Meet Steve Driss of Steven Driss Insurance Agency

Meet Steven Driss of Steven Driss Insurance Agency

Steve Driss is the founder and CEO of Steven Driss Insurance Agency Inc., specializing in employee benefits for small to mid-sized companies and simplifying their complexities.

Hear about Steve’s experience with clients who buy pet insurance before vision insurance. He talks about HSA’s and how creating value for clients is just part of his great success.

Steve talks about the unique way he came to buy his agency. Very unique!

But life if more than just work for Steve. He tells us about his wife, his kids, their Goldendoodle Oliver, and finally, how he travels the globe frequently…and almost for free with miles!

CLICK HERE for more information about Steve Driss.

CLICK HERE for more information about Steven Driss Insurance Agency.

Listen to Steve’s story here.


Click here to read the transcript

Jerri Hemsworth 0:00
From Los Angeles, this is the Echelon Radio Network.

Steven Driss 0:17
This is Jerri Hemsworth with the Echelon Radio Podcast and today, I have Steve Driss with us. How are you?

I’m very good. Thank you.

Jerri Hemsworth 0:26
What’s new? You have Steven Driss Insurance, Correct? And what tell us about what you do and exactly what lights up your soul.

Steven Driss 0:43
So, typically, in a day, I deal with all of my clients issues and claims and all the stuff that goes along with running an agency. But in more detail, we work with small and medium sized companies, typically up to about 500 employees. And we handle their medical benefits. So medical, dental, vision, disability, life insurance, and voluntary life and a ton of other voluntary benefits that are out there today, including pet insurance.

Jerri Hemsworth 1:11
That’s a big one pet is like gotten really huge. And I’d say in the last five years. Wouldn’t you?

Steven Driss 1:16
Probably number three, medical, dental, and then pet insurances.

Jerri Hemsworth 1:19
Really? Before vision?

Steven Driss 1:21
Yeah, yeah, definitely. Definitely. They they love their pets more than their eyes.

Well, yeah, I can understand that. As a dog owner, do you have pets?

I do. We have a golden doodle. His name is Oliver. He’s about two and a half.

Do you have pet insurance on him?

I Do.

Jerri Hemsworth 1:40
You do but no, eye insurance huh?

Steven Driss 1:43
No. Thankfully, as an insurance agency owner, I made sure that our benefits were competitive.

You got them all! Okay, you got them all. How did you get into insurance?

Well, back in 2003, I took a job selling commission only life insurance, which lasted me six months. Because nobody wanted to buy life insurance from a 23 year old. Fast forward a couple of years later, I’d gotten my securities license. And again, nobody wanted to invest their money with a 26 year old. So I happen to be searching for what would be a complementary business. I thought maybe I can find a small Life Insurance Agency. There’s some residuals there, I could cross sell and build something. And I came across a health insurance agency on Craigslist

Jerri Hemsworth 2:27

Steven Driss 2:27
Craigslist. The lady’s voicemail was full. So I left her message. And a couple of days later, she called me back she just came back from Texas she had, I don’t know, probably 100 voicemails from all from people who actually sold insurance. Yeah, well, that wanted to acquire agency. I reached out, we had a conversation, and she said, I want to sell it to you, knowing that I had no health insurance experience. And actually, my life insurance license was just about to expire. Before I bought that agency. It was going to expire in December. And I ended up buying it August 1, 2007.

Jerri Hemsworth 3:00
Did she say why she wanted to pick you?

She didn’t. No. We we met I brought my dad with me because he’s kind of my, my confidant and the person that was going to help me fund this business. And so we sat down with her, we had a good conversation. And I think she just felt that I would be a good person to continue taking care of her clients that she had built over the last 20 years.

And you were how old at this point?

Steven Driss 3:25
I was 27. Just about that. Actually, I was turning 27 in three weeks.

That had to be exciting and intimidating all at the same time.

It was. It was. I had to pay her a lump sum at once. You didn’t want to take any payments. So the risk was on me, and my dad. But fortunately, within the first, I don’t know, a couple years, I mean, I really figured everything out. And then from there, I had just, you know, got myself a mentor learned the business learned, what somebody who had been in the business for a long time, knew shared with me all the ins and outs and how to structure it the right way. And then that was probably about seven years ago. And then from that point on, our business just grew exponentially.

Jerri Hemsworth 4:08
And you were able to keep all of her clients?

