Anderson University College of Business
Bryce Nivens: Building bridges and relationships
When Bryce Nivens first came to Anderson University, the idea of an insurance career wasn’t on his radar. He wanted his work to involve helping people.
After exploring another helping profession, Bryce turned to the Anderson University College of Business, whose professors helped him set his course in the right direction.
He hasn’t looked back.
How did you discover Anderson University?
I’m originally from Greenwood, South Carolina, which is about an hour up the road. I had a lot of friends from my hometown who came to AU—people I went to church with, people that I looked up to, close friends of mine. To be completely honest with you, I always wanted to go to a Christian university. I never desired to go to a large public state school. I knew I wanted to stay small and relatively local, so I only applied to two schools—both were in-state. I got accepted into both of them, but AU was the clear choice. I toured it a couple of times. I came up and stayed with some friends of mine and just got a feel for the campus. It was a total God thing, an absolute no-brainer, so AU was an easy decision.
Was there anything about AU that stood out to you in particular?
The campus itself, on a purely visual standpoint, is absolutely gorgeous. The aesthetic of the brick buildings with the white pillars, the lawn spaces, the interior of the buildings was fantastic. I was really impressed with the majors and the technologies that AU had and being an Apple Distinguished School. The student center was just coming to completion when I was moving in, so that was very exciting as well. And it just felt right. I got to meet some professors and talked to some students that were on campus who had nothing but great things to say about the University. I always was leaning towards AU, but once I saw the campus and got a feel for the energy and the environment of the campus, it was an easy decision for me to commit to AU.
What are some ways your degree from AU helps you in your career?
I really can't put enough weight on the impact that AU has had on my professional career. I didn’t really know how to be challenged and pushed in the way I was at AU. It’s more so the ability of setting a goal before your commitment to set something up and see it through to fruition. I learned a lot about just how to learn, be a team player and team building skills and stuff like that, to help in my career now when I have teams I work with every day and people skills.
I actually had a professor of mine for sales and sales management my junior year of college. His name was Mark Williamson, and was an adjunct professor. A couple of buddies and I were in the class together. We met once a week on Wednesday evenings for two-and-a-half hours, which can be a lot to undertake, but Mark did a fantastic job with the class. It never seemed like it was dragging or boring. The material we were going through was very applicable and interesting to me. Mark and I just kind of clicked.
That was the first semester. I stayed in touch with him throughout the second semester and he took on a mentorship role for me while I was at AU my junior year.
You have to have an internship to graduate with a business degree at Anderson University. Mark brought in a man named Keith Roberts to speak at his class. He and Mark are longtime friends. Keith spoke about the insurance business. I didn’t know anything or care any about insurance at the time, but I really liked what Keith had to say about people and the way that he leads his business from a Christ-like perspective and he sees this as a ministry opportunity. I thought that was rock solid, so I reached out to Mark and said “Hey, I really liked what that guy had to say who came in and spoke. I need an internship. I’m going to reach out to him. Can you put in a good word for me?”
Sure enough, Mark put in a good word for me. A couple of weeks later Keith and I had an interview for what I thought was just going to be an internship. Then we had three more interviews for what I thought was just going to be an internship. At the end of the day, Keith really liked me and I really liked Keith and he said, “Let’s just bring you on full-time. We’ll pay for you to get your license and give you an office and everything.”
That’s a long-winded way to say if it wasn't for AU and the people it attracts, the type of professors they bring on to be a part of the University, I wouldn’t be where I am today. And I think it’s not just Mark. I had this kind of experience with a lot of others. Mark was just the direct impact, literally getting me my full-time position.
Tell me how those relationships continue to benefit you.
I tell people all the time, “I’m not in the insurance business, I’m in the people business.”
You talk about AU's impact—it continues. I’m still very close with Giovanni Calise, he was a marketing professor of mine. Kristi Harton, who is in charge of internships, put me in the room with so many important people that I wanted to get in touch with and may not have had access to.
Not only do I have these professors at AU, but I still maintain these relationships with them. Those professors and those relationships aren’t just for the four years you’re there. I’ve genuinely built lifetime relationships with several of my professors that are continuing to this day to help my business and professionally. You don’t get that kind of experience at too many places.
What are some of your favorite memories of being a student at Anderson?
I had a lot of fun at AU. I have a lot of great memories of staying up way too late with the guys, playing ping pong or video games or whatever it may be. The freshman year was a lot of fun. I also had a lot of fun going to the soccer games. I lived with one of the players on the soccer teams. We became very close. All of us would just rally the troops and go out to the soccer games, the basketball games and support the athletics and stuff like that.
But really it was about the friends and I’m going to continue to harp on this: my passion really is people, so I love the people and relationships I established.
For instance, my roommate was a complete stranger when I met him my freshman year. He’s come to be my best friend. He’ll be my best man at my wedding. I’m in his wedding coming up in December. I built so many lifelong lasting relationships at AU.
