Our latest agent spotlight is on Lisa Harkey, Owner/Agent of Alacoast Insurance with 2 Alabama locations in Mobile and Saraland. We visited Lisa and asked her to share why she enjoys being an insurance agent, provide advice to future insurance agents and tell us a little about herself.
How many years have you been an insurance agent?
I started working in insurance when I was 18 years old. After leaving the business for about 10 years to raise my family, I re-entered the field about 11 years ago. I now have close to 25 years of total insurance experience.
What is your favorite thing about being an insurance agent?
I genuinely LOVE to help people. I take a lot of pride in helping my clients get the best coverage that they can afford. Not everyone has the same sized wallet, but everyone deserves good coverage and that’s what I enjoy helping them find. It always makes my day when I’m able to save someone money and still achieve their needs.
What advice would you give someone who wants to be an independent insurance agent?
Don’t spread yourself too thin or you’ll run around trying to be the best at everything, but you can’t. Accept that! Find a niche and become laser focused on it. Be prepared to spend day and night in your agency to make sure it’s run properly. Never trust anyone else to take care of your business; you need to be in it everyday to be successful. I’ve spoken with a lot of younger agents that want to step into an agency and start reaping the rewards, be the “manager” and sit back while everyone else does the work, but it doesn’t work that way. You have to put in a lot of sweat equity if you want to be successful.
What is one of your guilty pleasures?
Traveling. But I never feel guilty about it!
What is something about you that would surprise people?
Well now, that’s my secret.
Where’s your favorite place in the world?
That’s a tough question. My absolute favorite place in the world is between Ireland and anywhere in the Rockies. Ireland is such a magical place, almost mystical. You get caught up in the history, legends and lore, it’s like stepping back in time and your imagination can run wild. However, the mountains have always called my name. I feel completely at peace when I’m there. How can Man argue that there is no God when you stand and behold such beauty and majesty?
If you could visit anywhere in the world you’ve never been, where would you go?
The top of my bucket list is New Zealand. I’ll get there one day!
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
My Mama’s chicken and dumplings with baked sweet potatoes on the side. It’s carb overload! Oh well, I guess that is one more of my guilty pleasures!
Thanks, Lisa for sharing with us. To learn more about AlaCoast, visit their website www.alacoastinsurance.com.
Another Day, Another Data Breach...
An article posted last month by businessinsider.com, reported at least 14 retailers were hacked and likely had information stolen from them since January 2017. Many of the data breaches were caused by flaws in payment systems taken advantage of by hackers. The list includes Sears, Kmart, Whole Foods, Sonic, Delta, Best Buy, Panera Bread and more. The article said, “Data breaches are on the rise in both retailers and other businesses...Data breaches are a real danger for both brands and customers, and can affect customer's trust in brands.”
Last month I received a Notice of Data Breach from Usinger’s. (They are famous for sausage). Now I can include them in the list of notices I have received from other companies informing me of a data breach. Watching the news it seems like there is another report of a data breach at least once a week.
You’re Risking Financial Devastation
As an independent insurance agency, you’re collecting a lot of personal and sensitive information from your prospects and clients. It’s critical that you protect your data and your clients’ trust or risk financial devastation if you allow hackers to steal the information as a result of a data breach. With the growing use of wireless connections, hackers can manipulate your network and gain access to your data in various ways.
Consider These Security Threats:
Consider These Security Steps:
In order to keep your valued clients' sensitive data safe, it’s essential to implement a security program at your independent insurance agency. Leaving any of these security measures unchecked puts your agency’s financial security at risk.
Is Your Agency Customer Friendly?
Is your office easy to find? Is your office tidy and inviting?
Here are some things your independent insurance agency can do to make your office more customer friendly:
You see your office almost everyday. Get an outside opinion on things you can do to spruce up your agency. Ask your spouse or a friend to tell you what they think of your office.
There are other things you can do to keep your office looking ship shape. Ask your employees keep a clean and tidy desk. You want to make a good impression on your customers so they will feel welcomed. If they feel good about coming into your agency, they will come back to see you when they need additional products and services that you offer.
Do you do anything special at your office that may benefit other insurance agents? Maybe you offer snacks or you have a cooler with sodas and waters for your clients. Do you offer free Wi-Fi? Do you update your furniture as it gets worn and outdated? Do you subscribe to sports related magazines for sports fans? Do you have some cool artwork on your walls?
We’d love to hear about some things you do that makes visiting your insurance agency a pleasant experience. Please tell us in the comments section below.
Tension, conflict, fighting, friction, whatever you call it, can have a drastic effect on productivity in the workplace. You’ve probably experienced some workplace conflicts due to deadlines, clashes in personalities, different work methods, power plays and emotional issues. A little healthy competition isn’t a bad thing but working in a volatile atmosphere isn’t good for your agency or your employees.
The best thing to do is nip it in the bud as soon as you are aware of it. First, encourage your employees to work it out. If the conflict persists, listen to both sides individually and don’t play favorites. Identify the issues at hand and get to the source of the conflict. If necessary, refer to your employee handbook. Once a solution is found, you may want to document the incident. Some employees may need time to cool off and in some cases you may want to reevaluate your staff.
You may find that some employees who continue to hold a grudge can’t work it out no matter how much talking you do. There are workplace communication and problem solving training courses available if it comes to that. This problem-solving therapy helps people cope with difficulties in the workplace and teaches them to proactively solve their problems. You may not have the resources or time so once again, you may want to reevaluate your staff.
The worst thing you can do is let these conflicts continue to fester. Employees will spend a lot of time discussing their version and getting people on their side. That time is wasted time. The tension and conflict could lead to bad decisions being made and lowering job motivation due to poor focus. You could lose an employee if one gets fed up and decides to leave because of the conflict. The conflict could lead to sabotage and damage to the business as the employee’s anger grows due to lack of resolution.
Bottom line, get to the bottom of the conflict, speak to those engaged in the conflict and get it resolved before your business is affected.
Vikki Thomas has been working in the insurance industry since 1995. Vikki has worked for several carriers in customer service, quality assurance, underwriting, product management and marketing. Vikki has worked at AccuAgency since 2008.