Declaration of Independents: Debbie Gates

GatesDebbie Gates

Account Manager
Specialty Risk Insurance
Carthage, Missouri

Last fall, Debbie Gates had a family emergency that took her out of the office for 48 days. During that timeframe, her boss paid her every penny of her salary—and made sure her benefits were adequate to help support her family’s medical costs.

“It was a bad time, but the agency was behind me 100%,” Gates recalls. “I don’t know how many jobs out there have that sense of commitment to their employees.”

CAREER?

I’m from a very small town in southern Missouri. When I was 19, I thought, “I can leave and see things that I’ll never be able to see here.” I moved out to Colorado and got a job with State Farm in their regional office. Later, I was an adjuster for Safeco, and then I got a job with an independent agency in Greeley. After 19 years in Colorado, I came home to Missouri—I have three boys, and I wanted to get them into a smaller school system. I’ve been with independent agencies ever since. It’s been the most amazing 46-year ride. Insurance has been very good to me.

WORK/LIFE BALANCE?

In the insurance industry, it doesn’t matter where you live. As long as you’re working with independent agencies, it’s almost like transferring. They want you to be family-focused. When my kids were in high school and college, I always had the time to go to their football games and everything. Even my current agency is very family-oriented—they want you to take time and do what you need to do. You need to take a week off, you take a week off. They give you that flexibility.

CURRENT AGENCY?

I was with another agency for a few years and they sold out. I started working for an agency here in Carthage, and one of the guys there had always been wanting to start his own agency. Finally he did, five years ago this month. It’s been really awesome being on the ground floor. We were No. 1 with Nationwide this year—pretty good for a five-year-old agency!

KEEPING UP?

We have a dedicated employee who does all our social media. She also manages all the continuing education and keeps track of technology and insurance changes. Everybody has to keep up with their CE. We can’t just keep doing the same thing we’re doing when the rules are changing. Are we reaching the clients we need to be reaching? Are we pinpointing what we’re really good at? Why would we want to do rental dwellings when we’re excellent at commercial ag?

VALUE PROPOSITION?

I think it’s just the challenge of making sure the coverage is there. Sometimes you don’t really know until that claim happens. There are so many people out there who just throw a quote together, and the client thinks they have coverage, but they don’t. You really have to watch your forms, see what’s excluded and then try to get those exclusions off. You have to be very careful about what you’re selling. That’s a motivator—to make sure our clients are properly covered.

Photo by Julie Stephens