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VOL. 10 | NO. 35 | Saturday, August 26, 2017

Sneed Insurance Takes Aim at Growth Under Third-Generation Owner

By Don Wade

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In March, Tommy Sneed Jr. bought out his father, three uncles and an aunt, and became the owner of 60-year-old Sneed Insurance.

Tommy Sneed Jr. became owner of Sneed Insurance in March after buying out several family members. The 31-year-old is looking toward the future, saying technology will drive changes in the insurance industry. (Memphis News/Houston Cofield)

Previously, he did not have a stake in the family business. Instead, he had gone out on his own and for four years been the owner of Sneed Insurance Advisors. That experience taught him the “grind of a startup business,” the reality of working to build it every single day, ideas always swirling, and nowhere to look but in the mirror in those moments when you have worries.

“It’s all on you,” said Sneed, 31. “And if you fail, it’s because of something you did and not someone else.

“You take it home. You wake up and think what can I do and who can I call? And why is this guy making more money and I’m doing the same thing he is? But once you have a good plan in place, and you see that it works, you stick to the plan.”

That worked for Sneed Insurance, which was founded in 1957 by Tommy Jr.’s grandfather, George W. Sneed Jr. Tommy Sneed Sr., 62, started in the business in 1979. The insurance business was a different animal.

“We’d call doctors at home,” Sneed Sr. said. “Cold calling, you can’t do that anymore.”

But it worked then. So did traveling the country to become insurance kingpins of the classic car business. For more than three decades, Sneed Insurance virtually had that market cornered.

“The only game in town for years,” Sneed Sr. said.

Then a big national insurance company entered the competition. In 2010, Sneed sold the classic car book to that large competitor.

“They went above and beyond the industry norm, as far as buyout,” Sneed Jr. said.

Today, Sneed Jr. and his staff – 11 full-time employees – are working to make Sneed Insurance a forward-thinking full-service firm. There always has been a real estate arm, but more and more they are moving to extend beyond home, auto and life into the commercial business side.

Companies are looking for the right benefits packages during a time when health care coverage has business owners concerned and uncertain.

“From my standpoint, being a business owner, I’m affected by it,” he said. “I see how much it costs. Do I think it’s outrageous? Yes. But from my side looking at other businesses, it’s a way in. Because everybody wants to look at it, how they can save money on it. It’s an opportunity on the sales side.”

Meanwhile, Sneed Jr. says technology will literally drive other changes in the insurance industry and that he’s already planning for the impact that will have on business.

“Automated cars are going to change the industry,” he said. “They already have 18-wheelers on the road that are driven by people sitting inside an office. And so that’s coming.

“Amazon and Google and a lot of these companies are going to self-insure their own vehicles once it gets to the point where (automated cars) is normal. Auto premiums are going to go down because there’s less risk of an accident. And auto premiums make up the majority of someone’s policies.

“More than likely, your auto is going to be your most expensive – especially with teenage drivers. That exposure is going to change the entire industry to where they’re going to have to charge more for homeowner’s to make up the difference, or figure out different ways and niches.”

Not that any of this comes as a shock. As Sneed says, “The iPhone came out in 2007 and now look at it.”

Even with technology forcing an insurance company to be fluid, Sneed says he also understands service is paramount to success, adding, “Insurance agencies are built on retention.”

But they go to new places with strategically planned growth.

“I’m 31 years old,” he said, noting he has built-in advisers with his older relatives. “I have all the time in the world to grow this business.”

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