Protect What Matters Most
IronHawk Financial sets up construction industry owners for success
When Joe Lombardi shares his life’s story to potential customers, they listen—and most likely buy insurance and other financial services from him.
As Founding Managing Partner of IronHawk Financial, Joe has a compelling story of what can happen if owners in construction and other blue-collar industries fail to protect themselves and their businesses. His father, a prominent construction company owner, fell 30 feet off a ladder one day at a work site and lost his livelihood as a result.
“He owned his business, J.V. Lombardi Builders, for more than 30 years and lost it in a blink of an eye,” Joe recalls. “When he fell, a bone in his foot disintegrated into fragments, and by the time he got out of the hospital, his company, a prominent and productive business, was gone. His workers had to find work elsewhere to support their families. The fall crippled him financially as well as physically because he didn’t have disability insurance.”
To add to his family’s hardship, Joe’s mother died at the early age of 52 with no life insurance, and his grandmother had a stroke and needed long-term care, having to spend all the savings accrued from his late grandfather’s masonry firm to pay for nursing home care.
Protecting Business Owners
As a result of his personal experiences, Joe is passionate about protecting and educating his construction and other blue-collar, business-owner clients to make sure they do not make the same mistake. His company offers not only disability income insurance, but also life, long-term care and liability and workers’ compensation insurance. He also provides life insurance planning, negotiates buy/sell agreements and offers investment and 401(k) management services.
With locations in New Haven and Fairfield counties in Connecticut, IronHawk Financial serves more than 1,000 contractors and business owners in Connecticut, California, the Carolinas, Florida, Massachusetts, New York and Texas. Joe is looking to get licensed in other states, using the benefits of videoconferencing to connect with clients.
Joe was 15 at the time of his father’s accident. As his father spent 18 months recovering, Joe took on the responsibility of taking care of his little sister, who was only 1 ½ at the time. “It is very common in the construction industry for owners not to have disability insurance. Yet, they are usually the breadwinner in the family,” Joe says. “If something happens to the business owner, the family’s quality of life is gone. I never wanted that to happen to anybody else because I lived it.”
Joe says he was first attracted to the financial industry at a young age, when visiting one of his father’s home construction sites in upscale Greenwich, Connecticut. “I tagged along with my dad to price a job at a mansion and played with the owner’s son in the basement arcade. It was impressive. I asked my dad what the owner did for a living, and he told me he worked on Wall Street. I said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ ”
In 2004, Joe was bartending and waiting tables at a Japanese restaurant to pay his way through college at Southern Connecticut State University where he was studying finance and economics. He struck up a conversation with the CEO of Northwestern Mutual who had come in to eat. “He told me he thought I would be good in the financial field, and I got a part-time job at his company.”
Joe got his first insurance client by calling the number on a business card tacked to the wall at Panera Bread. He even earned the nickname “The Dog” for his penchant for chasing down construction trucks on Interstate 95. “I’d pull up behind them or call the number on the side of the truck and say, ‘I want to show you the way to protect your business. Can I buy you a cup of coffee?’ Then, I’d follow them to Dunkin’ Donuts and give them my spiel.”
While he had other clients that weren’t contractors, Joe felt most connected to tradespeople, and that became his niche. He started getting into networking groups and attending trade shows to find prospective clients. He grew his business exponentially by getting involved in the Home Builders & Remodelers Association, going to home shows in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York, as well as to American Consumer Shows. He attended 10 to 15 home shows a year.
“Most people go to the shows to talk to the general public, who are there to get a new roof or their kitchen done. I was there to talk to the vendors. I told them my life’s story. I’ve seen my family be both very poor and very well off financially, and the common denominator in both cases was they never protected their foundation.”
Joe gives the analogy of a goose that insures all his golden eggs—a home, a car, a business, rental properties. “People forget to insure the goose that is producing the eggs. They spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on workers’ compensation, liability, business auto, rental property and homeowners’ insurance protecting their eggs, but they don’t protect themselves.”