Steven Driss 4:10
I have the biggest clients still to this day. So 14 years, I’ve had four of the 30 clients that I bought, which were the I would say maybe 30% of the revenue. Sure I still have them today.

Jerri Hemsworth 4:24
Wow. So they now you and I had talked about this before. Is this a way you would recommend other people to buy a business?

Steven Driss 4:35
I wouldn’t say no.

Jerri Hemsworth 4:37
It’s been an adventure?

Steven Driss 4:38
It worked out for me.

Jerri Hemsworth 4:39

Steven Driss 4:40
But I think at the end of the day, it’s really about finding something that you love. The problem is is you don’t know what you love until you find it. So I got very lucky because this business I don’t want to say it fell in my lap. I’m a big believer in luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

Jerri Hemsworth 4:55

Steven Driss 4:55
And you know you got to be out looking for it and the chances of you finding it will be much greater if you’re out looking for it. And so I found something that I thought would work, you know, I thought it was the ketchup to the french fries. And it was. And it was a truffle ketchup to the french fries because it was it worked out really well. But no, I mean there’s there’s a lot of businesses out there. My dad sold his business six years ago and the guy that bought it, he bought a goldmine. So, Somebody once told me, business broker actually told me, he goes, don’t worry why they’re selling it, you always got to look at does it make sense for you today.

Jerri Hemsworth 5:29
And and buying it for your own- for whatever feeds your own soul?

Steven Driss 5:33
Yeah, if you see the opportunity, if you’re going to cross sell, or whatever your plan is with it. As long as you can find the light at the end of the tunnel, or if it makes sense for you. Don’t worry about why they’re selling because everybody has the reason and it doesn’t matter to you really. Shouldn’t matter.

Jerri Hemsworth 5:49
What’s your favorite part of the workday? And like when you go into the office, and you’ve got something on your desk you need to deal with or to work with today. What is that project?

Steven Driss 6:03
It’s usually when we do quoting. So when I go out, I see what the client has, and because the rates are set by the state of California, I have no control of what the cost. But it really comes down to where my value where I bring the value is the creativity that I bring. So I had a situation back in 2009. It was my first big win. I got in touch with a relatively large CPA firm at the time. They were paying 100% for the employee 100% for the family of a just a regular PPO plan.

Jerri Hemsworth 6:34
Wow, I want to work there.

Steven Driss 6:36
It was they still pay 100%.

Jerri Hemsworth 6:37

Steven Driss 6:38
And what I did was I presented to them the idea of an HSA a health savings account being that their accountants they understood the tax benefits.

Jerri Hemsworth 6:46
Weren’t they fairly new back then?

Steven Driss 6:47
In 2009 it was it was a good time to be selling HSAs because the deductibles were 1500 versus six and seven thousand. Today, gotcha. So we ended up setting them up, I ended up saving the company $120,000. And mind you this was a 30 person company, this wasn’t a big 500 person company. It was 30 employees, which they paid for 100% of the employees and the family’s coverage. And we funded 100% of everybody’s HSA. And they still saved $60,000 net from what they currently had with a Blue Cross plan utilizing a new Blue Cross plan network. So there was no, no doctor change, no sacrifices.

Jerri Hemsworth 7:26
Which employees love.

Steven Driss 7:28
Yeah. And so that, for me is the is a win. When I can come in and see how can I improve the situation? Number one, if I can save the money and improve the situation, which sometimes happens, because a lot of brokers get stagnant. You know, they have these clients for many, many years. And they just don’t, they just don’t market every year. And I learned a long time ago that if you’re not out running quotes every year for your clients, some newbie in the business, who is hungry, will go out and do it. And we’ll find you something that may not even be equal, but will be cheaper. And you’re going to switch because that happened to me once and I learned that lesson. And never again did that happen.

Jerri Hemsworth 8:04
So you’re always on the lookout and constantly every year making sure it makes sense to your client.

Steven Driss 8:10
Absolutely. And always trying to bring creative ideas like how can we how can we get from A to B without taking the road that everybody else takes. What what are some creative things that we can do whether it’s HSAs, or setting up FSAs or setting up different tiers for for different categories of employees that we need to make sure are taken care of, so I really try to be creative in how I structure the benefit plans.

Jerri Hemsworth 8:34
That’s amazing. I think that’s really I know, when ever I, in the past have been looking for a new agent or broker I have found I’m always looking at the person who’s looking at me, and saying how can we best find something that suits their, the Newman grace goals or what they need, and they’re constantly bringing me ideas. I love that.

