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Good People, Good Business: Part 1

Tuesday, Oct. 26th 2010

My grandfathers both sold property & casualty (P&C) insurance — but they did it quite differently.

Grandpa Lenny, my maternal grandfather, was a New Yorker. He was a charmer. A schmoozer. A funny guy. He was also really, really good at his job. I know that ’cause I spent a lot of time polishing his Jaguar and learning what a ‘foot wedge’ was on the golf course. On the other hand, I don’t have a clue what his clients thought about him. Don’t get me wrong — I loved him — but I never even saw eye to kneecap with him.

Grandpa Sidney, my dad’s father, was a Mainer. He lived in a simple house with an basement amazingly full of stuff. His garage had more dog treats in it than the neighbor’s dogs could ever eat. He smiled and projected love & caring. And when we walked through the streets of Portland, it seemed like every person in the town (it was a town back then) knew his name. I wanted to grow up to be like Grandpa Syd, with that sense of caring all around me.

The insurance business is full of stories like this. There are big players and small players. Geico has spent $800 million on annual advertising and we know they have plenty of competition in those deep waters. I’m nurturing a deep and growing dislike for Flo, the main character in the Progressive ads. It may be her lipstick, but I think it’s just how she always seems fake. Either way, I’m not analyzing it too far, ’cause I’m just fine with disliking the company running the ads. It’s all fake. “You can save 15% on car insurance” or “they saved $869!” Truth in advertising should force companies like this to disclose that these are teaser rates and, once they balloon in 6 months, you’re going to either deal with it or find yourself another plan. Yuck.

Then there’s Pete. It’s hard to tell thus far, but this blog post is about Pete Lombardo. Pete runs PJ Lombardo Insurance Agency in Worcester. Pete’s one of the little guys. He’s been in business for over 25 years. He runs a tight ship with an administrative assistant and another agent working out of his office. His advertising budget might top $1K some years. But he’s doing it right.

How do I know? Because everyone loves Pete. He’s always got a kind word and a smile for you. He’s volunteered a lot of personal time to good causes and always has time to help out professionally as well. I’m not going to save $869 when I have Pete handle my property and casualty insurance, but I’m also not going to have to deal with the consequences 6 months after I hire him. Same thing for my business — Pete just tells me the best way to handle my insurance and then takes care of it. No worries, no fuss, no issues. Got a new car? Pete talks to the dealer, handles the registry and hands you the plate. Talk about peace of mind! And the charge for that service? Nope. Just part of dealing with Pete.

It’s not surprising, but Pete gives good business advice as well. Pete comes up with lines like “If your clients won’t pay your price, they don’t care enough for your company to survive.” He wasn’t telling me how to get rich quick when he said that. He was telling me how life and business should run, and run in a way that is sustainable and feels good.

And when the poop hits the fan, what happens? When the ice storm hit Massachusetts in 2008, Pete individually followed up on every claim for each of his clients. He managed it all, followed up with the companies holding the policies, and got the money his clients needed to rebuild & repair. What do you think the odds are that the big companies did that kind of follow-up?

Heck, do you even know who your agent is? Who are you going to talk to when the next emergency hits? I’m going to talk to Pete. And I feel good.

What do you care? Why’s this ramble in Cold Spring’s blog? Because Cold Spring provides real value in design services to small and medium businesses. I want Cold Spring to run like Pete’s business and like my Grandpa Syd’s business — doing good and feeling good. We’ll keep working on that attitude and that value. And if you want to have Pete quote your business or P&C insurance, give him a call at 508.751.6722. He’ll take care of you.

Posted by Jeff Lerman | in Our Role Models | Comments Off on Good People, Good Business: Part 1
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