From the December 2011 issue of American Agent & Broker •Subscribe!

nGI: Douglas Fairbanks, CIC, AAI

Producer, Hartland Insurance Agency

Douglas Fairbanks
Producer, Hartland Insurance Agency
Years at company: 3
College: Michigan State University, 2000
Organizations: Multiple chambers of commerce, Young Agents Council, Michigan Assn. of Insurance Agents
 
What was the biggest challenge you faced in 2011 as a young agent, and how did you handle it?
Balancing time spent on state association work, as chair of Michigan’s Young Agent Council, producing new business, maintaining renewals and adjusting to life with an amazing new baby. I don’t know how I handled it, but it all seemed to work out. I guess when I noticed one area was suffering, I gave it more time.
 
How can employers retain young talent?
Agencies have three legs that keep them up and operating; think of a three-legged stool. One leg is their clients and community, the other their carriers, the third their employees. If you lose any of the three, you are in trouble. So how do you keep young talent? Know what motivates your employee. Do what you can to take care of your employee and be flexible. If they want to earn more money, offer ways for that to occur. Do they want to leave at 3 p.m. to pick up kids from school? Work with your employees to help satisfy their needs. As a result you develop long-term employees, who work harder and are more productive.
 
What advice do you have when working with family?
Interestingly enough, my mother was an agent, and my grandfather. I work in a family agency, but I’m unrelated and never worked with the same company as my mother and grandfather. I do work with my wife, who is a CSR at Hartland Agency. It actually works very well. Hartland has four married couples that work together. My wife and I will discuss work at home, but we don’t feel overwhelmed by it. It also is nice that we can attend industry events together. It’s much easier then when we worked for competing agencies!
 
 
Who do you look to as a mentor?
When I first started as a producer at another agency, one of the owners mentored me by helping to hone my prospecting skills. David Walker (one of my agency’s principals) is my mentor now and he is a guru of insurance. He’s selling, managing the agency, teaching, doing expert witness work and serving previously in the state association’s leadership and now for IIABA.
 
How does technology fit into your work strategy?
I’m not quite a Luddite, but I like paper. I don’t receive email to my phone, but I do have a BlackBerry. I like paper because of how my memory works. It’s easy to see the piece of paper I’m looking for and find it quickly. It takes longer to scroll through a long attachment and wait for the file to open. I don’t have email to my phone because I believe we are too much a society of instant gratification. An email isn’t an ideal way to communicate an emergency because you don’t know if the recipient received it. If you do have an emergency, call me. I believe this helps maintain the work/personal life balance. If I choose to work on Sunday at 7 p.m., it is by my choice and not because of a non-emergency emergency.
 
How did you choose insurance as a career?
It was the only career that presented itself as an option to me when I was closing my trucking company, and so I thought, why not? I don’t have anything else to do.
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