Filed Under:Agent Broker, Agency Management

Producer Profiles: Meet Your Peers Vol. III

Insurance professionals share their favorite things about their jobs and offer career advice to new agents.

Becoming an insurance agent can be a life-changing event for some, especially when the opportunity turns into a calling. The following six producers may have come into the business for different reasons, but they’re each staying in the industry for the same: to improve the lives of others.

Want to share your own insurance story? Click here to tell us about your life as a successful agent. For more producer profiles, see Vol. II.

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Debbie Turner, President (pictured with Warren Buffett)
Dean Insurance Agency Inc.
Alamonte Springs, Fla.

How and when did you decide that an insurance career was for you?
I was a marketing major at FSU. The company I worked for was closed. I responded to a local insurance agency and I was hired. I had a company rep come in and ask if I would like to take on a debit route. I contacted the professional that had taught the basic required insurance class for a business major. I offered to buy him lunch for advice; by the end of lunch, I was an insurance major. The rest is history.

What do you love most about being an insurance agent?
Problem solving, taking care of clients, talking with clients. Most of my business comes from referrals and having my clients thank me for selling them insurance.

What's your favorite client success story?
As a CPCU, I was in the process of writing a research paper. I had recognized a relationship between the way dogs are underwritten and the lack of understanding of dog behavior. I mentioned it to a company person who informed me that I had a product, not a paper. Eighteen months later, I launched a website providing a stand-alone dog bite liability policy.

What career advice would you give new agents? Do you have a mantra for success?
Education, education and education. Insurance is a career, not a job. You can do anything you want in the industry.

What career would you want if you weren't an insurance agent?
Is there any other career?

What public figure (past or present) do you most admire?
Warren Buffet, he is self-made. He built an empire; it wasn't handed to him.

What are your hobbies? What do you most enjoy doing outside the office?
Dogs, dogs and anything to do with dogs!

Michael J. O'Donnell, Producer
Concklin Insurance Agency
Lombard, Ill.

How and when did you decide that an insurance career was for you?
When I graduated from college I knew that the insurance industry offered an excellent opportunity to grow your own business. My mother had been a CSR for several years and offered a tremendous amount of insight to what it would take to be a successful insurance producer.

What do you love most about being an insurance agent?
Being an insurance agent allows you to meet different people every day. There are challenges and issues that are unique to each client and you get the opportunity to help people and learn something new each day.

What's your favorite client success story?
One of my larger clients decided to start their business about 15 years ago and came to me through a referral. They needed someone to work with them that understood their business and the exposures. He started with one truck and a trailer and now has a fleet of vehicles and employs over 60 people. He trusted me to help him grow his business and make sure that he was properly insured and protected. Over the past 15 years, his business and our friendship have continued to grow.

What career advice would you give new agents? Do you have a mantra for success?
The best advice I would give to a new agent is to work hard. Don't be afraid to pick up the phone. The more people you speak with the better your opportunity for success. Always keep your client's best interest in mind. Your clients will reward you with referrals and continued loyalty as long as you keep your focus on providing the best possible options.

What career would you want if you weren't an insurance agent?
I would have gone into education and coaching. It is very rewarding to help people reach their potential.

What public figure (past or present) do you most admire?
Knute Rockne. He was an educator, innovator and coach.

What are your hobbies? What do you most enjoy doing outside the office?
Spending time with our 3 children and following each of their individual activites. Our children our extremely active in sports and school so most of my free time is spent at one event or another. Golfing is one of my favorite ways to get outside and enjoy the weather as well as snowmobiling in the winter.

Want to share your own insurance story? Click here to tell us about your life as a successful agent. For more producer profiles, see Vol. II.

Teresa Colbert Sheppard, Account Manager
Campbell Insurance
Lynchburg, Virgina

How and when did you decide that an insurance career was for you?
As my senior year of High School approached I was faced with a very heavy class load to prepare to attend nursing school, I thought, no way, make another selection, InVEST was offered at our vocational center so I opted to go in that direction. After graduation I faced a work life confined to factory work, with no college education and it happened when I was laid off from that position my InVEST teacher called to see what I was doing. She had a friend in the insurance industry who was looking for a recent InVEST graduate to run their first computer system. Long story short, I interviewed, got the job (thanks to InVEST) and have been there with the same agency since 1980.

What do you love most about being an insurance agent?
Helping others. I had wanted to become a nurse to fulfill my desire to help others--Well, guess what? Insurance is the best way to help others, you help them each day to protect their most valuable possessions: everything from their homes, cars, businesses and lives.

What's your favorite client success story?
Wow, that's a hard one. Every time a claim is settled successfully I smile because I know I have done my best to provide the protection my clients need and deserve.

What career advice would you give new agents? Do you have a mantra for success?
Education, education, education. Our industry is ever-changing and we have to continue our education every single day. Don't just go to classes to meet your CE requirements, go to classes to learn how to be a better person, agent, advisor and employee.

What career would you want if you weren't an insurance agent?
Nurse.

What public figure (past or present) do you most admire?
Hellen Keller. Regardless of the obstacles she faced, she overcame each one and learned something from it and helped others to overcome. She never gave up, she didn't give in, she always fought to win.

