Mike Albert – Co-founder of Ask Kodiak on the Connected Insurance Podcast presented by Agency Revolution

What’s wrong with commercial insurance today?

Mike Albert, co-founder of Ask Kodiak, has some ideas about what’s wrong with commercial insurance and he’s actively working on fixing some of the problems. This seasoned insurance and technology veteran shares his insights freely:

  • How to preserve the strengths of the commercial lines placement process (and he believes that it has some built-in strengths) without making customers wait so long (or worse yet, buy inferior insurance).
  • THREE WORDS that agents need to hear if they’re going to thrive in the modern insurance world. (You probably guessed it… it absolutely has something to do with being different!).
  • Advice to commercial agents who want to thrive in the future – and what that future looks like for today’s agent.

Please join this insightful and powerful conversation, as Mike holds nothing back on how insurance can be better… and what we can do to make that happen.

What are other agents & brokers doing to thrive? What are the biggest trends affecting the retail insurance agent & broker? What are the most important strategies and tactics you need to grow faster? Find out here in the Connected Insurance Podcast, where Michael Jans discusses the biggest issues affecting the independent insurance agent and broker with the industries leading figures. 

One More Thing! What do you think? How will you and your peers use this to grow your agency or brokerage? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, subscribe to get updates delivered to you and *please share this if you found it informative.


Michael Jans: Mike Albert, thank you so much for joining us. How are you today?

Mike Albert: I’m doing well. How are you?

Michael: I’m very, very good. Thank you so much. First thing I’ll ask you is for a short thumbnail on your background and what led you to this interesting and important place you are in the industry right now?

Mike: Yes, sounds good. Everybody’s got their insurance story about how they ended up in the industry. Mine started in rural Pennsylvania, working for a Mutual Insurance Company, hooking their policy administration system up with agent desktops at a custom agency management system. I started out by doing a couple of projects as a consultant. Unfortunately, with that on my resume, I’ve been unable to escape insurance since.

Michael: Okay, so insurance wasn’t what you were dreaming of as a young lad.

Mike: I can let comment and say now that it was.

Michael: Yes, now that it was [laughs]. All right. You worked for a carrier that they had, like you said, a custom management system?

Mike: Yes indeed. They had a relatively small footprint install the management system that was just sort of regional. They were trying to try to hook it to their policy administration system to rate. I got in there as a consultant and helped them hook that up. Unfortunately, it ended up with things like AL3 and policy administration systems and agents and carriers on my resume, and landed here in Boston, and started out with a company called Agency Fort, where I was for quite a few years before starting Ask Kodiak almost three years ago– more than three years ago.

Michael: Got it, okay. Ask Kodiak started three years ago. You’re a co-founder, right?

Mike: Yes indeed.

Michael: Your current position is?

Mike: Jack of all trades.

Michael: Jack of all trades. Okay. [laughs]

Mike: Mr Whatever it is.

Michael: You are a programmer, am I right?

Mike: Yes. I’d probably struggle to define myself, quite honestly. It’s very much a next man up mindset here at our company. Whatever needs to be done, whether it’s writing code, or whether it’s dealing with a customer issue, or support, or even accounting, it’s all within the job description.

Michael: Got it. All right. For more than three years, you’ve been doing that with Ask Kodiak. We’ll dive into what you’re doing and what the problem is that the company’s attempting to solve. We’ll do that in a bit. But first, I do want to start out with big picture. You’ve been in the industry for a while. Obviously you started something to solve problems. From your point of view, what do you think is wrong with insurance today?

Mike: [laughs] Oh boy, where do I start?

Michael: [laughs] I know you just well enough and Ask Kodiak well enough to have a feeling that maybe that’s a question that would stimulate an interesting answer from you.

Mike: For sure. Look, anybody who is similarly minded can look at insurance and realize how much opportunity there is to do things better. That spans everything from distribution to underwriting. There’s no area of insurance that anyone could look at with a straight face and say we got that exactly right.

