Seymour man celebrating 50 years in insurance business

Alma L. Figueroa

John Beatty finished his last class at Indiana University on a Friday in May 1972.

An insurance licensing school was going to be held on the Bloomington campus the next week, so he stayed in his apartment Monday through Friday.

On the last day, he took the test and passed it. The next Monday, he started his first job at Hobbs Miller Insurance Co. in his hometown of Seymour.

Fifty years later, he’s still working in the insurance business.

He’s now in his fourth year of working part time for Beatty Insurance. The first year of going from full time to part time, he worked four days a week, and ever since, he has worked three days a week.

“I’ve been fortunate enough because I’ve always loved Seymour and Jackson County, and that’s where I always wanted to live and work, so it has been very good to me,” the 71-year-old said. “We’ve had great people to work with. We’ve got customers that have been here as long as I have. We have loyal customers and that relationship, and you also develop a relationship with your companies, and we’ve had good relationships with our companies.”

To celebrate Beatty’s 50 years of service, his coworkers have organized a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Rails Craft Brew and Eatery, 114 St. Louis Ave., Seymour. The public is invited, and light appetizers and beverages will be provided.

“I thought a cupcake and a card would have been nice, but I’m appreciative of what they’ve done,” Beatty said, smiling. “That’s going to be nice.”

After graduating from Seymour High School in 1968, Beatty went to IU and earned a business degree with a concentration in insurance.

His father started working for Hobbs Miller Insurance in 1954, so that was part of his influence in pursuing a career in the same field.

“I always had a lot of admiration for my dad,” he said. “When I was in first grade, we had our dads come to the first grade class, and he asked everybody what they wanted to be. He always told me I said I want to be a bald-headed insurance agent. Dad was bald-headed.”

Beatty initially went to IU thinking he would study law, but he decided that’s not what he wanted to do. He switched to business and took some insurance classes and liked them.

“I was getting married (in August 1972), and I needed to get a job,” he said. “I interviewed with some big insurance companies, but that really didn’t (suit him). I wanted to live in Seymour, and Kay is from Seymour. We wanted to come back here, and I thought I would give it a try and see if I liked it, and I did like it. I kind of grew into it. It has been good to me.”

Hobbs Miller Insurance, which traces its roots to 1863, was in two different locations on West Second Street until the named changed to Beatty Insurance in 1989. Two years later, it moved to its current location at 111 N. Poplar St.

“We were an independent insurance agent, which we still are, representing several different companies,” Beatty said. “I feel like that’s an advantage. We don’t work for a company. We work for our clients and have contracts with several different companies.”

The different insurance companies offer a wide variety of coverage options and price points, and Beatty Insurance is uniquely positioned to service a customer’s account through its vast experience with public and nonprofit insurance services.

The agents work with a wide variety of individuals and businesses throughout Jackson County and the surrounding areas, specializing in home, business, health and farm insurance and other employee benefits and personal insurance products.

Beatty said he started in personal lines, including homeowners and auto insurance.

“It’s a relationship business,” he said. “Because it’s a legal contract, it’s complicated and has to be written to where it can stand up in court, so most people don’t want to know the details of the policy, but they know they need it, and they want to deal with somebody they trust that they are going to do the right job. That relationship that you build with your clients is the thing that I enjoy the most.”

Once he switched more to the business side, Beatty said it was interesting learning about different types of businesses and what their exposures are to make sure they are properly covered.

“There’s always something new that you come up with and you find out. That’s neat to me,” he said.

Technology has been the biggest change in Beatty’s 50 years in the business.

He remembers the days without computers, calculators, copiers and cellphones. That’s when a person would come in for a quote and he would look at a manual and do the math by hand to figure out the best option for the customer.

“Being an independent agency, in order to do it, if you have five companies, you had to look at which was the best deal,” he said. “Trying to get an auto quote was time-consuming.”

Having a calculator and a computer made a big difference.

“The insurance industry is geared for automation because it’s all numbers. You crunch a lot of large numbers and whatnot, so the insurance industry got into computers before anybody else,” Beatty said. “It has changed how we do business, and most of it’s for the best because it was very labor-intensive when I first started in the business. Now, you can just punch it in there and you get a quote right off the bat, so that has changed significantly through the years.”

Also, they used to start each morning opening the mail and filing it, and then they typed applications and letters and mailed them at the end of the day.

“When you ordered a policy or made a change or anything, you depended on the mail, so that was a big deal,” Beatty said.

Now, that process can be done via email.

Another change is the number of independent insurance agencies in Seymour. When he started, Beatty said there were more than a dozen. Now, there is only a handful.

Early on at industry and association meetings, he said people preached the direct writers would be the end of the independent agency system. Beatty Insurance, though, has maintained its footing.

“Independent agents have still maintained the biggest market share for the commercial lines business,” Beatty said. “Again, it’s a complicated thing and people want to do business with somebody they trust and they aren’t going to give that to somebody else.”

A key to their success has been joining the Keystone Insurance Group, which enables the agency access to several specialty and national insurance carriers.

“That has been a really good deal for us, and I think that keeps us competitive with anybody we want to,” Beatty said. “We can get the most markets in the market that we want to now because we’ve got that, so that has been a big step to help us be competitive in this business.”

In 2016, Lance Gentry was added to the Beatty Insurance staff, and later that year, Joe Tormoehlen retired after 30 years. Then in early 2017, Richard Beatty, John’s brother, retired after 40 years of service.

Since then, Adam Brooks and Kevin Ude have joined as agents. There also are four customer service representatives on staff.

John said switching to part time four years ago has worked out good for him.

“It kind of grows on me,” he said. “I still like what I’m doing. I see my role as being a mentor to these guys and helping them because I’ve seen lots of things through the years and can help them.”

At this point, he has some accounts he handles, but he’s not taking in new business.

“In our business, there are a lot of mergers and acquisitions, and a lot of independent agents go out of business because you have to be able to compete. We had opportunities to sell to bigger agencies and stuff like that, but I just didn’t want to do that,” John said.

“As long as these guys were interested in wanting to do it, I wanted to give them the opportunity to do that, and I feel good about it,” he said, referring to the owners, Gentry and Nate Tormoehlen. “I’ve got two young, really smart, bright guys, and they’ve bought into the culture that we built through the years, and they are going to continue that, so I feel real good about that.”

John said he gets asked at least once a day how he likes retirement, but he’s not fully retired yet. He said he doesn’t have a lot of hobbies, but he likes watching his grandkids’ sporting and school events and visiting his three children, so that keeps him busy.

“I would say I’m going to stay three days a week until the end of this year,” he said. “We talked about going forward, if I ever get to the point where I don’t want to come in as much, then I might just stay on on a consulting basis.”

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