Erez Golomb and Jason Meshekow of Intouch are a true dynamic duo.
These two have been working together as insurance brokers and risk management specialists for more than 20 years. They founded Intouch Insurance Services, an independent brokerage operating in Van Nuys, California. While they each have their own book of business, they often collaborate on big accounts, dividing and conquering.
“By and large, we’re a team,” Jason says. “We market as a team. We promote as a team…as an agency, as one entity.”
Jacks of All Trades
Jason and Erez are willing to take on a wide variety of clients, ranging from attorneys to CPAs to M&A advisors to CFOs. They represent companies across the globe, whether it be Europe, Australia or India.
“In general, I would also say that we’re kind of industry agnostic,” Erez explains. “We don’t pick what comes to us.”
Gardening and Golf
The two each have their own go-to forms of catharsis when it comes to down time. For Erez, it’s his backyard garden. For Jason, it’s the golf course (he was even on Taft High School’s golf team back in the day). Jason is part of the Echelon Golf Specialty Group as well as won the Battleput Golf tournament at a recent Echelon party.
Listen here to Erez and Jason’s story.
Click here to read the transcript
Intro Speaker 0:00
From Los Angeles, this is the Echelon Radio Network.
Brian Hemsworth 0:16
Hey, everybody, it’s Brian Hemsworth. We are here at the Echelon Radio Podcast and I’ve got not one but two guests with us in studio. I have Jason, who I just learned to pronounce his last name, I should be saying Meh-sha-coe. And I’ve got Erez Golomb, with a little B on the end of that, both from Intouch Services. Hey, thanks for coming in you guys.
Jason Meshekow 0:41
Glad to be here.
Erez Golomb 0:42
Thank you for having us.
Brian Hemsworth 0:44
So I wanted to start with, I have heard you guys referred to as the Batman and Robin of insurance. What I want to know is: who’s Batman? Who’s Robin?
Erez Golomb 0:56
Depends who you ask the day and the time.
Jason Meshekow 0:59
And what next week brings, you know.
Brian Hemsworth 1:02
So Jason, just tell me a little bit about Intouch. You know, when a lot of us hear about insurance, that could mean a million different things. What is Intouch? What services do you guys provide?
Jason Meshekow 1:14
We operate a little bit differently than a regular independent agency. We have a risk management practice. And then we have an insurance practice. So most agencies are commoditized, where if they go ahead and get an introduction or lead, they are trying to save money for the prospect. Whereas Intouch operates a little bit differently. We have a risk management platform, when we do assessments, depending on what class of business it is. And then we use insurance on the back end to fill the gap. So it’s not a commoditized structure, and the business model is not commoditized.
Erez Golomb 2:01
So in other words, we when we market someone’s company, or an independent individual’s risk, we will first focus on the exposure. So we will try to find the best coverage for the exposure, then we will discuss the premium. Where it’s come to commodity, or I want to get you the best price or I would like to quote you, then price is the driven mechanism. Whereas with us, it’s: let’s first cover the exposure. To the Jason’s point, the gap and whatnot.
Brian Hemsworth 2:37
So I had somebody tell me once that the the cost is completely immaterial, if you have the wrong coverage, right? Is that fair?
Erez Golomb 2:49
Jason Meshekow 2:49
Brian Hemsworth 2:50
Yeah, so you guys work really a lot on the front end, making sure you understand. You look at that risk that any given company is going to have based on their kind of business. And then you formulate a strategy to go forward on mitigating that risk, and then protecting.
Jason Meshekow 3:03
Right, and the insured or the prospect has to be on board. If they come to us and they’ve got four to five or six brokers, it’s not going to work for anybody. And that’s a situation where we just take a pass and say, you know, have a great day and a better tomorrow, and good luck to you. And it happens a lot, because everybody’s trying to shop to save a dollar in today’s climate, and it’s only going to get worse. So we have to vet these prospects out that we can introduce to and we have to tell them how we work. And if they still don’t understand it, or don’t want to come on board and make us the risk manager/broker, then they need to go on to trying to save $9.99 a pound.