Michael: Okay, but let’s give it some credit. It’s obviously evolved organically, on its own, for many hundreds of years and delivered an excellent service or product. The reason I’m asking the question, it’s not because I was the first person to think of that question. It seems to me that a lot of people are asking, “What’s wrong with insurance right now?” Because it seems to be ripe for, some people might say disruption, and some people might say some decent solutions. From your point of view, yes, you would said it’s almost hard to look at the industry right now and not find things that are wrong with it. Specifically, let’s break this into some chunks. From a consumer’s point of view, what do you think is wrong with insurance today?

Mike: There’s [inaudible 00:07:59] socialize here. Here’s one interesting thing that I see all the time, is you get, especially folks from the outside, looking at insurance, the industry, and really trying to define it as a thing. One of the things that folks that have been in the industry certainly appreciate, that I think outsiders sometimes don’t, is how different segments of the market really are from one another.

Michael: Right.

Mike: I’m backing the question about what it’s like for consumers and on the direct side but, you know what? I love it when people say insurance and mean auto insurance, business insurance, homeowners insurance, and special events insurance, but then when you really dig in and start to realize how different commercial is from personal– from specialty both from a product design standpoint, from a consumer market standpoint, from a regulatory standpoint, we start to appreciate the nuance and you’re like, “Wait a minute. These are actually kind of different businesses in a lot of ways.” The area that we focus on is commercial insurance. Certainly less so than personal insurance.

I think a lot of outsiders look at commercial right now, and they say to themselves, “Wow, that’s really interesting because there’s so much opportunity there,” which isn’t to say necessarily anything’s wrong with it, but that there’s a lot of money that people look at, potentially making by doing things differently in business insurance in particular. You see a lot of the efforts being made right now in the direct space to get closer to the policyholders. Whether you’re an insurer, or a digital brokerage, or even a traditional brokerage. From a consumer standpoint, a lot of challenges that can be solved with technology, both in terms of helping them understand and qualify the kinds of products that they need, and then ultimately buy those products in a shopping experience, it’s a little bit more modern than the traditionally seen in insurance.

Michael: All right. Let’s take from a carrier’s point of view, their participation in the industry, and we can focus on commercial, what do you think is not working well there?

Mike: I think one of the challenges that carriers continue to have, and I don’t know if there is a magic way to get around it, is that they’re encumbered by this legacy system projects. A lot of people too are encumbered by legacy system. In my experience, their intellectual capital resource shut by all these perpetual policy administration system with basement projects. They start these things and they’re hard, they’re really hard; data conversion, technology implications, operation implications.

They take a really long time to do it to the point where folks start these projects and by the time they finish they need to start over again. I see this all the time from carriers, isn’t that they don’t want to participate in the modern world or do things with some of these new digital partners, it’s just that they don’t know how technologically, because they’ve got the back track of this systems they really weren’t designed to do it. They don’t really have the time and energy because these other projects can be so all consuming. If I were to really simplify my answer there, I think there is a problem with destruction that comes from a legacy technology, as much as the legacy technology is the inhibitor.

Michael: Now, from the retail agency point of view, what do you think is wrong with insurance? What’s not working?

Mike: Systems in general, technology for agents isn’t very good. There is some cool things happening, there is certain change in that. A lot of our partners are doing some very interesting things, but it’s been an underserved market from a technology standpoint. A lot of the same technology and base explores that you would have seen 15, 20 even more than that years ago are still in place. If you think about consumer technology, on the other hand, like how many times you got this iPhone and maybe you’re on four years after in 2007.

How many times have you gotten new iPhone since then? You’ve already gotten-

Michael: You can’t even keep up. Then when you get the new iPhone or the new Android, you can’t hardly keep up with the apps and everybody thinks you should have.

