveraging different tools. Like there's just different needs.
[00:06:51.98] We used to talk about that in Infusionsoft. It's like, that was a great tool for somebody under 20, 25 employees. But once you got past that, you got a big sales organization of 20 people. You had ops people of 10. You got a ops team. You had an accounting team. You have a support team that's 20 people. You have a team that's north of 50, 75 people. Running [INAUDIBLE] in your office, Salesforce starts to make a lot more sense for that type of company.
[00:07:16.46] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, absolutely. So you decided to then just build your own, essentially. So I don't actually know this story, Will, because I know what Better Agency has become. But originally, what was the product? Was it a marketing automation solution?
[00:07:34.94] WILL SHAW: Yeah, so this is probably important. I'll even touch base a little bit on this. When I left Infusionsoft and we started the tech consulting thing, Infusionsoft was actually working on a new product. And it was the idea of creating tools for vertical industries. And so that's where I spawned the idea of let's do this for insurance.
[00:07:55.37] One of the things that I thought was really powerful in Infusionsoft-- and Infusionsoft is looked at, it's like the little brother at Salesforce, HubSpot. And in my opinion, right, wrong, or indifferent, Infusionsoft created the first campaign automation tool that eventually HubSpot adopted inside their platform.
[00:08:11.90] Marketo took it, obviously, from a large-- Marketo had been around for a long time. It took it from a large enterprise capability. But the average person can't use Marketo. You need to actually be certified in that. That's why it's for larger. And HubSpot's done a great job. HubSpot's done a great job, so has ActiveCampaign.
[00:08:29.63] But both of those automation campaign capability technology came from what Infusionsoft built back in the late 2009, 2010, 2011 frame, which was an individual that was not a developer could go in with a visual drag and drop builder, and create an automation sequence that could streamline something, whether that was internal or external communication. And so I always was a fan of what they had done there. And it was really built for small businesses. And they've done well. Back then, they were at 30,000 customers and they've since grown.
[00:09:03.80] So the way I looked at it was could we harness the power of Infusionsoft, and a HubSpot, and/or a Salesforce and basically build a platform that was meant for an independent insurance agent? And I'm not talking about the family 100, or the top 1,000 agencies out there. But you take the 40, 50, 60,000 market of the PNC independent market. The average agency is what? Probably, 5 to 10 employees. Can we create the power that's--
[00:09:31.31] REID HOLZWORTH: I think it's five, yeah, roughly.
[00:09:33.50] WILL SHAW: So could we take the power of these platforms that are more horizontal, generalist tools. They serve a horizontal market. They serve insurance. And they can serve restaurants. Could we take all of that power and basically say, here it is specifically for an independent agent.
[00:09:50.69] So whether you're a two-man-shop, a five-man-shop, you can not only compete against a hundred-man-shop. You can compete against Geico. You can compete against Progressive in the captive market, because you have the same technology that they would have, just an ability that's easier to use and understand for that type of agency. So you don't have to pay for an expert.
[00:10:09.29] And that's really what we started. We wanted to be the CRM marketing automation platform, specifically, for P&C insurance agencies, We took that power-- our CTO and our VP of product, they were both top-- they were one of the first 15 people at HubSpot and Infusionsoft, there for 20 years. And saw [INAUDIBLE] how to build a technology from-- I think our CTO was like the ninth employee in Infusionsoft, was there for 14 years from literally 10 customers to 30,000 customers.
[00:10:42.38] We wanted to build it the right way. And we wanted to build on the data structure where we could control it. We wanted to build it in a microservices environment. We didn't want to necessarily build it on top of the Salesforce platform, on another platform. We wanted to be the ultimate control so that we could learn more about the database structure and how insurance looks at reports and data. So that we could continuously manipulate and grow the product. So that we could get better over time with more data coming through.
[00:11:08.42] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, that's really awesome. So how long did it take? So you said, let's do this.
