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                San Carlos, CA, 09/10/2014 – Stratton Agency has retained its status as part of an elite group of independent insurance agencies around the United States participating in the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA or the Big “I”) “Best Practices” Study Group. 

                Each year since 1993, IIABA and Reagan Consulting, an Atlanta-based management consulting firm, join forces to study the country’s leading agencies in six revenue categories. The agencies comprising the study groups are selected every third year through a comprehensive nomination and qualifying process and awarded a “Best Practices Agency” designation. The selected “Best Practices” agencies retain their status during the three-year cycle by submitting extensive financial and operational data for review each year.  

                “Each year we strive to be one of the best agencies in the country and this honor is proof of our dedication, staff and use of today’s technology,” says James Marek, Stratton Agency president and CEO. “Investing in the right employees & technology partners has paved the way for Stratton Agency to be a leader in the insurance industry for years to come.” 

                Last year, which marked the start of a new three-year study cycle, more than 1,100 independent agencies throughout the U.S. were nominated to take part in the annual study, but only 217 agencies qualified for the honor. To be chosen, the agency had to be among the 35-45 top-performing agencies in one of six revenue categories.            

    Stratton Agency was nominated by either an IIABA affiliated state association or an insurance company and qualified based on its operational excellence. 

                The Best Practices Study was initiated by IIABA in 1993 as the foundation for efforts to improve agency performance. The annual survey and study of leading independent insurance agencies documents the business practices of the “best” agencies and urges others to adopt similar practices. 

                Stratton Agency was founded in 1914 and can offer insurance products from a number of different companies including and not limited to Allied, Chubb, CNA, Fireman’s Fund, Hartford, Hanover, Liberty Mutual, Safeco & Travelers.

                For further information, please contact James Marek of Stratton Agency at 650-508-0124 or by email at 

                Founded in 1896, IIABA is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of more than 300,000 agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance – property, casualty, life and health – as well as employee benefit plans and retirement products.  Web address:


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    Covered California Announces SHOP carriers and plans

    Covered California today announced the carriers participating in SHOP (the small business exchange). The participating carriers are:

    • Blue Shield of California
    • Kaiser Permanente
    • Health Net
    • Chinese Community Health Plan
    • Western Health Advantage
    • Sharp Health Plan

    Success in Silicon

    From the May 2012 issue of American Agent & Broker • Subscribe!

    Efficiency, risk management services and client referrals drive Stratton Agency

    For a time in the mid ’90s, James Marek spent his days scrubbing cat urine out of carpets.

    It wasn’t exactly glamorous work, but after a failed attempt at operating a chain of juice bars, it was a way to pay the bills. Insurance came to him purely by chance when a fellow carpet cleaner suggested he get his insurance license.

    “At the time, anything sounded better,” Marek said.

    Now Marek operates Stratton Agency, a global insurance and risk management broker based in San Carlos, Calif. Though most Stratton clients are Silicon Valley-based, it’s licensed in 15 states and shows a growing list of international accounts. Premiums for last year were near $15 million and annual revenue was $1.5 million.

    Marek started selling insurance for Texas-based United Benefit Life, marketing medical plans to individuals and families. He quickly transitioned from individual to group medical writing. Then in 1999 he began selling P&C insurance and founded Premier Insurance. Seven years later Premier acquired Stratton and assumed the name—hoping to capitalize on the company’s now 98-year history.

    Along the way, the firm hired Ryan Headley (a former aviation flight school director) and Matt Peterson (a lifelong insurance man). The three now co-own Stratton—Marek handles the books, Headley manages IT and systems administration, and Peterson heads agency operations.

    In this small firm staffed with only seven employees—three producers, three customer service representatives and one front office person—efficiency is key. Stratton went paperless 8 years ago in an effort to streamline service. Today, policyholders have access to certificates of insurance minutes after purchasing, real-time Skype conferences and efficient home inventory software.

    “The great thing about having a smaller office is that it allows us to…implement new ideas quickly,” Headley said. “I like to think of us as a speedboat able to make turns quickly compared to the ocean liner—like larger agencies.”

    This efficient mindset has earned the agency a Reagan Best Practices designation for the last 2 years, Marek said.

    Stratton’s book of business is 50 percent commercial, 40 percent benefits and 10 percent personal lines. It represents companies including Hartford, Travelers, Chubb, Allied, CNA, Safeco, Fireman’s Fund, CIG, Oregon Mutual and Golden Eagle, and targets technology companies and high value homeowners.

    Revenue per employee is about $260,000—more than double the numbers recommended by Best Practices. And despite the soft market, the company maintains continuous growth. In the last 5 years, the Stratton has nearly tripled in value—from $600,000 annual revenue in 2007.

    Communication and collaboration

    Stratton realized how the market slump would affect the agency early on, and accurately prepared for the company’s middle market account premiums to decline. But execs were able to keep Stratton afloat by bringing in enough new business to outrun the poor economy.

    Peterson said Stratton sees the soft market as an opportunity for growth, because thrifty business owners are more willing to change insurance brokers now than ever before. And Stratton’s paperless environment and full technology suite saves new clients time and money.

    The company acquired three agencies in the past 2 years—Joe Totah Insurance of Burlingame, Calif., ProWest Insurance Services of Grass Valley, Calif., and Procorp Insurance Solutions in Sacramento. Stratton is continually looking to grow organically, by client referrals and through agency acquisition.

    “The insurance industry is aging,” Marek said, “and we see a huge opportunity to increase our revenue through agency acquisition as the baby boomers head into retirement.”