Mike: Now when you added in 18 months, meanwhile like we’re talking 18 years and 20 years and 25 years insurance that some of this agency tech has been since after. I think from a retail agency standpoint, that’s an incumbency. I also think that there is a– it’s hard to paint retail agents with a broad brush, because they’re so different. We had some of them on our platform and if you look at the profile, they really do run the gamut.

There is some cultural things there too, which is to say there is a segment and it’s not the whole agency base, but there is a segment of the retail agency base that has been doing business a certain way, probably not folks listening to a podcast necessarily. These guys are potentially their own worst enemies as far as new technology goes and maybe are missing some opportunities, simply because they either don’t want to or don’t know to look for.

Michael: What does the future look like for that kind of agent?

Mike: They’re going to get acquired when that person is not after looking for the new anymore, finally gives up on the business or a family member or younger generation is going to take over.

Michael: Are you seeing that with the users of your platform that sometimes, it is generation two or whatever the next upcoming generation is more likely to embrace Ask Kodiac, or other technologies than perhaps the retiring generation?

Mike: Yes. I think nothing more than just taking a look at things with a fresh set of eyes and saying, “Wait a minute, we don’t have to do it this way, lets just wait a minute, step back and see if there is a better way to solve any particular challenge.” In our world is again for signing up for example like as codec on a website, to others that I have seen actually out there developing software and getting really, really deep on the charge.

Michael: Okay. I pushed you through three questions, what do you think is wrong with insurance? We went through carrier side, consumer side, agency side and a common theme. Of course this may have something to do with the guy that I’m talking to, but common theme was technology for all three levels, right?

Mike: Yes, and that’s probably like you said because of who you’re talking to, but yes.

Michael: Well, you might have something to do with it, but frankly I think we’d find agreement with practically everybody else that I’ve talked to. That being said, do you think it’s because technology in the insurance industry is a take or two behind what consumers are used to in other industries?

Mike: It’s way behind. If you are building a new company or even if you are developing new technology under the apps of an existing company, it’s almost like cheating because you can just go find an adjacent in another industry and bring it in and it look like a future. It’s about bringing fresh [unintelligible 00:15:36] on the work.

Michael: You are on the leading edge of something that broke ground in other industries 10 years ago, or something like that?

Mike: Unlike before, there is a lot of opportunity to look at adjacent spaces and fit it. Look, we can take this pattern and bring it over here and this is going to work really well.

Michael: Okay. There is dichotomy between– because we hear this so often, insurance is slow, insurance is creaky, there is insurance speed, but then there is internet speed. A number of my guests have also said, “Consumers are so used to this bar, a higher bar being set by other industries that we’re not matching.” Why do you think that is?

Mike: Good question.

Michael: I think there are good reasons, it’s always a little bit under my skin because clearly there are innovative people in the insurance industry, I’ve worked with them for decades.

Mike: No doubt, I think that sometimes that whole story gets a little bit too much weight, there is consumers into Amazon and Apple and Google and why can’t insurance be like that? Maybe in certain segments, it can. Like I said earlier, if you look at a segment of insurance like renters insurance, okay cool, that’s a much more simplistic product than writing geo for a multi-location car dealership. The bottom line is, insurance is so different because, and I think the slowness comes from this, the buying cycle is so slow.

If you are in a market for an insurance policy once a year at best, if you choose to renew it, unless the contract necessitates you go buy sometimes a new coverage, it’s not a frequent buying experience, and that’s why it’s not something that buyers are particularly comfortable purchasing, to practice doing it. There are complex financial products, which is why the whole shopping thing maybe gets a little too much emphasis.

I really see this, especially with the younger and especially with more complex insurance products, not just the willingness but a want to just offload it. I’ll let this other guy deal with it, a.k.a my agent or whatever you want to call it. Maybe the other guy takes the form of a website, but somebody else is going to get me what I need. I don’t need to think about the details of the cyber coverage that I’m buying and making sure I am not missing a key coverage that I should have.

