Marti Masterson and her husband Doug have been involved in the insurance industry for over 20 years, 11 of which they’ve spent as independent agents with ASNOA. Now the two are enjoying retirement after Marti sold her book for 280% of its revenue, but their journey was not an easy one. ASNOA’s Communications Supervisor Madeline Smith sat down with the couple to hear the story of how the Mastersons found great success in the independent sector after being dealt a heavy blow from their captive overseers.
Madeline: Thank you both for taking the time to speak with me today, and congratulations on your retirement! How long have you been in the insurance industry?
Doug: Thank you! So, [we’ve spent] 23 years in the insurance industry.
Madeline: Marti, what was it like to be a woman selling insurance when you first started?
Marti: It was quite scary to be a woman selling in insurance. Back in ’96, [the] insurance world was male dominated. I had to really make my way as a female insurance agent and prove that women were just as good in the industry as men were. It was quiet the eye-opener as far as being [in] a male dominated industry. Back in those days, agents really didn’t do marketing, and we were the first agency to put our name on billboards. I can’t count the number of times I was mistaken for a realtor [because of those advertisements].
Madeline: What was your experience like with your captive agency? Did you feel respected?
Doug: We were respected up until November . We were in the top 100 [agents] of the company after just 12+ years, but when it came time for the need for certain higher ups to change, they didn’t care [about us] and it was easy for them to say, “too bad, you’re gone.”
Madeline: Can you explain what happened, and was that the point where you decided to become an independent agency?
Doug: [In] November of 2008, we got double crossed by our captives. They took our book of business and handed it over to our District Manager who became an agent, so November was when we left our captive career. A few days later, we met up with Ray and Joe in Burr Ridge, and by the end of December 2008 we were on Board with ASNOA. [At the] end of January ‘09, we were starting to write business.
Madeline: So, how would you describe your experience with ASNOA?
Doug: I would describe it as being rescued. [We were] one of the largest agencies in Indiana with our captive carrier, and then they decided they were going to get rid of one of their best agents. They yanked the rug out from under us. [Then] we went to Joe and Ray, and they invited us on board. We got support, we got training, we got encouragement, it was completely different experience. [We’re] very happy we had the opportunity to go independent with ASNOA, it showed [us] a whole different side of mankind. The team was great, they did what they were going to do.
Madeline: Had you heard about Joe and Ray beforehand?
Marti: We knew Ray from when he was a district manager, and we always respected him because he always valued his team of agents. [We knew] Joe was a respected agent and that the two of them had formed ASNOA, so they were our first call.
Madeline: What was it like when you were first starting out as an independent agent? Were there many other women agency owners in Indiana?
Marti: There weren’t many at all, but eventually as the years went on, there were more females in the agencies.
Madeline: How would you describe the competition when you were a captive agent vs when you became independent? Was there any difference?
Doug: I think there were big differences. Being captive [means] you have one carrier with their rules and their one rate. When we started writing business in 2009 with different careers, commissions were higher [than our captive’s], and we received bonuses from ASNOA.
Madeline: What was the hardest part about becoming an independent insurance agent?
Doug: Rebuilding another insurance agency from scratch. We were under non-compete, and we followed that to the letter. However, we did have lots of new people coming on, and afterwards when we were no longer on non-compete, the old folks [who] were told we were gone spotted our advertisements and came by the office.
Madeline: What did you enjoy most about being independent and part of a network?
Doug: That’s an easy question! With captive agents, the guys on top always got their foot on your back saying, “do this and do more of that”. [They] ran you like a dog, we were amazed when we went independent because we had all these company reps coming through our doors asking what they can do to help us!
Marti: No pressure, just encouragement and help, [which] was a shock because we had no idea the uppers would be so nice.
Madeline: If you could give a word of advice to yourself when you were first starting out in insurance, what would it be?
Doug: At the time we were terrified, afraid of the 900-pound gorilla, and we didn’t know what to do. All we could do was take it one step at a time. Joe once said, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” I’d tell us to try to not be afraid.
Madeline: Where did this fear come from?
Doug: The fear was of [our] former company. We watched them file lawsuits against dismissed agents because somehow the agents screwed up. We know lots of people who have been sued.
Madeline: Did ASNOA help with that fear?
Doug: Not so much help as advice, they said, “stay in your lane and work hard and you will be ok.”
Madeline: Marti, do you have any words of advice for other women starting out in insurance?
Marti: I would say just go for it. We all put our pants on the same way, and the fear of being a woman in insurance went away with a few years of experience after I realized the people who were discrediting me did not work in insurance.
Madeline: Thank you for being a part of the ASNOA family, we are so glad to have helped you through your journey and wish you all the best in the years to come!
Marti: Thank you! And a huge thank you to Ray, Joe, Mike, and Kathy Bova and her team in Education and Training. It was a good many years with some good friends.