Learn about Florida Entrepreneur Brian Chapman, Jr.:
After graduating from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2005, Brian Chapman, Jr., founder and owner of Chapman Insurance Group, started his insurance career at State Farm. The plan was to eventually own and run his own State Farm office. Those plans changed when the marketplace for homeowner's insurance went through significant changes in 2008 and 2009. Chapman explained, "At the time, State Farm made the decision to cancel hundreds of thousands of policy holders. When you write insurance with one company, such as State Farm, you have to be okay with whatever they do. That didn't sit well with me. I also knew I would never be able to report to someone on a daily basis. It just didn't fit my makeup."
In April of 2009, Chapman left State Farm and founded Chapman Insurance Group. Chapman started in a small office with two employees he brought over, with his dad's blessing, from State Farm. In July of that year, he hired his sister-in-law. For the first year, the four person team worked hard to develop their reputation as a trustworthy and knowledgeable independent agency with access to top-rated carriers.
Chapman shared many of the questions and concerns that the team had to answer and deal with during those first few years. "To be honest, I never want to do it again," he said about having to build a new agency from scratch. "We had to figure everything out. That included things like, how are we going to store all of our clients information, what email system do we use, what phone system and what do we have to do to be in compliance with the state? The number of things that needed to get done that had nothing to do with talking to clients about insurance was mind-boggling. Nevertheless, we knew it was going to work and we were determined to figure it out. A lot of that confidence came from being in a world where we had the previous insurance knowledge. I can still remember some of our early milestones when we hit 30, then 50 and then 100 new policies in a month."
Chapman and his first three employees, along with five more he hired along the way, worked out of the original office for three years. On Memorial Day Weekend of 2012, they moved to a larger location in Port Charlotte. Chapman continued to build out the agency and hired new agents. In 2015, they opened a second office in Punta Gorda and a third in Cape Coral. Fast forward to this past Memorial Day, and Chapman is set to open a fourth location in Fort Myers. They've also continued to hire. As of today, Chapman Insurance Group employs 32 agents throughout Southwest Florida.
As with most small businesses, managing that many personalities can be a challenge. "We've had the patience necessary to build a good team," Chapman said. "We thoroughly vet our people and we do everything we can to make sure they feel appreciated and that they understand our culture. We make sure they understand that everything they do impacts the brand. Our new people become part of our foundation. Part of that foundation is the importance we place on protecting the brand."
Chapman and his team focus on their brand, but also on building relationships as a way to set themselves apart from the competition. Getting involved in the community has made a real positive impact on the business. Chapman also credits their strong lineup of carriers as helping them to standout from competitors. "I figured out early on who we needed to write with and I would go on the hunt to get those carriers," he said. "I would even ask clients, whose business we lost, to share where they took their business and why."
For Chapman, the most challenging part of running the business is finding the ideal point where the human capital investment produces the required returns to turn a profit and to allow for some re-investment of profits to further grow the business. Chapman shared that he's currently re-investing hundreds of thousands of dollars each year back into the company. What Chapman enjoys most about running the business is, "casting the vision".
"Our vision and culture when we just had four employees was simple," he said. "Just write a lot of business and we'll do okay. It's not so simple now. I'm the visionary. It's up to me to build the village and lead the charge to where we want to go. The most rewarding part of it all is finding great people to compliment that vision and to be part of the team. I'm constantly casting out the vision and looking at what we're going to do, how many people we're going to need, how many locations, how much space and ultimately letting my team make it happen."
Chapman Insurance Group is currently growing at 20% per year. Chapman explained that they're on track to double their revenues about every three and a half years. Looking ahead, Chapman put together an organizational chart and mapped out what layers they need in place for a six location operation. His ultimate goal is to push his top line revenue as high as possible and to build his company into a solid asset.
What advice does Chapman have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Learn to adapt," he said. "Also, know when to move on. Ultimately you have to find what you love to do. For the days that are hard, if you don't love it, it'll be too easy to give up. Don't be afraid to ask for advice. If there's been a trail blazed and it works, follow it. Think about who else has done it and how they are doing it. I did insurance before starting my own agency, but I was never an independent agent. I scheduled meetings with other independent agents to learn about it. Finally, know your weaknesses and surround yourself with folks that make up for them. My number two and three people in the organization help to balance out the side I don't have."
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