Steven Driss 9:00
And there’s a lot out there. It’s just you have to be out looking and you have to ask, you have to find out what it is that you’re looking to accomplish. Mm hmm. So that’s, that’s what I try to ask and, and I always knock on the door and I always try to find an opportunity that somebody else hasn’t uncovered already.

Jerri Hemsworth 9:17
It’s working. It’s really great. So I’m gonna switch gears. You have kids, two of them, two of them ages?

Steven Driss 9:25
Mia is going to be ten in November and Mason is seven, and we’ll be eight in March.

Jerri Hemsworth 9:32
Okay. Are they into sports? Because you were into sports?

Steven Driss 9:36
A little bit. So my son, he is obsessed with basketball. He is obsessed. Unfortunately, my wife is not that tall, so he didn’t get in neither am I, so he’s not that tall yet and hopefully he’ll grow into it.

Jerri Hemsworth 9:50
You never know.

Steven Driss 9:51
But but he’s in a- week, every Tuesday and Thursday I have him in a fundamentals group where he’s practicing dribbling and I mean the kid is seven years old and he can do a crossover and he’s, he’s really, really good and he loves basketball. He loves- he loves the LeBron, who’s not my ultimate favorite basketball player from the Lakers. I’m a Kobe fan. He’s my generation, but I had him watch the last dance with me so he can see what, who Michael Jordan was-

Jerri Hemsworth 10:19
Great show.

Steven Driss 10:20
During quarantine. We watched a lot of YouTube videos of the 92 Dream Team Olympics, games. And so it was he’s really, really into it. And so that’s that’s our time together and my daughter she loves. She’s very artsy. And now she’s really into like creative things. So we go, she wanted to learn how to roller skate. So I got her a roller skating coach.

Jerri Hemsworth 10:40
Do you roller skate?

Steven Driss 10:41
I absolutely do not roller skate.

Jerri Hemsworth 10:43

Steven Driss 10:43

Jerri Hemsworth 10:45
It’s a long way to the ground when you’re, you know, an adult.

Steven Driss 10:48
Yeah, I tried doesn’t work for me. I know what I’m good at. I know what I’m not. So I got her coach and we go every Saturday. Oh, yeah. It’s not my not my strength.

Jerri Hemsworth 10:58
Where do you find a roller skating coach?

Steven Driss 11:01

Jerri Hemsworth 11:01

Steven Driss 11:03
I we go to Burbank every Saturday. And she’ll ride with him for about an hour at this park.

Jerri Hemsworth 11:08

Steven Driss 11:08
Abraham Lincoln Park. And it’s awesome. She loves it. And so we do that. And then she does gymnastics. So she’s not super into sports. But, you know, we find out-

Jerri Hemsworth 11:21
Gymnastics and roller skating is amazing!

Steven Driss 11:23
Yeah, no, she loves it. And then with my son, it’s not really a sport, but it’s it’s my favorite hobby is cars. So every Sunday, I take him to the car show in Malibu or used to be in Woodland Hills.

Jerri Hemsworth 11:34

Steven Driss 11:34
And unfortunately, he he’s gonna have a really hard time. You know, he’s gonna have to make a lot of money because his favorite car is a Lamborghini.

Jerri Hemsworth 11:43
Of course.

Steven Driss 11:43
Yeah, and then a Bugatti and then the Ferrari. And I told him I said, Mason, you got to, you got to start small yourself, son, build it up. So he goes, I’ll get it. So I hope he does.

Jerri Hemsworth 11:55
Hey, and then he’s gonna buy Daddy, one, two. Right?

Steven Driss 11:58
I hope so.

Jerri Hemsworth 11:59
I mean come on daddy’s in line.

Steven Driss 12:02
I promised one to my grandma, not a Lamborghini, but a Mercedes. When I was about three, she passed away when I was four. So I had to have been before four. And so my dad always reminds me he goes you know, you got to buy me that Mercedes because you promise it to grandma.

Jerri Hemsworth 12:14
Hello, pass it down!

Steven Driss 12:15
Hopefully, Mason will will do fine, and he can buy me a Lamborghini too.

Jerri Hemsworth 12:20
Gosh. Papa and son lambos.

His in his.

His in- his one and his two?

Steven Driss 12:29
There you go.

Jerri Hemsworth 12:29
Driss one and Driss two.

