Learning about insurance can be dull, but your agent doesn’t have to be. At least that’s what Lisa Mawyer believes.
Lisa Mawyer likes to have fun.
On most days, the perky State Farm agent can be spotted pedaling to nearby appointments on her shiny new blue and white Electra, a sporty bicycle that features a front-end wicker basket and silver bell.
Last year, Mawyer rented out a movie theater as a thank you to her clients. More than 200 people turned out for a showing of “Shrek.”
“It was so much fun I nearly cried,” she says.
Whether she’s writing up a homeowner’s policy or promoting her business through social media, the 34-year-old tries to change the way people view the insurance business, an industry that is, well, often viewed as less than exciting. “I get excited about everything, good or bad,” she says. “It’s a mindset.”
“Her office is so different than other insurance offices,” says co-worker Maria Duarte-Pincham, a nine-year State Farm insurance account representative. “She makes it fun – the client doesn’t dread getting a call from us. It’s like going from one home to another home.”
Mawyer is one of about 20 State Farm Insurance agents in the Rockford area and 16,000 nationwide. She oversees a four-person office at Edgebrook on Alpine Road in Rockford. To her, Edgebrook is familiar territory. She recalls meeting high school friends at a coffee shop there, and purchasing her wedding dress in one of its shops. “I’ve come full circle,” she says.
State Farm selected Mawyer to assume the portfolio of an agent who was retiring after 30 years. “Lisa is very successful because she has such great compassion for her customers and her office team,” says Kevin Martin, agency field executive for State Farm. “She’s a good listener and helps her customers understand a tough topic like insurance. I love her fire and desire to always be the best, even when times are tough.”
When Mawyer took over three years ago, the first thing she did was add a personal touch to her new business. “I want this to be me, my personality. This is who I am,” she says. “It’s my name out there. But it’s become my business philosophy. In this business, you really get to know the clients and what they need. You can be a part of someone’s life, and I want my customers to enjoy coming in here.”
Ron Buchanan does. The Rockford resident has been a loyal State Farm customer for years. He recalls one major storm that caused a serious power outage, including at Mawyer’s office. But that didn’t stop the agent and her staff from coming in to conduct business by cell phone.
“She has a smile that just warms you up,” says Buchanan, a former insurance agent who still talks about the sympathy cards Mawyer sent him when his parents passed away. “I can tell you how hard it is to sell insurance. With Lisa, you feel that it’s true, that she’s happy to see you when you come through that front door. But the biggest thing with her is that when she tells you she’s going to do something, she does it. You don’t have to worry about it.”
Mawyer didn’t have any grand plan to become an insurance agent. In fact, the Rochelle native had every intention of pursuing a writing career following college, where she majored in journalism. But 12 years ago, Mawyer and husband Rob (the couple has two young daughters – Ella, 10, and Mazie, 7), moved to Bloomington, Ill., the home of State Farm Insurance, where she took a job with the insurance giant as a speechwriter. Mawyer wrote material for the chief operating officer and other senior-level officials, as well as agents, which helped her to develop a real appreciation for the insurance business.
“It helped me to see the company at a perspective that I don’t think I would have ever seen otherwise, and it helped me to piece things together as an agent,” she says. She became an agent three years ago.
Known for its slogan of being a “good neighbor,” State Farm was founded in 1922 by retired farmer and insurance salesman George Jacob “G.J.” Mecherle, whose vision for company success was simple: Do the right thing for customers.
It’s a philosophy that Mawyer believes in.
“We meet people when they’re choosing to come to us from another company,” she says. “Something isn’t right. Their car got smashed up, they’ve had a fire or someone died.”
Mawyer was named a top-100 agent in her first year. Although each insurance agent sells similar products, at the end of the day, each is a small business owner who brings her or his own personality to the business. Mawyer focuses on individuals 25 and younger who are looking for their first policy; young families; same-sex couples; and retirees.
“Our mission is to love everyone who walks through that door,” she says. “We’re very straight with our clients, and sometimes they don’t like what we have to say. Sometimes they do. Insurance isn’t glamorous.”
But it’s very important, nonetheless.
“In my mind,” she continues, “when making the choice, if a disaster is coming, who do you want on your side? Who do you want in your corner? Who’s going to be straight with you? It’s an interesting time in the insurance business. You have to prove your worth, prove your value. And it’s difficult for homeowners. Rates aren’t what they used to be – things cost more. That’s hard to explain.”
Duarte-Pincham recalls an incident in which a tree fell on the house of a client, who happened to be out of town at the time. Mawyer rushed over to the home to remove cats from the damaged home. “She didn’t have to do that,” Duarte-Pincham says. “But that’s who she is. She does the little things that make the client feel better.”
Mawyer can’t help herself. That’s who she is. And it’s her job, she says, to put her clients at ease. “Insurance shouldn’t be scary, shouldn’t be boring. It’s your policy. You can choose your coverages. How great is that?” she says, smiling. “So many people don’t know what they have, or think they have to have what they have. I’m trying to make those coverages make sense to them. It’s not so complicated.” ❚