Brian Hemsworth 3:52
Gotcha. So, how do you guys work? Do you work as a team? Do you work as individuals? How does it actually work when say, a referral comes in to intouch?
Erez Golomb 4:17
Well, each one of us has his own book of business. So we work in compartments as an office. Jason would have his own office, I would have my own office. Whereas we do share the same account executives. And then we would, based on the size, the type of business or type of individuals, we would then refer that business to that account executive. So some executive would have more knowledge in the management liability, some of them would have more of the general liability or whatnot. And that’s how we do it. Then again, we would partner as well. Of course, like anything else, we are also the principles and co-founders of intouch insurance. And so, if I have a question, I will go to Jason. Jason doesn’t love me to begin with, you know. laughs
Jason Meshekow 5:15
We do collaborate. If we have house accounts, we share on that. Also if he needs to bring me in, or vice versa, for bigger accounts, where we both work on them, we split that. So it works seamlessly on that, and we have the coding on the back end of it. But by and large, we’re a team. We market as a team. We promote as a team, and we do events, throughout the years prior to COVID, we’ll probably start them next year, but we do it as a team, as an agency, as one entity.
Brian Hemsworth 5:51
And give me a cross section of the kind of clients you guys have. Is it all over the place? Or is it certain sectors that you guys usually work with?
Jason Meshekow 5:58
I would say right now, it’s a lot of technology, and entertainment accounts. You know, with COVID, shutting down, there’s a lot of money on the sidelines. So everybody’s starting up with the technology. They’re being creative. They’re using technology to go ahead and start new businesses, new ventures. But you know, we have clients that are anywhere from nonprofit, for-profit, manufacturers, distributors, to entertainment accounts to all levels of technology counts. And then we also have probably 40 to 50 restaurants we insure we write a lot of law firms, we write a lot of CPA firms. And we also do actuaries and forensic accounting, that we do the risk management insurance. So it’s a whole spectrum. We’re not limited to one specific niche. And we go into our toolbox, what we need to do to go ahead and do the risk management assessment, help them create different solutions, so they’re not up at night, and then use insurance on the back end to fill the gaps. Erez does a lot of entertainment accounts. That’s really his forte. He’s got a tremendous amount of big production companies. And that’s a whole different animal.
Erez Golomb 7:18
In general, I would also say, Brian, that we’re kind of an industry agnostic. We don’t pick what comes to us. We’re being referred by attorneys, by CPAs, by other professionals, by M&A advisors, and whatnot. CFOs. And so if a CFO today would be in entertainment, he would bring us in to the C suite. Because that’s what he’s doing today. Tomorrow it can be in technology. One more thing that I just want to the reiderate on what Jason said is where clients come from. We also have a lot of footprint international waters, meaning we represent a lot of companies through their US entities who come from foreign countries. It will be, let’s say, India. It will be Israel. It will be other European countries. Australia and so forth. So we start the morning in Sydney, we can end up in LA.
Brian Hemsworth 8:21
Could be a long day. Let me ask, you know, a lot of us, we know a little bit about insurance, not nearly enough. What do you guys find right now? What what are some of the areas where just clients in general are either under-insured or not insured at all, that they should be? I know, there’s just a lot of new stuff going on out there. We hear about Russian hackers. It’s in the news every week now. There’s all sorts of stuff going on. But what do you guys see on the front lines? Where do you see business people making mistakes?
Jason Meshekow 8:58
Well, you know, the first thing, we try to educate our clients on is how the property and casualty independent market works. And I’ll say the difference between an independent market and a captive market: So a captive market is a Farmers, an Allstate, a State Farm. Their agents can only write for those specific companies. Okay. So the biggest misconception is, okay, we represent these captive companies. We don’t. We might collaborate with them and know someone there to go ahead and partner with, but we’re independent. So our bucket of insurance carriers is over 150 that we have access to.
