Episode 21: From the Ground Up [Transcript]

Listen to the full episode here!


Welcome to the Inside Insight podcast presented by CR Solutions. At Consolidated Risk Solutions, we are taking our expert knowledge of the insurance world and using it to innovate the industry using technology, groundbreaking thinking and a personal touch. Join us as we talk to masterminds both inside and outside of CR Solutions about how the world of insurance is changing, and how we can be sure to grow along with it. If you have to manage insurance in your work, then you can benefit from the interviews, conversations and insights we’ll be exploring to elevate your business’s success.


INTRO (00:42 – 03:15)

Trevor Casey: Ryan Darragh, we have you from NCC. You back on the pot. I don’t even know if that makes sense.

Beau Lunceford: He’s not back, is it? This the first time we’ve had him here?

Trevor Casey: Yeah, it’s the first time. Ryan, welcome to the pot. We’re about to cook up some soup. Ryan Darragh, National Coverage Corp. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This is a conversation that usually I feel like I am leading the conversation. But this one was way over my head. I thankful for you.

Beau Lunceford: I loved this conversation. And I think I even say it in the in the interview. This is my bread and butter. This is what I love to spend time talking about leadership and growth and the way that people are just changing their lives for the better, and then how it reflects back into their businesses. This is such a unique conversation. And I am really hopeful that people are going to have a lot to take away from it. I don’t want to give too much away, I don’t want to tell a whole lot about Ryan’s story because he does a great job of bringing us into his world in this interview. But I will say as a precursor going into this, we are going to talk about some heavier topics. So if you’ve got some issue with addiction or anything along those lines, it’s not going to be maybe something that you want to listen to without being ready for it. So want to give you that heads up. That’s something we’re going to be discussing today. And it’s a big part of this conversation. It is not the only thing we do talk about some legit business a things and some legit insurance things about the world that NCC has built in the kind of way they’re changing the space. But there are some heavier topics that we do talk about today.

Trevor Casey: Absolutely. And just to give a little bit of additional knowledge. NCC is a wholesaler in the insurance space, they are based out of New York as well. We don’t want to glass just over what NCC does. They do some incredible work. But I feel like this conversation was structured more around taking a look at yourself personally and saying, what can I do to achieve what I want to achieve? And Ryan really shows where he started, where he fell too, and now where he’s at. And it’s such a beautiful conversation to see. So without any further ado, let’s go ahead and get into this conversation. And thank you again, Ryan, for everything that you’re putting on the table for our listeners. Let’s go.


Interview (03:19 – 28:06)

Trevor Casey: All right, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the Inside Insight podcast. We are joined today by the one and only Ryan Darragh. We would call him probably a Power Broker over at NCC on the wholesale side. How are you Ryan?

Ryan Darragh: All good. Thanks for the nice intro. I appreciate that.

Trevor Casey: Absolutely. We are so excited to have you on the show. Thank you for taking the time out. You’re the first wholesaler I believe that we’ve actually spoken to on the show. So it’s exciting to see a new side of the insurance industry.

Ryan Darragh: I appreciate that. Hopefully we can bring some a different perspective and maybe debunk some stereotypes about wholesalers that are floating around there.

Trevor Casey: Love it. So tell us a little bit about yourself, Ryan and what you do over at NCC.

Ryan Darragh: So I’ve been at NCC for seven years. I took over as president two years ago. Prior to that. I’ve always been a construction focused wholesale broker. A short stint as a retail broker when I was 20, 21 years old. I think I’m in year 20 as a construction broker. So when I came over to NCC, I had left national brokerages like Amway and CRC, a broker now that’s folded into RT. So I had that national wholesale model. And I decided to go in the other direction to start an independent construction focused wholesale operation. Which at the time, and even more so today, with all the acquisition going on is kind of bucking the trend a little bit. We can get into advantages and disadvantages that. But realistically, I wanted to come over and I want to do one thing. Get away from the jack of all trades, master of none theory of wholesaling and kind of focus on one specialty.

