Growing Up "In The Business"

May 23, 2012

This week's Working Wednesday is brought to you by Larry Hazen {agency owner, sales, IT coordinator, consultant} of Hazen Enterprises.
Larry and I first met at an insurance event held by Vertafore for Agency Management Systems {basically a database that holds all the information we need}. Larry assisted me in getting involved with meetings and annual events in New England specifically for Vertafore user. He was similar to me in that he was "born into the industry". Without further adieu, his story.

My family has been in the insurance business for some time. On my mother's side, my Great-Uncle, was an underwriter in Zurich, Switzerland. He came to work in an office outside of New York City in the 1930s. On my dad's, my Great-Uncle, left the Air Force and purchased an insurance agency in the 1940s.

While residing in New York City, my Dad, worked for an insurance company while dating my mother. My dad was raised on a farm in Woodstock, Vermont, and when they had enough of the city life they moved to back. Once they arrived to town, my Great-Uncle {insurance agency owner}, asked my father and my uncle if they wanted to work there. They accepted and began work with my Great-Uncle. They worked for about fifteen years before purchasing the agency from him.

As a child, my siblings and I were never allowed in the office, unless it was a life or death situation. Heaven forbid a child go to "the office" in the middle of town owned by an uncle and Dad. To this day I cannot figure that one out... I graduated High School and went to Florida with two high school buddies. We were sick of the small town and wanted to explore the world. My two buddies left after six months; I enjoyed myself in Florida for three years. Was I in the insurance business in Florida? Nope, not insurance for this young man. I was a manager for the Colonel, Colonel Sanders that is. 

Once I had enough of Florida and the Colonel, I moved back to my hometown and worked with friends painting houses by day and bar-tending by night.
After six months of being home my father called me to "the office". That may have been the first time I was invited to the office, so I knew "something was up". I arrived at the office to meet with Dad and asked "What's up?" He asked if I ever considered working in the office. {Note: At this point in my life, I did not go to college, I moved 1,500 miles from home and returned to paint houses and bar-tend. He wants to know if I want to work in "an office".} I asked why. 

He told me his employee/producer of five years was leaving to purchase another agency in town {coincidentally was in negotiations with my Dad to purchase}. Dad was in a dilemma.
1) Ask me to join the agency (I was the oldest of four, none of my siblings wanted anything to do with an office, they wished to continue on with their own career paths).2) Sell the agency (His last endeavor with the employee who left, he decided not to take on other partners, except me).
"How long do I have to decide?"
His reply was simply, "Tomorrow would be great."
Newly married, recently purchased an 1850s farm house in need of a lot of work, this was a pressing decision to make overnight. 

I went home to my new wife and discussed it with her. The next day I went to "the office" and told my Dad I would join him. That is how it all started, and I am glad I made that decision. It opened up areas of opportunity I would not have if I had not made that decision. Our agency was a Travelers appointment; they had training options for me: home/office study and an agents school. 

Upon departure from the Travelers Agent School I came back to the office to sit and learn the financial side of the business. A few years after working with the bookkeeper, one of our "girls", as they were termed in those days, decided to retire after working for the office since high school, fifty years. When Dad advised me Francis was leaving I asked if I couldreplace her with a computer instead of another person. {This was the early 80s; computers were just getting started in the workplace and insurance agencies.} My Dad nearly fell on the floor, not a good thing for a 200+ pound man. His response, "Have you figured out how much the machine costs vs an employee?" I had done my homework and reported there would be a small savings, and it would help us in the future as many insurance companies and agencies were joining the computer train. In a nutshell, how I got started in the 35 years of being in the insurance business as well as the computer consulting side of life as it is today.
Larry Hazen Hazen Enterprises, Inc.

Thank you Larry for guest blogging today. That is quite the story!