Terry Wiggins had worked his way up to district manager of a major insurance firm when it was purchased in 1996, and the new company wanted him to move. Rather than leave his beloved Columbus community, he purchased a small local agency with one agent and two part-time employees, renamed it Wiggins Insurance and quickly helped it grow.
By 2010 Wiggins Insurance had expanded to four full-time staff and was generating more than $2 million in annual premiums. “But my employees were all support staff, and everything was ending up on my desk,” says Wiggins, who at that time was the sole agent in his agency.
“I was going to have to slow down, downsize and not take in any new clients,” he says. “Or I had to figure out how to grow.”
So he enrolled in the University of Georgia SBDC’s GrowSmart® course, then known as FastTrac GrowthVenture®, where he met and worked with Mark Lupo, area director for the UGA SBDC office in Columbus.
“Terry came to us right at the point where he needed to grow and was unsure how best to do it,” confirms Lupo. “And he wanted a better understanding of financial management.”
Lupo introduced Wiggins to the tools he would use to improve his financial analysis for prior years and taught him how to benchmark the industry and develop financial projections.
“I learned that I had to hire and pay people who could run the business without me there,” says Wiggins. “I had been giving my clerical people bonuses for the sales they brought in. After the SBDC training, I found another agent and paid him to take some of the load off me. He doubled our sales in personal lines. Then I brought on a commercial lines manager.”
“Now our total sales have grown more than 150 percent, and we have 10 people working here,” he continues. “This growth all goes back to what I learned in that first course. Making the changes the SBDC recommended gave us tremendous growth.”
When his agency approached another threshold in early 2014, Wiggins attended the UGA SBDC’s GrowSmart® training in Columbus. He was looking to grow to the next level: his retirement.
“We have a different focus now. I have people who can do the work – my agents – and now I’m focusing on growing the business into the future,” he says. “And now I’ve got more resources through the second course.
“We’ll be putting in a new agency management system that will help us service our customers better. And we will put a deeper focus on marketing, working on social media and a user-friendly website.” Wiggins hopes to complete this work by end of the year.
“There’s so much good information in the UGA SBDC training that you can’t do it all. That’s why I took it again,” Wiggins continues. “For the small cost of the program, it is well worth your time and your resources to do it. I tell every business owner I know that if you haven’t done this yet, you need to do it.”
Wiggins also plans to do strategic planning with his team through the UGA SBDC.
“Terry gained insights from business owners in other sectors during GrowSmart® and has learned the significance and value of strategically planning his growth,” says Lupo. “From what he told me, that was the biggest insight he took from the course. He came out fired up!”