About the Ultimate Agency Network
The Ultimate Agency Network (UAN) was formed in 2007 by agency owner Tom Wiecek, and former software executive, Sylvia Stone to provide web based niche marketing systems to insurance agencies across the United States and Canada. From inception, UAN provided a forum where agency owners, in a non-competitive environment, could share their marketing successes, failures and challenges, and brainstorm about ways to improve their agency’s performance.
UAN’s first niche, Teen Driver Marketing, was created to position participating agents as better informed and more concerned with the safety and protection issues unique to teen drivers. The Teen Driver Insurance websites provided to agents a forum to deliver advice to parents of teen drivers, and to differentiate agents participating in this program from their competitors.
In 2010 UAN became partners with agency owner Russ Lowry in a new venture, which was providing marketing content (prewritten email messages, direct mail pieces, and web pages) to automate an agency’s marketing, nurturing, retention and conversion campaigns, utilizing an extremely powerful, software platform. This was the beginning of the product now known as Agency Command.
UAN’s business philosophy is reflected in its business practices. We want long term customers that will execute our programs; our success is directly tied to the success of our products in your agencies. We believe that the value of our offering will grow as it is utilized, and that most agencies cannot afford to prepay for this value. Therefore we offer Agency Command on a month to month basis; no long-term contract is required.
In addition to Agency Command and the Teen Driver Marketing System, we offer Done for You Service Campaigns, Automated Internet Leads Programs, and EZ Agency Newsletters. From time to time we survey our members to determine whether there are gaps in our product offerings. When we find interest in additional services, such as our EZ Agency Newsletter program, we are faced with the choice of whether to include the service in Agency Command (and impact the pricing) or separate the service so that only those agents who will execute are paying for it. In the case of the Done for You Services, EZ Agency Newsletters and the Automated Internet Leads programs, we determined that only a subset of our total Agency Command users would utilize these services. For that reason they are optional and priced separately.
As agency owners ourselves, we strive to create a business relationship that is reflective of the constraints and challenges as well as the myriad of opportunities available to other agency entrepreneurs.
Meet the Team behind the Ultimate Agency Network
Tom Wiecek, Agency Owner
Paramount Insurance Agency
President, Ultimate Agency Network
I was born and grew up in sunny South Florida, a natural place for a kid who inherited gills from his father. I am the oldest of 7 siblings and we spent nearly every weekend on the water or in it. If we weren’t offshore fishing, spearfishing or catching lobster, we were playing in the pool.
During high school, after a short stint at football and getting pounded at every practice (I was small back then), I decided to get involved in student government and Key Club. I campaigned every year for a higher office position and gained great leadership experience at a young age. Speaking in front of 1500 plus peers at convention centers in places like Dallas, Chicago, New Orleans, and Daytona Beach and learning how important it is to ‘give back’ are lessons that I still live by.
During my junior year, a Kiwanian asked me to chair a program that he wanted to get off the ground called “Every Child a Swimmer”. I accepted the challenge and after two years, the program was helping hundreds of young kids, primarily under-privileged, learn how to swim. At the time, 7,000 kids died every year from drowning. Well, I am proud to say, “Every Child a Swimmer” is still active in Florida, even after 25 years! (I guess that’s where my passion for teen driver safety came from.)
After a year at a community college, I decided to transfer to Appalachian State University in Boone, NC and majored in business. My parents couldn’t afford to help much so I worked a lot to get me through. It was tough and took longer than it should have. One of my jobs while in college was teaching people how to snow ski. This was a great experience because it is one way to see immediate results from those you are helping. I still enjoy teaching others how to ski and find myself anytime I’m skiing with friends, helping them enjoy the sport even more.
After college, I moved to High Point, NC and sold real estate for three years. I saw success in just a few years, but after working countless hours including every weekend and many nights, I decided it wasn’t for me. Looking back, my biggest problem was that I couldn’t say ‘no’. If someone wanted to see a house at 10PM, I was out the door. I interviewed with an insurance agency owner in Greensboro, NC and my insurance career began. I learned the ropes and within 3 years, I was ready to start my own agency.
The agency I was working with started an agents’ program called Smart Choice. I was one of the first to join this program and opened an agency in High Point. Since my background is in real estate and I had built many great relationships within the real estate community, I focused on working this niche. It was very profitable until the market slumped. Fortunately, I had another profitable niche in the works, parents of teen drivers. This has become a passion for me as I mentioned. Teen driver safety is a serious concern of mine that began when I received a phone call from a client who lost his son in a car accident.
A few years ago, I started working with a non-profit teen driver program called StreetSafe from the eastern part of our state. We brought their team here to our area to help us build and train a team of instructors for the Triad. Every month, we give the four hour course to 60 to 100 kids and parents. The response from the kids and parents has been very rewarding and we strongly believe it is making a difference.
Russ Lowry, Agency Owner
Creator, Agency Command
Chief Marketing Officer, Ultimate Agency Network
I was originally born in Louisiana, I’ve lived in Texas and finally settled in Oklahoma. I went to six elementary schools, two junior highs and one high school while growing up. We moved around a lot since my dad was in the Military and in sales. So I guess that’s what drew me into it as well, going to a new school every year you learn to make friends fast. My dad taught us discipline and how to negotiate with people from a young age. He was a drill Sgt. in the Army ‘68-‘74 (’nuff said).
I graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a BA in Law Enforcement Administration; I originally planned on a career in the Army, then Law Enforcement (I was in Army, ROTC in college).