Beau Lunceford: Great. Well, Ryan, tell me a little bit about you said that you kind of had a little bit of a shift where you wanted to move into this new area, what really prompted that? Was it something in the market that shifted that made you say, I really want to get away from these national sighs jack of all trades kind of gigs, what kind of brought you over this way?

Ryan Darragh: So working on the bigger places, you kind of get lost a little bit. Like, there’s a lot of people like you tried to go for the same retail brokers go for the same accounts, the same big ticket items. And what happens is something that happens when you’re younger, and you’re trying to break into the industry is you want to say yes. Like you want to go into your hotel broker, and you don’t want to tell them, you can’t do something. And so what happens is you start taking everything and I can do that, I can do that, not a problem, I’ll do a crane contract during the mill in New York City. And then I’ll also write the liability on a bakery. That’s kind of what you do. And what I started to realize is that you’re not really serving anyone. If you lean on your strengths and decide to pick a focus, and really learn your industry and learn what you’re selling, you can be more effective for your retailers. And you’ll actually have a more lengthy relationship with them if they get to know who you are as a broker, as opposed to the yes person on everything. And that’s something that took a lot of years and a lot of mistakes to learn. And that was kind of the focus behind NCC.

Trevor Casey: So I feel like everybody thinks that being the broker on the retail side is the sexy job where you make all that money and people make it into this cool thing. But in reality, you’re a dime a dozen, and you’re just going to get lost in the sauce, and the likelihood of that success is probably pretty slim, where you set yourself up to really succeed.

Ryan Darragh: I was joking earlier about the stereotypes about wholesalers. It’s like we just forward the emails that the retailer send us to the underwriter and we hope we get a good deal. I think what we’ve focused on and the hires we’ve made in national coverage, which are very unconventional, we have 10 plus year underwriters on staff that were on the underwriting side. We had people that were on the retail side for a long time but you’re right. I’ve joked around. There’s two types of successful wholesalers, the one that the retailer’s love to hang out with, and the ones that are technical wholesalers. And if you could be both, that’s great, but don’t be neither. It’s definitely a balance. There’s a lot of ways to get deals done. And that’s one of the things that’s attractive for younger people to get into the industry, there’s no one pathway to success and you can lean on. If you’re saying more of a personable person, and you have that marketing background, but say you’re not that strong technically, then you surround yourself with a team that is, and you kind of do that, and maybe a national model makes more sense for you because you can lean on the big bucks behind you. But that’s a cool thing about insurance is that you can kind of create your own ceiling for yourself.

Beau Lunceford: So one of the things I hear out of that, I like to think that Trevor and I are two has the same brain that Trevor is kind of the insurance brain and I’m a little bit more of like the culture, organizational development kind of side. So tell me a little bit about what your staff is like and what your team is like. Because just out of that little section talking just now, all I heard was, our team is doing something different. We are coming together to create something that’s different from anybody else. So tell me a little bit about what that looks like at NCC?

Ryan Darragh: It took a lot of tinkering with the formula on what makes sense. But, for us, being a wholesaler naturally, really, you’re in the middle. So I’m catering two clients not just one. I have the insurance companies that expect a level of service and professionalism and they want to see the accounts they want to see. And they want us to understanding what they want. And then you have the retail brokers who may or may not be specialized in what they’re doing. You might have retailers that do everything, but say I’m dealing with someone that’s a construction based retailer, they have expectations of their wholesaler that they have access to markets that in relationships with markets that can turn things around. So, in doing that, I tried to respect both sides of that coin in building the staff at NCC which, like I said, our staff is very diverse staff, and we have three employees that have been retail brokers. So understand the hurdles of being a retail broker. So when they’re talking to retailers, they understand where they’re coming from. And then we have John Fury, who’s on our staff who was that CNA for 10 plus years running construction across the country. So he understands what underwriters expect to see. So in that process, our team is really a team. When an account comes in, we take everyone’s strengths, and we put them together and we triage accounts. Whereas something comes in, and it’s very technical problem from a coverage perspective that the retailer’s having, guess what we have someone that worked at an insurance company for 10 years in New York construction has seen every single problem, and I tried to instill in my staff that we have to understand every side of each coin is because if we’re just too focused on I gotta get this deal done for the retailer. And I’m not worried what the underwriter’s appetite is, and what he wants to see and where he or she wants to write, then I’m not really service, I’m just going to fail on that end. So how do we do that, and one thing we’ve done is we’ve become very transparent where we have no problem letting our retailers talk to our underwriters. I don’t want to be the person that just speaks on behalf of everyone. If you don’t understand why this carrier doesn’t want to do this account, why don’t we get on a phone call the three of us, and they can explain that to you. And transparency is something that I think makes us effective.