Once he got their attention, he’d also show prospects how they could save money on taxes by using different investment objectives, mainly whole life insurance, which provides lifelong coverage, as well as an investment component that grows in value. “You can borrow money against the account or surrender it for cash without paying taxes on gains as they accumulate,” he says. He uses that as an entry to additional services such as compensation plans and key employee plans.
“Iron is for the strong guy who stands for his business and his family, and I’m like the hawk that swoops in to protect my clients by providing knowledge to make sure their families are safe.” Joe Lombardi, Founding Managing Partner, IronHawk Financial
Following his Passion
After working with a number of major carriers for 14 years, Joe decided to go out on his own two years ago. His wife liked the name Red Hawk Financial, and he liked Iron Financial, as it represented the strength of his hardworking clients. So he combined the two words to form IronHawk. “Iron is for the strong guy who stands for his business and his family, and I’m like the hawk that swoops in to protect my clients by providing knowledge to make sure their families are safe.”
Joe uses a four-point approach in helping business owners protect their assets that even sounds construction-related:
- Analyze your needs: “The first step is simple: We get to know you, your family and your business.”
- Develop your blueprint: “We build your financial blueprint, which covers all aspects of your financial life.”
- Design your plan: “We develop a financial road map that fits your specific needs while protecting everything that is important to you.”
- Conduct periodic reviews: “To make sure we are on track to achieving your financial goals, we revisit your financial blueprint periodically and adjust accordingly.”
Joe says, “There’s a famous quote: ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.’ Expressing that to the successful, hardworking and often overlooked business owners is my passion.”
A Focus on the Foundation
Joe speaks to his clients in terms they can relate to. “I tell the trades, it’s like building a house. You can have a beautiful metal roof over it and beautiful mahogany cabinets inside, but if the foundation is shot and there is water in the basement, it doesn’t matter how nice everything is. It just takes one unexpected diagnosis, accident or illness that can take away everything you’ve built over the past 10, 20 or 30 years. I focus on the foundation.”
Each client is different, and Joe works to tailor solutions to their particular needs and goals. He has an expansive network of strategic alliances with banks, law firms and accounting firms throughout the Northeast to provide clients with access to other resources that meet their specific needs. He also created IronHawk Benefits, LLC, which partners with Insperity to provide human resources solutions for his clients, such as employee payroll, 401(k) and health insurance benefits.
When three brothers who owned a tree company came to Joe to reduce their health insurance costs, besides saving the firm $70,000 in health coverage, Joe looked beyond their immediate need. “None of the owners had disability or life insurance. So I negotiated a buy/sell agreement with each owner, as well as set up life and disability insurance, and a retirement account that will give each owner a guaranteed cash pension by the time they reach age 65."
“I found the holes in their foundation. If any one of them gets disabled, the other two can buy them out. If any dies, the surviving wife will receive a couple of million dollars and the remaining brothers receive the deceased brother’s share in the business.”
In working with a mattress company in New Haven with about $60 million in sales each year, Joe talked with the owners to determine their specific needs. “One is 52 and the other is 34, so their goals are a lot different. I came up with a strategy to meet their needs and build a plan that works for them.”
When he’s not advocating on behalf of his clients, Joe is active with his children’s sports teams. With a last name like Lombardi, it’s natural that he’s head coach of his sons’ (ages 11 and 8) NFL Play Football teams. He and his wife also have a 5-year-old daughter. “I get a lot of joy seeing children grow. I love coaching a child starting at age 4 who can’t catch a ball, and when they leave me at age 7, they can throw a 30-yard pass.”
He likens his youth sports coaching to helping his IronHawk Financial customers. “I look at coaching and being a financial planner as one and the same. I approach them the same way: This is our goal, and this is how we get there.”
Obtaining financial security for families and businesses starts with the owner or owners taking the first step. “Protect what you love the most. If it’s your family, your business, yourself—make sure you protect it,” he says. “A lot of things can happen that are out of your control. If you’re not the one to protect what’s important to you, who is?”