S3. Ep. 4 - Building for The Future with Leslie Nester of Fox Insurance Agencies
Bridget Haight: Hi, and welcome to OnPoint, a podcast by Oak Street Funding, where we bring research and data backed insights to dig into the minds of industry leaders to learn how to stand out and navigate and break through this ever- changing industry. I'm your host, Bridget Haight, and you can support this podcast by following us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. We'll be there, hanging out, talking to industry leaders, and ready to empower you to grow your business. So let's get on point. Today we bring back Leslie Nester, founder and president of Fox Insurance Agencies. Earlier, we had Leslie share how she started Fox Insurance Agencies, and now we will learn how she's building for the future and how she shares tips for other business owners looking to grow. Welcome back, Leslie.
Leslie Nester: Hi. Thanks for having me again.
Bridget Haight: Thanks for joining us again. Hey, okay, we'll just dive right in. The first question I have for you is everyone has different definitions of success. So in your own words, describe what a successful business looks like.
Leslie Nester: This is a fun one for me only because I've recently changed my mind on what successful business looks like for me. I had mentioned in our previous session about working with a coach over the last two years. And so I at one point thought that I needed this massive, huge agency across the state, multiple states, tons of employees, and that was kind of my goal. Let's do this and do it as fast as we can. In working with a coach, I kind of stepped back from that and revisited what success looks like to me personally. And I kind of regrouped on that a little bit. I realized that I was doing that for everyone else and maybe not necessarily me. So what I had to do was kind of pause for a minute and," Hey, what does my life look like as a business owner? What makes me happy? What does my life look like? How do I want that to feel?" And kind of backed out that huge dream into I'm living the life I want to live. What that looks like to me is having a staff who's dedicated and loyal to me, having the freedom to be a mom and have a personal life. And I don't have a ton of stress right now. I do have a lot of freedom. I'm making plenty of money to do the things that I need to do and travel when I want to and take care of my kids. And so to me, that's success, living the life that you want to live, and I really feel like I'm doing that right now.
Bridget Haight: So you really personalized your success. That's great.
Leslie Nester: I did. I think you have to, because otherwise you're just doing it for everybody else, to put on a show, per se.
Bridget Haight: Yeah, that's great. Thank you. So next question, what digital channels have been the most impactful for your business? It's a totally different subject.
Leslie Nester: Yeah. This is one of those things too, in insurance, we don't really sell a physical product. You see people making Tik Toks and videos of their product or their process or their production, and it's exciting and fun. And we're selling a promise. So it's not as sexy as some of the other businesses. But we've been doing a little bit with Facebook. I have a marketing director that does that for me. I'm not super into social. As I approach 40, I'm still figuring it out. So I have someone that does that for me. We use Facebook mostly just to get out there. But that's about it right now.
Bridget Haight: Do you see benefits from that? Do you get interest or business from that that you've noticed?
Leslie Nester: We do sometimes, not a ton. It's not a huge investment, so to me it's more so throwing the brand out there, brand recognition, just kind of becoming a household name.
Bridget Haight: Speaking of brand recognition, is that your brand logo on your shirt?
Leslie Nester: It is on my shirt, the fox -
Bridget Haight: Nice. And it's the fox. It's very cute. Okay. So today there are so many resources and networking opportunities. What advice would you give another business owner about networking for growth opportunities?
Leslie Nester: I think you're networking everywhere you go. You always want to be networking. I don't go to mixers or events per se, but I think you always have to be on. I think you always have to be representing your company, your brand, who you are as a person. I always tell people who come in and out of my life, friends or in relationships," Hey, my life, my business is about building relationships." So I'm always going to be that girl who's getting to know everybody everywhere we go. It's just part of it.
Bridget Haight: Do you consider yourself a social butterfly? Is that something that's always been --?
Leslie Nester: It's really funny because I have a little social anxiety. I don't want to be that girl. But I do it well. So before I go out somewhere, I just kind of have to amp myself up like, "Hey, we're going to do this tonight." And I do well, I feel like. So that's good. But it's a little mentally exhausting because I do kind of want to be a hermit sometimes.
Bridget Haight: I'm sure you have a nice decompression amount of time afterwards.
Leslie Nester: I do.
Bridget Haight: Yeah, that's good. Okay. So with growth comes the need for hiring additional talent. We talked about this a little bit with our last session. But what is your hiring philosophy?
Leslie Nester: I think you always have to be ready to hire. I have a kind of philosophy, you should always have at least one more employee than you really need to stay ahead of that. Yeah, I think you always have to have a pipeline of people you're looking to hire. Kind of know your next move. And always have your eyes open because you never know when that person's going to come or when that person's going to go. I've had people leave my agency that I thought would never leave. So stay on your toes when it comes to that and be ready. Always have somebody in your back pocket. And again, stay ahead of it. Always have one more than you think you need, because things change so quickly. And be creative. That's my big slogan. Be creative with who you hire and how you hire. Sometimes people say," Oh, I can't afford another employee." Well, you can if you do it creatively. There's always people out there looking for a little bit of work, a few hours here and there that are going to add value to the agency in ways that you maybe weren't aware of. inaudible.
Bridget Haight: You said a few of your employees are a little unorthodox, but it works beautifully. So it sounds like you think creatively and you see opportunities where some people might not, which is good.
