An interview with T.J. Johnson, Client Executive for Business Insurance and Risk Solutions at Marsh & McLennan Agency
When T.J. Johnson started working in the insurance industry 15 years ago, he never imagined himself in the business for so long. But now, he says he loves it and has learned a lot throughout the years.
“What I liked the most about this business is working with business leaders, top decision-makers, and business owners and helping them protect their business and their baby,” Johnson told me in a recent Zoom interview.
Johnson is the Client Executive for Business Insurance and Risk Solutions at Marsh & McLennan Agency and focuses on property, casualty, and business insurance for the middle market in Southern California.
When the Covid-19 pandemic started, business development (BD) experts worried about what would happen to their clients and how they could keep their businesses afloat. BD had long relied on in-person events, face-to-face networking, and business lunches and dinners to build relationships. But with the pandemic came a new set of rules: no more shaking hands, no more business lunches, and no more business travel.
But Covid-19 didn’t turn out to be as bad as many feared for Johnson and his team. They didn’t only manage to keep their clients; they actually grew their business. To Johnson, Covid-19 served as a time of reflection and change – both personally and professionally. Before the pandemic, he said he spent a lot of time on the road in airplanes and hotels, coordinating meetings and trying to make the most of it. But now, he says he is “working smarter, not harder.”
“I’m able to have ten meetings a day instead of those five, and they’re very productive. And that boosted business big time for me,” he says.
“Insurance is the last thing people think about; It’s not sexy,” he said, adding that this often means an additional challenge for BD professionals working in the industry. The key to success, he says, is to be passionate about the industry and have a genuine desire to help people.
He says one also has to think outside the box when creating opportunities to meet new people. For example, he referred to a recent event he hosted for M&A advisors and investment bankers in Porsches, sipping cocktails and wine with appetizers being served.
“It was a big success,” he said. “It was a big hit because it was different. It wasn’t your traditional, Happy Hour meet at a bar trying to network. There was no agenda. We weren’t talking about insurance. We weren’t talking about banking; we weren’t talking. None of that. It was just, let’s connect, let’s have fun.”
Being focused on building long-term relationships has always been a cornerstone of Johnson’s BD strategy.
“I’ve seen way more success and trying to help others out, where it comes back in tenfold for me,” he says. “You can’t go in there selfishly thinking about yourself when you’re networking and doing business development; you’ve got to build quality relationships of trust.”