YOUR BUSINESS AUTHORITY
Brett Peterman knows the value of a strong brand.
When Peterman took ownership of Jones & Company Insurors Inc. in 2013, he never once considered changing the name.
Jones & Company first became familiar to Springfieldians when a real estate agency of that name was launched in 1967 by Jim and Carol Jones. After the couple’s divorce, Jim Jones retained the real estate company – while Carol later built her own to much success – and, in 1982, he launched a spinoff insurance company of the same name with business partner Bob Ulrich.
After Jones’ retirement, Ulrich became sole owner and, in 2006, took Peterman under his wing.
Peterman says he had bounced around a bit after graduating high school. He played baseball for Missouri Valley College until a knee injury sidelined him.
He then moved to Springfield, where he attended Ozarks Technical Community College, and later graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from Missouri State University.
While a student and even into his teaching and insurance years, Peterman operated a side business, The Deck Doctor, to satisfy his entrepreneurial itch.
Peterman says he enjoyed teaching elementary physical education at Highlandville, but he felt pulled to pursue a different career.
“A dynamic with teaching was changing. It wasn’t just the money of it. I felt it was time to get a different option in life,” he says.
He ran into the right guy to help him with that when he met Ulrich in 2001 playing ball at the Pat Jones YMCA. Eventually, Peterman asked Ulrich if he might need another agent.
“I didn’t know a single thing about what I was doing. I was green as I could be,” Peterman recalls. “I remember some days looking at my computer and not knowing what in the world I’m doing, but I love it. I love helping people and the competitiveness.”
Passing the torch
At the time, Ulrich and Peterman worked out an agreement for Peterman to buy the business in 2013.
“I was going to purchase the business from him April 1. He ended up passing away March 13, 2013,” Peterman says.
Dave Barrett, a marketing representative for Barton Mutual Insurance Co. based in Liberal, recalls the abrupt change of plans catching Peterman a little off guard. Barrett has done business with Jones & Company since its founding.
“Brett became the owner a little sooner than he anticipated. Brett was kind of thrown into the fire, but I have to hand it to him; he gets it done. He really does,” Barrett says.
Peterman says the early handoff wasn’t too rough.
“By then I had (business) built up, and the buyout was favorable for all parties involved,” he says.
Barrett says of all the insurers he does business with across Missouri, he chooses Jones & Company to handle his personal insurance needs.
“I have a lot of confidence in their abilities to handle anything that I would need,” Barrett says, offering an example. “This past December, I got my roof replaced. It was a little bit of a train wreck with the insurance company, but Brett got it done. We got it replaced.”
Peterman says the beauty of being a broker is being able to find the right insurer for each customer’s needs.
An eye toward growth
Peterman says he’s now focused on growing the company beyond its five agents and on adding at least one office.
“I would like to get a couple more agents, a couple more customer service representatives and more than one location in the future,” he says, noting he’s targeting offices in his childhood stomping grounds of Weaubleau and Collins.
Eddie LaBellarte has been an agent at Jones & Company for five years and says it’s been a great fit for his second career.
After 23 years in sales at Frito-Lay, LaBellarte decided to get his insurance license, but he wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to do with it. One thing he was sure of: “I’ll be a broker instead of a captive agent,” he says.
LaBellarte had some friends who knew Peterman through the Business Networking International group, and LeBellarte had run into him occasionally at Table Rock Lake.
“I got my license and was weighing out everything,” LaBellarte says. “That company’s been around since, gosh, the ’80s, and it was a broker, which is what I wanted.”
He approached Peterman and says, “He was all about it.”
Within a few months of LaBellarte joining, daughter Laurent LaBellarte caught the insurance bug.
“In high school, she’d come in after school and work half a day at the end of my desk,” he says. “A year into it, she went to college a little bit and decided she wanted to get her license, and now we work as a team.”
Peterman says those tight-knit relationships are what he wants to continue to cultivate as the business grows beyond its 2,500 clients.
“Our dynamic is great,” Peterman says, declining to disclose annual revenue.
Regardless of how the business may grow and change in the future, Peterman has no interest in changing the name or the now-iconic logo.
“Just because it’s been around for so long – I never even thought about changing it,” he says.
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