2021 – A Time For Opportunity

As we find our way heading deeper into 2021, I wanted to share some highlights of our 2020 year and look forward – bigger picture – to 2021 here at Smith Brothers. As a company with a Conscious Capitalism philosophy, where we drive to optimize all stakeholders, not one at the expense of another.

The year 2020 was filled with uncertainty, both in the health pandemic and the economic fallout. As a company we fared well through it – a testament to all our people and stakeholders. Here are a few highlights.

  1. We went remote on March 16, 2020 and were able to keep our people safe and be responsive to our clients – and in 2020 – our clients needed us more than ever.
  2. We realized how important the remote work infrastructure we started over a decade ago, and enhanced each year, was so important to our survival and ability to serve all stakeholders.
  3. We stressed tested our company financials to what could have been an economic disaster. For some industries it was and remains extremely hard. Our financial wellbeing is strong, and we ended the year with slight growth, low debt, and healthy financials.
  4. We affirmed our strategy of ballast. Diverse revenue streams matter. We saw this with ourselves and our clients.
  5. We set up a Survive and Advance model that was internal and external. We communicated and advised our clients and helped them from PPP loan advice, new regulations, risk transfer, payments deferrals, and coverage advice.
  6. We started the year with a wellbeing theme of Power of the Brain intended to educate and discuss how important understanding how the mind controls our thoughts and thus behaviors or responses to triggers. In early 2020 as shelter in place happened and fear set in, we enhanced our program and offered several mental health resources and discussions, so our team members had an outlet to rely on.
  7. We acquired a great firm- Shank & Falvey out of the Albany area, which helped us expand our New York Region and brought a great group of people to join us.
  8. We invested in people and technology. We think long term, so even as we had to focus short run on survive and advance – we also stayed discipline on long-term investing for our sustainability well into the future.

We look at 2021 as a year of opportunity. We are not through the pandemic yet, and economic conditions seem fragile. For sure, we know there is more friction and uncertainty ahead. We also see opportunity. Here are some of our themes for 2021.

  1. Stay flexible – financially and operationally. We will all need to adjust and be great at managing change.
  2. Seek opportunity for new products or services, be entrepreneurial, be creative, and aim to grow – not stand still. We will invest in creating better solutions for our clients.
  3. Don’t overextend and do not under invest. Be smart on overhead and debt and invest wisely with calculated risk. Keep our financials healthy and strong.
  4. Stay in what we know – and do it better.
  5. Process improvements through the client lens. This helps us improve client service while scaling our operations and will be key in the near term and long term. This is hard work and we won’t stray from it.
  6. Acquire where we pick up great people and leadership – this really matters.
  7. Invest in R&D and smart tech investments that help our client experience and our operational efficiency. We are all over this.
  8. Focus on people and their total wellbeing. We will continue to add resources for mental health and helping people manage with the stress and anxiety that the world delivers. We want to be helpful in having our team members become better at how they respond to toxic triggers and work towards a life of fulfillment and joy.
  9. We will dig deeper into our cultural foundation to make sure we are inclusive and more proactive on equal opportunity for all.
  10. Our plan is to continue to grow and remain in the top quartile financially of our peers – allowing us to reinvest and take care of all stakeholders.

We appreciate your interest in Smith Brothers and our wellbeing.

Be Well.
Joe B. Smith
President & CEO

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A Letter From the President

This website – http://info.trendwatching.com/21-trends-for-2021 – with it’s easy to read layout of trends for 2021 is new to me. It caught my eye as I see each new year as a time to reflect on the past and look forward to what we can create for ourselves and our companies. Reflecting on 2020 – it was for sure unique – yet, amongst all the friction and uncertainty, opportunities arise. The site shares 21 trend driven innovation opportunities for 2021. I am not endorsing the ideas, simply reading about them and sharing as possible ideas and thought starters.

Data, digital, mental health, equal opportunity for all, and caring about “green” stick out. Whether you see some ideas for personal goals, or how your company can align, it is always worthy to look ahead and see if you can bring some good to the world using your creativity and leveraging opportunities ahead.

Be Sure.

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A Letter From the President

One of the many lessons the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us is that, despite our differences, we are all interdependent – truly globally connected. Whether it be relying on our neighbors to maintain six feet at the grocery store, or imploring our kids to pick up after themselves, this public health crisis has illuminated the extent to which our successes, our comfort, and our health all depend on the goodwill and respect of each other. We have all spent a lot of thought on trying to stay focused on the health experts versus the media messages, and balance the primary public health issue versus the psychological and economic impacts of being sheltered in. Here at Smith Brothers, our main purpose – the one that guides all that we do – is helping others. It dictates everything from the way we serve our clients, to our commitment to giving back to our community and each other. As our society gradually begins to reopen and we look to return to our normal routines, all of us at Smith Brothers recognize that even an act as small as washing your hands, or respecting the various concerns others may have towards the process, now counts as helping others. For all of the immense challenges this pandemic has presented us with, it has also provided us with a unique opportunity. It’s granted us with a new perspective on the innumerable ways, both big and small, we can make a positive impact on each other. While we all hope that the majority of the effects of COVID-19 eventually are solved by treatments that keep us all safe, it is also our hope that we learn that despite our personal viewpoints, or fears, we respect each other. We are truly interdependent – so we need to take this journey together. A Smith Brothers team member passed along an episode of Tim Ferriss’ podcast, featuring Jim Dethmer, titled “How to Shift from Victim Consciousness, Reduce Drama, Practice Candor, Be Fully Alive and More.” In the episode, Dethmer, an author, speaker, and founder of The Conscious Leadership Group, shares best practices on how we can work through our negative thoughts to become the most engaged, present version of ourselves at work, at home, and in our communities. These skills are especially important in times like these, so we can act out of strength rather than fear. I look forward to listening. Let’s use our differences as a strength to get us collectively to a better place. This requires respect for each other and being united in our empathy for one another. This will help reduce the uncertainty and fear, and focus on hope and unity that makes us all better in the long run. As we come out the other end of COVID-19 – knowing full well another challenge will come our way – we can gain confidence that as a free society, we used our freedoms to be “united” and make it through stronger as a collective group. Other less free societies may be able to dictate how their citizens behave. We, as a free society, rely on our “togetherness.” Be Sure. Joe
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A Letter From the President

