S3E19: Bradley Flowers with Alfa Insurance - Saraland, AL

Transcript:

This week we're joined by a Bradley Flowers. A former golfer and a planned-to-be teacher turned insurance agent. Bradley is with Alfa Insurance and has a very different approach to selling insurance that has truly set him apart from the competition in his market. He was given free reign to try some new approaches to reach as many people as quickly as possible. And on top of that, he has adapted his strategy to the changes in social media and marketing to stay relevant. Now let's jump into our conversation with Bradley Flowers.

 

Bradley:    I'm Bradley Flowers, with Alfa Insurance.

Marcus:    Well, welcome to the podcast, Bradley.

Bradley:    Thank you, Marcus.

Marcus:    Yeah. No, this is awesome. I'm glad to have you on because we've been friends for quite a while now.

Bradley:    [crosstalk 00:00:10]

Marcus:    About a year now, or so. So it's good to get you on and allow people to hear the story of who Bradley Flowers is. So why don't we start there? Why don't you tell us a little bit about your back story? Tell us ... You grew up here. Tell us a little bit about that, where you went to school, stuff like that.

Bradley:    I actually grew up in the small town of Atmore, Alabama.

Marcus:    I've heard of that place before.

Bradley:    Yeah? I went to school at the University of South Alabama, and-

Marcus:    Where'd you go to high school, though? Don't [inaudible 00:00:38].

Bradley:    Went to high school at Escambia Academy, over in Atmore. There was 22 people, I think, in my graduating class.

Marcus:    Wow. I'll contrast that, just to interject ... I'll contrast that. My graduating class was over 650 people.

Bradley:    Right. Washington, D.C., right?

Marcus:    Right.

Bradley:    Right. Went to school at University of South Alabama and fell in love with Mobile. I've been here ever since, pretty much.

Marcus:    Very cool.

Bradley:    Right after college, started doing business in Mobile.

Marcus:    What did you study?

Bradley:    I started in education. I was going to be a special education teacher.

Marcus:    Wow. That explains your friendship with-

Bradley:    Rhen?

Marcus:    Rhen.

Bradley:    It does you know. But no, I had an aunt that was special needs, so that was sort of where my heart was. And had a couple of experiences during that process that made me realize that's probably what I did not want to do. So I changed over to physical education, PE teacher. Then started selling insurance on the side with a company, and started doing really well, and realized that I might not need to be a teacher. So I swapped to business and been doing insurance ever since.

Marcus:    So that's how you got started, was kind of easing into it as kind of a part-time gig while you were in college?

Bradley:    Basically, yes. Yes, and I fell in love with it. I really did. I fell in love with helping people in their time of need, as well as the business side of it, which I think is really where I get my kicks nowadays.

Marcus:    Right. At what point in time did you have that kind of inkling, right? You said, "I had the thought that maybe I didn't need to be a teacher." What was kind of that decision like? Because, I mean, it's a much different thing from being a teacher to going into full-time sales.

Bradley:    Well, the plan was actually ... The reason I ... I'm a golfer or former golfer, and part of the reason I wanted to go into teaching was summers off, right? But the plan was to still sell insurance, even after getting my teaching degree, and just do that maybe in the summertime as well, or in the off hours. Finally realized ... My manager at the time, at the company I was at, that I started with, would always tell me, "If you would work as hard at insurance as you do your golf, there's no telling how much money you could make, how successful you could be." So that finally clicked, and I was like, "Why don't I just go all in into this and put the golf and the teaching aside?" Now, it's funny, nowadays of my favorite things to do is help new agents, so it's sort of the-

Marcus:    The educational aspect of it.

Bradley:    I really, really enjoy doing that.

Marcus:    So one thing that you probably doing know is, I was also a music ... I was an education major-

Bradley:    Really?

Marcus:    ... but it was in the music side of things. I was going to be a choir teacher for the longest time, and then quickly realized that that was not something that I wanted to do, much like you. Then switched my degree to English. But it's ...

Bradley:    I've been told one of the hardest education majors is a music education major.

