Starting an independent agency when you’re a newly minted agent is tough. But one savvy agent found a way to divide and conquer.

When you talk with Alan Flores, it isn’t long before you realize he’s continuously building his business in his head. “I have one big target in mind that, with the referral partnerships, will be easier because instead of going out to find clients directly, I can partner with these bigger agencies. As long as I maintain that relationship, I think it will make me a lot different.”

Just five minutes into a conversation with Flores, the 25-year-old agent and owner of Alan Flores Insurance, an online life insurance agency, you see his vision for the future of his business, which is one of perpetual growth. Flores, who has been a licensed life agent since March 2016, has spent the better part of his first year as an agent growing and maintaining a successful agency.

It’s a career that came along almost as an afterthought. It was certainly not love at first sight for Flores, who was working at Enterprise Rent-a-Car at the time. He says he wasn’t ready to commit to the insurance business. “The first time it was brought up, I thought this is not for me. But the more I thought about it, I realized how helpful it can be for families. Then I looked at my own situation and said, wow, I’m not covered and my family’s not covered. That opened my eyes.”

Perhaps that’s why his wife felt compelled to tell him about what she’d learned from a family friend, who is also an agent. She related the conversation she’d had with the friend, then told Flores she thought it would be a good career for him. “I was like ‘no, no, no’, but she told me more.”

After a bit of convincing on his wife’s part, Flores decided to meet the agent and have a conversation. It took him a while, he admits, but eventually the pieces fell together.

Double whammy

Since March, Flores says he’s had some ups and downs, but it’s been mostly a learning experience. His situation as a new agent trying to grow a business is compounded by the fact that he’s also an independent agent who is doing it all on his own. Still, he says he’s located a community of agents who help each other, and he’s fully committed to building his online agency.

In fact, it was his connections garnered while at Enterprise that helped Flores get up and running. Since he’d handled auto insurance with the company, he’d already built relationships with a number of businesses.

However, he wasn’t prepared for the competition and how “everyone is trying to compete for that one customer that’s out there.” Fewer people are buying life insurance, he says, and he thinks customers simply don’t know how to buy it. “I started seeing every agent essentially doing the same thing — having their offices with State Farm or Allstate. So I decided what I needed to do was, people need an education. People need to understand what their options are.”

Cue the creativity that Flores brings to the job. “I knew I needed to be different than everyone here locally. It seemed if I was going to do online and education, that would be the better route to take rather than compete directly with the State Farms and Allstates.”

Unique reach

So Flores started his business with those former contacts and built from there. Then he decided to target Mexican supermarkets, approaching the owners and inquiring about their benefits. His business growth is based on a divide-and-conquer approach to prospecting. “I set a category, like Mexican supermarkets, and I would focus on that. Then I would do body shops, then glass repair shops. I segmented each market and then just focused on one at a time.”

At first, he says, he made the usual rookie mistakes, such as showing up in an area and attempting to talk with everyone. “I tried that. But the problem is you go in and you haven’t researched.”

So he did his homework, which he says helped him relate to the customer better. That led to more success and a depth of knowledge Flores says is critical, particularly because of his age. “When I go into the markets and into these shops, people will look at me and think I don’t know what I’m talking about. But when you show them that you do, then they get a little more respect for you.”

That respect is growing in a number of areas, too. Flores has held seminars at health fairs and has been on the radio a few times and is scheduled for three more radio shows. “That was me trying to reach out to the Latino community, as well.”

That, he says, is the most underserved market in life insurance, but with good reason. “My family didn’t even think about stuff like that. Life insurance? They’d say ‘That’s not for me.’ The Latino market as a whole doesn’t insure. In Mexico, for example, the only insurance is for big business. Regular people don’t have insurance.”

So Flores devotes his business to educating the Latino community. “It’s all about the education. You just start explaining to them this is what it is, this is the risk you’re taking now. We all know we’re going to pass away — that’s not a secret. We just don’t know when and how.”

Flores also focuses on higher risk life insurance areas that are more difficult for people to get coverage. His plan is to partner with other agents to get the referrals for these policies.

What I’m focusing on is partnering up or being a source for local agents. Currently, he partners with a few State Farm agents, a few Aetna offices, and some property and casualty agencies writing some of the hard-to-place life policies. “I’m focusing more on building the relationships.”

Ongoing education

He’s also focusing on learning all he can about life insurance and the insurance industry. Each week, Flores calls one or two underwriters to pick their brains on a particular topic. His advice for new agents: “Learn a lot. It can be scary to go out and do things like seminar marketing. But when you put that aside and take the risk, you learn a lot more.”

He’s learned enough to have the confidence to build his business even more, something that seems an inherent gift Flores has. “My bigger picture goal is to be big enough to have my own general agency or to be a little bit bigger so I’m able to partner with insurance companies as opposed to just being an agent who has services.”

He’s well on his way.

Know a great young advisor who is making a difference in the industry? Nominate them to be featured in The Succession Initative or LifeHealthPro’s 30 under 30 feature by emailing kbeckman@alm.com.

Related: 30 under 30: Meet the millennials who are transforming the insurance industry