[00:11:16.61] WILL SHAW: So we said let's do this. I have a Google Doc where I keep track of all my notes from every conversation I've ever had on Better Agency. It's called general notes. And I take that. And that obviously goes-- some of those notes obviously go into other places where we track everything in notion or different documents.
[00:11:33.56] I'm on page 700 right now. I'm coming up on about 700 pages. The very first meeting that was about Better Agency is January 30, 2019. And that's the first meeting I had. Jordan and I-- our CTO Jordan basically started building it in March. March, April time frame we started building the framework. And then we self-funded it.
[00:11:57.38] Obviously, Nick-- you know Nick. Nick our CMO is the first insurance agent I took this idea to and said, hey, let's-- this is what I'm thinking. You're somebody I know that's in the space. You're passionate about what we're trying to solve for. Do you want to be a part of this? And that's how Nick ended up being an advisor for us, and then turning into a co-founder, and becoming our CMO. And he's just as best as I am in this, since the beginning.
[00:12:23.66] But Jordan and I, basically, started running the tech piece. We built the framework of it, probably started working on that in April. We basically self-funded and hired a couple of developers to start working on this with us in more of a part-time fashion around June. And then we rolled out the first version in October of 2019, had our first paying customer in November 2019 when we officially launched.
[00:12:52.73] REID HOLZWORTH: That's awesome. And so again, all around this marketing automation solution. So the thing has evolved into what it is now. So talk a little bit about that. So that's what you are. That's what you're doing. First customer back then, which is awesome. I mean, extremely fast. And congrats on the bootstrapping. That's super cool. It's going to end well in a lot of ways for it. So yeah, talk about the evolution of the product itself.
[00:13:23.63] WILL SHAW: Yeah, we built it off the core. We were really-- we built it up-- we started with the core just sales, anything that revolved around sales. So if you're familiar with any kind of drag and drop sales pipeline, visual pipeline tool, built it around that, from task management, and then have an automation capability tied in to where you have a Visual Campaign Builder, but you don't have to build anything. You can edit the content, but it's all in there. Brought in copywriters.
[00:13:50.51] Brought automation basically all around the lead generation, through the sales process, to the new client experience. And then through 2020, we were just iterating based on feedback. We ended up adding a service center and a lot of service campaigns.
[00:14:02.30] We ended up adding a renewal center, a renewal pipeline, and an automation to go around that. In 2021, we started adding in more commercial functionality campaigns in automation, in workflows, in post-binding obligations and different things like that for commercial. We started supporting commercial lines.
[00:14:25.28] From the day we started, the question, I only got it every single day was like, hey, when are you guys just going to become an AMS? I got that question every single day. I was like, listen, I have no intention of ever doing that. First of all, I think that's a dated term. Like what does an AMS even mean?
[00:14:42.47] You ask every insurance agent what that means, you're going to get a different answer every single time. And I feel the same way about CRM. And we can [INAUDIBLE] some of that too. But we were really focused on what we were doing. But what we ran into-- so our strategy was, we'll just integrate with all the different agency management systems. And we never have to build it. We'll be the CRM of choice.
[00:15:05.47] And then what we found were two things. And there was only a select few of the agency management systems in the market that were willing to integrate. Most of them didn't have the technology. And again, this is 2020. About summer 2020, we had to sit down. At that point, we had actually launched one integration. And it just wasn't good.
[00:15:32.47] The way we had integrated was so backwards, we were doing things that we were doing in 2008. The technology we had to use to implement to integrate was 2008, not 2020. It was ridiculous. And so what it led to was people were using the integration.
[00:15:47.35] They were turning it off, because they were like, we're just better off not having it on. Because the problem is, with an integration, especially with an agency management system, it's great. But if it breaks for one day and it either duplicates data or doesn't send data, you don't know what you're missing, it's messed up for life. Like it's done.
[00:16:04.03] It's not like, oh, it was just down for a day. And now, it's going to be fine the next day. That's not the issue, not when you're talking about insurance data. And so we were told no by a couple of players too, like, hey, we're just not going to integrate with you. We're not going to open up our API because our customers would spend more time in your software than they do ours. And that's not part of our business model, which it is what it is.