Michael: What do you think the future of insurance looks like? You can pick your own imaginary point on the calendar, but how does the future look different than today?

Mike: You’ve got to look backwards and realize insurance has always been a person to person business. It’s always been complex, it’s always been highly fragmented both in terms of the insurers and the underwriting capacity, and also the distribution side. I think if this further is that it’s going to be more of the same, but I think technology will play a bigger role as a piece of the whole thing. I think there is always a, particularly with Centric Apple or as with new space, this whole idea that, “I’m going to get disrupted and this one company is going to be in charge of every company name here of insurance,” but I don’t think it’ll do that. I think it’ll continue distributing now which is veneration, you’ll see new companies get built and grow and be very successful. You’ll see old companies continue to grow and be successful. All of it will, we hope, use technology more effectively to reduce cost and to improve customer experience off the value chain.

Michael: All right. Your company operates in the commercialized universe exclusively, right?

Mike: Pretty much. We did do some personal, but generally speaking, it’s what our product does, is if you are a retail agent historically, what you’d have to do is that lets say you’ve got an opportunity to write business for an accountant in Missouri, you’re having to go to your different carrier website towards like trust your intrinsic knowledge or I don’t care who wrote the last account they did in Missouri.

What we’re doing with our platform is really building a search bar the agents can use to qualify an opportunity across all their markets so they understand the right place to go. The lion’s share of that opportunity has been in commercial lines because it’s harder, it’s ditchier, it’s more specific to class or to geography than personal lines is. That being said, we do do some personal lines, but the user demand has really been driving us to commercial and specialty in particular.

Michael: All right. Real quick, before– I want to dive into how you’re solving a problem on the commercial lines space. Any observations about how the industry is stepping up to the challenges and meeting the challenges on the personal lines side?

Mike: Yes, yes, definitely. What you see happening on the personal lines side is a much higher income– going back to the technology neighborhood– but a much-

Michael: [laughs] We never left said neighborhood.

Mike: – a pretty sophisticated set of new capabilities in terms of online underwriting, in particular for– I mean auto it’s sort of over, you can pretty much– If you wanted to get a quote on your auto, you could go do so in a couple of minutes no matter who you are or where you are, at this point. There’s a variety of online sources-

Michael: A consumer could do that, is what you’re saying.

Mike: Yes, precisely. Now, you’re starting to see that more so in a real meaningful way in homeowners and in ventures insurance. I don’t know if you’ve had the Swift guys on your program at all, but they’ve got a really great homeowners workflow as far as just putting in your address and using public data to fill out everything else to get a quote. That kind of thing is what I see happening on personal lines, a much higher degree of automation, but that’s at least a more enhanced sales experience, and overall a more optimized workflow that might still involve an agent, but it’s just easier for everybody involved.

Michael: Okay. Now, let’s move over to commercial lines. First of all, your company, three plus years old, of which you are a co-founder, you’re attempting to solve a problem on the commercial lines side. First, can you identify that problem that you’re trying to solve?

Mike: Yes, yes, definitely. Especially nowadays, what with the prevalence of really good data to make underwriting decisions based on, insurers can be very specific about what they want. We, my co-founder and I, have worked for a lot of years helping the insurance companies build agent portals, build other technology, and as part of that, have realized how fluid their products are. We’re getting into this new set of classes with designed and tailored, brand-new product for the masonry industry, or for retailers or wholesalers operations.

What we’re doing with our platform is giving them a way to make sure that everybody on the distribution side understands that and has the latest, greatest profile on the kinds of business they want to write. As they’re coming in out of markets, on the other side, retail agents and even wholesale agents have this really simple tool they used to [unintelligible 00:23:39] This is my go-to guy for this opportunity that I have.

Michael: All right, Mike, I want to ask you, in the commercial lines arena, can you describe what the problem is that you are now attempting to solve with Ask Kodiak?