Brian Hemsworth 9:46
Jason Meshekow 9:48
Probably even more. So that’s the first misconception of an independent broker. The second one is how it works. We have, I would say, four to five different prospects that get referred into us per week. And they have two to three other brokers that they’re working with. And we talk about the risk management and how we operate as our business model, which is different than other independent brokers. And they say, oh, okay, well, broker A got me X amount and broker B got me X amount, what can you do? The problem is, it’s a first-come, first-serve industry. So broker A is going to XYZ company, and broker B is going to the same company, broker B is going to get blocked out. And then here it comes intouch, and we’re broker C—
Yeah, we could be D, E or F. Sometimes we’ve been Z. At the end of the day, you have to educate them. And you have to say, hey, look, if you’re not making yourself attractive to the insurance market by having five brokers going to the same market, because Brian, if you were the underwriter and I said to you, oh, if you’re sitting there, you’re trying to write a risk, and you’re getting the same application from 10 different brokers, what would you think about that insurance?
Erez Golomb 11:22
The underwriter takes that application. Shuffles it all the way to the bottom of his pile. And the end result, moving forward from what Jason was saying is, the insurance agent kind of shoots himself in the foot. He burns his markets. And nobody would take a look at him. Because the underwriter, what he does, he would say, well, if he shops the broker, he would definitely shop me, the insurance company. So why would I spend time and effort on this guy? Another misconception, if I may, Jason, is about business owners and brokers or insurance as a whole. Insurance does not necessarily follow business, and business does not necessarily follow the insurance. A great example would be a T shirt distributor, for instance, right? A T shirt distributor who goes and buys the T shirts, and it’s not his label. And then one day, he wakes up in the morning, and he decides ‘today, I’m going to be having my own label, I’m going to cut everyone out there.’ He was a distributor. Now he’s a manufacturer. Unbeknown to the to the broker, his insurance is no longer, because he’s not a distributor anymore. He’s a manufacturer. And this is where business and insurance don’t necessarily follow one another. And it works in many, many ways. I can list them all day long.
Jason Meshekow 13:05
I have a mantra for that says ‘everybody’s doing something. You just don’t know what it is. Until you do.’
Erez Golomb 13:11
Jason Meshekow 13:12
And I’ve seen manufacturers that are selling lighting fixtures and equipment for industrial buildings, and they’re selling shoes on the back end. So everybody’s doing something. You have to educate the prospect on how we work. Now, if they want to point us to a broker, they can sign a letter and do that, but they have to be on board and understand how we operate. But most times, when they have four to five brokers in there, that’s not the client for us.
Erez Golomb 13:49
And you also have to be transparent. If we don’t have an open seat, if there’s no two-way communication, it’s unfortunate.
Brian Hemsworth 14:00
And it sounds like a lot of other things. If all they’re doing is shopping price, there’s a really good chance there’s something that the broker is not going to know about, and there’s going to be a problem down the road. It sounds to me like you guys really act more as consultants up front, and communication is critical with your clientele. And if they’re telling you the right things, and you guys are asking them the right things, they’re much more likely going to have far less risk, and what they do need coverage for, you’ll be able to help them with. As opposed to the guy who just comes in, he’s looking for the most bottom barrel price that he can get, and then you have a problem on the back end of it when, like you say, he’s selling shoes out the back when he’s in electrical distributor.
Erez Golomb 14:42
The other thing is the piecemealing. They piecemeal every policy and when you piecemeal, all the policies, different carriers, the next thing that you’re going to have is a gap. It’s a disaster bound to happen. It doesn’t work very well. So you don’t piecemeal insurance.
Brian Hemsworth 15:13
So let’s move into a couple of fun little areas. Erez, we hear this accent in your voice.
Erez Golomb 15:23
My Irish accent? From Tel Aviv? Laughs
Brian Hemsworth 15:24
Your Irish accent. So that Dublin accent is coming through. You’re from Israel, originally?
Erez Golomb 15:31
Born and raised. Yes.
Brian Hemsworth 15:32
How long have you been here?
