Money was tight in the business and family for Peter Jason Byrne in 2009. It certainly wasn’t the right time to spend $4,000 on a Vespa he came across on eBay.
“I love vintage and retro things, but that was never going to happen,” said the 10-year MDRT member from Coorparoo, Queensland, Australia. “I was just hoping I could pay the staff’s wages in the next week.”
Two years later, however, Byrne was back on eBay, finances were stronger, and the bike was now priced at $3,800. Byrne still remembers going to pick up the bike and putting it in the back of a big tow truck, which then dropped the newly acquired Vespa at his office.
Wait, at the office?
Indeed, Byrne has occasionally ridden the Vespa down the street, but it remains in the office as a symbol.
I get so many comments of, "Wow, I love coming here because it’s so happy." It looks the same as any office, but the energy and vibe we put out comes through to people.
“The coolest thing for me is that it taught me that you just have to be patient, keep doing the right things and keep working,” he said. “It’s right at the door, so I see it every morning when I walk in and every night when I walk out.
“It’s amazing how many clients ask, ‘What’s the story with the Vespa?’ It’s a good reminder that you can achieve things you may not have been able to in the past, and it’s a good story to tell to encourage my clients to work toward their goals.”
That’s also far from the only technique Byrne uses to inspire clients and staff of his business, Mr. Insurance, which handles life insurance for business owners and families:
- The office includes a “Space Invaders” arcade game, a beer/wine fridge mostly but not always just for clients, and a group “family lunch” every Wednesday. For those lunches, no appointments are booked between noon and 2 p.m. “That mood and energy transfers to how clients are treated,” Byrne said.
- In each weekly team meeting, everyone must thank someone on the team for something they did the previous week that was above and beyond.
- The team takes four fishing trips together each year.
“I get so many comments of, ‘Wow, I love coming here because it’s so happy,’” Byrne said. “It looks the same as any office, but the energy and vibe we put out comes through to people.”
That mentality is also aided by having a staff concierge, a longtime friend and client of Byrne’s who specializes in connecting with clients on a human level and following up with the practice’s professional partners.
In fact, the whole staff — which in total has two advisors, a concierge, a practice manager, an advisor assistant and, two days per week, Byrne’s mother, who makes sure clients are paid up on their premiums — is really empowered.
They have the freedom to use up to $200 at their discretion at any time to help a client as needed (for instance, for flowers or champagne), without having to wait for Byrne’s approval. They also can put any ideas, big or small, into a suggestion box where they are evaluated quarterly.
The box idea was inspired by an apprentice who was very enthusiastic and needed a place to collect all his ideas. Byrne is a carpenter by trade and dubs new advisors “apprentices” to reinforce the learning behind a four-year growth process that begins with understanding administrative tasks, then underwriting, then becoming involved in claims and then sitting in on advisor appointments.
“The mentality is not to complicate things; that box made sure ideas don’t get forgotten but get the right time and thought put into them,” Byrne said. His summary of the box could apply to the entire practice: “Fun but simple.”
Simple ideas for reaching clients and prospects
Let’s play a game. You pick which one of these things is not like the other:
- Teddy bears
- Fresh-made, customized cupcakes
- Financial services practices
Most may choose D. If you’re Peter Byrne, though, your answer would be E. None of the above. Byrne incorporates the first three elements into his Mr. Insurance practice. He’s seen remarkable results:
Like many practices, Byrne was sending out a gift basket to clients when they had a child. But he wanted something that better represented who he and his business were. So they started including a teddy bear wearing a shirt with the Mr. Insurance logo on it. Soon parents were posting a picture of the baby along with the Mr. Insurance teddy bear.
Plus, the teddy bears aren’t just for new arrivals, or kids at all. Byrne might give them to an executive who breaks an ankle on a ski trip and comes in on crutches to fill out a claim form, or a client in the hospital who might like the teddy bear more than flowers.
“We had one client who had to go live in Japan for six months and leave his family. We gave him a teddy bear and said, ‘We know you’re going to be on your own and miss your family, but know that they’ll be looked after,’” Byrne said. “This guy has sent photos of the teddy bear on the plane with him and of the two of them drinking Sapporo beer together.”
Maybe it’s your first appointment as a client, or it’s your birthday, or you’re an existing or new referrer. Whatever the reason, if you’re a client of Byrne’s, it’s likely you and your colleagues have received a box of cupcakes baked that morning — complete with a customized logo on the cupcakes that blends Byrne’s company logo with yours. “When you put the joint logos together, that really cements the relationship between Mr. Insurance and their company,” Byrne said.
Several times a week, Byrne’s dog spends time at the office, and sometimes a colleague’s dog does as well. Byrne says this is beneficial in a lot of ways, from the dogs intuitively sensing when someone has had a hard day and needs comfort to being able to bring the dogs into meetings to soothe clients.
The downside? “I’ll get to a very serious point of the meeting when I’m alerting them what they need to know, and I’ll look over and they’re holding my little dog in the air like it’s a baby and talking to it in baby talk,” Byrne said.
The dogs are also used in some of the practice’s marketing materials and, similar to how Byrne sends baskets when clients have a baby, he does the same when finding out clients have a puppy. The gifts not only delight clients but make a good tie-in to the company’s pet insurance offerings.