Independent insurance agent Don Rice of Scottsdale, AZ graduated from high school and went straight into the Air Force. He fell into the insurance industry when he found he needed some extra income – but when the job turned out to be both satisfying and lucrative, he switched to full-time insurance sales. Now, Don sells multiple product lines and has mastered getting quality referrals and networking with other professionals. Read more about Don’s story and learn how he grew his practice from part-time benefits broker to full-time insurance maven.

Q: How did you get started in insurance?

Don Rice: While living in Phoenix as a single dad back in 1996, I was struggling to raise my two children and decided to take a part-time business, which was benefits-related. It was a good supplemental income that grew into a monthly residual income, which allowed me to quit my corporate job. As time went on, I understood how important it was for people to have good health benefits. There were people out there not having these needs met. I acquired my license in 2004, and started my own independent agency in 2005. I have been building this business to date, and now have expanded into all lines of insurance. I coined the name “AzInsuranceGuy.com,” and feel it is important to be an educator for people who are struggling with any and all lines of coverage.

Q: You started out focusing on health insurance, then expanded into other lines. Why did you make the decision to expand?

DR: The reason for my expansion was in regard to the political stage that was being set. Not knowing what was to come about once President Obama took office, I feared the loss of what was built as my livelihood and felt expansion was necessary. It was all about preparing for the worst, not knowing what would come. On top of all of this, it turned out that many of my existing clients were asking for these other lines of coverage. I felt the need to be their one-stop shop for any and all insurance needs as more of a service to them, which in turn ended up bringing in many more referrals.

Q: What advice would you give to health insurance agents who are considering expanding their health insurance practice?

DR: I would highly recommend that if anyone expands their insurance business, to make sure they have the support in place to handle the administrative end. It can be overwhelming, and obviously, as the business grows, so does the servicing requirements.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your career so far? How did you overcome it?

DR: The biggest challenge that I had to overcome was the initial implementation of my business and agency. I did not acquire any loans or funding to start my business. It was all sweat equity, and to this day, I run a cash-flow business. I was very fortunate to have a working and understanding wife who saw how I wanted to build my business and understood my compensation in this business, which is as-earned income. This means I get paid monthly only when the clients pay their monthly premiums to the insurance carriers – no advance commissions at all. I was also fortunate enough to have another residual income that was coming into the household, which supplemented a job and allowed me to do this work full time.

Q: What is the No. 1 prospecting tip you have for other agents?

DR: Network, network, network – nothing is more powerful than relationships. Find people in various careers that cross over to what you do, and build on those relationships. Is it the only way? Of course not, but it is a powerful way. I still had to start out by talking to people, placing free ads online, passing out flyers, and any other way to get people to talk to me. My business today is about 80 percent referrals, and now social media is playing a big part in it, as well.