[00:16:27.40] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, don't hate the player, hate the game, right?
[00:16:28.90] WILL SHAW: Yeah, [INAUDIBLE] I get it. We can not like it. And I can bash them for it, but the reality is like at least they were straightforward about their response to me. So there's a level that I appreciate that. And so I had to look at the market and say, these AMSs are never going to figure out how to really build a core CRM, marketing automation platform, because an AMS is not a CRM. And I can get into why I feel that way. But at least the legacy providers, they started as general ledgers. It's just not the way that they were built to function.
[00:17:02.71] And I can back that up with looking at exit files from every AMS too, because I can see the data structure and how they send the data. I can tell you that that's the case. But we had to make a decision of like, well, where are we going to fit? Because at some point, the AMS platforms are all going to try to figure out, well, how do we build a CRM? How do we build marketing automation, right? There's nothing unique about that.
[00:17:23.71] And in my mind, our mission is not to be the number one CRM. Our mission is agency success. We want to help insurance agencies sell more premium. We want to help them streamline their workflows. And so I don't know that we went about it the right way, but I had basically made the call and said, we're going to build an AMS. I don't even know what that means, but we'll do it. So let's figure out what that means.
[00:17:46.80] And so we just-- I started having a bunch of conversations. And it was all about, we're going to have policy information in there and policy downloads. We're going to have ACORD forms in there. We're going to have commissions, reconciliation. We've got to have-- there's a million edge case scenarios. And that's what people really forget about is the million edge case scenarios they don't know about. But we said all right. We'll do that.
[00:18:07.91] I think this is before your time at IVANS. I started getting the bill of what it was going to look like to actually license that data from carriers, whether that was through IVANS, or others direct from carriers. And I was like, well, we're bootstrapped.
[00:18:20.12] I've got $10,000 in the bank account. I can't afford the fees from like whether it was IVANS, or the carriers, or ACORDs. Just with licensing alone, in our first 12 months, I'm looking at a couple of grand in expense before I even built anything, right? Before I even touched building, everybody is asking me about SOC 2 audit, which back then was like another $52,000. I don't got any of that.
[00:18:45.05] [LAUGHTER]
[00:18:46.64] So I made the bet. And we just started building it. I said, we're going to figure out a way. I got told no 100 times, whether it was from IVANS, or whomever. Like no, we're not going to download to you until you're downloading from somebody else. I'm like, well, how can I get started if I can't get like-- how do I get started because everybody's telling me like-- I go to a carrier. And they're like, no. You've got to be downloading from another carrier before we download to you. Like, who are you?
[00:19:08.97] And so can I get anybody to say, yes? Meanwhile, I started building it. We're running-- we have no cash. So I go and I raise a convertible note round, most of which came from our existing customers that were like-- I told them, I was like, hey, we might be able to do this.
[00:19:25.43] We might not be able to do this, but this is the idea. And they were bought in enough to let's say, yeah, let's do it, raised like $500,000. And we were already building the technology on the back end to bring in the data, and read AL3 files and stuff like that.
[00:19:40.28] And I think somebody had changed, who was responsible for letting people in at IVANS. And I got in somehow. Somebody said, yes. There was no more questions about SOC audits, or this, or that. They just asked, hey, can you write this check? And I said, yes. And I had like $12,000 in the bank account. And so by Friday, I had raised enough money to go and write the check. And that's how we got downloads basically flowing into Better Agency.
[00:20:08.09] [LAUGHTER]
[00:20:10.49] REID HOLZWORTH: It's so true, dude. It's such a true story. I went through the same stuff at T&C. But it's overcoming and pushing through. So now, you've done it. I mean, now you're hooked up. You're getting downloads. You guys are scaling like mad. Yeah, talk a little bit about that. I mean--
[00:20:30.98] [INTERPOSING VOICES]
[00:20:32.18] WILL SHAW: Yeah, so we got that, yes. And meanwhile, we're still building our core product. People talk about, oh, you're working on AMS, what about the CRM features? I was like, you guys-- I'm training our team. I'm training the industry to talk about this stuff is like the CRM and AMS is one. There is no difference. They are the same. We are one platform. It's all about success.