What are your hobbies? What do you most enjoy doing outside the office?
Spending time with my family, reading, helping out with the youth at my church.

Want to share your own insurance story? Click here to tell us about your life as a successful agent. For more producer profiles, see Vol. II.

Janie Ussery, Administrative Manager
Ragland, Strother & Lafitte
Dallas, Texas

How and when did you decide that an insurance career was for you?
In 1977, I was in an InVEST class at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas. We were taught the basics of how insurance agencies and companies worked, as well as how to rate and type policies. As a part of the InVEST experience, I was given the opportunity to interview with an agency and they hired me. I graduated from high school on a Saturday and went to work for them on Monday. They allowed me to work part-time for them while in college, and I eventually became full-time. I now work for one of the agents who volunteered to be a guest speaker in my InVEST class.

What do you love most about being an insurance agent?
I get so much joy in being able to help people. It is rewarding to help them at the time of a loss and to be able to put them at ease.

What career advice would you give new agents? Do you have a mantra for success?
Always push yourself to do more than you think you are capable of.

What career would you want if you weren't an insurance agent?
Working with children with disabilities.

What public figure (past or present) do you most admire?
Martin Luther King, Jr. He had a vision for the future of people working together and co-existing peacefully.

What are your hobbies? What do you most enjoy doing outside the office?
I like to volunteer my time with children with disabilities as well as help mentor kids in general. Now I'm volunteering with InVEST to help promote interest in the insurance field with high school students.

Want to share your own insurance story? Click here to tell us about your life as a successful agent. For more producer profiles, see Vol. II.

Dan Verdun, Risk Management Advisor
Frenkel & Co.
Jersey City, N.J.

How and when did you decide that an insurance career was for you?
After leaving the Marine Corps with an Honorable Discharge in 1995, I worked as a bi-lingual CSR for a Allstate agency in Succasunna, NJ. After 6 months of working there, I realized that the insurance industry was a great fit for me.

What do you love most about being an insurance agent?
What I love most is about this profession is working with and helping people.

What's your favorite client success story?
About 4 years ago, I was introduced to an NFL player and his wife through his sports agent. They were having difficulty obtaining insurance for a new home they were about to purchase because of the location. I noticed they had several policies (22 of them) in place for other properties, multiple vehicles, a large jewelry collection, recreational vehicles, a yacht, etc. After about 2 weeks of gathering data and speaking with various underwriters, I was able to secure coverage on their new home and consolidated his policies--minimizing his liability and risk--and reduced his overall cost by more than $20,000.

What career advice would you give new agents? Do you have a mantra for success?
My advice to new agents is to listen and pay close attention to your clients providing world-class service! That will foster a close-knit relationship with your clients. That creates a level of trust and they will become loyal to you. That has been my mantra for success.

What career would you want if you weren't an insurance agent?
I was always interested in a career in the FBI.

What public figure (past or present) do you most admire?
It's really difficult for me to pick an individual because I admire every member of the US Armed Forces! They volunteered to protect the people of this nation and others around the world. Because of them, we enjoy the fruitfulness of life. They protect us from our enemies while we enjoy freedom and democracy on a daily basis!

What are your hobbies? What do you most enjoy doing outside the office?
Spending time with my family is my No. 1 priority outside the office. I enjoy golf, going to the Jersey Shore & cooking too.

Want to share your own insurance story? Click here to tell us about your life as a successful agent. For more producer profiles, see Vol. II.

Christina Thompson, Agent
Alexander & Alexander Inc.
Leitchfield, Ky.

How and when did you decide that an insurance career was for you?
After the birth of my son, I decided that I needed to find a career path sooner rather than later. I was 23, had been married for 2 years and was going to college and working as a waitress. My mother suggested that I apply for an insurance CSR position. After several interviews and follow-up phone calls, Mr. Alexander finally decided to hire me. I guess you could say I was a little relentless! He teases me about it now. I've been working with A&A for 8 years, transitioned into sales and have built a very successful book of buisness.

What do you love most about being an insurance agent?
The most enjoyable part of being an insurance agent is the pleasure of working with my clients who all have different cultural backgrounds. This makes everyday new and exciting!

What's your favorite client success story?
One of my insured's truck drivers was involved in a 30+ vehicle accident during a blizzard one winter. Attorneys were sending letters out left and right to our client, who was not even at fault. The driver had just came upon the wreck and could not stop in time. We worked with our insured and the adjuster to resolve all the issues.

What career advice would you give new agents? Do you have a mantra for success?
Always have a positive attitude and stay persistant. Following up is very important to being successful in the insurance industry.

What career would you want if you weren't an insurance agent?
At this point in my life, I really cannot see myself doing anything other than selling insurance.

What public figure (past or present) do you most admire?
Napoleon Hill because of his positive insight and great writing. One of my favorite quotes is: “The better portion of all sales I have made, were made after people said 'no'.”

What are your hobbies? What do you most enjoy doing outside the office?
My hobbies are reading, writing and spending time with my family.

Want to share your own insurance story? Click here to tell us about your life as a successful agent. For more producer profiles, see Vol. II.

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