Agent of the Month – Javier Villanueva

This month on “Agent of the Month” we turn our attention to one of the best in the state of Washington. Javier Villanueva has been with Pacific Crest Insurance as an independent agent since late 2011. His office is in Yakima, a rural community and hub for agriculture in the area.


Sales has always been the path for Javier. Having sold a slew of different products and services, he thrives on the incentive of earning commission, making insurance a natural fit.


In regards to his success, Javier refers to a topic that is thrown around quite a bit, here at the Pacific Crest headquarters in Eagle, ID: relationships. He mentioned how he “figured it out” in the insurance world when he first started.


As with most new insurance agents, Javier struggled and considered a different business. Ultimately he persisted and decided to join the local realtor’s association.  Connecting with a group of lateral professionals, his relationships with loan officers improved and they started to refer him business; noticing he can provide the efficient and satisfactory result they were looking for.  Real estate agent events were a must for Javier, making relationships with folks that had warm leads, ready to quote, on a regular basis. This turned his entire insurance career around and he hasn’t looked back since.


Prior to joining Pacific Crest, Javier started his insurance career at Country Financial after a few years in the sales industry. He quickly realized that he didn’t like a company telling how to run a business and how much he had to write, he knew that he needed to make a change.


After almost a year of research, Javier found Pacific Crest and reached out to Shawn Webb, Principal. He decided to make the five-hour trek down to Eagle, ID to chat with Shawn and knew where his future laid before he made it home.


Javier keeps it simple and it works. He doesn’t spend time on marketing and even went as far as trying to get his phone number out of the phone book. It’s not orthodox, but it points out a key factor in this game: referrals. He asks every single person for a referral and has spent the time (and still does) on creating new relationships with folks that can refer business his way.


With his main source of business being referrals, he’s a testament to the quality of business and effect of the pre-existing trust and relationship that comes with a referral. Citing that he writes 7 out of 10 customers that he quotes, it is undeniable that the combination of having a carrier mix to offer with the backing and trust of clients is a recipe for success.


Javier is a firm believer in being open to all the ideas that he can handle. He doesn’t necessarily use or try them all, but learning from others rather than reinventing the wheel helps keep his business fresh. The three things he does religiously are:


  1. Returns every call that comes in the same day…in a timely manner. He values the personal relationship aspect of being an independent agent.
  1. Pulls his renewal reports monthly and makes sure to reach out to each and every person on that list. Javier says that this entire process might take him 2-3 hours per month.
  2. Networking is the last and most important aspect of his business that he cites as a regular activity. He says he does a lot of this throughout the community and it helps drive business without much marketing.


If you’re a new independent agent just starting out, Javier’s best advice is to invest in an assistant to help you with the ancillary work of running a business. The reason for this…to focus on the selling. “It’s very hard when you first start out. You have to have the blessing of your spouse.”


Agent of the Month – Stephanie Nelson

As we continue to spotlight our independent agents here at Pacific Crest, this month we highlight an agent in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Stephanie Nelson started her agency with Pacific Crest in 2011 and has had success since day one.


I spoke with Stephanie at length on her background and path in the insurance realm. She covered a lot of topics with me on everything from her childhood experiences, to different roles in insurance to what stays top of mind for her on a daily basis.


Her path started at a young age as her father owned an insurance agency in Washington. At the age of 7, she can remember wanting to help write birthday cards that her father used as a personal touch with his clients. Unfortunately, she couldn’t spell the word “sincerely” at the time and was deemed not fit for the job.


After working for a few different insurance-related companies and agencies throughout the years, Stephanie decided it was time to take her hard work, hunger and knowledge for helping people and start her own independent agency.


It wasn’t a snap decision, however. Having done a little bit of research, her and her husband came across Pacific Crest. After reaching out to Shawn Webb, PCS Principal, and doing her homework, she figured out how to not only pay the rent, but be successful in what she had been doing for years.


When referring to the start-up process, Stephanie says she, “did it in a way that (she) couldn’t fail, as long as she showed up.” Combining her experience with some former successful insurance colleagues that were looking for a change, as well, she was able to open her office in Coeur d’Alene:  When referring to the start-up process, Stephanie says “do your homework, including crunching the numbers”.  When she was unsure how to do that, Pacific Crest provided the expertise required for success.  She believes, “If you are confident in your plan, then show up every day, follow your plan and trust the process.”


Having a good reputation and benefitting from a little luck along the way (she recently relocated to an office in a zip code that had no independent insurance agents), she has had the benefit of her phones constantly ringing ever since. However, that doesn’t mean she didn’t have to put in the hours to have quotes lining up, consistently.


Enthusiasm is one of many qualities that Stephanie has when it comes to insurance, leadership and personal improvement. She prides herself on building and maintaining relationships, not only with her community and clients, but with her office staff. She understands the value of her staff and what it takes to maintain relationships with them.  Simon Sinek’s latest book, “Leaders Eat Last” has influenced her leadership in her organization.