[00:20:53.69] The only thing that's AMS features is actually bring in policy data. That's the only thing So we actually started moving into a beta test around May or June with some users on downloads. We officially launched the Downloads for personal lines around August of 2021.
[00:21:10.13] And then we rolled out commercial lines right thereafter. I think we download every LOB that's possible from just about every carrier at this point. And then we launched our ACORD form functionality in December of 2021, which is still in progress. There's a million forms that specifically--
[00:21:28.91] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, it's over 1,000 forms.
[00:21:31.44] WILL SHAW: Yeah, I think there's like 880 that we've actually seen used so far, but we're just adding a lot of functionality. We're working with some cool partnerships. There's been some cool point solutions that have been created. So we don't have to build it, I'd like to partner. So we've been working on that.
[00:21:47.81] And we just launched our new commissions feature actually in March, which was basically automating the commissions reconciliation process for an agency. So it automatically takes in the commissions from the carriers and associates that to a policy in your application. And so if there's anything that you either said you sold that you didn't get a commission for, we call that out.
[00:22:11.15] If you get a commission for something that you didn't say you sell, or on renewal, or whatever we call that out. We automatically bake that in. You can take in and basically create your whole commission plan for your team, your producers, or whomever. And so it automatically bakes on to that. So you get a nice clean lined up.
[00:22:25.43] You can add bonuses. And basically, taking that commission process each month, that an agency runs through, that takes several hours. You can have it done probably in about two minutes and have a nice report that you can download into your QuickBooks, or your payroll provider, or whatever so you can run payroll. But yeah, I mean that's--
[00:22:44.92] SPEAKER: Is that the plan-- because one of the hard things, I'm building an agency management system. You're right, it's the big buckets, right? It's downloads. It's commission reconciliation. It's the ACORD forms, and mapping them, especially around certificates, and how you're handling that, and doing all that. But then a big, big piece of it, which is frankly like I struggled with quite a bit at TC was accounting.
[00:23:11.51] Accounting is a huge pain in the ass. And [INAUDIBLE] trust accounting in an agency accounting, it's complicated. It really is. It is. And I've done it. At first, you're like forget about it, we're on Salesforce. They can use QuickBooks or connect up to NetSuite. They'll figure that out. No, they did not. And they won't.
[00:23:30.34] WILL SHAW: You know what's funny is-- like going back to the question, like what's an AMS? I asked that same question about accounting for insurance, and you'll get a different answer from every single person you talk to. And it is comical to me.
[00:23:45.05] And this is why it's comical to me, it's not only that part, like you ask somebody and it's a different answer for everybody, but the people that everyone looks to as the experts do accounting in the insurance space are paid consultants by Applied and Vertafore.
[00:24:00.34] And all they say is you can only use Applied and Vertafore. And the reality is like I'm talking to the CFO at some of these family insurance offices that are doing a billion half in premium, they're like, no, use QuickBooks, or no, we built our own system, or no, there's a million other things I actually wouldn't. So it's just been interesting. If you talk, and I'm not trying to bash on either of those companies, that's not the intent of that.
[00:24:23.20] It's just when you talk to people, you get so many different answers. And it's funny to me, because an outsider, I consider myself an outsider of the insurance space, is across the board, small business accounting is run by Xero, QuickBooks online, and some others, because that's what every CPA uses to run your accounting. When I talk to the-- what do investors use? What do angels and VC investors use? They use QuickBooks. What do PE firms use? They use QuickBooks.