Marcus:    Well it is, and I'll explain why. It is because most of the classes that you take as a music major are one or two credit hours, whereas any other major is three or four. Plus, you also have to practice for your instrument, whatever it is, for the lessons that you're taking as well as the performances that you have. And you are part of ensembles as part of your degree, so you're having to practice for those as well, and have performances for them as well, and stuff like that. So it's extremely stressful because it is a lot. It's very time-consuming with all those different aspects. But where I was going with that wasn't necessarily all that information, it was that what I find now is that the educational aspect still applies in what I do, that I'm still educating people. I would imagine ... You know what, I know it is because I spent eight months as an insurance route, you know that.

Bradley:    You and I have connected over that on many occasions.

Marcus:    Yeah, exactly, and so I know just how much education goes into that job and teaching people about the importance of the various types of coverage that you offer. But no, that's interesting that I didn't ... I don't know that I knew that you were an education major.

Bradley:    I'm so engulfed in my business that a lot of times I don't even think about it myself.

Marcus:    Tell us more about your business. Like if you were to describe ... and describe somebody. Because one of the things that's impressed me about how you operate, versus a lot of agents ... You have done a very good job of convincing somebody at Alfa to allow you to do all the things that you do on social media, through Instagram and Facebook and Snapchat.

Bradley:    Here's the truth of the story, is from a personal aspect, I actually don't like social media. I hate sharing personal information about myself. What I feel like is one of my strengths is recognizing what other people, and by other people I mean my competition, is not doing. So about October of 2014, I finally realized that, "hey..."

Marcus:    Nobody's doing this?

Bradley:    ... none of my competition is doing social media the right way. There are certain people you can look up and you can see that. I also, at the same time, realized that the company that I represent really gives us free rein to do what we want to at that time. There's no compliance or anything like that, in an industry that's ... The most strict compliance industry, in my opinion, as far as social media goes, is financial services. We're one step below that. So I realized that my competition is not only not doing it, but they're not doing it because their companies won't let them, and my company will somewhat let me. So at that point, I had a conversation with my district manager, who is sort of a facilitator or liaison between me and the home office, and got the green light to get after it.

I started out ... What I did back then was completely different than what I do now. Back then it was just sort of trying to burst through the noise and post as much as possible, and just get my name out there. I was literally, Marcus, and you're going to cringe when you hear this ... I was literally presetting ten Facebook posts a day, every hour on the hour.

Marcus:    Hey folks, if you're listening to this podcast, don't take that as advice of what to do.

Bradley:    Right. Don't do that.

Marcus:    Don't do that.

Bradley:    Now, that being said, at that time it worked.

Marcus:    Well, that's because the algorithm used to be that every post showed up, in order, on Facebook. Whereas, that is not the case now.

Bradley:    That's correct. I sort of started out sharing posts that other people had done, and slowly formed my content into ... I would take stuff from ... There's a website called InsuranceSplash. If you're a new insurance agent and you need some stuff to post, it's a website called InsuranceSplash. They have free Facebook post, corny memes, and that sort of thing. I started doing that, and then I sort of migrated into creating my own memes. I got really, really lucky because I hit the meme trend like right when it started. I started posting insurance memes, and the exposure from social media skyrocketed at that point. That's when I really started getting business.

Marcus:    Seeing some traction and some engagement, and stuff?

Bradley:    Right. Because I mean, like the first one that I did that got a lot of exposure was a picture of the most interesting man in the world, from Dos Equis, and it said, "I don't always buy life insurance, but when I do it's from Bradley Flowers." That post actually got sent out corporate to everybody in the company, and said, "This is how you do it." It was funny because it had my name on it, so they couldn't ... They had to figure out how to make it themselves, and back then ... That was 2015. There were really not many meme generators like there are now. I mean, you can do anything. From there, just sort of developed into the personal branding side, which is 99.9% of what I do, is just personal branding. But I'm lucky enough to have people at the home office that allow me to color outside of the lines, as far as that goes.

