Scott Insurance is a Stratford-headquartered, family-owned independent brokerage that is celebrating its 70th anniversary in business this year. In this edition of Suite Talk, Business Journal Senior Enterprise Editor Phil Hall speaks with the brothers Barton and Drew Scott, who are the third generation of Scotts at the helm of this company.
Who started the business?
Drew Scott: “It was my grandfather, Robert Scott. When I was in business school at the University of Vermont, I took an entrepreneurship course and we had an assignment to interview an entrepreneur. And I was like, ‘Who the heck am I going to interview?’ And then I was like, ‘Hey, wait a second — my grandfather.’ That was probably about two years before he died and I really appreciated it because it gave us a chance to sit down and talk about the business.
He started it shortly after World War II. It was a business that didn’t require a lot of capital to start. He was literally the door-to-door insurance guy who would knock on your door and say, ‘Do you have enough coverage?’
“One thing about being here in Stratford is that it is certainly multigenerational. The families that my grandfather dealt with and my father dealt with are now our customers.”
Did you know you would be taking over the company?
Barton Scott: “Not when we were young. It was quite the opposite. It was like, ‘Insurance is boring and I don’t want to do that.’ But we both had different sales jobs after college, and our friends would talk to us and say, ‘You’re both in sales. Why don’t you work for your dad?’
“It was our father and our uncle Bob who were business partners forever and they offered it to us early, but we were like, ‘No, we want to see what else is out there.’ But eventually we realized that insurance is a somewhat recession-proof job. And my father worked 9-to-5 and not on nights and on weekends. So, after a few years of grinding out commission-only sales jobs, we were like, ‘Dad, tell me about that insurance thing again — how does that work?’ ”
What aspects of the insurance world are you focused on?
Drew Scott: “The bread and butter is property and casualty. I think we are skewed to 70% individuals and 30% business in terms of total revenue.”
Why would someone want to work with your company instead of buying insurance online?
Drew Scott: “I don’t know how some of my customers would survive working with Geico because every time you call you speak to a different person every time. Also, we help for not-our-fault accidents. If your car was rear-ended by somebody, I can help you get your claim submitted through the other party’s insurance. If you’re with Geico and you were rear-ended by somebody, they’ll say, ‘Either put a claim through us or we aren’t going to help you.’ ”
Barton Scott: “Being an independent agent, we have 12 different auto insurance companies to shop with, so there’s that aspect as well.”
Drew Scott: “Insurance is a pain. It’s not fun to go out and shop to buy insurance. With our customers, they can send us an email asking how rates are looking and I can send them a spreadsheet that shows them a range of companies.”
Barton Scott: “And we still have a lot of customers who want to come in, drop off paperwork and sign premiums. We have a customer who owns two dry-cleaning stores. He’s from Korea and I don’t speak Korean, but he’d rather speak to me face to face because it is more comfortable for him.”
What is your business footprint?
Barton Scott: “We are licensed on a statewide basis, but there is a regional facet to it: 70% of our clients live within 10 miles of our office and 30% live within the rest of Connecticut. We’ve got e-sign capability that if they don’t live in the area but live in Connecticut, they can email documents to us for e-sign.”
Where do you get your new clients?
Barton Scott: “We’ve both joined fraternal and civic organizations. You have to build up friendships.”
Drew Scott: “The vast majority of our customers are referrals, either from current clients or professional relationships with attorneys that do home closings and Realtors. People love referring somebody.”
As brothers, how do you work together?
Drew Scott: “Fortunately, we get along. We have similar interests outside of work. Every day, we get together and have a chat about something noninsurance related. Typically, something music-related or sports. Or what’s going on in the family. I think it’s important we do that connection every day. We also tend to get together at the end of the day and do work-related summaries as well. And when we get together outside of work, we watch football or go to a concert together. Work rarely comes up.”
Will there be a next generation of Scotts running the company after you retire?
Barton Scott: “Hopefully. We had kids much older than our parents did. I’m 47 and my father was around 50 when I started to work for him. And my twins are 6, so it is different.”
Drew Scott: “It’s possible that by the time we retire they’ll still be in college. We never thought we would take over the business. Whether my daughter would do that is impossible to say.”