ByAdam Van Brimmer
For the Savannah Morning News
Seven former Palmer & Cay insurance employees started Seacrest Partners in March 2006 without a license or a carrier, let alone clients.
By sticking to its focus on fundamentals rather than revenue models, however, the firm overcame such “insurmountable obstacles” within its first month.
Five years later, Seacrest does business across the country with $50 million in premium placements.
“We stayed true to our culture and our client-first approach, and each time we came up against one of those insurmountable obstacles, it seemed to dissolve in front of us,” said David Paddison, Seacrest president.
Paddison shared Seacrest Partners’ philosophy and how the firm creates opportunities and builds relationships with a roomful of local businessmen and women. Paddison’s presentation Wednesday headlined a Business in Savannah, or BiS, Forum series event in the Savannah Morning News Auditorium.
Seacrest follows five broad fundamentals designed to “do the right thing.” The approach involves knowing your constituents, including employees, clients and business partners; understanding your mission and place; defining your culture; sharing that story and being visible; and cultivating relationships.
Master those ideals, Paddison said, and business will follow.
“If people known even when they don’t squeeze the fruit, they’ll get what is in the fruit, they’ll trust you,” Paddison said.
The founders of Seacrest Partners grew the company organically. Some of their clients from their days at Palmer & Cay, which was acquired by Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) before their departure, followed them to Seacrest.
But the majority of the firm’s clients were new ones they targeted and reached through visibility and involvement in the community and word-of-mouth marketing.
“At the end of the day, when people talk about insurance, we want them to talk Seacrest,” Paddison said, “and talk good things about Seacrest.”
Another key to the firm’s success is their relationship with employees. The company is privately owned by 10 partners and employs 25.
Seacrest values “missionaries” – those who understand and believe in the firm’s culture – over “mercenaries” – those who are talented but lack commitment – in its work force.
They treat employees accordingly, from stocking the office with coffee and snacks to supplying workers with smartphones and tablet computers.
“The little things are what keep your people happy,” said Cindy Robinett, a Seacrest managing partner and founder. “Coffee, snacks, time off to see a kid’s play – those things mean a lot. So they should and do mean a lot to us, too.”