Jason Meshekow 15:36
Erez Golomb 15:37
Yeah, I just jumped over the fence. Yeah. My boat arrived in 1987. Right after my service.
Brian Hemsworth 15:50
And have you been insurance the whole time?
Erez Golomb 15:55
No, no. I actually to jump through a couple of loops and hoops. My background is accounting that moved into technology. In between I did real estate, commercial property management, habitational property management as well. Apartment buildings. I kind of like the accounting side because it was always, you know, you always need to find something that you can fall back on. Then I kind of found myself very well with the the IT side, and it’s still a bug that I have in me till today. And Jason will have his laugh on my account.
Jason Meshekow 16:49
He’s a tinkerer. And my son is a tinkerer, so I call him Erez Jr. sometimes because he tinkers with stuff. So it’s tongue in cheek, but he’s a tinkerer on the IT.
Brian Hemsworth 17:03
There was a little bit of wine import during that time, right?
Erez Golomb 17:06
Wine import as well. I was lucky to import and distribute wine from Israel. I represented the fourth-largest winery in California. We got so much from one pallet that they used to have, we actually sold two containers in one year, which was a great success. One of the things that we did was we also had an online gift basket. So we did a lot of things. I fell into insurance after selling my ecommerce businesses. Then moved into the insurance premium finance in which I still own the insurance finance company. And then Jason and I met in ’97, right?
Jason Meshekow 17:57
It was December of ’96, and Erez was in IT. And I was in network operations for a telecommunication company called glow cast that was owned by France Telecom. They were in Culver City. If anybody’s been in Culver City, across from Sony, from the corner of Washington and Overland, the big satellite dishes. In the ’90s, that place was pretty hoppin. We were doing a lot of end-to-end transmissions for all the big motion pictures and studios, and a lot of sports. And then Erez was doing the IT, figuring out how to go ahead and build, from scratch I believe, the infrastructure on the network, as well as the management system for the satellite transponders for the booking times.
Erez Golomb 18:46
They had a mess. I had to connect to Asia, South America, North America. And they were owned by France Telecom. So they were the the big conglomerate.
Brian Hemsworth 18:58
So Jason, you were in that side of telecommunications. And we know you got to insurance. And you guys created intouch. But you’re not first generation in that, right?
Jason Meshekow 19:12
No. So, my father had been in the business since the late 60s, early 70s. And I never wanted to go into it. And then in the ’90s, my father and his partners were looking to perpetuate the agency. And his partners are the ones that recruited me. And they wanted me to get into a technology company. They wanted me to get into other, not so much grass roots products, but really more cutting-edge that was more contemporary for them that they didn’t understand, which was tech and the .com boom and what not. . So, in 2000 I joined their agency, and it was about 20-25 people. And I really learned how to run a desk and how to basically run the Professional Liability Technology Division there. Three years later, they merged with another agency. So overnight, it went from 20-25 people to about 70. And then they moved offices and then by the mid to the latter half of the 2000s, they had all new management. And then from that standpoint, they started going ahead and organically growing the business by acquiring agencies and programs and so forth. By that time, Erez was doing the premium finance and I wanted to go in a different direction, and Erez, and I came up. We originally had four partners. There’s two left: Erez and I.
Erez Golomb 20:56
We were the finalists.
Jason Meshekow 21:01
It was like survivor.
Brian Hemsworth 21:03
The tribe has spoken.
Jason Meshekow 21:06
It did speak. And in 2010, we formed intouch, and here we are 11 years later. It’s crazy.
Erez Golomb 21:15
Holding hands and watching to sunset.
Brian Hemsworth 21:18
That’s very nice. Very nice. I’m glad to hear that. Now, Jason, we’ve heard you on a number of occasions. You’re one of our resident weather experts. But I’m not gonna go there today. I want to go a different direction. Because this is an area that I know you have interest in, but I don’t know where this comes from: Golf. You like golf. You put on golf tournaments. Where does this come from?
