“The Secret of Their Success”
reprinted with permission from the News Review (2003):
Asked about the history and success of his agency, Hallock “Hal” Luce IV speaks directly and proudly. “It’s about values,” he says. “It’s about people – our employees and their relationships with our clients. Over the years we have built a bond with our clients.”
Lupton & Luce’s values are based on integrity, loyalty and a commitment to “coming through in the clutch,” he says.
“Insurance is a service-intensive business. We and our companies make promises on paper – contracts with a lot of legalese and fine print that are difficult to read, let alone understand. It is up to us to explain coverages and options and help our customers make sound decisions to meet their personal or business insurance needs. They depend on us to guide them. And that’s what we do.”
Apparently, Lupton & Luce does it extremely well. Founded in 1939 by Edmund Lupton in a one-room office on East Main Street in Riverhead, the agency has 25 employees today and provides a full range of services to over 5,000 customers.
Hal Luce points out that 19 of the 25 employees are licensed insurance brokers. Three more are attending an insurance licensing course at Southampton College. And numerous employees have been on staff for many years, offering experience that has strengthened the agency.
Hallock “Bud” Luce III traces the agency’s immediate early success to the personality and perseverance of Edmund Lupton. “He started out selling mutual insurance policies when everybody else was selling stock insurance policies. A stock policy had a lower going-in premium, while the mutual company policy featured the promise of cost-reducing dividend at the end of the year for policyholders, if the company offering the policies had favorable underwriting results. In effect, Mr. Lupton’s customers had to take a chance that the dividends would be paid and ultimately save them money on their insurance – not an easy concept to sell at the time.”
But Mr. Lupton did sell the mutual company concept and made a go of his new business. During this period, he was also an assemblyman in Albany. He sold insurance nine months and served three months in what was then a part-time public service position.
The early success of the insurance business and its demand for more customer-service attention led Mr. Lupton in 1947 to bring aboard Hallock Luce III, whose father was a revered local doctor.
Today, networking and developing new business through referrals is the primary marketing thrust of sales representatives in service businesses, especially those who offer insurance services.
“It’s not a new concept,” notes Bud Luce, who is still an active sales/service representative and mentor at Lupton & Luce. When he joined Mr. Lupton, he brought with him what he calls a “natural market”.
He explains: “My father knew just about everyone. As a general practitioner, he had treated patients and delivered babies for hundreds of families in the Riverhead area. As a result, his reputation and family were well known. It helped create a wonderful selling environment for me, literally a ‘natural market,’ you might say.”
Buoyed by favorable contacts and natural sales acumen, Bud Luce helped the agency grow rapidly. In just three years he became a partner. Active in his church, the local Rotary Club (since 1947) and the fire department, he reaped lots of referrals. “Then as now, giving back to the community and participating in local organizations and institutions created a favorable climate for a service firm like Lupton & Luce,” the elder Mr. Luce says.
There was another key activity that resulted in Bud Luce’s early success. Riverhead was still very much a farm community, but it was evolving into an exurbia town with new houses beginning to sprout up. Mr. Luce would find out where the homes were being built and by whom, and would literally go knock on doors to sell them homeowner’s policies.
In 1959, founder Edmund Lupton died. Bud Luce now assumed full responsibility for building the management and administrative teams for the growing agency. He knew that the backbone of the agency’s success was its employees, so he recruited and hired talented, dedicated team members. Many remained loyal contributors until retirement.
Hal Luce graduated from Ithaca College. As a student, he did a six-month internship at Utica Mutual Insurance Company and discovered that he liked the business. Determined to learn all the industry’s ins and outs, he started his career as a producer selling all lines of insurance – personal (homeowner’s and auto) and business.
“I knew from my father’s experience and coaching, and from my own observation, that a local, independent agent’s responsibilities are to match up the promises made to customers with superior performance,” Hal Luce says. “And I knew that in order to do it, you had to have a team of people who really care and are fundamentally service-minded to begin with.” In 1991, he became president and owner of Lupton & Luce. He outlines some of the strategies currently used by the agency to attract and hold business.
On building new business: “Referrals remain our No. 1 and best source of new business. All of us in the agency take great pride in the fact that customers believe in us and keep coming back year after year, generation after generation.”