Mike: Yes, of course. For insurers, we’re just trying to make sure that everybody in their distribution force and in the extended distribution force at large understands their products and knows what it is they want to write. On the other side, we’re helping agents and brokers understand what the right– what the best product is for the opportunities they have at hand. Trying to take a little bit of the inefficiency out of the placement process when it comes to market selection.

Michael: Got it. Can I suggest that there is not a little inefficiency [laughs] in that part of the process, that there’s a great deal of inefficiency? Is that fair?

Mike: That’s fair. It grows based on the size of the agency. For somebody that’s a small mom-and-pop that only does a couple of commercial insurance policies a month, it’s sort of a “whatever” problem. As you get bigger, into some of the commercial lines brokerages, certainly with any sort of new digital agency who’s dealing with opportunities that are all over the country in a variety of different classes, that problem grows exponentially. Frankly, I hear all the time from carriers: “Oh, I know- my agents know what we write.” The minute you dig in and start talking [unintelligible 00:25:10] There’s definitely a disconnect there sometimes, and we’re trying to help bridge that gap and make sure that everybody’s on the same page.

Michael: Okay. So, in fact, a lot of retail agents, they really don’t know everything that all of their carriers write.

Mike: No, and some of what’s based on bad information. You submit something one time and get turned down. Now all of a sudden, “Okay, well, those guys don’t want–”

Michael: “They have no appetite for that.” Right.

Mike: Meanwhile, they spend six months on rolling out a whole new system and program for it, and you never try it again because you think it’s just going to be “no.”

Michael: And how are you going to find out about it? Well, one way is the very, very expensive model that’s so popular in the insurance industry and has been for over a hundred years, which is the marketing rep going around, knocking on doors like a foot brush salesperson and cheering. I’m not saying that that model needs to be tossed out, and maybe this is a different conversation [laughs] when I’m the guest on a podcast.

Mike: There you go.

Michael: But it does seem that that clearly is a very old-school methodology that-

Mike: For sure.

Michael: – and at a minimum it should be supplemented by some other methodologies.

Mike: Absolutely. The thing of it– The idea is a tool that can enhance– We hear that from agents all the time: “Man, I gotta go sit with the marketing rep for the rest of the afternoon. I got stuff to do. I don’t have time for this.”

Michael: Yes, okay. Well, and it’s generally not something– So that conversation between the carrier and the agency usually happens at a time of inconvenience.

Mike: Yes, absolutely.

Michael: So, in other words, the time of convenience to find out who writes this is when I have a customer or a prospect who wants this, but when we usually have to learn about what Carrier X has, it’s when Carrier X’s marketing rep happens to be in the neighborhood.

Mike: Compounding the problem– These are complex desc– You’re not going to retain it all anyway. Furthermore, Carrier X is describing it differently than Carrier Y who’s describing it differently than Carrier Z, and it’s just mind-numbing.

Michael: Now we get to the solution that you’re putting forward for the industry. Is it safe to say, and I may have gotten this from studying your literature, that you would describe this as a commercial lines search engine?

Mike: Yes, I think that’s safe to say, for sure. We’re trying to create a user experience that’s really as simple as a Google search. Who wants to write this particular-

Michael: Let’s walk through one. Pick a niche, and let’s walk through what actually happens in a retail agent’s day when they get on Ask Kodiak.

Mike: Sure. Let’s talk about the retail agent being a relatively small agency. Let’s think about a customer coming in their front door that has an opportunity to write insurance for a baker. I think a baker because that’s a funny class because there’s a bakery class code– this isn’t in our system, but this is out there in insurance rating land– that is “we’re eligible for bakeries without baking on premise.” I’d make the argument that’s the stupidest class code I’ve ever heard. I understand why you did it, but if it’s a bakery, they’re going to be doing some baking on premises.

