Brightway Insurance aims to grow its company further by empowering its agents,
customers and business partners.
By Bianca Herron
Brightway Insurance’s unique business model is built around the consumer experience, allowing its agents to offer quality customer support and build client relationships.
Founded by brothers David and Michael Miller in 2008, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based company says it has redefined the industry by becoming the first retail insurance provider of its kind to provide the boadest choice in insurance brands.
Nine years later, Brightway has more than 140 stores and has written more than $470 million in annual written premium.
“We have really transformed the insurance buying experience by making it much more consumer friendly,” co-founder David Miller says proudly. “Our customers are able to go to a Brightway location, receive expert consultations and review all insurance brands under one roof. This gives consumers maximum choice and lets our agents customize a package of policies that meet each person’s unique needs.”
Brightway measures its success in only one way: by the success of the company’s agents, or franchisees. When Brightway started, all of its agents had insurance experience, Miller notes. Today, however, that dynamic has shifted, and 40 percent of the company’s top-performing agents had no prior insurance experience. According to Miller, these agents simply desire to own their own successful businesses.
Additionally, Miller notes that Brightway has taken “something complex” and made it simple and approachable. “The reason more people haven’t been interested in insurance is because it’s difficult,” he explains. “You have to figure out things by yourself, which scares off most people.”
Brightway prides itself on providing a comprehensive system of support services for its agents, including back-end office support, accounting, marketing, distribution and business analytics, making getting started with the company easy. “We also handle their appointments with different carriers and provide them with licensing and onboarding training, hiring and other human resources support,” Miller says.
Additionally, Brightway recently implemented a new webinar series highlighting key areas where the company believes it will help its franchisees. “There is an entire suite of services, and an amazing safety net of support we provide,” Miller says. “These things have been made possible because of our senior leadership team, which is comprised of individuals from some of the most successful insurance companies in the nation.”
The goal is to streamline agents’ operations so they have more time to effectively service customers. “At the end of the day our franchisees win in the marketplace,” Miller says. “They outsell non-Brightway agents by an average of two-to-one.”
Staying On Top
Training has been key for the company’s success. With Brightway University, the company provides agents an in-depth and ongoing training program available via online and classroom sessions. “Like any industry, there are always changes, so we have to ensure our people have the skills and training they need to be successful,” Miller notes.
For the program, Brightway hired instructional design and training professionals to build its curriculum. These individuals are “really good teachers,” according to Miller, because they are able to help agents – and their employees – understand the materials. “Some people learn better online, while others need a hands-on approach in the classroom,” he says. “No matter their preference, these individuals make the material real to them so that they can communicate it to our customers.”
In addition, Brightway is in the process of a multimillion-dollar renovation of The Brightway Center, an 86,000-square–foot office building in Jacksonville. The building, which sits on a five-and-a-half acre campus, once housed the local Social Security office. The renovation should be completed by early 2018.
“We’re transforming the look, feel and the way our employees interact and use technology in their workspaces,” Miller explains. “We want them to be more collaborative, so we will have break rooms and other areas where people can work together in ways they were not able to before.
“We have a brand that stands for innovation,” Miller adds. “We seek alignment in everything we do, so our new workplace had to reflect that.”
Agency owner Michael Hatmaker joined the Brightway family in 2009 when he opened his location in Largo, Fla. Though he had no insurance experience, Hatmaker had served as owner and operator of a variety of local businesses. With Brightway’s support, Hatmaker’s agency is now one of the company’s consistently top-selling agencies.
“We have been pretty fortunate to hire good people and have established solid referral networks over the years,” Hatmaker says. “Today, we’re a nearly $12 million agency, with seven employees.”
Though Hatmaker has found success now, that wasn’t always the case as he deviated from the company’s system initially. “When I first started with Brightway, I immediately felt I could do everything better,” he explains. “I made my own system up and, unfortunately, it took me a long time to figure out it wasn’t working. However, when I started using Brightway’s, that’s when all the pieces really started to come together.
“Their system is designed to perform—and it’s been proven,” he continues. “So, when I started to follow the system, that’s when we really started to make real strides. The system allows us to grow at a pace that’s beyond anything most people in the insurance industry are used to. Most importantly, the system allows us to provide as much attention as needed to each customer’s needs. So value-added support services like the Service Center and administrative work are certainly key to our success.”
Like his fellow agency owner Hatmaker, Ray J. Megginson joined the Brightway family without any insurance experience. Megginson had owned and operated a fast-food franchise for six years prior to opening his agency in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in 2016. “Brightway has supported me from the very beginning,” he says. “Whether it was agency support or my distribution consultant, everyone was willing to help as I learned.”
Unlike his prior franchise experience, Megginson notes Brightway’s system also provides him with much more freedom and flexibility. “This model gives you more creative control, but it also teaches you how to thrive on your own with their necessary support,” he says. “The main thing I’ve learned about Brightway is that they are in it together with the Agency Owner and the customer. They want to help us, and in turn we help the customer understand their insurance and what they need.
“Using Brightway’s expert counsel allows us to not only help the customer, but also really develop a relationship with them,” Megginson continues. “So it’s not just about selling them a policy; it’s about their house, family and most-prized possessions.”
Although Brightway has seen significant success over the years, Miller notes the company is still growing. “We are now providing the company with the necessary resources so it can reach its potential,” he says. “That’s why we’ve worked so hard to bring on the right people who in turn can help us reach that potential.
“I really believe we’re in the empowerment business,” he concludes. “Our goal is to help people reach their potential, too. Whether it’s our customers, business partners or employees, we have to provide ongoing development to help them achieve personal goals. That is what drives the growth and economic success of Brightway.”