Beau Lunceford: It sounds like that’s one of the things that’s setting you all apart from what other people are doing. Because one of my thoughts or one of my questions was, insurance is always changing. It’s always moving, it’s always doing something different. We have to stay on our toes with it. And so what is it about y’all that gives you that competitive edge? I know that you’ve mentioned clearly that transparency is something that other people are not doing, and it’s not something that is super present? Is there anything else that’s taken y’all another step above what everybody else is providing?

Ryan Darragh: I’m very open about this. So I’ve been a broker for 20 years, but I’ve also been in recovery and sober for five and a half. And a change like that in your life is going to change everything in your life, including business, personal and family. And six years ago, I was knee deep struggling and alcoholism, and easy to blame the industry, parties, whatever is going on. Like, I got to entertain these clients. I was totally varied in the idea that me out being less fun broker and partying and all this stuff was part of my business. And it was part of who I was, and things went off the rails. And the company I’m the president of right now, I was fired from 2018. And I went to rehab. I met some people that had made some changes in their life. And I listened, I took suggestions, I became open to the idea that my way wasn’t working. And in doing that, I had a complete shift in how I viewed the world. And one of those things coming out of rehab was, “Could I come back to insurance?” And going into rehab, I’d never thought I’d be an insurance broker ever again, there’s no way I’m going to be able to be in this atmosphere and be successful. But by making some changes in my life, and listening to others, and kind of putting on a new pair of glasses, like seeing the world differently, I came out of there more ready to be an insurance broker than I ever thought I was going to be. And that type of thing sometimes takes a traumatic event. For me, it was rock bottom and alcoholism. And for others, I was supposed to take this plane, and I missed my flight and it crashed. And then that person’s like, I get a second chance at my life. And they decide to make dramatic changes. Alcoholism doesn’t own changes in people. Anything occur in somebody where they decide I want to do things differently. And I came back to the industry as a different person. I used to take everything so personally, this broker is yelling at me about this deal. I’m too high. And I can’t believe he just said this to me and this underwriter won’t do this deal for me. And I stopped remembering that people have lives outside of insurance, and maybe they’re yelling at me because they miss a mortgage payment, or maybe their daughter’s sick. Everything’s not about me. So, taking that approach is kind of like, how I build my team? I need support and it’s a strength to say I want to turn to someone who may be better at something than I am. And let’s be transparent on both sides of the coin. So that shift in thinking was a big shift and everything about, NCC about, me about hiring, so it’d be weird not to mention that because it was a big moment in my life.

Trevor Casey: As you say it sounds like your weakness became your strength and then allowed you to foster innovation within your company. And that innovation has fostered better communication and new products and new relationships and has really skyrocketed NCC to a whole new level, not even NCC but you. You spoke on how you got fired, came back. And now you’re the president, and you guys are massively successful. So that is just incredible to see.