[00:24:51.97] Everybody uses QuickBooks and Excel. That's just the nature of business. We can hate on it or we can just call what it is. It's interesting to me, coming into insurance and everybody's like, no, we can't use QuickBooks. What makes this industry so special that you can't use-- everybody uses QuickBooks. The PE firms that are buying the insurance agencies all use QuickBooks.
[00:25:11.59] So tell me why you can't use QuickBooks? I want to know. What makes it so hard? And now you get into the conversation of cash based first accrual based accounting, and agency bill versus direct bill, and the differences that are there.
[00:25:25.36] But what's interesting to me is like if they say, hey, it should be accrual basis when I'm doing agency bill, they say that that's the case. But then I question, if you're doing accrual basis, how is the carrier accounting for it? Because if you're doing accrual basis, that means the carrier needs to have it as a liability not an asset. But the carrier counts it as an asset when you talk to the carriers. It's really interesting.
[00:25:51.06] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, you're right though. I mean, why not? And I used to know all this stuff, but there are reasons. But does it really matter?
[00:26:03.13] WILL SHAW: And so that's the question I get into. It's not discounting the fact that it's not complicated. I'm not discounting the fact that there's reasons. When I am discounting is if you're not a massive large agency, is that the best use of your time? Is it really the best use of your resources to try to be over-complicating accounting, and paying more for a system, and then now limiting?
[00:26:24.66] By the way, if you only use an insurance specific system for accounting, guess what CPA you can go to? An insurance specific CPA, not all the CPAs, not maybe the best CPA. You can go to an insurance CPA that understands this stuff. Because if you go to any CPA, the CPA is going to ask for QuickBooks.
[00:26:46.89] And if you get audited by the IRS, you know what the IRS is going to ask for, QuickBooks and Excel. They're not going to ask for your insurance specific software. They're going to ask for QuickBooks and Excel. And that's what I find interesting is like, are you really creating-- there's no doubt that there are some complications, especially if you're an agency that does personal and commercial. And you're doing some direct bill and you're doing some agency bill, right?
[00:27:08.91] REID HOLZWORTH: We do a lot of agency bill. It is complicated.
[00:27:13.11] [INTERPOSING VOICES]
[00:27:14.55] REID HOLZWORTH: Like that doesn't make sense, I mean it's so simple.
[00:27:17.91] WILL SHAW: If anybody's doing direct billing and they're not doing it in QuickBooks and just straight cash accounting, you are wrong. It's just wrong. There are complications with agency bill depending on how you collect the revenue and where you're doing this.
[00:27:30.32] There's some cool solutions now that are coming out that are helping streamline that sort of pass the money directly over to the carrier, or to keep it in a trust account and report when you move it essentially over, or even automating that move over.
[00:27:43.86] Because really, that's where you get the complication, like when it's in the trust account, making sure that money goes to the carrier properly. And now, that money can get-- that specific amount of money can come over to your bank account, for example.
[00:27:57.45] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, there's a bunch of companies that are coming out of the woodwork, especially around payments and things like that, that are just automating a lot of that.
[00:28:06.69] WILL SHAW: Well, the next one is-- because of what they do, they simplify the accounting process, because now it's not on you. So that's what we've seen. We don't have an accounting platform in Better Agency. Everybody seems to use QuickBooks or a similar. I'm going to use QuickBooks as the general horizon for any generalist tool out there.
[00:28:25.48] We have hundreds of agencies that are just using that and a bunch of people use agency bill because they're using one of these new tools. And it keeps that process clean. And I think the biggest thing on agency bill is making sure that it's clean and accounted for correctly.
[00:28:38.94] And I think that's where we say, we use accounting as an umbrella in the industry for all this stuff. And really, what we're talking about is, we've got to make sure that if we collect $1,000, $700 is going to this carrier. And $300 goes into our commissions account.
[00:28:53.13] And we need to report on that and make sure that it's done correctly. Like that's not necessarily accounting, even though it goes under the umbrella, that's process in making sure that you're actually moving money correctly into the right accounts.
