Agency Of The Month: Caring, Listening, Protecting
Dennis H. Pillsbury

It’s not just a slogan; it’s a way of life at Mansfield Insurance

Quite often, slogans are words or phrases that a company or its advertising agency invent to try and capture the public’s attention. Other times, the slogan emerges almost organically reflecting the company’s actions and way of doing business. In fact, the slogan that has become part of Mansfield Insurance Agency’s identity—Caring, Listening, Protecting—was the result of a survey of clients concerning what they felt the agency provided. So, even though the slogan was adopted only recently, it really reflects the agency’s way of doing business since it was founded by Jim Mansfield in 1981 in Bright, Indiana.

Living up to that slogan is best exemplified by the agency’s actions in 1990 after the area was devastated by a series of tornadoes. Within 24 hours, the agency saw 110 people and wrote checks averaging $2,500 so they could start getting their lives back together, find a temporary residence when necessary, and replace necessities that had been lost. “People’s jaws dropped,” Jim remembers. “Most of our time was spent hugging them and reassuring them that we would continue to be there for them, that the adjusters were on their way and would be determining a final amount of loss. But mostly, the people needed a sympathetic ear, someone to talk with and that’s what we provided.” And, of course, the protection was there thanks to the agency’s care in making certain its customers are properly insured.

“There’s no better publicity than word of mouth,” Jim says. “I’ve always believed that if you take care of the customer first, it will pay you.” And that really proved true after the tornadoes. “We’ve enjoyed good, steady growth since then.”

Creating informed consumers

A big part of Jim’s approach to clients is education. “I hit people hard with the liability side of things,” Jim says. “Minimum limits just aren’t enough. People are putting their homes at risk when they fail to purchase higher limits of liability and I’m willing to put in the time explaining how important it is to have higher limits. We’re in a rural area, and if there is an accident that includes a serious injury that can often mean an AirCare ride. The cost of that alone is $10,000. We recently had two UM losses of $250,000 and $325,000. If those insureds didn’t have sufficient coverage, they could be in serious financial difficulty. I don’t ever want that to happen to one of my clients. We push hard for 250/500 liability limits with umbrella protection above that.”

Jim’s approach isn’t surprising when one learns that he graduated from Indiana State University with a BS in Special Education. He then taught for three years in the public school system before being recruited by a direct writer. “I quickly realized that people wanted choices with their insurance and one company did not fit everyone’s needs.” So, after two years, he contracted with several companies and formed Mansfield Insurance.

When I interviewed Jim for this article, he had just returned from sitting with a client for about an hourand- a-half. The client had received a quote that was $500 below what he was paying. “I showed him that he also was getting a lot less coverage,” Jim says. “And I reviewed all that he was putting at risk by not having the right liability limits. It only takes one serious accident. I’m happy to say that he’s still with us. He really appreciated the fact that I was willing to spend the time with him and I made it clear how much I appreciated his trust in us and his loyalty. But this does point to a much bigger problem that all of us in the independent agency ranks confront every day—the television ads that have turned insurance into a pricesensitive commodity. People approach it like they’re going to Kroger to buy some milk.

“We have to be smarter, better and more professional if we’re going to survive against the onslaught of entertaining ads that, in the end, are doing a major disservice to the insurance consumer. Not only do they face serious loss if they are involved in a major accident,” Jim points out, “they also don’t have an advocate if there’s a problem with a small claim.”

Enhancing professionalism

“I am firmly convinced that everyone needs to develop relationships within the industry to get ideas and to develop a more professional approach to the business,” Jim maintains. “I’ve gotten involved with PIA and am active on the board of directors. I also am on the board of AIMS Society and received the CPIA designation in 2007. Additionally, I am involved with NAHU since my agency sells all types of coverage, including life and health. These relationships have helped me a great deal and instilled a renewed sense of professionalism that I’ve passed along to my staff. One result of that was an effort to re-identify who we are. This followed a PIA retreat that centered on the book Collapse of Distinction by Scott McKain. When I got back, I asked our staff and clients to tell us what makes us unique. Our slogan came about from that effort.”

Another result was an increased focus on selling. Jim found that relying on educating the client was not enough. Each client also needed to be sold. That meant finding out everything about the client so that the agency could provide them with the coverages they needed. It wasn’t just homeowners, auto and umbrella, plus some life and health coverages. “We found that the average client has seven different policies,” Jim says. “Our objective is to be the agent for every one of those policies. Many clients had special coverage needs for things like jewelry, boats, airplanes and other ‘toys.’ In order to make certain that we have the ability to provide coverage for those ancillary items, in addition to our relationship with a number of traditional insurers, we also work with several wholesalers, including Arlington/Roe, K&K and RPS. These all are companies that I met through my association with PIA. We also sell flood insurance through American Bankers. Needless to say, cross selling is huge at our agency.”

This is especially important in an area where the mix of business available is small commercial and personal lines. The agency is in a very rural area where most businesses are mom-and-pop types. In essence the accounts range from small to smaller to smallest. And in that environment, Mansfield Insurance Agency writes about $2.5 million in property/casualty premium, plus some additional life and health business, with a staff of six, five of whom are licensed agents.

“Diane Dietz and Lisa Parnell, who have been with the agency for 18 and 15 years, respectively, have a philosophy that is identical to mine. And I brought in Judy Allen and Tricia Kuntz from other industries because they both were passionate about client relationships and bring a different perspective to the needs of commercial clients,” Jim says proudly. “They all fight hard for the clients and are willing to take the time to listen. And even more important to me personally, they value my time and take care of the headaches that could be heading my direction. I’m extremely proud of all my staff and not just for what they do in their jobs, but also for their efforts to support our community. One of our biggest efforts is to raise money for the volunteer fire department, which covers one of the widest areas in the state. In addition to fundraisers, we’ve treated the firefighters to breakfast and pizza. And Di and I are both cancer survivors and are involved in raising money for charities that work with individuals with cancer.

“My staff is what makes things go and the main reason that we were recognized as one of Erie Insurance’s top agencies.” In fact, that relationship with Erie has led to an important opportunity for Mansfield Insurance.

Starting up again

Erie recently entered Kentucky and asked several of its top agencies in neighboring states to establish offices in Kentucky. Mansfield Insurance was one of those agencies and has opened an office in Hebron, Kentucky.

“This opens up a tremendous amount of commercial insurance opportunities,” Jim points out. “Amazon, Toyota and Levi Strauss are major companies with offices in the area, and while they probably aren’t realistic targets for us, the ancillary providers certainly are. This really is a lot like starting up a new business, only we already have the experience and the professional relationships that will give us a leg up. It’s pretty close to us geographically, so it doesn’t take a tremendous amount of time to get to the new office from our current location, but it’s a whole new world of opportunity.”

It may be a different world, but we at Rough Notes are certain that the legacy of Caring, Listening, Protecting will resonate with clients in Hebron and environs just as it has in rural Indiana. We look forward to seeing the agency’s progress and growth and are proud to recognize Mansfield Insurance Agency as our Agency of the Month.