    Despite recent acquisitions, the majority of Stratton’s new business comes from referrals. To date, the company hasn’t spent a single dollar on advertising. Client referrals, free social marketing tactics and good customer service has been enough so far.

    But company execs admit technology is the backbone of Stratton’s success, because, Headley said, in Silicon Valley technology is king. The easier it is for a company to communicate electronically, the happier customers are and the more they return business.

    To facilitate smooth communications, Stratton equips every employee with the latest in office technology, including webcams for real-time Skype meetings, ShoreTel VoIP phone systems and wireless headsets, WebEx for online web and videoconferencing, and DocuSign.

    The company took its relationship with technology further 2 years ago when it developed ReadyLife—a web-based software aimed at helping clients track home improvements and inventory, and store insurance records and financial records.

    “I think when you add up all the various ways we have implemented the use of technology really puts us at an advantage compared to our peers,” Headley said.

    Built for change

    Stratton requires a staff that is young (Marek is the oldest at age 41), fast-paced and efficiency-driven. The company looks for employees with exceptional computer skills, a quality it finds more prevalent in younger generations.

    “If they are fast on a computer, we can teach them insurance,” Marek said.

    Stratton focuses on obtaining a stable clientele through the high-end homeowner and middle commercial markets. It’s an ever-changing company looking for long-term relationships. Execs describe it as a company built for change.

    “By using video conferencing and collaboration tools we are able to make operational decisions quickly and efficiently,” Peterson said. This efficiency then saves customers time and money.

    When Marek failed in the juice industry nearly two decades ago, he ended up washing carpets. But, according to him, it was the best thing ever to happen to him. “The learning experience gave me the tools to understand how a good business should run and the type of sacrifice that is necessary to achieve your goals.”


    Applied Systems Epic® at heart of California agency's growth strategy

    Agency management software powers revenue per employee


    University Park, Ill. – May 10, 2012 – Annual revenue per employee of $240,000 and climbing is a key performance indicator for the Stratton Agency, an independent insurance agency in San Carlos, Calif., that uses Applied Systems Epic® agency management software.

    Epic is the insurance industry's fastest-growing agency and brokerage management system. Its modern, flexible and secure architecture provides agents and brokers with a single scalable platform to automate workflows, mitigate risk, reduce operating expenses and drive sustainable growth and profitability. In less than three years, Epic has been adopted by more than 500 agencies with more than 16,500 users.

    Stratton Agency Owner James Marek said Epic provides the foundation for executing on his strategy to drive agency productivity with technology. Marek said that at $240,000, Stratton's annual revenue per employee (total agency revenue divided by total number of employees) is already significantly above the industry average of $150,000. He is confident that Epic will be a key factor in Stratton achieving revenue per employee of $300,000 and beyond, supporting the agency's commitment to productivity and profitability.

    "Epic allows our team to service customers quicker and more accurately than ever, with the excellent service resulting in increased referrals and a bigger book of business," Marek said. "I'm able to pull more information from Epic's database, so I have better visibility into business operations and the flow of money through the agency. We're using the system in every way we possibly can, and we're seeing advantages in every single area."

    Marek said that growth by acquisition is a significant aspect of his agency's business plan. He noted that Epic provides the agency with the most advanced technology to easily integrate acquisitions, providing unlimited scalability, increased business intelligence and accurate consolidated financials.

    "Epic allows agencies to increase revenue and stimulate growth by providing decision-makers with greater visibility into their agencies' daily operations," said Applied Systems CEO Reid French. "By streamlining the sales process, Epic also increases business agility, enabling an agency to be well-prepared for growth."


    About Applied Systems

    Applied Systems is a leading provider of software that powers the business of insurance. The company is recognized as a pioneer in agency management systems and data exchange between agencies, brokers, carriers and their clients. By automating the insurance lifecycle, Applied Systems software enables millions of people around the world to safeguard and protect what matters most. To learn more, please visit

    To see the Applied Systems press release please click here.


    Why is it important to work with a ReadyLife Partner?

    A ReadyNow Partner is a professional risk manager who has committed to you, their client, to offer a level of service that is unparallel in today’s personal risk management. The first step in your protection is to work with someone who understands the personal exposures that you are facing and finding an insurance solution that is tailored to meet the demand of your lifestyle. Once this solution has been put in place there is the question… now what?

    Your ReadyNow Partner understands that the risk mitigation plan for you and your family is only half way over and more still needs to be done. In today’s litigious society it is more important now than ever to have information and records readily available. A new family member, an insurance claim or home improvements all change your risk but what are you doing to keep track of these changes or paperwork that is generated? Your sponsoring ReadyNow Partner answers this question for you.

    By providing a secure, web-based online tool as valuable as ReadyLife shows that your agent is dedicated to providing you a value that goes above and beyond the standard agent today. Accepting that the job is never done and since your needs continually change your partner has decided to offer you a practical solution that lasts the test of time.

    The bottom line is there are a lot of gimmicks out there that some insurance providers offer but are they really worth your business? By working with a ReadyNow Partner you can be assured you’re getting the most out of your chosen professional and a witness to the fact that your partner not only talks the talk, but also walks the walk.

    ReadyNow Partners are the clear choice for your #1 Risk Management professional…


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    963-I Industrial Rd
    San Carlos, CA 94070

    (650) 508-0124

    1380 Lead Hill Blvd, Suite 210
    Roseville, CA 95661

    (916) 786-2000

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    Copyright © 2012, Stratton Agency. All rights reserved.

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

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