I love this article – https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/new-harvard-research-to-be-successful-chase-your-purpose-not-your-passion.html – because it concludes through research that Purpose beats Passion in the pursuit of happiness in your career. The subtle but powerful additive of the why is that Purpose brings resilience. Resilience will get you through the hurdles and challenges career building will most definitely bring. One thing the article doesn’t mention about career choices is the importance of the quality of the business you choose. I had the opportunity to be part of a panel on career building with a team of student athletes. This very topic came up during our discussions, and I thought it worthy of mention. While it is more of a business model filter than an emotional one, like passion versus purpose, it is often not thought of by people when choosing an industry to start a business, or joining an existing company – and yet a very important consideration. One of my closest friends is a very successful entrepreneur and investor who sat on the panel with me. When a college student athlete stated: “I want to start a business I have a “passion” for…” my friend responded “this is exactly what you DON’T want to do.” His point was – first make sure the business you start or join has characteristics of a solid business model like low capital expenses, high cash flows, and repetitive income versus a business you have a passion for that sucks cash flows and has low margins. My advice to my kids will be: start or find a business with great business model characteristics AND find one you care about where the services and products it delivers to its customers has meaning – has a Purpose you care about and align with. Our Big Purpose at Smith Brothers is to Help Others. The very products and services we deliver to clients helps them plan for risk and indemnify them at a time of need. Everything we do at Smith Brothers with all our stakeholders is “how can we help.” Be Sure Joe

A Letter from the President- November 2019

I wanted to share with you the article on the lawsuit against Walgreens that essentially stems from lack of performance monitoring of investments over multiple years. This article was interesting on many fronts and made me think about how the Trustee Fiduciary responsibility is a serious one. When best practices are not followed this brings the trustees personal liability into play and their personal assets are exposed. It also shows that over multiple years of “missed out compounding growth” amongst multiple participants, the damages can be very severe. Our Fiduciary Audit at Smith Brothers Financial covers best practices and our services involve advising trustees and monitoring the overall responsibilities to help reduce and mitigate the chances and/or severity of loss. Best practices, alongside an appropriate risk transfer insurance policy can do what’s right for participants while protecting trustees. https://www.plansponsor.com/walgreen-401k-participants-seek-300m-lawsuit-tdf-mismanagement/ Be Sure Joe

A Letter from the President – July 2019

During the month of June, Smith Brothers Insurance piloted an Emerging Advisor Intern Program with two college students – Ronan Jacoby (rising Junior at Wesleyan University) and Grace Smith (rising Sophomore at Babson College). Ronan and Grace excel in the classroom, are athletes who understand the importance of team, collaboration, and communication – and they spend time giving back to the community.

Our pilot program was intended to provide young people exposure to our industry and our agency through a short and intense curriculum of learning, doing, and shadowing. With help from several of our of carrier partners, clients, and Smith Brothers team members, Grace and Ronan learned about risk, how the insurance industry works, sales, service and operations, and the importance of company culture.

They visited with our carriers, attended client meetings, researched client prospects, participated in team meetings, and attended “soft skills” training (communication styles, conflict resolution, personal branding). They contributed to an external marketing team, demonstrating their skills and adding to our culture with their energy and work ethic.

In their summary presentation about their experience, they shared the following key takeaways:

  • Insurance is NOT boring and this industry offers lots of opportunities
  • The importance of building strong relationships (with yourself and others)
  • The impact a strong culture has on a company and it’s people
  • Big Data is key
  • Soft Skill Development (Grit, Knowing your Communication Style and those you work with, Emotional Intelligence)

In the blog they wrote about their experience, the following stood out to me – “One of our favorite parts of the experience was the soft skill development we received. We went through a number of different learning opportunities – Communication Styles, Conflict Resolution (win/win), Personal Branding, Interview Preparation, Mock Interviewing, as well as other opportunities that helped set us apart from our peers in internships where there is not a reinvestment in them. The reason we thought the soft skill development was so important is because we feel it is something many people assume individuals have, yet, if you never work on them, there is a good chance the full potential of an individual is not met.”

We look forward to having Ronan and Grace back next summer for our Emerging Advisor II program and welcome in another group for the Emerging Advisor I program.

Be Sure.


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