She sees the value in a well-rounded mindset. Mentioning three things that she does every day as:


  1. She listens to inspirational business and leadership podcasts like Chris Locurto and others to start her day.
  2. Being intentional about engaging with her office staff. She makes time to reach out to them every single day to see how they’re doing and ask questions about what’s happening in their personal lives.
  3. She spends 5-10 minutes every day on social media. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are all mediums that she finds value on and uses on a regular basis.


Some of the advice that Stephanie has for those starting their agency or looking to improve is to “surround yourself with positive people and cheerleaders.”


Obviously, it helps to be raised in a world where insurance is discussed at the dinner table, but it is a huge benefit to have a positive mindset and value those around you. Stephanie clearly brings those two characteristics and much more to the game.

December Agent of the Month – Steve Becker

At Pacific Crest, we care about our agents. We know that each and every one of them is working very hard to provide people in their community with the best insurance and service possible. The little known details behind what it takes to run an agency often go unnoticed. We want to highlight those details to help those in the insurance industry understand exactly what it takes to succeed as a small business.


However, not every agent and agency is the same. Through our “Agent of the Month” showcase, we aim to shine some light on agents that are breaking barriers with Pacific Crest and within the independent insurance realm. This month, we shine the spot-light on Agent, Steve Becker, out of Valencia, CA.


Last week, I reached out to Steve to ask him some questions on how he got to where he is and what makes him so successful.


A Los Angeles native, Steve is very in touch with his community. Several times, he referenced this as a driving force in his business. “It helps to know your community, it’s areas of growth and the demographics.”


Having lived in Valencia for the last 25 years, Steve finds a lot of connections through previous business he has written.  He relies heavily on the relationships he has developed in the past and consistently receives referrals, leading to new opportunity.


Steve started with Pacific Crest Insurance in February of 2016 and has quickly built his book of business in less than a year.


With previous experience in a captive setting, Steve says there are a few reasons he decided to start looking towards becoming an independent agent. “I didn’t feel like I owned my own business. They were constantly raising the rates and required agents to have retail office space,” when referring to the captive scenario.


Although, there were multiple factors that led him to finding a fresh start in the insurance industry, Steve found salvation in speaking with another Pacific Crest agent. He now enjoys the ability to write business through multiple carriers and run his business as his own.


More specifically, Steve spoke with me about how he enjoys being able to market his own business’ name: Becker Insurance Services. While social media channels, referrals and some online ad campaigns are just some avenues that keep the phone ringing, Steve knows that his previous experience and reputation in the community are his main driving force.


When I asked Steve about how he stays consistent, he says that referring to his original business plan is his main motivation. At least once a month, he refers to his original business and marketing plan to keep him on track with his goals.


If you’re looking for advice, Steve says, “the biggest thing you have to do is treat your agency like a business.” He would go on to explain that too many agents only want to sell the insurance, not focus on the fact that they’re running a small business. The details and plan aren’t paid enough attention and it shows, in the end.


Although Steve may be fairly new to the independent insurance scene, he’s definitely not wasting any time. His goals, not only for premium written, but running a smooth and successful business, are set high.

Agent Spotlight: Joleen Knigge

Joleen Knigge of Caldwell, Idaho is our agent spotlight! Joleen was born and raised in Caldwell and although she has had many travels away including college in Portland and living in Germany, she still calls the area her home. Joleen is the eldest sibling of two sisters and attended the Vallivue School District. After high school, Joleen continued her education at a private college in Portland where she studied music and minored in education. Joleen’s focus was on vocals but she also plays the piano and the clarinet.

After college, Joleen moved to Germany to teach English as a second language. After two years, Joleen moved back to the United States and started working with a small insurance agency in McCall, Idaho as a secretary. This agency taught her a significant amount about ethics and determination in the insurance industry, and a couple years later, Joleen moved back to Caldwell and got her licenses.

Joleen is involved in the Idaho Mentoring Network as well as programs like C.A.R.T. (Child Abduction Response Team). Joleen also sponsors Boater Safety Courses with the Canyon County Sherriff’s Marine Division in order to encourage boating safety. Joleen loves children, as she has six sons herself, and has been helping at risk children in her area for three years. Joleen is very involved with her church, which she attends with her husband Randy of sixteen years.

Joleen decided that insurance was her passion when she experienced a need for it herself. Joleen was in a tragic car accident that crushed her legs and gave her very limited flexibility in her work life. She was told that she would never be able to walk again. However today, Joleen counts her blessings as she considers herself a better insurance professional now because of the experience.

Joleen expresses that Pacific Crest was the perfect solution to her problem of needing flexibility. “Pacific Crest benefits me the most in that it gave me the quality of life that I was looking for. I could be my own boss. This gives you so much potential because you are in control of your own career,” says Joleen. “I am so grateful for Shawn and the blessings that Pacific Crest brought into my life.”

We, at Pacific Crest, love having Joleen as a part of our team as she is such a refreshing and kind-hearted spirit. It is a pleasure to work with her and have her diverse background as a part of the Pacific Crest culture.


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Agent Testimonials – Brad and Matt

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Agent Testimonials – Gordon Scott