Steven Driss 12:30
That’s a good one.

Jerri Hemsworth 12:31
Question is who’s Driss two?

Steven Driss 12:33
He is.

Jerri Hemsworth 12:34
He? You sure?

Steven Driss 12:34

Jerri Hemsworth 12:35
Well if he’s buying it might be, you know, up for debate?

Steven Driss 12:39
No. Not at all.

Jerri Hemsworth 12:44
You like to travel?

Steven Driss 12:45
We do.

Jerri Hemsworth 12:46
Okay, and you have a trick? You are wicked smart. And totally on top of traveling via credit card miles.

Steven Driss 12:57

Jerri Hemsworth 12:59
How did that come about for you?

Steven Driss 13:01
So we actually have a good friend in San Francisco, my wife’s good friend. And that’s his business. He does airline travel. And years ago, there was some arbitrage that could be done. And so he used to use miles to buy plane tickets for his clients. And so five years ago, he kind of showed me the way. And we just booked actually, for next summer. We’re flying business class Air France to Paris, we’re spending a week in St. Tropez- five nights, and that’s on miles. And then I just downgraded one of my cards so I can reapply and get 100,000 point bonus on the other card so that I can pay for the hotel rooms for another five nights.

Jerri Hemsworth 13:45
Oh, gosh! So you basically travel? I wouldn’t say free. But via miles all the time. It’s like, is this a game for you?

Steven Driss 13:57
Oh I love it!

Jerri Hemsworth 13:57
Or is this it’s- it’s a challenge.

Steven Driss 13:59
I love it. Well, first of all the things that I could get with miles-

Jerri Hemsworth 14:04

Steven Driss 14:04
I wouldn’t necessarily spend the money on.

Jerri Hemsworth 14:06

Steven Driss 14:07
And then the other part is it just gives us the freedom to travel a lot. So I have one particular card that I use only for my meals, because that card pays four times the points on food. And then I have another card that I use for everything else. Because that card has a really good transfer program to a really good hotel program. And so in the card that I use for the food pays for my flights, because that’s American Express.

Jerri Hemsworth 14:30

Steven Driss 14:31
So I got the flights covered. And I have the hotels covered. And so we were in Napa in April, and we stayed at a brand new hotel that opened up $1,000 night hotel for free. We we just booked well we booked it a little while ago. It’s in Big Sur it’s called the Ventana.

Jerri Hemsworth 14:49
Uh huh.

Steven Driss 14:49
It’s about $2,000 a night. Absolutely free. For my wife’s birthday we’re going and we’ve gotten three years in a row. Wow. But I still pay for trips. Because it doesn’t always make sense so we were in Miami for a week I paid cash because the flights were cheap and the hotels were cheap enough, so you got to be strategic it doesn’t always work for everybody. Plus I don’t have unlimited miles.

Jerri Hemsworth 15:12

Steven Driss 15:12
So I have to- I have to play smart with my points.

Jerri Hemsworth 15:16
That’s and- how much time does it take for you to dabble in this? Or is it just something you’re addicted to? And you’re like oh, if I do this I’ll do this and then you’re constantly searching for the better card that might offer you more miles or more points?

Steven Driss 15:33
Not really because I have two cards that I use, and I follow these influencers. Right? So I have somebody that I get a daily email from- I have somebody on Instagram, and the Instagram guy just talked about how you can downgrade this one card, and then you can reapply and get the 100,000 point bonus, and it’s not going to prevent you from doing that. And since we’re going next summer, and I and I want to stay for free, so I got that bonus. So, you know, I play around I don’t go too crazy with it. I only have two credit cards so i don’t i don’t have 30 cards.

Jerri Hemsworth 16:06
Right. Right.

Steven Driss 16:07
There’s some people that have like spreadsheets: with I’m using this card only for this and it works for them! But it’s too complicated for me, so I have all the apps of the travel partners. So, I have Hyatt, I have Marriott, I have Hilton.

Jerri Hemsworth 16:23

Steven Driss 16:24
Bonvoy. Correct! And then I have- and I have with American Express you have the the American Express travel or I can transfer points from American Express to the airline and so I kind of already know more or less where to go for what I want. You know every time we fly to Europe we always fly to Paris because we can fly Air France. And Air France business class, it’s it’s amazing it’s a five star resort right in the air.