Leslie Nester: Exactly. Yes.
Bridget Haight: So walk us through your strategic planning process and how that guides your decisions.
Leslie Nester: I think what I always do is, and again, two years ago when I started with my coach, one of the first things we did was this exercise on who do you want to be? Where do you want to be? Close your eyes and really feel that. And it was a little uncomfortable at first, but when you actually take the time to stop and feel where you want to be, it's a lot easier to kind of back that out. So that's what I do with my strategic planning for the agency is where do we want to end next year and how do we get there? What does that look like? We just back it out. I hit the end, I take myself to the end goal and then back everything out of there.
Bridget Haight: That's so simple and so smart at the same time.
Leslie Nester: It's not that hard.
Bridget Haight: It's not as long as you know what you need to do. That's simple and smart. Okay. So client retention is vital for business success. What strategies have worked for you for client retention?
Leslie Nester: I think a big thing with us is as the insurance industry is evolving, I hear a lot of people selling out to large equity firms. I'm hearing a lot of that talk right now. It's not something I'm interested in. I still think there's value in a local insurance agent. And so we kind of pride ourselves on that. We're in a small town, very small town area. Everybody knows everybody. And we just deliver what we promise. We're there for you when you need us. If you tell your dealerships, your car dealerships, your salesmen there that you're going to be available nights and weekends, well then you need to be available nights and weekends. If you tell people you're going to answer the phone when they call, well then you better answer the phone when they call. So that's what we do. We still answer our phones.
Bridget Haight: That's great. And I imagine a lot of your business is from word of mouth as well.
Leslie Nester: Yes, mostly word of mouth.
Bridget Haight: That's great. So what are your aspirations for your business?
Leslie Nester: When I did this reset on what does success look like for me and what do I want to do, I think one of my aspirations is to just continue to grow, obviously. I took a reset from acquisitions and stepped back to let's grow organically and see how that looks and feels. I know it's a lot more difficult and people think I'm crazy. But we are growing right now organically without acquisitions, and so that feels really good because I did spend the time and the finances to really think about what this looked and felt like for us, put a plan in place. And the girls are killing it. They're attacking it just the way I wanted them to. They trust me when I come up with an idea, "Hey, we're going to do this now," they're all on board. I love it. They get excited about it. And so obviously I want to continue to grow. I want to be a household name. I want someday for somebody to recognize our fox and know what it is without the words attached to it. It's a huge goal of mine. But yeah, just to continue to grow.
Bridget Haight: Yeah, I think those are great goals. So what is one last piece of advice you would give a business owner seeking to grow their business?
Leslie Nester: I think we touched on this a little bit in the last session, but again, it's that confidence piece. Just know your industry, know your market, trust your gut, trust yourself. It's really important. I do highly recommend a coach. It took us from a plateau to a growth phase. I've changed as a person completely in the last two years. It's been amazing to watch. I've gone into my doctor's office and my doctor's like, "I haven't seen you in years. You seem amazing. What are you doing?" And so I attribute a lot of that to my coach that I've used. It was an amazing process, changed my life, changed my business, changed how I function. A little thing we did with the staff through this coaching process was I took a lot of responsibility for the inequities in the agency. Things that weren't going right, I had to take responsibility for that. Even if it was an employee with a bad attitude, I took responsibility for that. How was I handling that? How was I leading them out of that? And so we implemented these little, I call them Tuesdays at 10:00, we do these quick little 20 minute meetings every Tuesday morning. And it's changed everything. It's not even anything serious. It's just sometimes we play a game. And they're all on Zoom. We sometimes do a scavenger hunt. We'll sometimes talk product. We'll sometimes talk goals. But they're mostly just fun. I think they keep their relationship with me real and with each other real because people don't see each other the way they used to in the office. And so I think to the extent that you stay, as a business owner, educated and ahead of some of the issues you can have in your agency or any business for that matter, you're going to see results from that. You're going to see a positive to the extent that you can keep learning and growing as a business owner and evolving with what's going on in the world and with your team.
Bridget Haight: Yeah. That's refreshing, Leslie. This has been so lovely. I have one last unusual question for you. If you had to eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Leslie Nester: Super simple for me. Hands down, pizza.
Bridget Haight: What kind?
Leslie Nester: inaudible pizza all day, every day. Oh, I love everything on pizza.
Bridget Haight: Any restaurant? Any brand in particular?
Leslie Nester: Just our local family restaurants here in town, our favorites. I can do pizza anytime.
Bridget Haight: All right. Thank you. That is everything I need to know right now from Leslie Nester with Fox Insurance. Thank you so much. It was great talking to you again.
Leslie Nester: Thank you. This was fun.
Bridget Haight: Thank you all for listening to OnPoint, a podcast by Oak Street Funding, where we bring research and data backed insights to dig into the minds of industry leaders to learn how to stand out and navigate and break through this ever- changing industry. I'm Bridget Haight, and tune in next time wherever you listen to podcasts as we get on point. And don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review. Thanks for listening. To get in contact with someone at Oak Street Funding, please call( 844) 353-8022. That's( 844) 353-8022 to learn more.
Today, we welcome back Leslie Nester, founder and president of Fox Insurance Agencies.
Earlier we heard Leslie share how she started Fox Insurance Agencies. Now we will learn how she is building for the future as she shares tips for other business owners looking to grow.