[00:29:07.86] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, and I think I've always found it-- I've always split out accounting and commission reconciliation as two different things. Your point earlier, if you ask agencies, that's all accounting to them, a lot of them like.
[00:29:23.76] WILL SHAW: A lot of people when they say accounting, they're talking about commission reconciliation. Same, I've always split the two. When it comes to the bank account, I wrap that under the umbrella of accounting. But commissions doesn't necessarily-- those statements and how you're managing that process really doesn't have to do with your accounting. I get where maybe people do that, but I do separate that when we talk about it. So that's where--
[00:29:44.72] SPEAKER: It does in theory, because it's splitting the payments and your revenue on who you have to pay, when, why, how, this kind of thing. So it does affect you. But it is a very different product or feature within the product, right? I think that's where it gets complicated too, is under that commission reconciliation, especially if you're doing a lot of different types of tiers because agencies do some crazy stuff around that.
[00:30:17.40] [INTERPOSING VOICES]
[00:30:19.74] WILL SHAW: We've seen across the board how complicated-- and they'll do splits, commissions splits. So what we did is we built a commission tool so you can go in there and customize your commission program and just automatically spit out the commission amounts for your producers, and your teams, and stuff like that based off the commission coming in.
[00:30:37.24] You can just set up the tool one time on what your program is, and we automatically associate everything into that. So it's great because it's a time saver. And it creates this nice report that you can download, send to your bookkeeper, which I would recommend, spend the $200.
[00:30:52.03] Just use a monthly bookkeeper and this entire conversation is taken care of, because they'll plug that commission report into your COGS. Now, you can know your net profit versus everything. I don't know why you wouldn't be doing that, but that's just my opinion.
[00:31:08.43] SPEAKER: The one thing that go off on a little IVANS tangent, it blows my mind when agents don't download commissions. Why would you not? And they're like, well, I want my person to go and check every single transaction. And I've asked agencies. I said, let me get this straight. So you're paying this person $60,000 a year. I get that.
[00:31:30.13] OK, how often do they find a problem, where you miss something, or something wasn't right, or whatever? Oh, Mary found something the other day. How much was that? $20, or whatever it was. And it's like, how often does that happen? I don't know, every few months. So you're paying somebody $60,000 a year to find $60? I mean it's more than that--
[00:31:54.36] WILL SHAW: That's the issue I had. And that's where I feel like the industry-- and that's where more than just Better Agency, the software. This is where we focus a lot of our content and education. The insurance industry has gotten away so much from forgetting, like we're insurance agents. And they've done it so far away from you're a small business owner.
[00:32:11.73] And as a small business owner, you should not be doing your accounting. You should be paying the $200 to be to have a bookkeeper. You should not be paying somebody $60,000 a year to go through your statements. That should just happen automatically. It's an interesting mindset that I've seen in the industry.
[00:32:30.78] We do a lot of that, like when somebody pushes-- we're not having a price conversation, but when somebody says, I don't have $300 or $400 a month to spend on my core product, to spend on a core product like a CRM, AMS to run my agency, I'm just going to run it off Excel and spreadsheets.
[00:32:49.69] I just start questioning you as a business owner, like I'm not going to lie. If you're not going to spend $300 or $400 to run your business-- I get it. Maybe it's a different level of scale, but we spend $300 or $400 for a month for a tool that does one thing, just one thing that a bunch of-- that eliminates hours of work every month because it's worth the $300 or $400.
[00:33:15.04] REID HOLZWORTH: I always argue with people on this one. I agree with what you're saying 100%, but it depends on the size. And how I always explain this, it's like, dude if I have a hot dog cart, I can use a paper ticket, right? But if I build a hot dog empire and I have 40 locations, and multiple employees, I need a point of sale system to track inventory, sales, revenue, the whole nine, right?
[00:33:43.84] I think the same thing is true for agents. If you're a 1z, 2z shop, maybe it sells OK for a little bit. But I mean, we could also argue E&O, and all this other stuff, and notating what's going on. But once you starting to actually-- you bring in on a producer. And you start building-- you're building a real business. Then 100%, that's like not having a cell phone.