Ryan Darragh: I think part of that is trying, it’s very easy to get caught up in success and think it’s all you and that was one of my biggest problems, self-centered type behavior. I wrote this big deal, I did it, but really it’s my team. It’s my underwriter, it’s my retailer, who knows the contractor, and not getting caught up so much and like myself and worried about others and doing the right thing from a business perspective and a professional and a personal perspective. I also don’t get weighed down by the bad things. And having an experience in my life that maybe the worst experiences in my life have led to the greatest results, I can look at losing accounts as maybe that’s the way that was supposed to go, and I can move on from it quicker. And it’s easy to get success and start to not focus on the things that got you there. One of the greatest pieces of advice I ever got was when I was kind of growing like this a little bit was, “Don’t let your life get better before you do.” And things start going well, that’s when you start forgetting how you got to where you are. And I try to keep grounded with that. I’m just blessed to have an amazing team that’s kind of listen to some suggestions because it’s not the cool and fun way to do business. It’s interesting, like business has become easier. I’m just worried. I almost don’t even have to think about the day when I come in. Let’s just do the right thing when it comes in by everybody involved in whatever way that shakes out, we’re cool with it.

Trevor Casey: That was incredible.

Beau Lunceford: I’m just blown away by the transformation that has happened for you. And you kind of alluded to it that in the insurance industry, it’s really hard to separate the entertainer aspect, and then the business aspect that you said, I didn’t think I’d be able to come back and let both of those things exist together. This is a nine factually based statement, I think that a lot of people who are in the insurance industry are very likely to find themselves in the same kind of position that you found yourself in, where they’re very close to a rock bottom, that they are really abusing a lot of the tools as we might say to do business, is there anything that you would want to tell somebody who might be listening to this podcast right now who’s in that same headspace who’s in that spot of being in an unhealthy situation to kind of level and relate that they might need to hear or benefit from?

Ryan Darragh: One of the reasons I’m very open about it is that I’m hoping that someone listens or hears or maybe comes across what happened in my life and says, “Maybe I was a little bit wrong about what I have to do to be successful in insurance and maybe I gotta take care of myself and be open to some change in the way I do things.” Look, I still go to the Knicks schemes, and I go play golf with my clients. When I’m in the office, let me get to the point where I have something to celebrate. And how am I going to get to that celebration with my clients is by getting the deal done for them. And let me tell you like the things that go on at a bar between nine and one o’clock in the morning, no one remembers in any way the next day so it’s a gift and a curse is that I gotta remember everything that said at a bar it’s out of pocket, but it’s definitely one of those things where I’m hoping if someone is struggling and thinks that they can’t be in this industry without tipping them back or maybe they just need to scale back. Not everybody needs to be sober. I’m totally cool with people that drink. My wife drinks, my family members drink. I got to a point where it’s not that I can’t drink, it’s not I don’t have to those are different things. I like being public about it because I want someone to have all the success that’s gone on at NCC with my retailer, with my underwriters, with friends, family, I have to say the most important thing that I got out of this is the ability to help somebody that’s struggling. And I’ve truly mean that. Because let me tell you, you can lose a million dollar deal. But if someone comes in, and you meet them one day, and they’re like, my life’s over. I can’t stop drinking. I’m losing my job, and I can look them in the e and say, “Guess what, it’s not over. Like, what’s better than that? You’re never you’re never going to get anything like that in your career.” I think the insurance industry is made for those types of stories. Like I said earlier, there’s any pathway to success and insurance, this is one of them. It’s on the table for anyone that wants it.

Beau Lunceford: I feel like I’ve known you for a while now. And this is the first time that I’ve heard this story, it has heard this part of your journey, and I’m just blown away. It just adds so much more respect that I have for you and what you’ve done and the career that you’ve built. So I just appreciate you sharing, and letting us see this this side of you. Because I think that this part of your journey is the core of what makes you successful at NCC and what makes you successful in what you do. This is the root of your innovation. Like that’s one of the big things that we talk about here a lot is innovation, and how are you changing the game. And you have brought this in and shown us really how important this can be and what this can do for your growth in your personal life. I thank you for sharing and it’s just huge and important. And I don’t think we can talk about it enough.

