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Welcome to episode #42 of the Morning Upgrade Podcast. This week I spoke with Charlie Stevens, the owner of Marine Agency. He enjoys watching ballet with his family, cooking and the outdoors, especially the beach.

Top Talking Points

  • Communicating is the key to building good relations with your employees and coworkers.
  • Making efforts to understand how the technologies you are using work.
  • The key to happiness is learning to not dwell on the bad and to focus on the good.

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Connect With Charlie at marineagency.com

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Thanks for listening to this episode of the Morning Upgrade Podcast with Charlie. If you enjoyed the interview, please leave a review…and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast.

Episode Transcript

Ryan 

Hey guys, it’s Ryan real quick. So my mission with the Morning Upgrade blog and podcast is to raise the awareness of morning routines and personal development. And I now have two products that are also helped me with this mission. The first product helps you start a 20 minute morning routine. And the second product is a book that outlines how to use personal development to upgrade your life and business. You can get full details on both products over at morning upgrade.com. Thanks for letting me share. And now on to the show.

Announcer  

Welcome to the Morning upgrade podcast with Ryan Cote where we feature casual conversations with entrepreneurs about personal development and growth.

Ryan  

Hey, Charlie, welcome to the Morning upgrade podcast. How are you?

Charlie 

I’m great, Ryan. Thanks.

Ryan  

So Charlie, why don’t we start off by you telling everyone you know who you are, what you do, and what you enjoy doing?

Charlie  

Oh, for sure. My name is Charlie. I run the marine agency in Somerville, New Jersey. We provide business insurance for tattoo shops, body piercing places, and all kinds of personal enhancement businesses. So beauty salons and day spas, cosmetic laser, medispas, all these kinds of places. I’ve been with the company for almost 30 years, six and a half as the owner. And I love it. It’s kind of all I think about, we get to help all sorts of small business owners get started and keep going. It’s really been a very rewarding journey for sure.

Ryan  

Yeah, I love the units down. They say the niche, the riches are in the niches. Would you agree with that?

Charlie  

Oh, absolutely. Particularly with business insurance, there are literally a million directions, you could go each industry vertical is so very different in the types of coverage that they need. And whether it’s their sensitivities to price or, or critical coverage pieces, you just can’t be great at all of it, it would be impossible. By focusing on these, this narrow band of personal care industries, we’re able to make sure that we’ve really got the right coverage and the pricing that makes sense. And we’re able to focus our relationships with the insurance companies around those needs. So we’ve got what the industry needs. They need what we’re able to offer, and it’s it’s, it’s just perfect.

Ryan  

Excellent. I have some personal development questions for you when talking about your business a little bit too. But in terms of your interests, I know you come from like, like myself, you come from a family of dancers, or at least your daughter. Correct. What do you do for fun? Or what are your interests?

Charlie  

Well, COVID aside, we love to go to the ballet. But it’s been obviously it’s been a year since we’ve been able to do that the last show we saw was in February of 2020. Right before everything shut down. We’ve missed that. Absent the theater, love to be outside when it’s sunny. Anyway, we’d live at the beach if it made sense for either of our jobs. So maybe we’ll wind up there someday. Other than that, we love to eat and cook. So it’s you know, once COVID Xover we’ll get back to restaurants. But for now, we’ve been having fun cooking at home.

Ryan  

Yeah, yeah. Likewise, we belong to Blue Apron. And those meal prep services, it’s fun to get the ingredients and put it together. You know, it’s fun. Let’s talk about your morning routine. What does that look like? How do you start the day off in the race?

Charlie 

Sure, sure. I’m usually the first one up, I get up around five, five, or 530. let the dogs out, get some coffee. And just it gives me some time to gather my thoughts and take a look at the calendar and see what’s coming up for the day. Check-in on the news headlines anyway. I try not to get too deep into the rabbit holes, because it’ll make me crazy. And I make lunch for everybody. Get that ready to go. And by the time that’s all finished and the dogs are done with their routine, bring coffee upstairs for the gang. And we’ll get started and compare notes for the day. We do get them coffee. 

Ryan

That’s a very.

Unknown Speaker  

And I make lunch for the whole family every day. 

Ryan

Wow. What a renaissance man. Unbelievable. 

Charlie

That’s nothing.

Ryan  

So let’s talk about your business. I mean, you know, we work with you at Ballantine. So I know your business well, but in terms of like challenges, you know, you’ve been running it for the last six years. What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome? And how have I loved talking about overcoming challenges? Cuz we all go through them? Can you think of one challenge you had to overcome and how did you do it?

Charlie  

Well, I mean that you know, the elephant in the room is this COVID mass, right? Fortunately, in New Jersey, insurance was lumped in with banks and financial services as essential retail so we were allowed to keep operating, though we transitioned everybody to work from home immediately, which worked out just fine. And fortunately, the technology solutions were already in place that it was we were able to do without any interruption at the same time. Because of that narrow band of verticals that we focus on the personal care businesses and so forth, every single one of our customers nationwide was shut down basically overnight, from anywhere from, you know, six weeks to six months. So obviously sales cratered and renewals cratered. And it was, it was really a massive got a little bit scary for a couple of months. But we kept at it. And we kept selling policies and states that were still open and helping guide the rest of our customers through all of the different state rules about payments and cancellations. And we were able to get the insurance companies to give an extra three months of coverage for free to help offset the impact of the shutdown. So it was just a, it took an awful lot of patients have a lot of belief that this, this thing would eventually come to an end that we could we keep pressing forward. And we and we made it we’re back now sales-wise to pre COVID levels.

