OK, so maybe what this guy is doing is a little harder…
Today, my friend Tracey Werner inspired me to do a blog entry about how we started. She launched a marketing and public relations company and asked about what motivates other entrepreneurs. Be sure to visit her new website at www.blabbermouthcommunications.com
Back in 1998, I was completely happy in the Claims Division of Erie Insurance. Never thought of leaving. Would have been happy to work there until I retired and got a magic pin or watch or whatever they give you!
Wanting to advance, I interviewed for a home office position with someone who would later become CEO of the company. I didn’t get the auditor job. That person felt I was wired for more of a “people” position, in agency, than I was for putting checkmarks on a list. Next thing I knew, the Branch Manager was talking to me about agency startups.
Upon first discussion about starting an agency, I think I actually laughed. I didn’t think I would be “brave” enough to leave the comfort of an incredibly stable position where I was paid well and instead go out and make a living by selling insurance policies!
Being a “scratch” agent means you start from scratch. You don’t get a list of clients or leads from anyone. You don’t get a salary. You don’t have an employer…that’s YOU! The first policy you write is your own auto insurance. The second is your home. The third, your life. Then, you have to find more people…people who aren’t YOU!
The excitement is addictive. Finding the perfect office location! Buying some furniture…all used, thank you Clifford Nolt of Breinigsville! (Office Furnishings @ 1926 Kecks Rd. Breinigsville!) Even cleaning your new office windows is a thrill! Ordering pens with your name on them? Woo hoo!
Then, the fear. Mixed with the excitement, it’s bearable…but it is still incredibly scary! When I began, I was single, I had a mortgage…heck, I had two cats who depended on me! At that point, you go into what I call a “mega-hyper-conservative” mode. I budgeted myself to $20/week for the grocery trip! And that included the cat food and cat litter! Nah, I didn’t get skinny. I had family and friends who kindly fed me, as though I were the neighborhood stray cat!
The evening telemarketing was the worst. It was before the “Do Not Call” list, so we gave it a whirl. Today, the penalties are too great if you make a call and it is “unwanted”…plus, we are lucky to work almost exclusively on a referral basis now. THANK YOU CLIENTS! WE LOVE YOU!
Four nights a week (never Fridays, no one is ever home!) I’d sit alone in my office dialing number after number, hoping someone would be interested…honestly, just hoping they wouldn’t call me nasty names and hang up! But every now and again, I’d get someone who thought I sounded “nice” and “not pushy”…for every one of those, I could get through another 20 of the other kind…so even today, I try to be nice when telemarketers call me…I did it myself and it’s rough!
I walked through neighborhoods and put plastic goodie bags on doorknobs. I spent weekends sitting in “home show” booths talking to mall shoppers about insurance! The first year, I actually stood in the snow on Christmas Eve, in hiking boots and a parka, handing out calendars to folks pumping gas at Wawa! One guy brought the calendar into our office a year later, saying he was ready to sign up with the “crazy Wawa chick from Christmas Eve”…yeah, a year later!
Now, we’re in our 12th year. Can’t even believe that much time has passed. Sometimes it feels like it was a month ago that I was eating that microwave popcorn and continuously dialing the phone…
Without question, starting a business is hard. It’s not for the faint of heart. Things change daily. Unexpected expenses find YOU! You have to get comfortable with change…make change your friend! As you grow, you need help…finding fantastic team members is the next challenge! I’ve been blessed to have two fabulous folks join me (Linda Braun & Judy Breen!)
But, it’s been the most fun I’ve ever had not involving chocolate or rollercoasters! Every day is different. I am NEVER bored! I love being able to help people with their concerns and challenges. Someone once said if you love what you do, you won’t ever work another day of your life. SO TRUE!
I’m appreciative and blessed. Thank you to all of the clients who have helped us grow Hosfeld Insurance. Without your referrals, I’d still be eating that blasted popcorn! So truly, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!
And, Tracey…a couple years from now, you’ll look back fondly at these “startup days”…telling folks about ’em on YOUR blog! :)