Mike: So in comes the baker to the insurance agent’s office who needs some kind of insurance coverage right now. The process for that agent is to pop open, for the most part, given the probably a small business class, to pop open five or six or ten carrier websites that they’re working with and get to screen two or three or four to find out, “Okay, here’s all the considerations for bakers.”

Mike: What we’re doing with our platform is giving them a way– Again, on askkodiak.com or on [unintelligible 00:29:08] and other platforms, and we can talk about some of our partners-

Michael: Okay.

Mike: – to say, “All right, cool, I’ve got a baker who needs GL. Talk to me about what the best market is, and give me all the current information about why the individual insurer’s product is the best product to go with for a baker.”

Michael: If I’m the agent, how much data am I inputting before I get the answer.

Mike: What they do, maybe where they are. There’s a little slider to say about how big a policy it’s going to be in terms of annual premium, but this is not an intensive-

Michael: We’re not approaching an application.

Mike: Gosh, no.

Michael: All right, but some basic information, and enough information, am I right? That you’re going to be able to target or tailor your algorithm. Can target or tailor the information that I want to what I want. We’re not talking about the largest bakery in the world. I don’t want that insurance.

Mike: Correct.

Michael: Okay. Got it. How long does that take?

Mike: A couple of seconds.

Michael: [chuckles] A couple of seconds. I’m not opening up 5 or 10 websites. I’m not having to go to screen three or four on each one. I’m going to your website. I’m entering a few pieces of data. I’m getting an answer. Each shows me what a display of the products that are available from multiple carriers.

Mike: Got it. That’s just it. There’s always a sensitivity for us carriers that don’t want to be spreadsheeted because their products are different. That’s actually true. The contract languages are obviously different from BOP to BOP. In particular, in terms of what they’ll cover. What we’re doing with our platform is not creating a scenario where it’s like, “This guy is the same as the next guy. Is the same as the next guy”.

Our platform actually it helps them the carrier, the insured, to tell that retail agent we’re just describing the story about why their product is the go-to product for bakeries of this particular size in this particular state.

Michael: What am I going to get? Clearly, it’s in the insurer’s interest to make sure that I, let’s say, “I’m going to play the retail agent-

Mike: Definitely.

Michael: – this little role play” then I pick the best product and ideally if it’s theirs, it’s fair enough. It’s in my interest that I protect. That I choose the best product. Clearly, the consumer who we’re trying to serve deserves the best product. How much data? How does Ask Kodiak help me arrive at the right decision?

Mike: It’s those dimensions that we talked about. It’s what the business does, where the business is, roughly how big the risk is going to be. There’s some additional dimensions too about the kind of insurer you’re looking for that’s in admitted market. All these things are optional. You can get specific if you want or be as vague as you want. But the idea here is to help the agent understand, “Here’s the go-to”. Not just go-to carrier, but “Here’s the specific product for that carrier. Here’s the specific next steps for that product”.

Hopefully, a website that you can click and drop right into or worst case scenario, a phone number or contact information for a person who can get you started. On a flip side, to make sure that given those dimensions that the agents put in, again, what the business does, where the business is and how big the business is, is to tell the story about why this product is special. We provide the insurer the ability to conditionally display some of these marketing highlights.

If I’m a baker, she’ll understand. “Here’s why we’re [unintelligible 00:32:54] for bakers. We’ve got this great program. We’re okay with picking on premises and all these other criteria”. They can actually get out there and make the case to the agent, but also give the agent some ammunition to make the case to their customer about why this is the go-to coverage for them.

Michael: Got it. All right. I noticed in reviewing while your press releases, that you’ve created some official partnerships with some other insured text including some that we’ve interviewed on the series. For example, Bold Penguin is an official partner of Ask Kodiak.

Mike: They are.

Michael: How does that work?

Mike: They are. I’ll tell you, philosophically, we are very much an open platform. Our job is to help solve the problem that I described earlier, whether it’s a home game or an away game. Whether that problem’s being solved on our platform or on our partner’s platform. Bold Penguin is just described as well as some others.