[00:34:09.25] WILL SHAW: Well, that's what I'm saying though. I'm not talking about necessarily the one or two person shop. I'm talking about-- I hear this from people that have a team. Like they have three, four people. Might not be the largest team, but if you've got more than-- to your point, if you bring on an employee, you have a responsibility to make sure your shit's together.
[00:34:27.67] If you're a one man band, you can do whatever. But if you bring on an employee, and you have a team, you have multiple people, you do have a responsibility to them to make sure your stuff is taken care of. And you're not going to run into that E&O or whatever situation.
[00:34:42.43] You're making the life difficult for your people. And then you sit there and you're complaining that, hey, I can't hold-- I can't keep employees. Well, yeah, nobody wants to work just out of an Excel spreadsheet to manage their entire operation.
[00:34:56.78] REID HOLZWORTH: It's wild. I heard, the other day, somebody was talking about this same topic. And it was like a 15 user shop. So 15 employee of the company. And they're 100% on Excel, always been on Excel. You just got to imagine, I mean, how much premium is just living in that thing. And over how many years, and it's wild, dude. So what's next for Better Agency? You keep crushing it? Keep going after [INAUDIBLE] moving up market? Adding more forms?
[00:35:31.92] WILL SHAW: I don't know that we'll-- I don't know that we'll ever really move upmarket necessarily. I mean not intentionally, I'm sure it organically happens. And everybody that's probably been in this space will tell me that's a bad idea because it's hard to work with agencies that are between 5 to 15 per location and things like that. And I get it.
[00:35:50.19] REID HOLZWORTH: I don't think so. I would disagree.
[00:35:53.88] WILL SHAW: But that's why we built it. We built Better Agency and we are here for-- so to answer your question, we're going to stay focused on how do we make it easier to take somebody from a lead to a point of sale, or generate a cross-sell opportunity to a point of sale, or take a renewal opportunity or a service opportunity and turn that into a sales opportunity, and get them to a point of sale.
[00:36:17.73] We want to streamline that process. So anything we can do, how can we take like even both personal lines and commercial, like taking even a basic auto policy. By the time somebody is ready to get a quote, it's like 45 minutes.
[00:36:32.82] You go into the radar or you go into your carriers. You get that information. If it's in the radar, now you bridge over to get the actual information. You take that and you put it into a proposal. Deliver the proposal. They say yes. They go back in the carrier website. You issue the policy.
[00:36:45.03] It's a massive process. We want to streamline that. I view this industry as a growing industry. There's a big movement from captive to independent. Direct to consumer is failing. I think that's only going to continue to happen. And our whole push right now is how can we make it so that a small agency can operate against the big boys?
[00:37:01.29] How can we streamline that process? And how can we provide the same experience that a direct to consumer InsurTech does have? Hopefully provide that same experience, that same technology to an independent assurance agency that has two or three people or more.
[00:37:15.34] And so that's what we're going to be focused on. That's our three year journey. That's really what we're trying to stay dialed in on and towards. And anything that touches that. Anything that helps insurance agencies sell more insurance or helps them save time is really where we're going to try to focus.
[00:37:33.54] REID HOLZWORTH: Wow, what a story? From the NFL to InsurTech founder, I like that he doesn't define Better Agency as a CRM or AMS. And when pressed, it's like, what do you mean? You don't want to put a label on it? What are we doing here?
[00:37:48.22] And it's funny. He says, no. I just want to build good stuff for agencies, stuff that really solves problems. And why do we have to label it in that way? Pretty cool stuff. And it was good getting deep technically. Felt good kind of reminiscing of those days. Awesome stuff.
[00:38:09.57] Well, the next episode, we're going to get into, what Will likes to do for fun. What does this guy do for fun? Pretty good stuff there. But we're really going to get deep into some advice for startups, really, really deep, advice on startups. So stay tuned. It's really good stuff.