By: Marc Baker, EPB&B President
As I reflect on the past thirty years, I can honestly say, wow, what a ride.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
It began thirty years ago, after a dozen years working in the music/entertainment industry, I had reached a point of complete burnout. While I enjoyed the freedom of independence and had many stories of success, I wasn’t having as much fun and I was burned out.
My Dad (Neil Baker) had had a very successful career in insurance, including being one of only three Oregon agents ever to win the Lifetime Award of Excellence recognition from Safeco Insurance. Dad was President of Elliott, Powell, Baden, and Baker and the last of the four original partners remaining. He was passionate about the business and the agency.
Although Dad never pushed me to go into the business, I recognized the opportunity in front of me and I decided to go for it, to stray into something I knew nothing about; Insurance. I sheepishly went down to the office, decked out in jeans, Doc Martens and a Crazy 8’s t-shirt and uttered the line the will live with me forever, “Dad, I think if I can sell a guy in Portland, Maine on a band he’s never heard of, I can sell insurance, I’ve just got one problem, I don’t know anything about insurance.” He talked to me about seeing kids of agency owners failing 100% of the time when pushed into insurance and he let me get my love of music out of my system (in a business sense) and asked me, “Are you sure?”
Before I knew it, an appointment was set up with Jim Perucca, the legendary branch Manager at Safeco’s most successful branch on Kruse Way in Lake Oswego. I headed out with dad to meet Jim at Safeco and we meet in Jim’s Presidential work station. Right away I can’t help but notice that Jim is looking at dad and then looking at me. Looked at dad again and then looked at me. This happened at least a half a dozen times. Was it my long hair? Maybe my jeans? The Doc Martens? Maybe he’s a Crazy 8s fan? I think he was thinking “Geez Neil, what the heck have you brought to me?”
I’m grateful that dad had influence due to his success with Safeco and that Jim was willing to take a chance and develop a new program for sons and daughters of successful agency owners. I was the guinea pig about to spend the next few months in Personal Lines training as an underwriter knowing I would ultimately end up on the agency side.
TOTO WE ARE NOT IN THE MUSIC BIZ ANYMORE
What a cultural shock for me. Wearing a sport coat or suit with a white shirt. I thought I was hip wearing Beatles ties that I found at the Burlington Outlet store. Sitting at a work station looking at a computer screen and a blue book for eight hours sucked but I knew I had to stick with it to move on. Waiting for the Muzak to kick on so I could take my 10-minute break was brutal. The Safeco cafeteria was a half step above my elementary school cafeteria. Then there was my first group meeting called by John D, who ran the Personal Lines department. He was rough around the edges and wore his Red Sox cap at an angle. We’re all sitting in the room and John D walks in and up to the podium. All of a sudden he starts pounding his fist on the podium and screams “We are not the United Way!! I began reevaluating my decision of getting into insurance thinking, “What the hell have I done?”
Nonetheless, I survived six months of Safeco training and joined Elliott, Powell, Baden and Baker as a Personal Lines Producer in the Fall of 1993. I was the thirteenth employee to join the agency.
Life is a trip. I have literally known every employee that worked for Elliott, Powell, Baden and Baker since its founding in 1969 when mom would bring me downtown to see dad, grab lunch and hit the legendary Meier and Frank.
I am grateful for the many professionals at Elliott, Powell, Baden and Baker as well as outside of our agency with the experience, expertise and insight that has been provided to me.
I never thought I would be in the insurance industry, let alone be a partner, and now to be the sole partner at Elliott, Powell, Baden and Baker. I have learned so much and want to play it forward to the next generation of professionals at our agency.
I find that the music industry and the insurance industry have a lot of similarities. They are both distribution systems that must work to be successful and most importantly, in both relationships are key. On the swag front, the music industry easily wins; letter openers and hand sanitizer from the insurance side pales in comparison to concert tickets, albums and rock band tee shirts from the music industry. An easy winner. I’m working on spicing up the insurance side.
The biggest takeaway I didn’t initially understand yet now I so appreciate in the insurance industry, is that we can pick and choose who we want to and work with when out looking for new prospects. Most industries don’t have that luxury. We call it front end underwriting.
I am proud that I believed in myself and was willing to take a chance to go for it in the insurance industry and I am grateful that dad and Jim Perucca were willing to give me a chance and invest in me. I believe that what we have built at Elliott, Powell, Baden and Baker is the gold standard of independent insurance agencies and that some of that is courtesy of my experiences in the music industry as a Manager, Promoter, Disc Jockey and Record Label promoter and owner. While most in our industry just want to make a sale, we actually care about our clients and prospects and our retention reflects that.
Thirty years later, it is now my turn to play it forward to the next generation of insurance professionals and I’m looking forward to it.
I don’t want EPB&B to be the biggest, I want to be the best!