Marcus:    Yeah, I was going to say, because I mean, it is a very ... I would agree with you, only I would add number one as probably the medical profession. Obviously, they can't share anything. But finance, financial, and then insurance. But I think the thing that is interesting to me is that you've found a way to make something that is not interesting, interesting.

Bradley:    I firmly believe that I have the hardest business to market, and not sound like everybody else.

Marcus:    Yeah, because, I mean, most times ... The tack that most insurance agents take, and this is not a knock on insurance agents, it's a knock in the industry, because you're hamstrung on what you can say and what you can't say. But the cacophony is all the same. They're all kind of saying the same things. So often times it is very difficult to stand out unless you have a personal relationship with somebody. How do you make a difference? How do you standout from that crowd, when a lot of the products are even the same? They're all selling the same ... Most people don't know this, but unless it's a specific company that is mutually owned, then often times the agents are selling products that are being purchased from another provider.

Bradley:    Right. I have an advantage because the company I represent, Alfa Insurance, we are a mutual company. The biggest difference in us, from a business claim side of it, is we actually have adjusters that are here that our company employs. We don't do third-party contractors. There's several companies here in the city, Pilot Catastrophe is one, and they're awesome. But there's still an advantage to having an adjuster who is an employee of that company, who has an incentive for that company to do well financially by keeping their clients and paying claims, and that sort of thing. But yeah, I mean, it's a product that people don't want to buy. They don't like to buy it. They can't see it, they can't touch it, they can't feel it, and so it's incredibly hard-

Marcus:    And oftentimes they're not even buying it for themselves.

Bradley:    Right. It's incredibly hard to market that product, and the best way to do that is, in my opinion, is through personal branding. That's what I tell new agents, is, "You have to brand you. You have to differentiate yourself from everybody else. You have to differentiate yourself from the other Alfa agents. You have to differentiate yourself from the competition." It can get kind of difficult. It can be a little daunting. It's hard not to sound like everybody else. I mean, I've caught myself a few times doing that, but I pride myself on trying to be the first person on a trend, as far as that type of marketing goes.

Marcus:    I want to address something, the elephant in the room, because I have to. Those of you that are listening, Bradley has recently become engaged. He is off the market, ladies. But I just think it's funny, because you are engaged to marry another agent, but she is not an Alfa agent.

Bradley:    My biggest competitor.

Marcus:    So Bradly and I were talking the other day, and I was like, "Well, how is this going to work?" But obviously, you know, I think it's phenomenal. I think highly of both of you.

Bradley:    You know both of us.

Marcus:    You're both phenomenal people, and so I know-

Bradley:    Marcus takes credit for it.

Marcus:    I do. I absolutely take credit. I made that introduction, or at least I think I did. In my mind I made that introduction, so I'm happy that you guys have found each other. But it's just interesting to me that ... I'm sure there's going to be a lot of information that you both ... Because I want you both to succeed, as I'm sure you do.

Bradley:    Right. We don't talk a lot of shop, in terms of the technical aspect of it, as far as specific to our companies or even marketing, really. But it's just, it's awesome to have some ... Because we do two different things. What I try to do, marketing wise is different than what she does and can do. Her company has a few more restrictions than mine does. But it's awesome, at the end of the day, to have someone that I can vent to / complain, however you want to-

Marcus:    That understands exactly-

Bradley:    That understands 1000% of what happened that day and vice versa. Even just ... We've been together eight or nine months ... nine months.

Marcus:    You better get that date right, man.

Bradley:    Yeah. It's nine months. She'll say eight, but it's nine. That we've been through some stuff, business-wise, that both of us have been able to be there for each other. So that's helped tremendously. But yeah, back to the marketing. It's just, it's 1000% personal branding. That's the best way to do it.

Marcus:    So take that, and you were talking just a second ago specifically about other agents, but take that just in general ... I know you're a young boy, but you've obviously been doing this for a while. If you were talking to someone that was getting ready to jump off and start a business. Not an agent, but just a business, what's the one bit of wisdom ... What would you tell them to focus on, or what would you say to them to ... that might-

Bradley:    Working wise, or just in general?