Jason Meshekow 21:43
I went to Taft High School in the San Fernando Valley. And I was on the golf team for four years. So I played competitively in that arena. And then, from that standpoint, I took a break when I went to college. Played it recreationally because, like most people, they get burned out. You’re playing six, seven times a year. I have two claim-to-fames: I played with Tiger Woods once when he was 14, and Phil Mickelson in high school, and I knew that I needed another job. That was a long time ago. But I formed a Southern California Golf Association affiliate club in 2001. And by ’05, 06, we had about 60 to 70 members, and we were doing six to seven tournaments a year. So I enjoyed doing that. And then, in the insurance industry, I was on the board of the independent brokers and agents of Los Angeles called the IBA, and I was the golf chair every year. And we would go ahead and raise money for our nonprofit for political advocacy, charities, so forth and so on. And we would have tournaments, 120 140 players, every year, I think errors when he was in the premium finance, he would be a sponsor, and it was a ball. It was, it was a lot of fun. We would have other brokers there other agents, insurance people, carriers, vendors, so forth, and so on. So I always got into that. So I parlayed the two and then my own independent Golf Club is called the top 10 Golf Club. And we were do tournaments at Pebble Beach, went up to banded dunes. And it was always a great networking thing. And I’m and that’s one of the things that errors, and I do not only on the on the InTouch side is we do events, and whether it’s golf or other events, we bring people together, that they would not have known other people if we didn’t bring them together. Yeah, so as far as the golf so that so that’s basically what we’re doing. I’m also doing the I have a networking golf group that you know, you know about. So we do tournaments a couple of times a year, we didn’t want to COVID and March, which was interesting, but everybody had a great time, and we’re going to be doing one in September.
Brian Hemsworth 24:13
So I played certainly a lot more when I was younger, and that that wasn’t a lot. But when I first you know got out of school and started in business, and then occasionally would play golf, one of the things that I learned about networking while playing golf was just play golf, the networking will come along so the people that try hard, I noticed you kind of felt it. Whereas the people that just played had a good time, you know by the 14th hole if you want to talk a little business you can but to bring it up on you know, the second hole, the third hole, it just felt like it was trying too much. Sounds to me like that’s what you’ve tapped into is people finding things that they want to do together and then networking comes along with it.
Jason Meshekow 24:55
It comes along, and then the format. So if you do a scramble format, people call it the best ball. And it’s technically not called that, but in a scramble, everybody takes the best shot, and then they continue doing that until they hole it out. I feel that if they don’t know the people in their group, by the end of the day, they will. And that’s what it’s about. You know, right now, things are starting to get to the point where you can go inside and actually mingle. We did this in the beginning of March, and it was challenging outside. We were trying to have people to eat outside and, you know, a lot of restrictions, but on the golf course, it’s full on. They can go ahead and do whatever they want in the golf carts, but it works. It really works.
Brian Hemsworth 25:42
Erez, when you’re not working, which is, with international clients, a lot of the day, what do you do?
Erez Golomb 25:50
What do I do? What do I do, Jason?
Jason Meshekow 25:54
You go biking on a bike that you’re looking to sell?
Erez Golomb 26:00
I like to take care of my garden. I like to spend time at my garden. Buddha, Buddha is a good thing. You know, I like sports in general. I hope gyms will open again so we can return back to the gym, but nothing really crazy. I like to futz with technology all day long.
Brian Hemsworth 26:40
Do you have any technology in the garden?
Erez Golomb 26:43
I can bring some.
Brian Hemsworth 26:46
You know, in the same way that I learned from playing charity golf tournaments with with clients or people I was working with, I learned that when you have a good time on the golf course, any kind of networking you want to do will come along. You don’t have to force it when you get to know people. I found something about gardening. I’m curious if you found the same thing. I actually have a philosophy that says: If more people got their hands dirty, if they felt the soil each weekend, that they’d probably be a better person for it. I think it’s a really grounding thing for a person to do.