All have access to our API, which by the way so do our customers, so do our partners, so do our agents. They can use the information in their own work clothes and then their own places. Whether you’ve got a platform that’s managing incoming opportunities, businesses that need insurance, or whether you’ve got that agency management that’s more perfect from that. What we do with our API is provide the ability to do that kind of product selection wherever it needs to happen.

Michael: Okay. You don’t have any direct to consumer interface. Am I right about that?

Mike: We do not right now. We’ll see if we get there one day, but not right now. No.

Michael: Okay. Got it. All right. Now, having shared your story of Ask Kodiak, when you look at the future of insurance, and you can include your story in it, five years from now or whatever, let’s say five years from now, is it radically different day today than it is today, or are we incrementally getting to a new future?

Mike: I’d like to say, “Some things are radically different”, although realistically, it’s probably more incremental. The radical change will mostly come on the distribution side. In particular, in terms of how folks are out there, are marketing their products to agents and brokers and also to consumers. We see a lot of our partners on the insurer side really focusing on the experience much more so than-

Michael: On the insurer, side focusing on the experience.

Mike: On the customer experience. Where the customer including-

Michael: No. You’re right. There are a lot of reasons for that.

Mike: Many of that, by the way, counts agents as customers.

Michael: Yes. Indeed.

Mike: If you talk to these guys, they’ll generally wrap everybody under that same customer umbrella. The good thing that’s happening out there is people are finally starting to look outside the wall. It gets back to what we talked about earlier on about it.

Michael: Right.

Mike: You can find the use adjacent to some other industries. You can learn a lot by just stopping the sort of insurance group think and hitting out a little bit. Leave the office, go talk to somebody else, go learn some new ways to doing things and bring it back in. I’ve seen some really cool iterations with that particularly in the distribution side when you think of doing that.

Michael: Okay. All right. I want you to share what you can, here. You work with a lot of agents. No doubt, you probably have had some observations about agents who are on the cutting edge and growing faster than their competitors, versus the agent who’s willing to let this year be like last year, and last year, of course, was like the previous 20 years.

Mike: Correct.

Michael: What do you think is the difference between the group I first mentioned who probably is going to own the future, and this other group of agents who broadly putting everybody into buckets which is a little dangerous? Making a little bit of a generalization, but there are those who are embracing today and embracing cutting-edge technologies and those who are not. Maybe I just described it, but what do you see as the difference between the agents who are really making a difference and the ones who aren’t?

Mike: It’s a 100. When I think about our business, and the way that we operate day to day is another startup. It’s aggressively [unintelligible 00:37:59] . It’s being opportunistic. It’s ultimately trying to be successful by keeping customers happy and by growing our business.

There’s that mode where you’re just not comfortable. Your very existence depends on your ability to hustle. That typifies that one group that you described. Here’s some of the ideas that sort of classic sad and happy. There’s a lot of that going on in insurance. That’s more of if it ain’t broke,don’t fix it. It’s okay to distribute the same as last year. Even a little of that smile or don’t have that long to go, etcetera. Again, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but they’re a very different mindset. The hungry versus satisfied philosophy. That describes it.

Michael: Hungry versus satisfied. If I was going to ask you to deliver a message– Let’s play it. Let’s play the game this way. Let’s play the good work game. You get to put that message on a billboard. It’s really big. Everybody in the industry gets to read it, but they’re all driving 65 miles an hour down insurance highway, so they don’t have much time. If it’s much more than 10 words, you’re probably not


going to get the message across. If you wanted to deliver a message, and let’s deliver it to the retail sector, what would you say?

Mike: Do something different.

Michael: Ah. Okay.