Marcus:    No, just in general. What would you say to them that might push them off in the right direction or help make them successful?

Bradley:    Two things. One, I think number one I think you have to find the right vehicle. You have to find the right vehicle for you. The right-

Marcus:    What do you mean by vehicle?

Bradley:    The right business-

Marcus:    Business, product, service, whatever?

Bradley:    ... the right profession, right product, whatever you're doing. Now, that being said is it something ... Do you want to do something you love, and you don't care about making money? Or are you all about-

Marcus:    The money.

Bradley:    ... making money and being successful? Because through Mobile Young Entrepreneurs I've met a lot of people that their business doesn't necessarily make sense to make money or vice versa. So I think you just have to find the right vehicle for you. I mean, I see so many people, and insurance may not be their thing, but I see so many people, and I'm like, "They would be so good at insurance," but they think it's boring, or this, that, and the other. And it is boring, so I think there's ... That's very important, finding the right vehicle, and probably, let's put that aside, engulfing yourself in that business, especially for the first few years.

    I mean, it's not a job. You've read The E-Myth. You're a big supporter of The E-Myth. It's, "Do you want to own a business or do you want to own a job?" I think a lot of people start a business and they still treat it like a job. That's what I tell a lot of new insurance agents, like, "Look, if you want to be good at this ... Your first few years, you're working 12 hour days. I mean, you're working 13 hour ... You're-"

Marcus:    Or more.

Bradley:    Or more, right. The only reason I say 12 is most people can't fathom that. This is not a nine to five job. If you think this a nine to five job, or treat it as a nine to five job, you need to find a nine to five job.

Marcus:    Well, and I would say just being successful in general doesn't ... There's no nine to five in being successful-

Bradley:    Right. I mean, I eat, sleep, drink, and-

Marcus:    ... unless you're a magical unicorn or-

Bradley:    I eat, sleep, drink, and breathe my business, honestly. Even when I'm in my spare time, it's always running in the back of my head, how to grow my business, basically.

Marcus:    Yeah. One of the questions that we always ask is what are the last two books that you've read that you've found interesting or that have helped you?

Bradley:    I'm currently in the middle of Tools of the Titans.

Marcus:    Kind of [inaudible 00:17:45].

Bradley:    It's like four inches thick.

Marcus:    Yeah, we were joking earlier that you could use it for lateral raises for shoulder exercises and stuff.

Bradley:    You could use it for anything. You know what I do when I shoot some videos in my office, is I put my tripod on it. Literally. I'm not trying to be funny. It's because it gives me four inches up, you know? That's really, really good. A book that I've read 11 times, and I can give you one guess what it is ...

Marcus:    Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook?

Bradley:    No. It's not Jab-

Marcus:    No?

Bradley:    Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook changed my social media marketing. That actually was the book that I read that sort of got it all started, and I have a signed copy in my office, as I think you do too.

Marcus:    I'm going to say Be Obsessed or Be Average.

Bradley:    10X Rule.

Marcus:    10X Rule. Okay, well, I was close.

Bradley:    The 10X Rule with Grant Cardone. Literally, I read The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone in October of 2014. Up until that point, I was having a good year. I was on track to hit all my numbers. We were going to do better than average. Literally, I read that book, I applied it, and that month our revenue was 10 times what it ... or it was more than the previous nine months combined, so it was literally almost 10 times.

Marcus:    Wow.

Bradley:    That book ... I would encourage everybody to read that book because it actually gives you practical things to do. It tells you to go do this. There's no fluff. I actually had the opportunity to have coffee with Grant Cardone in Fairhope.

Marcus:    Which is huge.

Bradley:    I got lucky and I got to meet ... The two guys who changed my business were Grant Cardone and Gary Vaynerchuk, and I got to meet both of them, six months apart, last year.

Marcus:    That's cool.

Bradley:    That's where you and I met. Actually, I met Grand Cardone in ... Excuse me, I met Gary V. and Marcus Neto, two marketing giants, the same day.

Marcus:    [inaudible 00:19:32].

