We recently visited with our Huntsville-based Risk Manager Jonathan McClendon to learn more about his focus on serving businesses in the North Alabama market. Jonathan was headed back from an excursion in the marshlands of Bayou Country, and he let us peek into his world for a few minutes to gain a deeper understanding of the growing business community in North Alabama, and how our team is serving beyond insurance.
Huntsville is pacing to outgrow Birmingham in the next decade. How do you see this growth impacting local business and specifically, insurance?
It’s an exciting time to serve businesses in North Alabama. The market is booming. While we focus primarily on the small to middle market, it’s energizing to witness the intense expansion of business, jobs and the economy at every level.
For instance, we have around 400 defense contractors in the area. These companies have a complex risk profile and are often starting off as a small to mid-size company with intentions to grow big. That means their insurance program needs to be able to grow with them, and their insurance consultant needs to have deep technical knowledge of the Defense Base Act (DBA), Workers Comp or oversees employee risk, for example.
As a result, Huntsville companies are searching for insurance consultants who are approaching their risk in the same the way an attorney or CPA, serving business year-round, not only at renewal or crisis, and solving their problems.
What was the catalyst for your transition from a 20-year career in regional executive leadership at Enterprise Rental Cars to risk management and insurance?
Funny enough, I’m sitting in an Enterprise rental car talking to you right this moment! Enterprise was a fantastic opportunity. Every day I worked with C-Suite executives across North Alabama to resolve challenges and grow our partnership and revenue streams. As a part of my role, I managed roughly 100 team members over 8 locations. We grew our revenues to $22M in sales. Some of my largest clients included the Tennessee Valley Authority, Integraph, Boeing, and Huntsville Airport Authority.
As you can imagine in the car rental industry, strong relationships with insurance carriers are a priority, and it was through these relationships that I first gained an interest in insurance…and now look at me, several years into the insurance side of risk management and absolutely loving it!
Where are your focusing within the intersection of insurance, business and Huntsville?
In Huntsville there is a large need for highly consultative insurance brokers in the defense, medical, manufacturing, construction and government and municipality industries, as well as other companies who have a more complex risk profile.
These are the organizations that I find are often underserved in Huntsville and tend to focus on. They may not be receiving the level of consultation they deserve to grow their business. Or they may not have access to in-house safety, loss control and claims teams that Valent brings to work for their business.
And that’s only the property & casualty side of the business. The strategic work our employee benefits division is providing on medical benefits, HR and compliance is second to none. I often collaborate with Dick Fountain and Ray Mooring on our Huntsville benefits team to provide comprehensive insurance solutions.
What do you think sets Valent Group apart from other insurance management firms in Huntsville?
First and foremost, Valent’s culture is based on the same set of work ethics I live by: honestly, integrity, a client-centered focus. Our firm is not about quotes, we’re about consulting. That’s different, because some insurance agents give you a quote and then don’t touch your business again until the next renewal. In my opinion, there’s a better way to do business.
Valent also is an independent agency backed by our parent company EBSCO Industries, a nearly $3B company headquartered in Alabama. I’m confident Huntsville companies can benefit from a partner who is fully invested in them, this community and the growth of our city and state. That’s been EBSCO’s history for decades in this state: invest in the local community through business and service and grow together. It’s nice to be on the journey together in North Alabama.
Outside of business, what do you enjoy?
Up until about five years ago, I raced amateur motocross, but after a few broken bones decided it was time to retire from that pastime! Thankfully I’ve still got my golf game going for me.