Peter Carr’s entrepreneurial spirit has helped push his career forward and strengthen his brokerage, Preferred Insurance.
Now Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Business Development at the London, Ontario-based organization, Carr started there over 20 years ago in sales before becoming a branch manager and eventually a partner in the business.
When looking back on his career, he says his proudest accomplishments are all centered around one thing – giving back to the community.
In 2017, Preferred Insurance won the Insurance Business Canada Award for Outstanding Philanthropy and Community Service, and it’s no wonder why – over the past nine years, they’ve raised over $400,000 through their annual Turkey Bowl, an event that combines food, fun, football and fundraising. All proceeds go to Childcan, a London charity that provides support for families battling childhood cancer. A true community effort, the event has grown to include over 300 businesses and individuals.
And Preferred Insurance’s commitment to helping others run ever deeper than that. Last year, they supported 35 local charities with an economic impact of $150,000 – an impressive feat considering the brokerage has just 25 employees in total.
“I am so proud of what Preferred has accomplished over the past 10 years, and the journey toward becoming a community champion.”
We spoke with Carr for Go Magazine about the need for change in insurance, how claims create an opportunity to shine, creating a brand that resonates with customers and his lifelong passion for The Simpsons.
Let’s see what he had to say.
Why do you like working at your brokerage?
I love working with people on all levels, figuring out how they operate and what makes them tick, and then building processes or scenarios that can help them achieve their best. Whether it’s team members at Preferred, existing or potential customers, business partners or community groups, they all have motivations and innate characteristics that can be discovered and leveraged to produce opportunities and better capabilities. Even though our world is becoming increasingly digital, these groups are still made up of real people – people who crave inspiration and coaching to bring about their individual successes and optimal results. I believe that it is imperative to connect with peoples’ hearts and minds.
The world of insurance is changing. What new opportunities do you see for brokers and customers going forward?
The world of insurance is changing more rapidly now than ever before. Many in our industry see these changes as threats rather than as opportunities. Our biggest obstacles and opportunities are one and the same – ourselves. Much of the insurance brokerage world still functions like an excerpt from That 70s Show. The things that we held dear and that brought us success in the past are now the enemies of our progress into the future.
Most customers make decisions with their hearts, and they have one big question – why? “Why would I choose to do business with your company? Why would I choose to stay loyal to your business?” I think our people, our culture and our purpose make us stand out in the market – this is our answer to the question “why?”
Some say it’s all about price, but would insurance be a price-based commodity if we built and delivered true value in our relationships? If we gave consumers a rock solid collection of reasons to choose us or want to do business with us? We have rested our case on the proposition of choice. While this does work, I believe that it is also a very small sliver of the overall success platform, especially considering that consumers have more choice now than ever – and most of those choices are not us.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever been asked to insure?
This may be less “interesting” and more “bizarre”, but the adventure started as an opportunity to insure a rural home. When I visited the property, it was immediately apparent that the building didn’t look much like a home, but instead more like a metal-clad farm structure. There was a large amount of miscellaneous equipment behind the building. When I returned to the office, I spoke with the client to ask him more questions about the property and inquire about what was taking place on the premises since it seemed to be some sort of a business operation. He insisted that he resided in the building, and that anything else going on was none of my business – he just needed a homeowner’s policy.
I returned to the property to take another look, thinking that I may have misjudged or missed something important. On this visit I found three tractor trailer units parked in front of the property. At this point, I started up another conversation with him, inquiring about the rigs, the building and all the equipment again. I explained that it appeared as if he was operating some sort of business.
The client was already agitated, and needless to say, this upset him up even more. He once again replied that it was none of my business and that, obviously, I was of no use to him. At that point, I felt it was the right time to end our discussion – this was clearly not going in the right direction. A month later, he stopped by the office to let me know that someone else had provided him with a homeowner’s policy and reminded me of our apparent incompetence.
On my next outing in that direction, I drove by his property – just out of curiosity – to see what was really going on. At this point, he had built a compound out of shipping containers in the backyard, which jutted out from both sides of the building, blocking off a space of approximately two acres. Most of anything that was in the backyard was blocked from being visible. At this point, I was fully convinced that I had made the right decision!
What’s the most unique insurance claim you’ve ever encountered?
Since I don’t deal with claims directly on a daily basis, this is a tough question to answer. Overall, I would like to see the claims process become more seamless and efficient. With claims, there is such an opportunity for our industry to shine, but the old way of doing things fails us in that moment. At Preferred, we’ve created the best process that we possibly could have, but there are still many uncontrollable elements during a claim.
I’d like to see insurance companies provide better resources to identify and act on fraudulent claims. Again, the old systems create obstacles that prevent this from becoming a reality.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Build a brand and business that is magnetic. There have been many obstacles to achieving this with Preferred, but I have worked hard to make our organization the best it can be by attracting good people, forging great relationships and accomplishing some amazing things so that we can draw the best talent, customers and opportunities.
What’s your favourite song to sing along with during your drive home from work?
Tell us something about you that most people don’t know.
I am the world’s biggest Simpsons fan! The animated television series has spanned a generation and keeps going strong. I find the mindless humour gives my “thinker” a break. Maybe one day, I’ll write an episode myself. Stay tuned for that one!
What’s a personal and professional goal that you hope to achieve in 2020?
I always try to be my best self, but I find that I do that more often in spirit than I do in body. I often think too hard, and don’t always get to the “doing” part. In the end I burn more brain cells than I do calories, so in 2020 I want to push for a better balance of mental and physical health.
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t working in insurance, I’d be …
Working in the freelance world of marketing, branding and business development. My mind is forever creative, and I love crafting distinctive ideas or angles to provide businesses with their own unique value propositions. However, it’s more likely that I would have found a way of joining the team searching for long lost treasure on Nova Scotia’s Oak Island, solving the centuries-old mystery and unearthing what could be a change in history as we know it!
What are some of the reasons why you like working with Gore Mutual?
Right from the beginning of my insurance career, I felt a special connection with Gore Mutual. Over the years, that feeling has only grown stronger. I suppose that’s because they have done what I explained earlier – captured a piece of my heart and answered the question “why”. Gore Mutual is made up of an amazing group of people with different skills and backgrounds, sharing a common culture and vision.
It’s an organization that’s proud of its roots but progressive in nature, and smart enough to know that what has gotten them this far won’t necessarily get them to where they need to be in the future. They constantly strive to achieve excellence and break new ground.
What I love most about working with Gore Mutual is that they share my desire to help others, to be bold and meaningful in our communities and to inspire people to be their best selves. Gore Mutual has been an inspiration for me, which has in turn helped Preferred Insurance grow to what it is today.
Check out Preferred Insurance’s website here.