Blake T Johnson, CIC, is an Oklahoma native who created an independent insurance agency from nothing and transformed it into a locally owned and operated insurance agency powerhouse.
This laid back, business casual, entrepreneur is equally at ease chit chatting about old insurance stories he handled as a claims adjuster to what coverages an international tycoon would need.
As we relax in his hospitable office, the owner, and CEO. –explains the evolution of American Insurance Partners.
“Insurance contracts are contracts of adhesion in favor of the insurance company. This means that you, the client, cannot make changes to the contract or adjust the agreement. You can either sign the contract the way it is written or not. This gives most of the power to the insurance company. I want to be able to give more power back to the customer. The question is, ‘how?’
“The answer is actually more simplistic than you would think. People want inexpensive insurance, but they also want to be covered when a claim arises. So instead of an agency selling one policy that is a generic policy for everyone, why aren’t we customizing the coverages to tailor the specific client? Then let the insurance companies who are interested and want the business, bid against each other for it and bring the rates down?
“It really was that simple. We contracted with over 10 companies for personal insurance and more than 15 insurance companies and 5 brokers for commercial insurance. The more the merrier, because the more bids that come in create a better competition amongst the carriers. Competition creates lower rates. It also increased the number of carriers who would be interested in each client’s business.
“From that point, it was about customer service. We must sit face-to- face meetings with every client to insure the proper coverage. Phone sales and email sales do not work well in this industry and ultimately serve as a disservice to the customer. You cannot get a good proposal from spending 15 minutes on the phone. You certainly cannot get a good rate this way. All our clients meet with our agents to review quotes and proposals, and then there is an annual review every year to re-tailor coverage if it is necessary and determine if the policy is right for renewal.
“This avenue allows us to focus on both, lower premiums and better coverage at the same time.”
Blake is trying to provide a different, cost effective direction for the customer mindset in regards to insurance purchasing by using this theory. American Insurance Partners has quickly become a strong and self-sustaining insurance agency in the Oklahoma City and Edmond area.
Partly, the success of this young company comes from Blake’s understanding of the insurance industry. His formal education took him to London England, where he studied at Lloyds of London and the London Insurance Department, to Baltimore Maryland where he studied under one of the most prestigious insurance companies worldwide, Chubb Insurance. He also has traveled all over the mid- west obtaining a very rare and prestigious designation, the Certified Insurance Counselors designation (CIC).
“Well, my insurance background started in college, when I took a summer course in London England and Dublin Ireland. We studied at Lloyds of London and the London Insurance Department. The history was the most interesting part of my studies, but I learned so much about commercial insurance. Specifically, international insurance.
“After that, I came back to Oklahoma and took a job as a claims adjuster for AAA. This is where I really learned how insurance contracts were written and the power they contain. I was good at that job and had been promoted twice in 2 years. By the time, I left AAA, I was a casualty adjuster working injury accidents and arguing with attorneys. I also had completed the AAA leadership program. In addition to working claims in Oklahoma, I handled New York, California, and Arizona. But my love was helping customers and found the most help I could offer was on the sales side, selecting the proper coverage before a loss or accident happened.
“That was when I was hired to work as an independent agent for a local agency. That is when I was sent to study in Baltimore with Chubb Insurance. By this point in my career, I had a good basic understanding of Commercial and Personal Insurance and had a great understanding of insurance policies and the way the companies worked. But this was like going from a Junior College to an ivy league. I learned so much more from one of the best insurance companies around.
“When I came back from Baltimore, I hit the ground running. Selling anything and everything I could. I really knew my insurance. So, my employer decided at that time to send me to class to receive my CIC designation. I traveled from Tulsa to Texas, while still working, eventually taking five different classes and having to pass five different essay exams to get my designation. By the time, I was through, it was like having a master’s degree in insurance. I understood more than most other agents who owned their own agencies.
“That’s when I started thinking about owning my own company. But I knew I had to do what was right for the customer. So, I went to work for a local captive agent. Captive agents can only sell products from one insurance company like a State Farm or Farmers Agent and can only offer what the single insurance company wants them to insure. I worked there for about a year. Just long enough for me to learn that captive agents can’t always be the right fit. So, I began putting things in motion to open American Insurance Partners.”
And in June 2015 American Insurance Partners was officially launched. And it set out to do what it intended right from the start. Customers get complete customized insurance proposals with extremely competitive rates. Customer satisfaction is above 90%, and referrals are driving the profits.
But Blake downplays the profit side of American Insurance Partners. “Profits cannot be the goal. The company goal must be focused on doing what is right for the client. I want to make sure every Oklahoman is safer and more secure when they leave my office, without paying an arm and a leg for it. If we do that, then the finances will follow.”