YOUR PROPERTY, MANAGED®️: Episode 2 with John Lapointe from Lapointe Insurance
Nexus Property Management™ is proud to share its second episode of Your Property, MANAGED®️, a long-form video interview series with some of the biggest players in New England Real Estate. Hosted by Nexus General Manager and jack-of-all-trades, Greg Rice, this week’s discussion was with John Lapointe of Lapointe Insurance in Fall River, Massachusetts. John was personally chosen during last week’s interview by Emilio DiSpirito, the Team Leader of the DiSpirito Team. John was a timely choice because Lapointe Insurance just had their three best months ever, despite the pandemic and restrictions that have come with it. Listen in to hear more about how to find success while the competition does its best to tread water.
Lapointe Insurance is a “local insurance agency with deep local roots” that’s been family owned and operated in Fall River since the early 1960s. Lapointe Insurance has decades of experience with home, auto, life, and business insurance. Currently run by John’s father, Bill Lapointe, the company was first brought into the family thanks to the effort, work ethic, and courage of John’s grandfather, Herman. Early in the discussion, Lapointe shares the remarkable story of how his family got into the insurance world. This origin story is telling in that it outlines the principle that seemingly drives so much of what has made the Lapointe Insurance Agency so successful for over half a century: seizing on and creating opportunities for the business, team members, and clients alike. As Executive Vice President at the age of 27, John’s experience is relatively unique and his perspective on topics such as incentives, marketing, and insurance claims during COVID are thought-provoking and well worth a listen.
CREATING AND CAPITALIZING ON OPPORTUNITY
From the beginning, Herman set the tone by taking advantage of the good fortune that came his way thanks to the relationship he’d built with Fall RIver’s Wilfred Poirier, a well-respected businessman and insurance agent in the 1950s. With calculated risk, Herman learned from Poirier and eventually bought the agency, despite his lack of experience. To do so, he gave up on a solid civil service career at the post office and took on significant debt, but in buying that first office in the Flint District of Fall RIver, and later in converting a nearby gas station into an office, Herman set the foundation for what would become his family’s livelihood and a gift to the region that keeps on giving 60 years later. The agency would stay in that office through 2020, in addition to expanding into nearby Westport and North Attleboro. They’ve since opted to consolidate to one location, just down the road at 10 North Main Street in Fall River, where all 25-30 of the employees from the previous branches now come to work as one big team.
Later, Herman’s son (John’s father), Bill would build the company’s portfolio in commercial insurance by once again making the most of a situation that provided lots of potential upside. Texas Instruments’ Sensors and Controls division was located just down the road in Attleboro, Massachusetts and as an original equipment manufacturer they naturally relied on many smaller machine parts companies. Lapointe saw opportunity in fostering relationships with these companies and in doing so helped the company expand their commercial insurance portfolio.
That theme of looking for and seizing opportunity is apparent in almost all of John’s discussion and so much of his life. When discussing his own upbringing, which thanks to the success of the family business allowed him to attend a private high school and later a prestigious private college, John goes on to explain that it’s my “responsibility to take advantage of the privileges I’ve been given… [to not do so] would be a disservice to the people in my family who put (me) in that position”. The same mantra runs deep within the agency. We “take the opportunity and make the absolute most of it”... you “cannot waste potential...make the most of everything”. As a company, Lapointe Insurance has worked hard to build a comfortable environment free of micromanagement. They give people latitude to feel comfortable in their role…with loose guidelines, and it fosters respect that goes both ways. Team members are encouraged to “go make the right decisions” and our people are “put in situations where they have the opportunity to move forward”.
THE THIRD GENERATION: RESIDENTIAL PIVOT
Like his father Bill, John’s aunt is also with the agency and has been for over 40 years. Colette McKeon is the company’s treasurer and has been with Lapointe Insurance since the 1970s. John is the third member of the family on the team, and potentially some day he’ll usher in the third generation of family leadership. He is currently the Executive Vice President, but it wasn’t without patience and vulnerability. After college and with a year working at Massachusetts General Hospital under his belt, John felt he was ready and he asked his father if he could join the family business. Dad said no. He felt his son needed more experience and it wasn’t until 9 months later that John was able to convince his father to give him a chance.
“I was so inexperienced the people I was trying to sell to knew more about insurance than me...the only thing I could sell them on was the bottom line…(which is a) bad place to be...we have so much more to offer than just prices.”
But everyone has to start somewhere. And while Lapointe was following in his father’s footsteps in trying to sell commercial insurance, he found that more and more often he’d get some small asks from the residential side of the business. LIke it had in two prior generations, opportunity was presenting itself once again and in true Lapointe fashion, John was ready to capitalize. “I was getting calls from friends, loan officers, real estate agents, looking for binders…” and over time John put together that there are really only three ways first time homeowners were learning about their insurance options: 1) from the company they already bought their car insurance from, 2) from their real estate agent or loan officer, or 3) from TV advertising. Very few inexperienced owners knew about the world of options and John knew he could do better.
“I looked into it and almost always, 10 times out of 10, I could beat their rates and provide more...just needed to network.” So he did so and true to Lapointe principles he reached out to potential clients: “If you want someone to give you a second opinion, give me an opportunity”.
This “give us a chance” approach has been replicated 100s of times and it’s this non-confrontational, very approachable style that has helped John and Lapointe Insurance take off in residential insurance. “We’re not bringing food gifts for referrals”; not getting in people’s faces. When your product is better, your rates are good, you just need to reach people and respond quickly.
So how’s it worked out? Well, in 2020, Lapointe Insurance has been involved in between 20-25% of all real estate closings in Rhode Island! Yes, you read that correctly. 1 in 4 houses that’ve been bought in the Ocean State have come with a home insurance binder from Lapointe Insurance. In July 2020 alone, amidst the height of the pandemic, Lapointe Insurance wrote over 500 new policies! This is a company that is hitting its stride and ready for your business!
HUMANIZING THROUGH MARKETING
Another area that John has brought considerable influence to is in marketing. In their conversation, Greg and John get into government incentives, community and property development, and how to provide opportunities for tenants and property owners to take pride in where they live. They also discuss marketing a bit. Marketing today is so different than in Herman’s days because of the advent of social media, ease and accessibility to video, and cell phone technology. As President, Bill embraces and appreciates the reach that a well-managed social media presence can provide, even if it’s the Four Shot Challenge. History has shown that multi-generational, family run businesses can often be the slowest to adapt. That’s not the case here.
Lapointe talks about the strategic importance of thinking of social media as a highlight reel. He believes the best marketing strategy is storytelling and through that approach he can continue to share his grandfather’s vision in the 21st century. In the same way that Herman showed Mr. Poirier what he was all about through his dedication as a postal employee back in the 1950s, John continues to share the human side of the agency online. “People want you to be you...don’t create something you’re not; don’t create an overly polished version”.
This all aligns with the approach and themes we’ve seen throughout. These folks are good at what they do, they’ve got a long track record along with unprecedented performance and growth in recent months. They are undoubtedly a large part of the future of Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts’ real estate. There’s a comfortably casual nature to Lapointe Insurance whether it be in approaching potential clients or trying to tell their story through marketing and it all seems to be working across the board. In the end, although it may sound cliché, there’s a true family feel at Lapointe Insurance. For a company that takes pride in “making clients feel as if they’re part of the family”, by all metrics, they’re succeeding. To learn more contact John at [email protected] or go right ahead and get a quote.
Mick Lefort is the Vice President of Operations for Nexus Property Management™. A National Property Management Franchise that manages all types of rental property from single family homes or condos to large apartment buildings and complexes.
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