After school I stayed with my employer, R.J.Reynolds Tobacco company, whom I had started working for when I was 15. I was following in my dad’s footsteps, he was in Management with RJR. They paid a lot more than being a cop, and I didn’t generally get shot at. I then went to Graduate school to pay for my sins at (and horrible GPA) OU. I continued at RJR while going to school at night. After my Dad, who had worked for RJR for 32 years, was forced into early retirement due to cut backs, I decided to find another career, that was more stable. While in graduate school I dated a girl whose brother in law was a Farmers Insurance agent, he did pretty well, so I thought I might look into that. He kept trying to hire me, but I decided to start my own agency. I did this as a reserve agent for the next year and a half working nights and weekends, selling insurance and keeping my day job.
When my first son was born, I decided to leave RJR (after 15 years) and go full time into insurance. I have never looked back. After about 5 years of being a Farmers agent qualifying for Toppers and Championship, I decided the grass was greener on the independent side, so I started an independent agency in my spare office space. It was mostly commercial at first, but after seeing the personal lines rates and opportunity I left Farmers completely. I sold that agency and once again started over from almost scratch. I joined SIAA to get contracts, since in a hard market the last thing companies wanted was an ex-farmers agent with no book. I rebuilt my agency from about $110,000 in premium I brought over (mostly E/S and progressive) to about $3 million in premium volume, in three years.
I have always worked hard, but tried to use systems to make things work more efficiently, and after my twins were born (making kids 3 & 4), I knew I had to find a better way. This led me to where I am today using systems and technology instead of hours of my life. In 2008, I was initially diagnosed with stage 4 Malignant Melanoma (cancer) and I was glad I had taken the time to put as much on autopilot as I had. I scrabbled to start writing everything down so my wife could maintain the agency. After my initial “You may only have 6 months to live diagnosis,” was changed to “You’re going to make it with surgery and treatment,” I knew I had to get my house in order just in case, and as a byproduct of this, agency command was born. Friends who saw what I was doing said I should share this with other agents, so I started small and offered it to agents in a few masterminded groups I was in and some close friends. As you now know, it has taken off from there.
As you get to know me you will see I love to coach, and watch others grow into and beyond their potential. I am heavily involved in youth sports in Norman with all 4 of my kids and I love to help coach individuals. I was a regular speaker at the Farmers Insurance College here in Oklahoma and was asked to speak to career school for Farmers Insurance to all the new agents. I still help out in my community teaching small business owners, local nonprofits and churches how to market. It’s something I enjoy doing and makes me feel as if I am giving back. Maybe having a dad that was an ex DI makes me push people to do things they see impossible or maybe it’s just the type A person I am, but I get a lot of satisfaction seeing people do things they once thought unattainable.
Vice President of Operations
Ultimate Agency Network
I grew up in the foothills of North Carolina, the youngest of two daughters. My only sister was 6 years older and crazy about horses. I caught that desire and spent most of my teenage years riding and showing Quarter Horses. I still enjoy riding, but prefer trail riding now, since showing successfully is a full time effort. Unlike most kids today, I spent as much of my childhood as possible outdoors. We were fortunate to live in a rural community with lots of land, woods and a creek that bordered our property. I have always loved the outdoors and would rather be out walking, gardening or bicycling than about anything else. I have always been a voracious reader, but even that I prefer to do in a hammock or lounge chair outside.
I graduated from North Carolina State University with a B.A. in English. I later took additional courses in Accounting and Information Systems at Guilford College in Greensboro. While at NC State I met my husband of soon to be 32 years, Randy. Unlike me, he is a true athlete, excelling at football, baseball and golf. His real passion is restoring, showing and touring antique automobiles and we spend a lot of time with the many great friends we have made that share this interest. Randy is currently serving on the Board of the Antique Auto Club of America. He retired from Labcorp in 2007 after 20 plus years in finance, Risk Management and Mergers and Acquisitions.
I inherited my dad’s love of numbers and accounting and in 1982 was recruited to join a software company, GBA Systems, as a Technical Writer/Customer Support Rep for a new financial software product they were launching. Although the company was 35 plus people at that time, the department I joined was a department of 2. When my manager left in 1983, I saw an opportunity and the owner, my new manager and mentor supported my ambition. During my first 16 years with GBA I held a number of positions, Product Manager, Director of Marketing & Sales, Operations Manager, Vice-President and Sr. Vice-President.
I became President in 1998. During my tenure our software customers grew from 14 regional customers to over 1200 companies in 45 states and twelve countries. I led the sales team that secured multi-site contracts with Lockheed Martin, Texaco, and Apple. We subsequently sold the company to Global Software in 2004. I attempted to retire, but found that I wasn’t quite ready. When Tom approached me about providing marketing systems to insurance agents, I was intrigued about learning a new business and felt that my software marketing, sales and operations experience would be complementary to his insurance agency background.
I believe the success of my previous company was due to our emphasis on niche marketing and providing high quality innovative products with unsurpassed customer service. I strive to bring those same values to Agency Command/Ultimate Agency Network. While I greatly enjoyed the many years I spent with GBA, what I like best about working with Agency Command is the opportunity to work directly with other entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and improve their bottom line.
I have always understood the importance of designing software for the user. When I sold software for accountants, our tag line was ‘Designed by accountants for accountants’. I believe it is equally critical to have Marketing, Sales and Retention programs for insurance agencies designed by people experienced with running a successful agency.
While many years ago I embraced the philosophy that owners need to spend more time working ON their business, than IN their business, I know that in order to design relevant campaigns, it’s critical that they first work IN the business. I partnered with Russ and Tom to promote Agency Command because they have that experience.
My focus with Ultimate Agency Network is on customer service and operations.