Adam DeGraide, CEO and Founder of Astonish, started his first company, BZ Results, in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1997. BZ Results is a digital marketing company that helps car dealers use the Internet to grow their businesses. In 2006, with more than 1,600 dealership clients and 150 employees, DeGraide and his partners sold BZ Results.
After selling his company, DeGraide started Astonish, which was recently ranked 267th on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. DeGraide and his team are the driving forces behind a vision to help the insurance industry across the country grow its businesses by using the Internet. Now currently serving over 800 retail brokers in America, Adam DeGraide and his team at Astonish are encouraging the insurance industry across the country to “join the Internet marketing revolution, or get left behind!”
MO: Tell us a little bit about how you got into the Internet marketing industry.
Adam: I was originally in the traditional advertising business until the late ’90s. I was working with mostly auto dealers at the time, and they kept having me reach out to web development companies. I was shocked at how they looked at the Internet as primarily a technology medium, when I saw it clearly as the greatest marketing medium ever invented.
It was at that point that I poured all my energy into developing what we tongue-in-cheek called “The Greatest Digital Marketing System in the World!” Here I am, fifteen years later, delivering that system, which is a blend of training, consulting, and technology all rolled into one business growth system. I fell in love with the Internet as a marketer because, for the first time in human history, we could finally deliver a visual, sound, and immediate calls to action. The Internet was the first medium to ever combine all of them at once, and the results were dramatic.
MO: What made you decide to transition from the auto industry to the insurance industry?
Adam: I have always had a heart to fight for the local businesses that make America great, and the insurance space is made up of some of the most amazing men and women in business. Additionally, with their local footprint in our communities, I found it critical to help them fight and compete with the national direct writers and Internet companies that were hurting the local insurance agencies. It is truly a passion of mine to help them stay relevant in today’s ever-changing modern consumer world. It is my goal – and everyone at Astonish’s – to not only to help them compete, but to win their fair share of business.
MO: You have a passion for helping small businesses grow and compete with the top dogs. What is your biggest piece of advice for small businesses?
Adam: You must have a relentless passion for growth and excellence! Small businesses are usually the last to adapt to change with the times, and we can no longer afford to be behind. We must lead the change and be the first in on new ideas and strategies, and not the last. We must see the best and be the best! That involves a culture of training and technology, and then a commitment to constant improvement, from the top down.
MO: As a motivational speaker, what is a topic that you like to speak on and why is it important to you?
Adam: Creating world-class sales cultures is important – it just bleeds out of me. There is nothing more rewarding than helping a local business owner significantly grow his business as a result of what you have shared with him. He falls back in love with his business, and it ignites a fire within his people’s hearts and minds.
Remember, nobody likes being in a business that is shrinking; it is way more fun when our businesses are growing. That’s why helping create sales cultures within small businesses is so much fun. I have discovered that, usually when we make more money, we all have more fun!
MO: One motto/statement you live by is that everyone should win. How have you incorporated this in your business model?
Adam: This, recently, has been burning inside my heart and soul. I truly believe that Astonish, the company I currently run, has the greatest business growth system in the world. Therefore, when our sales advisors sell a system to an agency, everyone wins! The agency wins because it’s finally on the road to selling and serving the modern consumer more effectively. Its existing customers are serviced the way they want to be serviced. The carriers the agencies represent make more money.
The agencies make more money. Astonish makes more money, and the individuals insured are better protected in case of loss. Who loses in that scenario? No one does. We take it even one step further every fourth quarter and give a percentage of our sales to the Make-A-Wish Foundation to help sick children get the wishes they so greatly deserve. Everyone wins!
MO: What is something exciting that you are looking forward to in your business?
Adam: I have just started to write my first book, called Just Ask For the Money! It is going to be a sales coaching and motivation book to help sales professionals and businesses owners create a world-class sales process, or culture, in their businesses. Plus, my theme for 2013 at Astonish is “Let’s have some fun!” I believe that we need more fun in our businesses and lives, and it is my goal to try and weave fun into everything we do, including spreadsheets. Now, that will be a challenge, but I’m up for it.
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