When you are growing a business and establishing a name, everything depends on the people that are on the frontlines, supporting your organization. This is the foundation on which the Scirocco Group is built.
John Scirocco Jr., president and CEO of the company, took over the business from his father, John M. Scirocco Sr., in 1998, transforming it from a five-person operation to a $15 million revenue-based agency with more than 100 employees at eight locations. Their success is evident: For the past two years, they have achieved a “Best Practices” agency status from Reagan Consultants, and Scirocco has appeared on CNBC on a number of occasions, discussing the aftermath of catastrophic events such as Hurricane Katrina.Despite Scirocco Group’s rise to success, John Scirocco says he is not the sole source of the company’s triumphs–it is a result of a dedicated team effort by its employees, striving to foster strong relationships with both carriers and customers.Humble beginningsThe Scirocco organization was initially founded by my father, John Scirocco Sr., in 1950.It was then called the Auf Der Heide Agency (the predecessor firm) and consisted of only himself and one assistant. Basically, it was a typical Main Street agency, focusing on small business insurance and personal lines in northern New Jersey.I joined the firm in 1980 while finishing my last year of college. I was considering attending law school, but instead chose to join my father in the agency. I found I enjoyed the work, and since every day presented new challenges, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to build the business.In 1988, we relocated the firm to North Bergen, N.J. With approximately 11 employees at the time, we purchased an old factory building and converted it into a professional office building that could accommodate up to 30 people. In 1993, we established our first satellite location in Parsippany N.J., managed by our new partner, Cecilia Driza. This location was responsible for spearheading our benefits division. Subsequent to this, we proceeded with expansion into several specialty segments including bonding, transportation and public entity insurance, bringing on divisional partners who were in charge of these respective practice areas. We also created our first joint venture partnership in 1999 with a benefits firm looking to create a P&C operation.With this expansion we were in need of additional space, so in August 2002 we relocated the firm to its present headquarters in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J. From this location we formed our second joint venture firm with an agency in Haddon Heights, N.J., providing us an important footprint in southern New Jersey.Between 2004 to 2007, we purchased a small agency in northwestern New Jersey and created two additional joint ventures, allowing us to expand our geographic reach throughout the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area and southern Florida. Further expansion is planned, with two additional acquisitions pending.Between all of our operating companies, there are currently six partners in the organization, with Cecilia Driza, executive vice president and director of operations, now leading the management of the operating divisions. Her responsibilities include the overall administration of our satellite offices and operations services including IT, human resources, accounting and claims, as well as supervising individual department managers.As president and CEO, my role has evolved to be more strategic in nature, continuously looking for new ways to retain business and create new revenue for the organization. I spend a considerable amount of my time identifying potential acquisitions, developing production sources, and talking to potential joint-venture partners; but I’m always eager to roll up my sleeves with the rest of our team to provide assistance and guidance on many day-to-day functions, including managing a number of clients I remain in direct contact with.A primary philosophy has always been to supply our staff with the best “tools” available so they may perform their jobs as effectively as possible. Whether it is embracing new technologies (upload-download/real-time transactions/dual-monitors, etc.) or providing our employees with industry-specific training, we are constantly looking for ways to enable our people to better serve our client base in a 24/7 world.Dealing with the presentIn today’s soft market, we have to work smarter than we have in the past. To that end, we have created a uniquely responsive commercial lines marketing department that is responsible for placing new business and remarketing existing and renewal business. Utilizing technology resources, this team can maximize quote capabilities with multiple carriers, analyze for optimum coverage and pricing, and quickly move from submission to complete proposal.In addition to identifying new opportunities, we are constantly fine tuning our processes to maintain and service our customer base. Competing successfully in a dynamic marketplace is not just about having the lowest price. We must be able to respond to our clients’ changing needs by adding a “wow” factor that will exceed their expectations. We have invested heavily in a number of value-added components that allow us step outside the box, such as providing a formal driver training program to all of our clients, and offering them our risk management portal, which specifically addresses OSHA compliance/HR compliance, and other safety-related concerns that many of our clients may have.Looking at the futureIn terms of growing our agency, we continue to identify strategic partnerships and relationships with other agents, brokers and producers who can understand the value in our business and service model. Over the past few years we have successfully integrated a number of these production sources with the one underlying theme: We can provide a greater value to each other together rather than on our own.When we complete an acquisition or create a strategic partnership, it’s primarily to achieve a new geographic footprint, with our principal goal of growing that new location by enabling the key staff members to be more productive and efficient through technology.It’s all about the peopleOur purpose as an organization is to give our people what they need to succeed. We view ourselves as the foundation for them to be able to grow and have the tools, infrastructure and knowledge they must have to prosper.We don’t dictate to our people–we strive to empower them. An in-house school and onsite CE classes encourage continuous insurance education; about 40 percent of our employees have achieved one or more industry designations. Since I took over the firm, we have added significant dimensional talent to the organization. This has been a big part of our increasing success, bringing on people and partners with business talents that we can utilize and build upon. We’re always seeking to expand with additional sources of quality production and new product segments.If I had to give another independent insurance agency advice, I would tell them to open their minds and listen, because this industry has changed and is likely to continue to evolve. Make sure you are ready and able to adapt, with the key being working with your employees, because they truly are an organization’s most important asset. The incremental successes we’ve had are in large part due to them. It’s really about a team of enthusiastic professionals all sharing ideas and working toward a common goal. In my view, that’s the theme for any broker or agent that wants to succeed. Company SnapshotGross Revenue:Approximately $15 millionBusinessCommercial lines–75 percentBenefits–12 percentPersonal lines–13 percentMain Insurers Represented:CNA, Hartford,Travelers, One Beacon, Peerless, Selective,HarleysvilleTargeted Specialties:Construction, manufacturing,real estate, public entity
Raising the Bar: The Benefits of Utilizing TechnologyBy Cecilia Driza, director of operations and executive vice president