Getting into academia, there were several classes where we were doing really fun, in-depth and team-building group projects. One of my favorite classes was a new product development class. My friends and I had to come up with a new design for a product and I not only came up with a marketing plan but actually designed the product itself and then presented it to a board of local investors in a “Shark Tank” type setting. Both in and outside the classroom I had a really, really good time at AU and made a lot of solid relationships.
Where is your office located?
I am on North Boulevard, half a mile from the University. We’ve got a great relationship with Anderson University. Anderson University is an account of ours. I work with David Walker, who has kind of mentored me; he’s on the Board of Regents at Anderson University, Board of Visitors—pretty much anything that David Walker can be a part of at Anderson University, he is. I didn’t realize this until I came here, but my company has long-standing relationships with Anderson University and David and I are especially the ones that are on the forefront of visibility for the University. I’m on the Board of Visitors and the Alumni Board, so I try to attend every one of those meetings. Both personally and professionally, I am very much involved with Anderson University.
When did you first consider an insurance career?
People ask me “did you go to school for insurance?” I tell them honestly, no one goes to school for insurance. Kids dream of being astronauts, police officers, and firefighters kids. Nobody mentions insurance, but it was a total God thing for me. I literally got offered a position with zero experience in the industry just based on relationships I built at Anderson University as well as my people skills.
The relationships and what I get to do is such a blessing. I mentioned it being a God thing. When offered a job at 21 with a year of school left, there were so many things perfectly aligning. I didn't want to be naïve to what the Lord was doing in my life. I did not think I would work in insurance, but I have absolutely no desire to do anything else.
How did you become interested in majoring in business?
That’s an interesting story as well. When I showed up my freshman year, I was a kinesiology major. I knew I always wanted to help people and I thought I was going to do that in the medical field. I had knee surgery when I was in middle school and my physical therapist was absolutely fantastic. She was rock solid in guiding me through a really painful process, and she did very well financially.
Physical therapy is a financially rewarding career in which you can help a lot of people. For me, that sounded like a win-win. But I realized after my freshman year I didn't want to be in the medical field. I thought, "What else can I do? How can I help people? How can I be involved with people and being relational?” My roommate was a business major at the time and thought I would really like some of the business classes.
I was just a general business major my sophomore year, and then I took some marketing classes and loved marketing and kind of got into the marketing focus the second part of my sophomore year up until I graduated. Marketing was a really good for me because I’m not very analytical. I hate spreadsheets. I hate staring at a computer screen all day—that drives me crazy. I’m an extrovert. I’m a talker. I have the gift of gab. So I like meeting people.
Marketing was great for me because a lot of the classes were either presentations or papers where I can be vocal and I can express myself. I’d much rather get up in front of a room of a hundred people and give a presentation on something. That’s how my brain works. That’s how I exceed. Marketing was really good for me once I found it and I just really hit the ground running and fell in love with it. And I get to continue that with what I’m doing today.
At the end of the day, what gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment?
I love building genuine relationships with not only my clients, but my coworkers and the people I get to bump into around town. The city of Anderson, similar to Anderson University, is a very close-knit community. Relationships are not hard to find in Anderson. If you keep showing up at the right place at the right time, you’re going to start seeing the same people. It wasn’t hard to meet a lot of people at Anderson University. It’s not hard to meet a whole lot of people in the city of Anderson, either. They are aligned very similarly. I just love helping people.
Everybody likes saving money, but I want to give people a sense of that relational aspect. For instance, I had a friend of mine who is also a client. He called me at 8:30 the other night. It was out of the ordinary for the times we typically communicate, but he said “Hey, we’re on the interstate right now. My wife’s car just broke down and I don’t know what to do.” I said “Stay on the phone with me. I’m going to give you this number. This is your policy number. This is what they’re going to do. They’re going to come pick up the car, give you a rental—everything’s taken care of.” It made me feel a sense of accomplishment because he didn’t have to call a 1-800 number and listen to a series of voice messages, he called me. That’s the relationship I want to give to my people. I don’t have a professional and a personal cell phone. I have one phone. I’ve got no problem with people shooting me a text or giving me a call at any time, so I get satisfaction and pleasure out of knowing that I’m able to help people both personally and from a healthy relationship aspect on a daily basis.
What kind of advice would you give someone wanting to do what you do?
I would definitely say you need to be outgoing in this business and you need to be driven. I like being challenged. If someone was considering a field where they want to be challenged and pushed and motivated, insurance is great. Sales in general is great. You get to meet a lot of people. You get to connect and build those relationships. And then from there, if you just take good care of people, people will typically return the favor. Referrals is a lot of what I do.
I like learning about different kinds of industries. I do home and auto insurance and life insurance with individuals, but I also do commercial stuff. I have to know about these types of industries that I typically would have no knowledge of. Any sort of business, from concrete companies to universities—anything large or small or in between we can do. It’s cool to learn about the different industries and talking to these business owners and professionals and learning more about what they do and then helping them navigate and solve issues, because it’s not a fun topic. Not everybody wants to talk about insurance, but it’s a necessary conversation.
That’s what I do and what I would recommend, also why I do it.