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Mike Tarzia Brightway Insurance Fernandina Beach
Passionate about his local community and protecting homeowners, Associate Agency Owner Mike Tarzia opened Brightway Insurance of Fernandina Beach in September 2008. “Brightway’s franchise model was exactly what I was looking for—something where I could be my own boss and where I could pursue the parts of insurance I enjoyed the most, like selling and working directly with the customer, while Brightway handled the back end for me,” said Tarzia. “I love to be hands on, and this is a perfect model for me.”
Tarzia also enjoys the variety of different markets in Fernandina Beach. “Every day feels like a different day when I come to work. No two people’s insurance needs are the same, and we are able to address each individual case,” he said. He clearly has found the challenge of knowing his products, protecting his insureds and providing them the right kind of coverage that will protect them in a catastrophic loss ultimately rewarding. However, with the growth of the agency to now five employees, Tarzia has moved more into an owner/manager role, reducing his sales role but increasing his training responsibilities which he has found enjoyable as well.
Not one to advertise, Tarzia inherited his marketing philosophy from his father. “I got to see the joy my dad got out of contributing to the local community and how much his contributions really helped,” Tarzia explained. His personal and business giving focuses on youth sports and activities—Little League, baseball, football, volleyball, band, cheerleading, you name it. “I grew up and played sports, and I learned how important it was for businesses in the local community to support local sports,” he added. Sometimes this means writing a check to support the local yearbook or development of a community park and as of December it means donating a percentage of all quotes written to help a local family in need. “My biggest passion is that I want to live a good and decent life, but giving back is also very important for me, and I think it’s important as an industry.”
Tarzia has been selling Olympus Insurance since his doors opened. “Based on how they underwrite, Olympus is a perfect fit for a lot of the homes and areas we write. They are very competitive on 2002 and newer homes, and that’s our wheelhouse. They have nice endorsements and deductible options, and they have a really nice platform that makes it very easy to sell,” said Tarzia. The fact that neither he nor his agents has received negative feedback on Olympus has been a driving factor in why Brightway Insurance of Fernandina Beach has continued to use and feel confident in them.
Tarzia also attributes the success of working with Olympus to his strong relationship with Product Manager Crystal McInnis, a representation of the experienced, dedicated Olympus team. “She is an example of what makes this company great! In our association with Crystal, the management and underwriting teams, we see that Olympus really wants to grow our company and help our agents,” explained Tarzia. “They see the win-win in it all. They don’t just tell us that they will hear us out, they actually listen to and consider what we are asking.”
Organically growing the right way in Florida, great decision making and what he calls “common sense underwriting” have been additional aspects that Tarzia has appreciated about Olympus. “If I present a risk on the line of being eligible, I will reach out and discuss the specifics of the situation. If it makes sense to all parties, Olympus has been open to stepping outside the box and moving ahead with coverage. This willingness has been very important to me,” he said.
While Tarzia may not get so involved on insurance legislative issues affecting the state of Florida, he does see many challenges coming from third party companies selling in the state. “When I see people who may be licensed to sell in Florida but not living here, I think it presents a big problem to insureds. I see these companies not fully understanding the magnitude of the storms that affect us and leaving off important coverages like ordinance and law, replacement costs of contents and critical liability. Unfortunately, that can leave insureds naked in storms that threaten like recent Hurricane Matthew,” Tarzia said.
Misundertandings can also create challenges in coverage, and Tarzia and his team strive to educate insureds on policy aspects such as deductibles, covered perils and clarifying that property insurance is not a maintenance policy. Tarzia explained, “Unfortunately as time has gone by, internet savvy customers who buy property insurance online may not know what they are buying. What’s great about being a small island community is that we can conduct a lot of our business face to face, and that kind of communication really helps prevent misinformation.”
Perhaps the greatest opportunity to demonstrate care and attention toward insureds is when a storm threatens the community, like recent Hurricane Matthew. A lot of customers hit the panic button and start to check their coverage 24 hours before the storm. Tarzia said that he and his team just handle everyone one at a time. Conversations mostly center around the 2% deductible that most insurance companies offer. He added, “If they are with us, we know they have the proper coverage, we don’t have to panic and nor do they, and we can put them at ease. With Matthew, we came together as a team and fielded calls, answered questions and stayed late. My agents carry the same 220 license that I have, which not every agency owner requires, so I am confident they can address our insureds’ concerns just like I would. They are good listeners, patient and have thick skins.”
Tarzia concluded by saying that through the years of working with Olympus, his relationship with the company has only gotten stronger. “They are one of my premier carriers,” summarized Tarzia.