Ryan 

How do you approach challenges like that, in terms of your mindset, do you? Obviously, this whole thing is a unique situation, but it’s just in terms of challenges in general? How do you handle it? Do you get overwhelmed by it? Do you deal us dive straight in? Or do you feel like, over the last six years, you’ve been through enough where you’re sort of callous to it? And it’s just like, alright, challenge, let’s take care of it. But what’s your approach to it?

Charlie  

Yeah, right, like here, oh, here we go. Again, I’m gonna put my head down and push forward kind of guy with just about everything. It’s the same, the same strategy. I used what I when I ran the Marine Corps Marathon DC, at a certain point, you just have to grit your teeth and just do it. We didn’t have any other option, we had to figure out how to make it work. I’ve got a terrific team, most of whom have been with me since I bought the agency. And for many years prior to that, so everybody knows the business. I trust all of them. And they, in turn, trust me to keep it running smoothly. And to see that they still have a job next week, next month, next year. So with a dozen families relying on me and the business to keep it moving, we really didn’t have a choice, we had to find a path that made sense for everybody.

Ryan  

Sounds like a good connection with your team members, any tips around that for forging the relationship with your team?

Charlie 

It’s the same as everything else. It’s communication. We’re all super busy at the office all day every day. But we make an effort to understand where everybody’s at in their life and what’s going on with them. These folks have been they worked with, they worked with me for most of the time I’ve been with the company that worked for with my father for decades prior to that. They’re effectively everybody’s family. So we’ve got to take care of each other.

Ryan  

So let’s talk about habits, Charlie, do any habits that you rely on that could be just to be business-related or to be personal related?

Charlie  

Hmm, habits? Gosh, I like routine, I find comfort in it. So I think, you know, a lot of what I do becomes a habit I do, I tend to do things a certain way in a certain order every day. And that manifests from the kind of my daily schedule to all of the downstream processes that we wind up using at the office, there’s kind of work built-in workflows that everybody follows. And it makes it really easy to jump in and help somebody or to see where somebody is at overall and in the process, right? You know, what steps if you know the order of the steps, you can see one piece and realize, okay, they’re halfway done, or okay, it’s almost finished or so forth. So that’s very important. For sure. I definitely make an intentional effort to figure stuff out and find out how it works. It could be just about anything, whether it’s a cool, slick technique on a website, or Oh, yeah, how does that whatever, you know, Wi-Fi system or credit card payment thing work. I love to dive in and figure out how it works and how can we make it better? And how does that fit into some overall process to keep everybody moving forward?

Ryan 

Yeah, I know you’re really good at embracing technology in your business. You seem to always be looking into automating not on automation for certain things, but just some processes and doing things better. Yeah, absolutely. You enjoy work. I always like to talk about like, what is the perfect day look like? A real short, perfect day. So I would imagine that for you. Work would be part of the perfect day. Is that correct?

Charlie  

Well, I mean, perfect is kind of a high bar. I really like my job. And I routinely I’m here 11 or 12 hours a day and it’s a nonissue. It’s just every even if it’s really busy or so there’s an upset customer or something. It’s still great, I love it. Perfect Day is probably pretty quiet, either at home or somewhere cool with the family, maybe going and seeing some new stuff. We really like monumental outdoor sculpture parks. And we’re fortunate to have a couple within, within relatively short drives of here. That’s the quick version anyway, but family outside, probably stopped for a great dinner somewhere, and just kind of quiet and relaxed.

Ryan  

And sounds nice. So I’ve got one last question for you, Charlie, then we and you can tell everyone how they can connect with you. Whenever we talk, whenever we grab lunch, you always seem to be in a good mood to be happy. So what’s your approach to happiness and fulfillment?

Charlie 

Oh, gosh, that’s a big question. You know, I try to it sounds sort of Pollyanna or something, but I try to find the good part of things. Everybody’s got stuff going on. There’s always everybody’s always dealing with problems. I just try not to dwell on it. To be honest with you. To a large extent, I choose to be happy about the world around me. Because it’s the only piece of it you can control. If I’m having trouble finding happiness in some given situation is there’s a problem with the situation. So I just changed it. It’s just, it’s more fun to be happy. And everything else just falls into place when you’re wearing your rose-colored glasses.

Ryan  

I love the fact that you use the word choose. I wrote a blog post on Morning Upgrade about choosing to be happy. I will have to admit I’m going to have to look up the first word you used, Pollyanna.

Charlie  

I forget, Pollyanna from an old Disney movie from the 60s.

Ryan  

Sorry, Charlie, this is good. I’m glad we got we had this conversation. Thanks for all the information you shared. Apart from Marine Agency on LinkedIn, what’s the best way for people to reach out to you? what website?

Charlie  

Oh for sure. You can find us online at Marineagency.com. Marine like the Armed Forces and agency like an insurance agency .com. Or we’re at Marine Agency on all the socials. You can either contact the company or find me through any of those links would be totally great.

Ryan  

Awesome. Thanks again, Charlie. Thanks, everyone for listening. 

Charlie

Thanks, Ryan.

Ryan  

Thanks for listening to the Morning Upgrade podcast. Please subscribe and review. And don’t forget to visit us at morningupgrade.com for more content.

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