Currently, I am an independent agent for Central Lakes Insurance Brokers headquartered in Edina. My partner and I own and operate the Central Lakes office in St. Cloud. I am also a Certified SCORE mentor where I work with entrepreneurs and small business start-ups, as well as smaller companies that need assistance with specific business challenges.
Tell me about your background. I learned the insurance industry inside and out from my business partners throughout the years. There was always new information to learn, but the basic facets of starting and operating a business, such as product development, finances, and marketing, became second nature after I had experienced those facets in multiple agencies and as an independent agent.
How did you learn about SCORE? I first heard about SCORE in the local newspaper. The organization was looking for volunteers to help promote the Central MN SCORE Chapter (Alexandria, Brainerd, and St. Cloud communities). I approached the co-chairs for the chapter, and they put me right to work. As a volunteer, I went out into the community to market SCORE and serve as a contact person for local businesses to speak about what SCORE's mission and purpose was. Eventually the co-chairs approached me about becoming a mentor. After completing SCORE's formal training program, I became a Certified SCORE Mentor and began working with clients.
What have you learned as a mentor? I have learned that every situation where I counsel a client, whether or not they move forward with the business, is a win-win. I am able to save people time and potential financial failure by asking the important questions that will determine whether they are likely to be successful in their entrepreneurial endeavors. I don't tell the client what to do, but rather guide them to the realization themselves.
I can honestly say that I have learned as much from mentoring my SCORE clients as I have through owning my own business.
What characteristics do you believe are important for someone who would like to become a SCORE volunteer or mentor? They should have a strong desire to give back to their community or their profession, knowledge of the basic facets of operating a business (finance, marketing, product development), a passion to help other people, time that you can dedicate to each client, and an openness to learning new skills and technology.
From the viewpoint of being a business owner yourself, what have been the high as well as the low points? In general, the high points have been making sales, working with people, and solving challenging insurance issues. The challenges have been the ups and downs of the economy, changing markets, evolving industry landscapes, and the advancement from a paper to technology-based society.
What have you learned from your experiences as a business owner? I have learned that you need to look at the bottom line. You wear all the hats and are responsible for everything, but if you think you are going to be your own boss, you need to realize that you really answer to the banker, your clients, and your employees.
I have also learned that you need to see the intangible rewards before the tangible. Your intangible reward is knowing you had a good year, but your tangible reward—money in the bank—won't be reflected until later.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a small business? I would start by asking them important questions, such as: are you willing to put in 60 hours per week or more? Are you able to go without a paycheck for two to five years? I would walk with them on that journey of starting a business and have them look at it from the ground up before they put a lot of money into it. Many times clients haven’t thought through all the aspects of owning and operating their own business. I feel as though this is where SCORE mentors can have the greatest impact.
Pictured below: Darold Berreau
- Accounting & Cash Flow
- Business Plans/Startup Assistance
- Customer Relations
- Government Regulations & Contracting
- Human Resources
- Legal Issues
- Marketing, Public Relations & Sales
- Product Development & Manufacturing
- Strategy & Planning
- Tax Planning
- In Business
- Finance & Insurance