Jerri Hemsworth 16:51

Steven Driss 16:51
The food is fantastic. The the service is great. Lie flat beds. I mean it’s really really nice. So every year we travel we always fly through Paris because we like flying Air France.

Jerri Hemsworth 17:01
Well and Paris is kind of Central you can hop.

Steven Driss 17:04

Jerri Hemsworth 17:05
Almost anywhere. Within an hour.

Steven Driss 17:07
Easy. We fly to Florence, we’ll fly to, you know, well, to Nice, there’s a lot of places you can fly out of Charles de Gaulle. So yeah, it’s fun.

Jerri Hemsworth 17:18
I think we- we flew- we took a train from London into Paris. And then we we took the train backup. And um- but before that, we were in a couple years before that we were in Sweden, and then we we flew to Italy, and the amount of time it takes you to hop anywhere in Europe. It blows our mind it blows you know, when we’re traveling, it blows our mind because here we’re used to all five or six hours to get to New York. You know, our country is so big over there. It’s amazing.

Steven Driss 17:53
In a snap.

Jerri Hemsworth 17:54
And you take your kids too? Or no?

Steven Driss 17:55
No we haven’t taken them to Europe. We’re gonna wait a little bit. Because, we want to enjoy it ourselves.

Jerri Hemsworth 17:59

Steven Driss 18:00
But as soon as we have a chance, and this is my my wish, my hope is that maybe next summer or the following summer, we rent a house or an Airbnb for a month. Maybe in Florence or maybe in Madrid or some some city where we can just travel from and and take a summer vacation and just spend- live like a local. Take weekend trips, take day trips, just just enjoy. You know how it is. So we’ll see how that goes.

Jerri Hemsworth 18:28
We knew- we have a photographer friend. And when their daughter was growing up, she was an only child. But they would rent for a month in Tuscany, one of the villas, and it was very cost effective. And they would stay put and do their day trips from there. And it was really wonderful because they got to know some of the locals and and it was great for their daughter. And they got to the point where some of the locals would babysit their daughter, Terry and Marla could go on a date night. And I thought wow.

Steven Driss 19:03
We are very blesse that we have good grand parents. My wifes parents will take the kids for three weeks. They live in San Francisco, so they don’t see them as often. So we fly to- we drive to San Francisco, drop them off for three weeks. And then we fly out of SFO.

Jerri Hemsworth 19:19
SFO is a great hub. We actually had to fly up there to get to Frankfurt and then to Sweden. And, but it’s a great place to jump from.

Steven Driss 19:29
And they live five minutes from SFO they live in San Bruno, so it’s just we literally arrived the day before. Bring the kids leave the car seats, and then hop on a plane.

Jerri Hemsworth 19:40
That’s awesome.

Steven Driss 19:40
And we come back in-

Jerri Hemsworth 19:42
Pick them up.

Steven Driss 19:42
In three weeks,

Jerri Hemsworth 19:42
and then fly back home.

Steven Driss 19:44

Jerri Hemsworth 19:45

Steven Driss 19:46
But it’s okay. I don’t mind. I love it. It’s the drive is easy. You know we stopped for lunch. There’s a spot in San Luis Obispo that we always stop at on the way to and from San Francisco. It’s called the high street deli if you’ve never been there, you have Have to go. The best sandwiches. Don’t think we’ve been there. We’ll have to hit that one. Yeah, they have a bread called Dutch crunch, which is really a San Francisco bread.

Jerri Hemsworth 20:08

Steven Driss 20:09
You have to go.

Jerri Hemsworth 20:11
Dutch Crunch.

Steven Driss 20:12
It’s the best bread.

Jerri Hemsworth 20:15
All right on that note. Thanks, Steve. Thanks for playing with me today.

Steven Driss 20:19
My pleasure. It was a lot of fun.

Jerri Hemsworth 20:21
Come back. Okay.

Steven Driss 20:21
I absolutely will. Okay.

Intro Speaker 20:23
Presented by Echelon Business Development, more than just networking. Way more.

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Written by Jerri Hemsworth
As CEO and Creative Director at Newman Grace, Jerri leads one of Los Angeles’ most respected marketing firm and brand communication firms. Newman Grace has been providing marketing, brand and advertising consulting, graphic design, and social media services to growing companies since 1996. Newman Grace serves the professional services, manufacturing, sports, publishing and non-profit markets. Jerri is an adjunct professor in the School of Media, Culture and Design at Woodbury University. She is also a co-founder of Echelon Business Development Network.

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