A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ty Schraufnagel, a resident of Florence, AZ to chat with him about his local American Family Insurance office. Ty is an amazing guy, as you will see in the interview. He is a man of God, husband, father, business owner, and advocate for serving and giving back to his local community through not only his business, but also the non-profit charities he runs.
The transcript of our interview is below.
Question: Why did you get into insurance?
Ty: I started considering going into insurance when I was in college. Somebody had come in to talk about a career in sales, and he was talking about the importance of connecting with people. You know, meeting them where they’re at, taking care of them, and the fact that nobody likes to be “sold to”. What he said that day really resonated with me, because I always had a really hard time when it came to sales people and the feeling you get during that process. So, I started to think about that as a career, which transitioned into thinking about insurance as a career. My dad has been with American Family and retired this year (September) after 37-years with the company. I had always fought the idea. It was a “never do it” type of thing. But, when I started to look at the idea a bit closer, I realized that I could set my own hours, build my business as big as I wanted to, hire people locally, and give back to the community. In short, I could be a resource and asset to the community, and it was much bigger than insurance.
Insurance also gave me the flexibility to run the non-profit ministries I’m involved in, while still allowing me to take all aspects of my life to the next level. I love business and I love helping people.
Now I’m a student of insurance. I study it. I spend a lot of time learning about it. But it’s not why – it’s not MY why. My why is being able to do the things we do in the community as well as the things I can do with my family.
Question: Now, you said non-profit ministries. What exactly are the charities and where are they located?
Ty: One of them is based in Minnesota. It’s called Youth Leaders Summit. It’s a two-day conference for people that work with youth – youth pastors, volunteers, stuff like that. But my local one, and my real baby is Paladin Sports Outreach. We’re a local sports ministry and we do soccer, t-ball, baseball, flag football, basketball. The age range for the kids is ages 3 to 18. In addition to the youth side of things, we also run an adult sports ministry.
Question: I have seen the advertisements for Paladin around town. Is that based out of a specific church?
Ty: Paladin Sports Outreach is Christian-based but is not affiliated with any church or denomination. We have over 1600 kids that go through our program each year. This year our goal is to have 2000 go through the program. As of last count we are on track to do just that. The growth has been amazing.
Question: If someone wanted to donate to Paladin can they donate here at the office? Do you guys take donations all year?
Ty: If someone would like to donate any equipment (new or gently used) they are more than welcome to drop items off here at the office. We also have an online giving platform if people would like to donate money that way. Every little bit helps. We will never turn a kid away. We offer scholarships to those who need them. Finances or lack of equipment should never stand in the way of a child wanting to play sports. We do our best to try to make that a reality for all of our youth.
Question: What is your background/education?
Ty: I got my degree in Sports/Entertainment/Event Management from Johnson & Wales University in Denver. They taught us how to run places like Chase Field. It was super interesting, but you’re working till three o’clock in the morning every weekend and you don’t have any flexibility in your schedule. They don’t pay you very much because you get to say you work for a sports team.
Once I learned all the options and opportunities in front of me that a career in insurance could provide, it was a lot more interesting than where I was headed. So right after school I started as an Agent in Training. That was ten years ago. I was Agent in Training for six months and then opened up my agency in Coolidge.
Question: I wasn’t aware that you had started in Coolidge. How long were you there?
Ty: Quite a while. We were there five…almost six years. From 2008 to 2013.
Question: I bet that’s why it sounds familiar. My husband has been coming to the area to work for about nine years. I’m sure he passed it at some point and mentioned it. We now live in Florence, but go to Coolidge quite often.
Ty: Florence is a big passion for me too. I live in Anthem. Actually I think we’re neighbors. (Turns out that Ty owned the house right next door to ours – small world). The house on your street was our original house in Anthem. We outgrew it and rented it out for a bit. It’s currently for sale. (Congratulations on the sale Ty!) I was also the President of Florence Chamber of Commerce from 2012 to 2014. I am just super passionate about what Florence is and even more so about what it can be.
Question: I’m optimistic that with the current group of leadership there will be a little bit more growth. I think there will be.
Ty: I agree.
Question: Now, you live in Florence but you opened here in San Tan Valley. Is there a reason why you opened up here instead of say, by Safeway or down in Old Town Florence? I’ve heard the rent is pretty high in both places.
Ty: Well, we eventually outgrew the Coolidge location, which is why we moved. In Anthem rent was really high and there’s an existing insurance company there and they have a non-compete on the area. So when I came here, another relator that’s based out of Anthem opened up the ReMax office and we said, “Hey, let’s put insurance, mortgage, and a real-estate office all in one place and see what we can do.” We did that for about a year, and then ran out of space because everybody started growing and it was working. When that happened, I moved ten doors down into my own spot, which is where we are now. The mortgage lender also moved down here as well. So they have a space right here in the office.
Question: I didn’t know they could do non-competes like that.
Ty: Yeah, most strip areas, retail places that would be part of their lease. I didn’t have that here and that’s why there’s a State Farm office that’s also in this plaza. But it’s worked out great. I pride myself on having a good relationship with other insurance agents locally. We take care of each other, send stuff to each other when we can’t do it ourselves. There’s so much business to go around. There’s no reason to make things difficult. We take care of each other. It’s more dollars that are being spent locally.
Question: You’ve been at the current location how many years?
Ty: This one specifically is 2 1/2 years. Overall, I’ve had an agency for nine years.
Click HERE for information about the San Tan Valley location.