Ryan Darragh: Now I appreciate it. I’m an open book with anyone I meet about it. You say about innovation, like some of the coolest things we’ve done at NCC were built around the idea that maybe it’s not going to be this financial windfall immediately. Our wrap down program, which we partnered with CR Solutions on aesthetically, that looked like that’s going to take a long time to write a lot of premium doing that. But every time you write one of those you are helping someone out have an amazingly tough spot. Now I can’t get an extension on my Wrap-Up, and we need to get paid on this job. And we only have this much work left. And it’s just three months, and I can’t get a policy to get me out of this hole. Maybe that accounts only 50 grand or underground or whatever it is. But that contractor just get the finish the job and get them off site and go to the next one. And if every time we write one of those, I’m like, “Oh my God, that was so cool”. Like, we solved the problem for somebody. And let me tell you, I’ve made more broker relationships out of small accounts, getting them out of bigger problems than the easy big ones that everyone wants to write. It’s just a different way of thinking about, maybe if I just worry about helping others in the industry, the things that I think I want will come anyway.

Beau Lunceford: That’s beautiful.

Ryan Darragh: So it’s definitely fun.

Trevor Casey: So if a broker was sitting in a rock in a hard place, are you looking for new brokers to partner with and try to find new innovation and collaborations for innovation? Or, how does that work? How does somebody a retail on the retail side connect with the wholesale broker and a team that is as well rounded as yours to try to get out of some of these rock and hard place situations that they might be in?

Ryan Darragh: Well, I think that comes back to the transparency thing is a lot of times when you’re working for a large brokerage, you kind of have to remember that you’re everyone’s client. Like, you have these massive things, you have to serve all these different things that are going on corporately or individually or countrywide. And the nice thing about being like an independent broker is that all of my brokers know who my other brokers are. I don’t know, that just came out very jumbled. But meaning everyone who does business national coverage knows who does business with national coverage. And if there’s a major problem that one retailer has that we have to solve, that maybe isn’t the best thing for some of my other retailers, they want to build a program for them or something or we tell the other retailers. Like, “Hey, just so you know, we’re venturing into this thing for USI or somebody from small broker in Brooklyn called us and they’re having this issue.” It doesn’t matter how big, it doesn’t matter if you’re USI or lion, or if you’re like the mom and pop shop in Brooklyn. If we can help you guys out and it’s a challenge we’re in. Let the harder the better, and we’ll spend a time on it which, like I said, might not be a financial windfall day one, but I’m a big believer in those little steps that you make a bear the biggest results down the road.

Beau Lunceford: That seems very clear in just everything that you do. It’s like the small things matter.

Ryan Darragh: It’s very easy to get caught up in the deal. And think that everything is about this deal this day, this broker on this quote, but that’s not the case. And not to say that in look, I’ll be the first to admit this I fail constantly at stuff, but I gotta learn from that stuff. I know everyone says is big insurance, but it’s 1,000% true is you learn more about yourself or your business when you lose a deal than when you win one?

Trevor Casey: Absolutely.

Beau Lunceford: Ryan, I’ve loved this conversation, this might so far, I think this might be one of my favorite interviews that we’ve done. Like, this has been just such a blast. I love this so much. Ryan, is there anything else that we need to talk about that you want to make sure that we dig into during this conversation?

Ryan Darragh: Honestly, like the way the industry is right now and a lot with the economic climate, unfortunately or fortunately, the insurance construction runs with what’s going on across all these sectors. And just hanging on tight the way you do business is important, because there’s going to be ups and downs in it. I think for NCC, our focus is to keep partnering with people we think are like-minded, and helping the industry and just waiting for the results of doing the right thing. And I do think it’s going to be a crazy couple of years in the market. And keep your head on a swivel is going to be important.

Trevor Casey: Well, Ryan, thank you so much for the time and your insights on just recovery and how it’s shaped your business and NCC. If anybody wanted to reach out to you learn more about NCC or just talk to you on a personal level, where can they find you?