Jason Meshekow 27:24
Oh, I totally agree that people should get their hands dirty. I mean, metaphorically and literally. I mean, we have a little garden in our atrium, patio area. And a couple weeks ago, I had my kids get their hands dirty. They didn’t like it. But they did it, and they appreciated what they built.
Brian Hemsworth 27:48
Yeah, it’s a good thing. And there’s just something that I find to be very soothing and grounding. And I almost want to say, like, if that was something we could do with the prison system. Why not go out and garden for the day, right? Actually do something like that. And so I can see why, on a weekend. You know for me, the gardening isn’t always by choice, it’s by necessity. We bought a fixer-upper house, so I feel like every weekend I’m doing something.
Erez Golomb 28:19
I do it every day, not every weekend. In the weekend it’s more, but every day. Recently we just grew some vegetables. I actually built shelves, real shelves. And there’s four wheels. I can move that thing everywhere in the backyard.
Jason Meshekow 28:43
Is it sturdier now? Because it knocked over with the wind.
Erez Golomb 28:46
Well, it did actually. And so we kind of created a greenhouse. Imagine, on moving shelves. So we grow vegetables in there. So we wrapped it around with those clear plastics. We’ll see how it goes.
Brian Hemsworth 29:09
So as a cyclist, I ride the West Valley quite a bit. And I see there are a lot of people that are building those, but it seems to be cannabis is kind of the big thing that we see growing out in the West Valley. there. It’s brought in a whole new world of agriculture out here. One last question for each of you guys. We’re opening up now. We’re seeing a lot of restrictions being pulled back. What’s something you’re just really looking forward to as we kind of get back to a little more sense of normalcy in life and in business. What’s something that you’re going ‘Oh, thank goodness, because this is what I want to do.’
Jason Meshekow 29:46
Well, I think from a business networking idea, it’s going ahead and doing our smaller type of events at our patio at our office. I think that’s been lacking. We had two events scheduled for last year that were intouch-wide, which is our brand for our events and they shutdown with COVID. We probably won’t do anything until ’22. Because, you know, everything changes by the hour. But from a smaller standpoint, it’s our patio, and getting that ready and having people come out there and seeing people. It’s a lot of fun. Because you miss that connection. Zoom takes you halfway there. It’s the other part that—
Brian Hemsworth 30:33
We all miss.
Erez Golomb 30:35
I’m kind of a burned out of this Zoom thing, but it’s okay. I can speak for myself, but I’m sure Jason is there too. I like to see people, meet people, hug people. You know, shake their hand. That’s how you connect.
Jason Meshekow 30:53
That’s what we’re looking forward to. But Zoom, you know, we’ve been doing this for 15 months. A couple of weeks ago, I did a small event at Citi Field, which is where the New York Mets play in New York. Only eight people, because of COVID, and it was great, because I got to meet a couple people that someone brought that I couldn’t meet otherwise, and it was in person. And it was another law firm that we do business with. So that was pretty cool. And that was a much smaller scale. But as things open, hopefully they remain open. And another thing is, I got the opportunity, because I was networking the other day (on the golf course, mind you, Brian). And they came to me and they were talking about, ‘Hey, why don’t you go ahead and get season tickets for the Chargers, and go in it with about three or four other people, and you can get club seats, and it could be sort of like a suite and you can do it as a networking/business thing. So I’m looking into that as well. And intouch might be doing some of those because, why not? It’s just it’s all about meeting people and making that connection and trying to get around the Zoom 15-month process.
Erez Golomb 32:24
Actually, next Friday is going to be my first meet-up with a professional networking group, for happy hour.
Brian Hemsworth 32:32
Doesn’t that feel good?
Erez Golomb 32:34
I’ve been waiting for that for quite some time.
Brian Hemsworth 32:37
Hey, you know what also feels good? I’m glad you guys made it in here today.
Jason Meshekow 32:39
Thanks, it was fun.
Erez Golomb 32:40
Brian Hemsworth 32:42
And hope we have you guys in again soon.
Intro Speaker 32:51
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