Bradley:    Anyway, I got to spend some time with Grant, and we sort of picked that book apart for three minutes. I asked him what the most important chapter was in that book, and it's White Space on the Calendar is the Devil. You have white space on your calendar, that leads you to temptation. That leads you to screwing off.

Marcus:    Yeah, doing stuff that isn't productive.

Bradley:    Exactly. It was really, really cool. He is almost the opposite in person, how he is on camera. He was very humble. It was out of his way to make sure that I got face with him, you know? So that was really, really, really cool.

Marcus:    That is neat. I've read, I think, most of his books. I always tell people Sell or Be Sold. Because most people aren't comfortable with the idea of selling, and so you have to kind of ease into it or ease people into it. I don't have to ease into it because I'm comfortable with that. I've been in sales roles for 20 years now.

Bradley:    Sell or Be Sold is just simply ... If you're the CEO of a company, you're a sales-

Marcus:    Well, if you're alive, you're a salesperson.

Bradley:    You're alive, you're a salesman. I mean, there's-

Marcus:    See a pretty girl, you got to sell her on going on a date with her. You go and want to negotiate a good price on a car, you're in a sales position. If you're trying to get a job, you're ... Yeah, you know.

Bradley:    I was talking to a doctor one time, and I told him that. He said, "I'm not a salesperson." I said, "Yeah, you are, because not only do you have to convince that person that what you're recommending for them is going to work, but you have to convince them to keep coming back to you." That's sales, bottom line.

Marcus:    Yeah. It's just a different ... Most people think sales and they think ... Well, it's the cliché, it's the used car salesman that is high pressure and stuff like that. Apologies to anybody that's listening that's in that role, because I know it's not entirely true, but yeah.

Bradley:    There's nothing wrong with any kind of sales, as long as it's ethical. If you believe your product is going to help this person, you have an ethical duty to them to sell them. That's what I tell ... I have three people that work with me, three wonderful ladies. I tell them all the time that if somebody comes in our office, let's say, they ask about life insurance, and we don't close them on at least setting an appointment, and something happens to them, that's on us. It's your fault-

Marcus:    Right, which is huge.

Bradley:    Right. You have an ethical duty. That would be one piece of advice I would give to insurance people, is act like every person you're talking to, you're going to be the last person they see, ever. You have to treat it as such. It's heavy stuff.

Marcus:    I'm not going to go down ... I had a thought there, but in regards to life insurance, I was going to give everybody a pitch for you, because I think it's probably one of the most important things that you do for those that you love. It's an unselfish thing, but ... But I guess I just did a sales pitch for it.

Bradley:    You did, and that's not what we're here to do.

Marcus:    Yeah, exactly.

Bradley:    I don't want this to be the most boring podcast you ever do.

Marcus:    No, but I just feel very strongly about it. But we'll move on. What do you like to do in your free time?

Bradley:    Work.

Marcus:    Yeah? I probably knew that that was going to be the answer, before ...

Bradley:    I had planned this question out, and that's where I was going to mention my fiancée.

Marcus:    Of course.

Bradley:    But you already brought it up. Her and I really enjoy work. We really enjoy talking about work. We usually work until about 8:30 or 9:00 at night, every night. But I really just enjoy spending time with her. I have a daughter. She just turned four yesterday, actually.

Marcus:    She's cute as all get out, too.

Bradley:    So I took one of few days off that I ever take. I took almost all day off yesterday. I worked an hour, quote-unquote "worked", to actually come watch you speak at [inaudible 00:23:34] Chamber for us. I enjoy spending time with her as well. She used to think I was a pilot because I went to work in suits and she's been with my parents to pick me up from the airport before. But now she knows I sell insurance. I've actually got some business cards on the way with her face on them as a staff member.

Marcus:    That's cool. That's very cool.

Bradley:    The designated toddler.

Marcus:    Well, I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up, any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?

Bradley:    None at all, man. I just really appreciate being here. I'm humbled that you asked.

