Field Representatives Create Agent Connections02/11/2014
Just as our team of adjusters represent ProAg to the American farmers we insure, our field representatives are generally the face of the company to agents. Let’s meet four of the highly-mobile folks who provide the vital interface between ProAg and the agents we serve.
Brenda Koenig-Northern Region
Headquartered in South Dakota, Brenda has worked in the crop insurance industry, primarily on the agent side, since 1990. “Once I started in crop insurance, I had no desire to do anything else,” she states. “I joined ProAg in June of 2011 as a field representative, and I enjoy what I do. For me, this job is all about delivering great service to our agents.”
Brenda currently visits agents in her territory on a regular basis. She is also charged with finding new agents interested in the insurance products and the high level of service that ProAg offers.
“ProAg has done a great job providing innovative, new products, good hail rates, and resources the agents need to make their jobs easier and faster,” Brenda notes. “The federal crop insurance is all the same, so what differentiates us is a clear pathway to resources for our agents, a company full of good, responsive people, and a knowledgeable field representative.”
Brenda says to do her job well requires a broad base of knowledge, an outgoing personality, and attention to detail. “ProAg is unique in that they like the field representative to be the first point of contact for the agent,” she explains. “I get a lot of questions on just about everything, from underwriting to the ProAgWorks® processing system. If I can’t answer it, I’ll get in touch with the person who can. I do a lot of research and I’m always learning, which is one of the reasons I love this job.”
It’s not all work for Brenda. Her husband, Steve, is also in the crop insurance business. When things slow down a bit, they enjoy camping and traveling with their three children. “One thing I appreciate about ProAg is that they are very family oriented,” she says. “It’s a group of very good people who, even as the company has grown, have kept the closeness that many companies don’t have anymore”
Jeff Tubbs – Southern Region
A strong background in ag production is just one of the assets Jeff brings to the table as a field representative. “I came from a family farm, then worked as a USDA grain inspector before managing a grain facility,” he relates. “Down here, when people ask me about rice, I know how to grow it, grade it, sell it, and insure it.”
“Down here” refers to Arkansas, which is home for the Jonesboro-based Tubbs, who also works with agents in Louisiana and Mississippi. “We’re the first point of contact between ProAg and our agents when they have a question,” Jeff says. “Part of our job is also to be an educational resource for the agents on the products we offer, so they can explain them to their farmers.”
Jeff notes that he had long had an interest in the crop insurance industry. “My mom was an adjuster and a field representative, and I’ve always seen the need for crop insurance with my family farming,” he explains. “But being on this side is a lot different than seeing it from the farmer’s point of view. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to get that claim paid that I didn’t realize when I was farming.”
Jeff says 70-80% of his time on the job is spent on the road. He enjoys the opportunity to work with the agents. “I have the ability to talk to just about anybody,” Jeff admits. “The key to doing this job is to earn the agent’s trust. To do that you have to be knowledgeable, and if you tell someone something, you’ve got to deliver.”
When Jeff isn’t on the road, he likes to spend time with wife Julie, a high school teacher and volleyball coach. He also enjoys hunting and fishing, but admits he may not be able to pursue one of his interests anymore. “I used to steer wrestle, but I don’t like hitting the ground like that anymore.”
Joey Brickhouse—Eastern Region
“Every day is interesting,” states Joey, referring to his role as a field representative for North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. “I get to travel, meet a lot of good people, and work through some challenging situations.”
Joey grew up on a farm and made his living as an ag producer for many years. He moved into the insurance business on the property and casualty side, then joined ProAg as an adjuster.
“I see my role as support, training, and recruiting,” Joey states. “We help train our agents on the products we offer and our processing system, then provide the support they need to do their job. The current SRA puts the AIPs on a level playing field, so what sets us apart is the service and support we can provide. That’s where we go the extra mile.”
There are a lot of extra miles for Joey, who spends considerable time rolling up and down the I-95 corridor. He also spends many hours keeping up on the industry. “I put a high value on staying informed and well trained,” he comments. “Ours is an industry that is always changing, and you have to keep up with it.”
When Joey does park the car, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Lindley, and their three children. Bicycling helps him unwind, as does woodworking and working around the yard.
When all is said and done, all those miles are worth it to Joey. “At the end of the season, I like the fact that I’ve done something to help farmers so that they can come back and farm next year,” he concludes. “That’s incredibly satisfying for me.”
Paul Lassey—Western Region
This North Dakota native has been in the crop insurance business for 26 years. Born in Williston, ND, and raised in Spokane, Paul moved to Great Falls, MT, as a junior in high school. He worked in crop insurance there until 1993, when he returned to Spokane.
“My dad was in the crop insurance business, so I was familiar with the business and had an opportunity to get to know some of the people working in the industry,” Paul recalls. “When I started as an adjuster in Great Falls, however, I had a lot to learn. I didn’t know wheat from barley.”
He figured it out, though, and through the years added experience in claims and marketing to his resume. He followed Mike Connealy to ProAg in 2006. “It’s working with the agents and developing good relationships with them that I enjoy the most,” Paul says of his role as field representative. “I like to help them grow their business. To do that well, you have to listen to them, find out what makes sense for them and the company, and then deliver on what you promise.”
Admittedly not fond of offices, Paul does, however, enjoy a challenge. “I like to be out and about, and I love putting together a team,” he says, “finding the right people—especially on the claims side—then letting them do their thing. When we started here in the West, ProAg was small, and we were told we would never succeed. We rose to the challenge, and three years after we started we had grown the business by a factor of 10.”
Married for 31 years to wife Darcy, Paul’s spare-time pursuits include reading, gardening, and bird and bow hunting. Spending time with their three children, ranging in age from 9 to 28, is also high on his list.
Ultimately, it’s the people that make ProAg a good fit for Paul. “I’ve never been in a company where I could pick up the phone and call Mike or Kendall, the CEO and COO, directly,” he says. “I can do that at ProAg.”