Declaration of Independents: Lynn Salinas

Lynn SalinasLynn Salinas

Owner
Taylor Insurance Agency
Evart, Michigan

Taylor Insurance Agency gave Lynn Salinas her first part-time job when she turned 16.

Nearly four decades later, Salinas runs the only business she’s ever worked for—if you don’t count the family beef farm where she was raised.

What are her thoughts on carving out a leadership path in an industry where the majority of business owners are men?

“Growing up, it didn’t matter if I was a girl or a boy—I was expected to unload and stack square bales of hay,  feed the steers we were finishing up for market and help cut and stack wood for winter,” Salinas recalls. “There were chores to do and you did them.  It didn’t matter that I was a girl.  That mindset flowed over into my career.  I ask God for wisdom and do what I need to do.” 

TAKING THE REINS?

I was not related to the previous owner, George Becker, although he is very much a father figure to me. He was a great mentor. I was working full-time as a CSR when he told me he was considering retirement and asked if I would be interested in purchasing the agency.

I was only 31, but George sold me the agency over a 10-year period on a contract—both the building and the business. He had faith that he would be paid.

WHAT’S TO LOVE?

There are people in our industry who are driven by money, but I think because I started at the bottom, I came up through that whole customer service nurturing side. That is still where my heart is.

I enjoy helping people. What energizes me is when I can be there for someone when they’re facing something challenging or life-altering. Being able to facilitate a solution for them is very rewarding.

YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE?

George taught me how to treat people. When my mom went through non-Hodgkins lymphoma cancer treatment, he said, “You take off whatever time you need, you do whatever you need to do, and you come back when that’s all settled.” You can’t buy that kind of loyalty.

COMPETING IN PERSONAL LINES?

We used to be 80/20 personal lines, but now we’re pushing 90/10. I decided I was going to figure out how to do personal lines really well.  

We’ve been utilizing the personal lines curriculum in the Three Dimension Training® program, which teaches you to look at an account as a whole unit with multiple exposures, rather than just looking at one segment. It’s individualized based on the agency, so we’ve done auto and home and then drilled down to topics like uninsured motorists.

Now, our staff is more comfortable having those discussions with our customers. There are no more mysteries. They understand the policy language, they’ve got claims examples from our own agency and they can explain how those coverages have worked in people’s lives because they had the appropriate coverage. That has been very meaningful, because if you’re unsure of something, you’re not going to engage in an in-depth conversation with a client. If you’re comfortable with the information, you’re going to share it. I can’t tell you how many times clients will say, “No one’s ever told me that before.”

BIGGEST CAREER MISTAKE?

For the first 10 years while I was paying George off, I didn’t make changes. If I needed a new roof on the building, I put a new roof on, but I didn’t make changes in the way we worked. Now, I kind of see those years as being lost years. Granted, they were learning years for me—when you’re 31 and scared, and you’re just trying to make sure you can make those payments for 10 years to the guy you’re buying the agency from, that’s not the time to really experiment. But I think it lulled me into a sense of complacency.

In 2007, I went through the Total Quality Agency program sponsored by the Michigan Association of Insurance Agents, and that was revolutionary. I learned so much about running a business and it really challenged my way of thinking. I was bumped off the complacency seat good and hard, which was a very good thing. It’s a great curriculum.

Photo by Tom Gennara