Marcus:    No, I ... There were a couple of reasons. One, we are friends. I think you have a different approach to what you're doing, but also kudos to you because I know you very much care about the entrepreneurial community here in Mobile and have been instrumental in pulling together large groups of people for the Mobile Young Entrepreneurs group. I think that group ... There's a strong undercurrent of what they're doing, and although I know that the organization is kind of nebulous ... There's no head to that or anything, although you and Rhen kind of started that thing.

Bradley:    Rhen and I started it together. It started as a Facebook group, by me. Rhen and I had only known each other a couple months, and he called me and said, "We got to do lunch and talk about this group you started." So we decided to host a few events. It's been difficult because to be honest with you, second part of last year it took up a lot of my time. A lot of people think it's dead. It's not dead, it's just Rhen and I are both-

Marcus:    Busy.

Bradley:    ... doing our own thing, and I can't let it affect the main thing. But yeah, it's just a group of like-minded individuals. We sort of tried to take the opposite approach to normal networking groups, like a BNI or something like that. Not a lot of red tape. Our two rules are no negativity and no soliciting within the group. Anything outside of that, get after it. I was even fine with soliciting, it was Rhen that didn't like that. So if your post gets deleted, it's him. But yeah, it's been really cool. I've met a lot of cool people. The first event we held was at Firehouse Wine Bar, which has just been a year ago. We had, I think, 250 people, 280 people, show up, and the venue only held 50. The second event our keynote speaker was Sandy Stimpson, and that event had probably about the same amount of people. The third one had a little less. We had plans for one this year, but I just honestly, just it's been ...

Marcus:    Too busy.

Bradley:    It's been a very, very busy year.

Marcus:    Which is a good problem to have.

Bradley:    It's a very good problem to have. We're going to do some more stuff. It's just, I want to build ... The reason we really haven't done anything with it is I want it to remain 1000% free. I don't want to charge.

Marcus:    It's difficult when you talk about doing events like that. Those are expensive. So I'm going to put this out there. If you're interested in sponsoring an event, I know that Bradley would very much like to do something again for that group. So if you're interested, then either reach out to us or to Bradley directly. We'll give his contact information here in a minute. But those events don't have to be very expensive, but it would be an opportunity for you to reach a couple hundred very young, very motivated, very focused individuals in the Mobile area.

Bradley:    That's right. We don't ask for a lot. Typically, we just want someone to cover the cost of the food. We try to offer something. I mean, we've held events that don't have a speaker and a bunch of people show up. It's been real, really cool to see that movement here in Mobile because quote-unquote "young" entrepreneurs ... We don't like red tape. We don't like having to jump through a bunch of hoops.

Marcus:    [crosstalk 00:27:23] whole millennial thing, man.

Bradley:    What's that?

Marcus:    It's the whole millennial thing.

Bradley:    The whole millennial. It's the truth-

Marcus:    Drop the-

Bradley:    ... but at the same time ... George [Burroughs 00:27:30], my good buddy George Burroughs, I'm going to give him a shout out, is one of the most entrepreneurial-minded people that I know. He sat at our table yesterday.

Marcus:    Yep, I know George.

Bradley:    He will not come because it's young entrepreneurs. I'm like, "Man, it's just a mindset." I mean, literally, there's people ...

Marcus:    I show up.

Bradley:    Right, exactly. Exactly.

Marcus:    That says enough.

Bradley:    Exactly.

Marcus:    I'm in my 40s, folks. I show up.

Bradley:    It's humbling to be here, especially ... It really, really is humbling, the accolade with the marketing, because sometimes I feel like ... To get that from someone that owns a marketing company really, really means a lot. I'm not speaking for the podcast, I'm talking to you directly. Because sometimes when I get around real marketing people like you and Rhen, it ... You get a little self-conscious sometimes.

Marcus:    No, dude.

    Because you know everything I do is not by the book. Most of it is spur of the moment.

Marcus:    Right. Well, I know you have some things that you're trying to work around in regards to your limitations and stuff, but honestly, beyond that, I just think you're doing a phenomenal job of working within the boundaries that you have to get your name out. But anyway, Bradly, I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner. It's been great talking with you.

Bradley:    All right, man. Thanks.