This week we had a chance to speak with 27 year old entrepreneur Earl O’Garro, Jr. Earl founded Hybrid Insurance Group over a year ago and it has already done over a million dollars in business. Earl talks about how he got into insurance at such a young age and how many people might not think of the industry when they think of a startup.
Earl always had a positive mindset when starting the business. Read below to see why he saw starting a business as a win-win whether he succeeded or failed.
Could you explain Hybrid Insurance Group?
Hybrid Insurance Group is an excess and surplus lines insurance brokerage firm specializing in the placement of hard to place property and casualty risks. Our clients are retail insurance agents who have insured’s who they cannot secure insurance through standard methods.
Insurance is not the typical business for a young entrepreneur to get into. How did you get the idea and how did you take the leap and form the company?
I managed a 35+ million dollar division for a privately held excess and surplus lines broker. Then I was approached by a private equity firm and they asked that I help them create a nuanced wholesaler that embodied service and expertise and that’s how I came up with Hybrid Insurance Group. I believe my age, experience and education all contributed to the attraction by the PE firm. I took the leap because it made sense. No matter how much premium I put on the books while employed at the other brokerage firm, I was never going to be the broker that I believe I am capable of becoming, and I will never have the creative opportunity to drive business in this market the way that I believe it should be driven. I took the leap because there were a limited number of potential landing zones…a.) it goes very well and life is great or b.) it goes poorly and now I’m forced to go back and work at another insurance firm in which I am able to do so as a result of my experience and education. In my mind it was a win-win. There’s a chapter in one of my favorite books, Never Eat Alone, and the chapter is titled “The Genius of Audacity.” I’ve learned early on that the worst case scenario is often times staying where you are “now.”
Have you had problems with clients looking down on you because of how young you are? If so how do you handle that?
While none have come out and outwardly said, ‘Earl, you’re too young to be doing this.’ I’ve witnessed eyes widen after they’ve reviewed my business card. I think there’s an apprehension some times in the financial services business to put your eggs in the basket of the young guy. However this “young guy” has developed relationships in this business segment for the past 10 years. I’ve worked full time, while attending Wesleyan University full time, and those relationships have followed me to my endeavor, Hybrid Insurance Group.
What is your best advice for finding clients? Have you taken any unique approaches like partnerships, networking, writing, speaking etc…
Networking, Networking and Networking. I’ve obtained new clients by under promising and over delivering. New clients don’t expect us to dig as deep as we typically do when finding markets or creating forms that really address the needs of their insureds. We take our underwriting to another level because we understand that we’re the new folks on the block, in addition to being the young new folks, so in many ways we have much to prove and we attract and retain clients by doing what we say we’re going to do.
What would you say is your biggest challenge in running Hybrid Insurance Group?
Being patient. With new initiatives and opportunities, sometimes it’s difficult for me to wait for the opportunity to mature. I suppose the bigger challenge would be if there were no opportunities, but we’ve been very fortunate in that regard. Another challenge of running a privately held firm backed by a large Private Equity firm, is not running yourself ragged. Like anything else, corporate governance and success is a marathon not a sprint. So I have to sometimes remind myself to go to sleep, turn my laptop off, eat breakfast, and silly things that should be second nature. Running a business is in some ways an addiction.
Why did you leave your previous corporate positions to start your own company?Was this a hard transition?
I left my previous corporate position because it made the most sense in terms of long term benefit. Like I previously said, I could never become the broker that I know I am capable of being while working in my previous position.
What do you think stops people from leaving corporate jobs to start their own business?
Fear of failure. Or arguably the fear of success. Once I started and the phone was ringing and the emails were coming in and we were issuing policies, I was the most frightened I had ever been. Simply because I realized that it was working…that which I’d put my life’s work into worked…and now I just needed to make sure it stayed that way!