In July 2010, AgencyEquity permanently went online after months of testing. It had links to lists of retail and wholesale insurance agencies for sale, agencies looking to buy, and Allstate agencies for sale. It also had postings from agencies looking for merger partners and those looking to buy or sell books of business. Listings of agencies for sale were lean. “We were happy to get one per week,” admits Joe Totah, AgencyEquity’s president. “Visitors were just getting to know the site, though some really didn’t really understand it.”
About a year later, it featured a more streamlined look. Questions on every agency principal’s mind were prominent in the center of the home page. These included questions like, “How do I get carrier appointments?” and “Which agency management system should I get?” The list of support services had doubled. Visitors could get information about how to start an agency and shop for E&O insurance. By the third year, Totah says, people were starting to say, “We should do business together.”
Also by the third anniversary in 2013, the site had a blog stocked with posts by industry experts. Al Diamond, Jack Fries, Jon Persky, Dan Menzer and Timothy Cunningham all contributed posts. Visitors could find in-depth discussions on perpetuation, producer compensation, automation, errors and omissions loss prevention, and mergers and acquisitions.
By July 2014, an “ask the experts” service had been added. Visitors could post questions about all aspects of running an agency and receive informed answers. Topics ranged from starting an agency to valuing books of business and potential acquisitions, to how producers can position themselves to become owners.
As the site’s content expanded, so did the number of visitors. The site recorded only 135 visits in that first month. Monthly traffic was up to more than 2,200 after six months; more than 5,000 after a year; and 11,200 after two years. In the first three months of 2015, traffic averaged 24,000 visits and about 150,000 page views, averaging about 7 pages views per visit.
Totah attributes the growth in traffic to the site meeting the needs of its target market – agency principals. Because he had been an agency owner, he knew what was important to them. “I don’t think I could have done this as an outsider. As a former insurance agency principal, the experience of knowing what is important to insurance agency principals was huge.”
He never wanted the site to be all things to all people. “The site is here to meet the long term strategic needs of the agency owner,” he says, “and making resources available to help them make this happen.”
Some of AgencyEquity’s partners have been with it since the very beginning. Oak Street Funding had a listing under the original “Agency Loans” link, and it still has one today. “AgencyEquity.com is a great website for insurance industry professionals — both large and small — to find relevant and valuable information and resources,” says Oak Street Funding CEO and Founder Rick Dennen. “Oak Street Funding immediately recognized the value of the site during its start-up phase in 2010. Since that time, we’ve built several long-term customer relationships that can be directly attributed to AgencyEquity.com.”
Other initial advertising partners included Agency Brokerage Consultants, Capital Resources, E&O for Less, InsureZone (Formerly MSI), MKL – Agency Broker, Next Wave Marketing, Oak Street Funding, Optimum Performance Solutions, Optis Partners, Quivira Capital and Strategic Independent Agents Alliance (SIAA).
Today, AgencyEquity has a wide variety of content from experts in all facets of the agency business. Visitors can find articles on simplifying work processes, joining a cluster, buying or selling an agency, and technology. The site that used to struggle to get one agency for sale listing a month now averages six a week or around 300 a year. Businesses that were wary about advertising on it before no longer are. Totah says they are now asking to be put on the waiting list for key advertising spots.
Totah expects more upgrades, innovations and improvements in the next five years. He welcomes input from the site’s users. “The key is to bring more resources that insurance agency principals want and make it as easy possible to use.” No matter how many changes it goes through, the site will remain true to its mission: To be the place where agency principals, executives and producers can make connections that will enhance their businesses.