Intercoastal Insurance continue to ride rough industry waves by supporting others

Cindy Dropeski has been part of the insurance industry for more than 35 years, becoming licensed to sell related products back in 1983, not long after graduating from Longwood University in Virginia with a business degree.

Yet, as she sits in her Melbourne office today, president of Intercoastal Insurance Inc., Dropeski insists the key to her success doesn’t actually involve insurance. Instead, it’s all about support.

“I think the key is providing support,” she said. “And it’s not just buying insurance. It’s providing ongoing support all year. … I want to provide knowledge and service — support in navigating an ever-changing health insurance environment.

“The rates are the same. You have to look at what are you going to get from that agency,” she continued.

For the record, Intercoastal Insurance handles of a variety of services for individuals, encompassing the “whole spectrum” of protection, including Medicare.

“You’re picking a partner to help navigate a complex insurance marketplace. And that partner should be independent without an agenda,” Dropeski commented. “We represent many insurance plans, and we have no allegiance to any particular plan. … Life can be complex when you’re on your own but it doesn’t have to be an insurance hassle.”

Additionally, the firm likens itself to a human resources department for businesses, helping them to select the right insurance plans for employees, along with resolving claims issues, working with insurance carriers to get answers and keeping businesses up to date on an industry that has become increasing complex in the past several years.

The thinking is simple: The firm’s research can save valuable time, taking both effort and guesswork out of choosing a benefit plan.

“We provide the professional advice and service your employee’s desire and need without requiring you to have an employee benefit expert on your staff,” Dropeski explained about the HR approach.

“Now, people need an insurance agent that is going to be a partner in that challenging navigation through health care. More so now than ever before.”

Notably, 2014 saw the arrival of the Affordable Care Act, which brought a “whole new set of rules,” for employers and individuals. With that came higher prices for coverage and plenty of confusion. Among the early impacts, the ACA made health insurance relatively more attractive to older and less healthy people and relatively less attractive to younger and healthier people. Complicated.

Not coincidentally, 98% of the firm’s business today comes from referrals by virtue of personal service, Dropeski cited.

While her insurance “spectrum” is broad, she has five employees, three of whom have worked with her more than 20 years. To foster greater personal attention, a member of her staff is assigned to each individual or business client.

Dropeski’s personal specialty is group medical benefits, working with employers who have 50 employers or fewer. Helping entrepreneurs and other small-business owners, she pointed out, is near and dear to her. She incorporated her own firm in 1989.

“I understand being the owner of the business. I understand the needs and what the owner is thinking,” she asserted. “It’s not a production sale. I try to understand the business model and what [business owners] are trying to accomplish.”

In essence, she added, what she does has changed, as the industry has evolved, but not how she does it. In her words: “The service is the same — personalized.”

Dropeski understands the community, too, thanks to decades of volunteering.

After moving to Brevard County in the late 1980s, she dove into the deep end of community pool, either running or helping to run the county’s Special Olympics program for 29 years. Consider this: Special Olympics in Brevard provides year-round sports training and competition to children and adults (ages 8 and older) who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. A total of 15 sports serve approximately 950 athletes.

Dropeski acknowledged the heavy work load for her “side job,” but exclaimed, “You’re giving back!”

Also, she chaired the board of directors for several regional organizations, including both Easter Seals in Brevard and Bridges BTC, which has provided services and support to adults with disabilities in Brevard for more than 60 years. Currently, she chairs the board for the Bridges BTC Foundation.

“Being part of the community is very, very important to me,” Dropeski said. “And you can learn so much, businesswise, from volunteering. … But I have never done it for [business] prospecting. I do it from the heart.

“People got to know me and how I do things without having to do business with me.”

In turn, people have done business with her, lots of business, in what she describes as an “extensive growth pattern” for Intercoastal Insurance.

“We are continuing to expand,” she concluded. “And what is neat, people are calling us.”