Mike: I don’t even care what, because it’s not, “Albert, this one piece of [unintelligible 00:39:38]. If you just change the way our agency management says or whatever. It’s like get yourself into the mindset of trying new things. It’s the truth for what you’re talking about. Retail agents or a carrier or a broker or whoever. It’s operationalized trying new stuff. Getting it wrong. Getting it right. Going through the process. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges the industry has, is they don’t know how to do your thing because they take everything so– maybe too seriously sometimes a little too risk-averse.

Michael: By nature, yes, this is a risk-averse industry-

Mike: Of course. Of course.

Michael: -but that’s probably sometimes a dangerous mindset for an entrepreneur.

Mike: For sure.

Michael: Mike, if our listeners have any questions for you, if they want to find out more about Ask Kodiac, if they want to pick your brain because you’re such a smart guy, whatever, how should they reach out to you?

Mike: Yes, I mean we’re at www.askkodiak.com. There’s a new [unintelligible 00:40:47] agents out there, welcome you to check out the site if for no other reason than to give me some feedback on what we’re doing.

Michael: Okay, so you’re at www.askkodiac.com, and I’m going to ask a question on behalf of my listeners who might be wondering. Why are you “Ask Kodiak”?

Mike: [laughs] We sat down to name the company, and one of the first things we said is, “All right, we don’t want to have this sound like an insurance brand.” So, we started-

Michael: [laughs]

Mike: -working on different ideas and my partner, Allan, happened to be going through slides that his dad had taken doing some work with big game and particularly Kodiak bears in Alaska [crosstalk] we’re talking digitize his dad’s slide, and he said “Oh, look, Kodiak,” and so we started kind of going down the Kodiak [unintelligible 00:41:35] for two minutes and realized kodiak.com was $250,000, but if we just said “Ask Kodiak”, all of a sudden we’re down to $11.99.

Michael: [laughs]

Mike: The concept is to sound different and the “ask” was out of necessity to get the domain.

Michael: Essentially, that is exactly what your users do, is they ask you something– [crosstalk] -Fair enough, okay, got it. So, we saved almost a quarter of a million dollars by adding those three letters.

Mike: Buddy.

Michael: Good choice. All righty. So, again, you’re on askkodiac.com if anybody has any questions. Anything else? I’m not going to deluge you with phone calls, but if somebody–


if somebody would want to reach out to you, email, or what’s the best way?

Mike: Yes, I’m [email protected]. We’re also very active on Twitter @askkodiak. There is a pretty good agent community out there too, believe it or not, that we try to interact with- [crosstalk]

Michael: On Twitter?

Mike: -on Twitter.

Michael: That is a conversation perhaps for a different podcast. [crosstalk] My audience may know, maybe they’d notice. I’ve been socially active for years, but when I sold Agency Revolution, I just bagged it all and took a break. [chuckles] I was active on Twitter for quite a while-

Mike: [laughs]

Michael: -but got very little traction, so I’m happy to hear that Twitter seems to be growing as a viable community for insurance agents.

Mike: It is, I think people are starting to look at it differently finally, which is great. The early rush was to just put these systems in place where they were scheduling tweets, and hey-

Michael: [chuckles]

Mike: -let’s put “vacation time”, make sure, look, your house this summer. Don’t want everybody on social media to know you’re not at home-

Michael: [laughs]

Mike: -like all that stupid stuff.

Michael: [laughs] Yes, fair enough.

Mike: I hate that. I think the real opportunity is starting to reveal itself, but wait a minute, that’s a chance for you to build your brand by being yourself, and creating a personality for it above and beyond just spa campaigns and stupid clip art, and stock photography and really interacting with your constituents.

Michael: All righty. Mike, this has been a pleasure. There’s a lot more that we could talk about, like your Insurtech conference in Boston, but I’ll let people do some research on that. We’ll leave a few open loops and maybe we’ll do this, we’ll revisit it again at some point in the future. Thank you so much.

Mike: Sounds like a plan to me.

Michael: Thank you so much for sharing your time and sharing your wisdom with us.

Mike: Thanks for having me.

Michael: You bet.

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