Ryan Darragh: You know, the traditional methods are fine. We’re on LinkedIn. You can take a look at that and contact anyone. Anyone from my team is an extension of, meaning like we can all discuss accounts. And again, if it’s something personal, and you want to talk to me off the record about it, I’m totally open to that and having that discussion. Because, as you can tell, I like to talk. And it’s obviously off the record, and totally confidential, if anyone needs to reach out to me, I’m all yours.

Beau Lunceford: Ryan, thank you for showing up so authentically, and so genuinely, and giving us this amazing insight into your world and the kinds of things that NCC is doing to change the wholesale game. This has been just a great conversation. And we can’t say enough how much we appreciate the time and the energy.

Ryan Darragh: Thank you so much. You know I was like talking to you guys.

Beau Lunceford: And we love it too. So this is a great combo. And we’ll put all that contact info in the show notes, people will be able to reach out to you LinkedIn, email the whole and make sure they can get a hold of you and get plugged in with NCC and with you as a person. So if there’s nothing else, Ryan, this has been great. This is awesome. We appreciate you so much.

Ryan Darragh: Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Trevor Casey: Thanks, Ryan.


OUTRO (28:09 – 31:53)

Beau Lunceford: It’s hard not to get honestly a little bit emotional about Ryan’s story. Because I think about all the people who are dealing with this privately by themselves and having to struggle. But I’m so thankful for Ryan being brave enough and transparent enough to share his story with this audience.

Trevor Casey: And one of the things that I think is so great about what he said, and what he’s doing is that he really takes time out of his day, to talk to other people and say, “Listen, I was here. I feel what you’re going through. But look what I have achieved by taking a deeper look at myself and aspiring for something much greater.” I’m a little bit speechless. Just some of the things that he says and how deep he gets on such a personal level. I’m just so thankful that he did that. And that he put himself out there for the other people to reach out and say, “I’m seeing what you’ve done here. I’m seeing how much I see how much you’ve put yourself out there. And I really appreciate that. And it’s made me take a deeper look at myself, and where can I go from here.”

Beau Lunceford: And I think he also does a really good job of talking about how? This isn’t just something that affected his personal life, though it did. He was able to take all that energy and all of the things that he learned about and kind of rising from the ashes, so to speak, and poured that into NCC and how it is that they’re doing business differently now. So it’s funny. I think this podcast episode had a really great rounded out aspect of this is what personal growth looks like, this is how it turns into organizational growth and how it is that we can and affect the space, the tech the industry more impactfully and intentionally and responsibly.

Trevor Casey: Yes. And Ryan, thank you so much. If anyone has any questions for Ryan and his personal journey or you want to learn more about NCC on the wholesale side, please feel free to reach out. We’re going to put his information, LinkedIn, website notes on the bottom. But if you guys are really more interested in hearing more of what Ryan’s story is and what other people’s stories along those lines look like, please let us know because we would be happy to go down that path a little bit further. Or if you said, “I really like Ryan’s story, but I really, really am here to learn more about him as a wholesaler.” Tell us that as well, because we would be happy to have him back, or one of his right hand men, John Fury over at NCC back as well to just discuss what they do on the wholesale side. But we didn’t want to intermingle really personal and business too much on this one cause the direction it went was just so incredible. It’s impactful.

Beau Lunceford: And we want to hear so much of what y’all are experiencing. Like Trevor said, what y’all are appreciating. So we can make sure that we’re giving you guys the stuff that you’re looking for. And thankfully, we’ve got the resources for it. We’ve got the people who are ready to step in and tell us more about their personal journeys, tell us more about their professional journeys and dive into any of these areas deeper. But we want to give you guys what you’re looking for. I’ll plug it again. Make sure that you’re following us on all the socials, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, so that you can see all the latest stuff that we have coming out. Make sure that you subscribe to our newsletter that we’re working on and we are really excited about how this season is starting and where it is headed in this next year. So, until next time, stay covered.



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