Matt Frierson Continues Young Agent Discussion - nGI

Matt Frierson discusses generation gaps, recruiting young workers and more.

Matt Frierson, CIC
Partner Pierson & Fendley Insurance Agency
Years at company: 9 years
College: Texas A&M University, '97; MBA: Sam Houston State University, '98
Organizations & Awards: IIAT Young Agent of the Year 2011, Independent Agents of Paris

Read Matt's previous nGI Q&A

Have you ever experienced any “generation gap” issues with your carriers in terms of personal interaction or the products they offer?  
When I first got into the industry there wasn’t a huge initiative from the company side to be innovative with technology, but now I think the carriers are constantly looking for ways to appeal to younger agents whether by offering social media applications or more streamlined and efficient rating systems. Just as with other aspects of society, the quicker information can be accessed, the more ‘favored’ a carrier becomes within an agency.

How did you determine that insurance was a viable career choice?  
Like many others, I initially entered the industry because of family. However I quickly found out that insurance is a great field.  The income and career potential is unlimited and it’s exciting because there is always a new situation or circumstance to learn more about.

What’s the toughest thing about being a young agent in a field where the average age is 55? 
The perception that comes from clients…in most cases, business owners and executives are older than I am (and peer age to many of the other agents in the industry) so there’s an extra level of credibility that needs to be established.

How does technology fit into your work strategy? 
Technology daily plays a huge role in our office, but also from a strategic point of view.  We are constantly looking for ways to become more efficient and utilize our systems in order to reduce overhead costs and do all we can to take some of the stress out of the staff’s day to day job. Additionally, one of the great things about our affiliation with the Combined Agents of America (CAA) is the wealth of knowledge we can access so easily through other industry experts and mediums, like webinars, email and the producers mentorship program. We have agents from across Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas that are easy to reach and almost instantaneously provide us with great feedback.

Read on for more from Matt Frierson

What is an important lesson you learned when joining a professional working environment? 
How you see yourself will go a long way in determining others perception of you. If you want to be a success, be aware of your actions in every aspect.  If you treat your position as a ‘job’, not only will others not take you seriously…but you’ll begin to believe it too.  If you see your position as a career, you think in those terms and others will see you as someone who’s got bigger aspirations in mind.

What’s your mantra for success?
I don’t know if I subscribe to one particular phrase, but I keep it pretty simple: Be objective and do what’s right.  Whether it’s a fellow employee or customer, we have a responsibility to have that persons best interest in mind. Even if it costs me an account or in a soft market makes the bottom line take a hit…people depend on us and trust us. We can’t ever lose sight of that.

What do you see Gen Y/Millennials struggle with in a professional environment? What advice do you have?
Understand that there is a balance. This industry in particular has a lot of people who worked hard making calls and doing things a certain way. With technology and society changing rapidly, younger workers need to understand that while their new ideas and efficiencies are a real positive…there is a certain way to navigate existing structures and cultures to capitalize on those improvements without upsetting the applecart.

Where do you hope to take your career? What direction would you like your career to go?
I have been blessed to get into this industry, I never anticipated being in insurance but now I can’t imagine anything I’d rather do for a living. With that said, I’m excited about the possibilities for our agency in the future. Our goal is to be the leading agency in our part of the state, and hopefully I’ll get to be an integral part of that. I’ve got a management background, so I would like to get the opportunity to help shape our agency and strategically position it to move from a local agency to a regional agency.

Read on for more from Matt Frierson

Gen Ys often change jobs—7 times in their 20s, according to research. How can employers retain young talent?
I switched jobs 3 times in my first 3 years after graduate school, and the reason was simple (none were related to insurance). I was tossed into a desk where I was asked to make calls and that was it. No talk of how the company could benefit me or where my spot was in the future.  Simply, commission. That is great financially, but I think younger workers are actually worried about where they will be 20 years from now and if the answer is ‘still sitting at the same desk’ then many won’t accept it. Employers need to share their vision and let everyone know what the possibilities are.

Many young agents enter this industry because other family members work in insurance. What advice do you have when working with family?
It can be difficult sometimes, for sure, but overall it is a great experience. The advice I would give would be to understand that business is business. Because you are family, don’t fall into the entitlement trap—that’s a recipe for disaster.  Establish a plan and let everyone know what it is. That is difficult in certain situations, but it is necessary.

What skills do you think young agents will need in 2011?
They need to understand how to deal with different generations. This is a people business, and you need to be able to adapt. Insurance is a product everyone needs, but people need someone they can trust. Build the relationships.

What new technologies should young agents utilize to get a leg up in this industry? I think that the new generation has many advantages with technology. Everyone can get their message out easily, quickly. Young agents are far more savvy with this element, which is a huge plus. Take advantage of as many avenues as possible.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as a young agent, and how did you handle it? Thankfully, I guess I still qualify for a few more years so the process is still ongoing. I think that the biggest challenge I have had is what I mentioned earlier. Just realizing that the downside to calling someone is really pretty mild, a single word (“No”). But the upside is pretty great. Once I realized that, things have taken off.

Matt Frierson was featured in the Sept. 2011 issue of AA&B. He is a partner at Pierson & Fendley Insurance Agency.

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