Six years ago, Stan Harrison, Florida native and owner of Stan Harrison Insurance Agency, was presented with an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. After years with State Farm, where Harrison served in a variety of corporate roles in addition to working as an agent, he was given a chance to own and operate his own agency. Harrison shared the story behind his journey, discussed how he’s grown his business and offered some great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
“When I first started with State Farm, not long after graduating from The University of Florida, I worked in the claims division,” Harrison said. “I handled litigation cases involving personal injury protection fraud. I then moved to State Farm’s headquarters in Bloomington, IL, where I worked as a Mutual Funds Consultant and assisted with the rollout of investment divisions for all agencies. I then worked as an Agent and then an Agency Field Consultant in 2008. By 2011, I was working as an executive.”
As an executive, Harrison spent a lot of time traveling across the country. In fact, he visited all 50 states during his work travels. During these trips, his primary job was to build a strong sales force and to help agencies reach their potential. Despite the fact that he loved the challenge of assisting other agents reach their goals, he wanted something different for final chapter of his career.
“Helping new agents and even established agents who lost their passion reach their goals was extremely rewarding,” he said. “However, I knew I wanted to have some more stability prior to retirement. When State Farm presented me with an opportunity in the fall of 2014 to have my own agency in New Smyrna Beach – the only location available at the time in Florida – I took it.”
Immediately prior to moving to New Smyrna Beach in December 2014, Harrison was based out of Oklahoma. After relocating, he met with the existing staff and got to work on creating the type of agency he spent years helping other owners create. He traded his suits and ties for golf polos, added new team members and gradually established the reputation of his agency as one that’s reliable, professional and capable of insuring business owners and individuals with world-class insurance products.
“State Farm is a mutual company owned by its customers,” Harrison said. “It’s a very fair company and one that’s financially strong. We do business based on morals. We also love what we do. We have fun. Personally, I never feel like I’m going to work. I love helping people achieve their goals. Whether it’s someone looking to buy a home, car or business, or someone looking to finance their retirement, we have a solution for every circumstance. From vehicle insurance to homes, group life plans and 401(Ks), we can do it all. We are also one of the only agencies with three education designations: CLU (Chartered Life Underwriter), ChFC (Chartered Financial Consultant) and CASL (Charted Advisor for Senior Living).”
The State Farm model is similar to that of a franchise. Each agency is independent and owners are responsible for hiring, marketing and covering all of their own expenses. They do receive support from State Farm and, according to Harrison, agents still feel very connected to the State Farm brand.
We asked Harrison, who recently relocated his business to a prime location on Canal Street to be more visible to the community, what his biggest challenges are and how he’s grown his agency.
“For every agent, the biggest challenge is recruiting and developing your team,” he said. “The other challenge is business acumen – learning how to run the business while still serving your customers. For me, building a team comes down to a number of things. First of all, it’s important to have leadership, vision and values and to be able to communicate those things to your team. When your team sees that you don’t just talk about, but you actually do what you say, they’ll respond better. It’s also important to focus on how you recruit. I don’t look for skill. I look for honest people with a desire to help others and then develop them from there. I look for heart.”
Harrison added, “In terms of growth, we have such a great team and we’ve done such a good job on the service side of things that our clients can’t wait to tell their friends and neighbors about us. As a result, we have a very organic referral-based growth strategy.”
In addition to servicing his clients, Harrison is also very involved in the community. He sponsors The Academic Angler Children's Fishing Clinic, F.R.E.S.H Book Festival and Roy's Surf Fishing Challenge. He also hosts the Volusia County High School Safety Driving Campaign and serves on several boards including, Advent Health, United Way Campaign for working families and the Southeast Volusia Chamber of Commerce. Harrison also enjoys helping the community in hosting/speaking to groups of potential homeowners, helping others get out of debt and assisting students to drive safely and create positive financial habits.
As Harrison shared, his future goals are simple. “We want to grow our book of business and insure as many lives as possible.”
What advice does Harrison have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Make sure that what you're doing is something you truly care about,” he said. “It’s important to be passionate about it. Don't just do it for the money. It’s also important to be prepared for when things don't go the way you expect them to. Lastly, as a business owner, you want to make sure you have the proper insurance in place, including Business/Key Man life insurance and to save as much money as possible. I’ve seen agencies in the Midwest get destroyed by tornadoes. Fortunately, they were able to recover because they had the proper insurance coverage in place.”