Question: When you have your own agency how does the incorporation work? LLC, S Corp, etcetera?
Ty: I’m set up as an LLC – my own entity. Through the LLC, I’m an independent contractor with American Family Insurance. I represent American Family Insurance products, but one unique thing about American Family is we have an entire brokerage division. That allows us to work with a bunch of other carriers when maybe an American Family product isn’t the best fit for someone.
Question: I’ve always wondered how that works when you have your own agency. I never understood if it was like a franchise similar to like when you are in the restaurant business or if it’s, you know, your own thing.
Ty: That’s a good way of putting it. Every company does it a little bit different. Like some people buy their books, some people start from scratch. They all do it a little bit differently.
Ty: Yeah. We started from scratch and have built it since.
Question: What about your family? What does that look like?
Ty: I am married to my beautiful wife, Hayley, and we have two boys. Living in Anthem has been awesome. I can’t imagine a better place to raise my family.
Question: Yeah, there’s so many things at the community center alone for them to do.
Question: And how old are your boys?
Ty: They are eight and seven. I have to say, Hayley gets to stay at home with them and has the hardest job in the world for doing that. She’s also a writer herself and runs a blog of her own.
Question: That is awesome! What’s the name of her blog?
Ty: Her blog is called Mary, Martha, and Sparta.
Question: Are there any social, economic, or environmental type issues that you run into? Like when the economy is bad do you see people tend to kind of change their coverage or anything like that?
Ty: Yeah, the economy has had a big impact. You know, you see what’s happening with the dollar right now and a lot of the Canadians are selling their homes. So that’s had a pretty big impact on our business here locally. They are selling their houses and staying back up north. A lot of the miscellaneous items that we see in insurance were gone for a while during the recession. So ATVs and motorcycles, boats, campers, and trailers. Those things add up. Those can be a big mix to an agency’s book of business. People have to start making some really tough sacrifices on coverages and, you know, we’re in a really good place competitively, with a really fair premium that we haven’t had to chop coverages too much for people to be able to continue to pay their bills. We’re just in a really good place with American Family right now. It allows us to add coverages, get people taken care of the way they need to without breaking the bank.
Question: I didn’t even think about ATVs and things like that. You know, you think car, home, life. You don’t think the fun stuff.
Ty: Business insurance is a big mix for us too, so while the economy’s been up and down some of our contractors that we insure really felt it and had a hard time. But we do the best we can to wrap our arms around them and it’s important that we make things as easy as possible.
Question: So within American Family it’s not necessarily a competition. The name fits. It’s really like a family helping each other out.
Ty: Yeah, we’re always looking out for each other. You know, we’re all licensed for the state. We all have the same exact product. If you walk into any American Family office you’ll get a very different experience just because there’s the human element. That’s what’s really fun about this business. It’s a customer service driven business where you’ll get a different feel and a different experience no matter who you talk to. Even within an office when you talk to different people you’ll have different personalities. But one thing that really makes me happy about what we’re doing here is there’s an overwhelming desire for everybody in our office specifically to do whatever it takes to take care of people. Everybody is wired to be passionate about the customer experience. That’s paid really strong dividends in being able to connect with our people and do what we can to take care of them.
Question: You can definitely feel that environment here in this office. I did sales for a little bit and stuff like this, that changes people’s lives, you have to be passionate about it. It’s not like, you know, selling a cell phone at the mall. You get attached. You know? Especially with your dad. 37 years. I’m sure he’s developed strong attachments over the years, as will you with your clients the longer you are in business.
Question: Marketing. Is it generally word of mouth? Door to door flyers? How do you handle marketing?
Ty: We’re really heavy on referrals. We’re referral based. We do a lot of event marketing as well. So we’ll set up booths at local events because we like to be a part of things locally and get to see our neighbors. We do a lot of work with our centers of influence, which are realtors, mortgage brokers, and attorneys, people like that.
Question: Where do you see – not necessarily just this office – but your business as a whole in say the next one to five years?
Ty: We’re on a really strong growth path right now and I don’t see us doing anything to slow that down. In addition to this office here in San Tan, we also have an office in Casa Grande. Both of those are under the one agency. So we work really well as a team with everybody in Casa Grande as we do here. I split my time. I’m back and forth, but I also spend a lot of time on the road meeting with clients at their house, or their farm, or their business to make sure they have everything that they need.
Question: That’s so cool that you’re doing well enough to have the two different offices, and the growth being so big.
Ty: Yeah, it’s scary, but…
Question: I imagine it’s definitely something that takes getting used to once you get past that certain mark.
Ty: Yes. It is. I’ve only had the Casa Grande location open for about six months.
Question: And where in Casa Grande is it?
Ty: It is in the Promenade right by the Harkins Theater. I can see everybody walking in right from my office. That location is on the very east side of Casa Grande and this office is on the very south side of San Tan Valley, which means that I am able to serve more people in the community. As I said before, I’m passionate about Florence and that’s where a good chunk of my business is. Having offices that border Florence in a way on both sides allows me to be where I need to be in order to take care of everybody that needs it in our area.
Click HERE for information on the Casa Grande Location.
Question: Globally. Either AmFam as a whole or you personally. Is there the opportunity to do global business like that? Or is it just restricted to Canada and the U.S.?
Ty: Yeah, so we’re in 19 operating states currently and it’s wherever I chose to be licensed. So I have my license in Arizona, Minnesota, Colorado, and Illinois because of relationships and people that I know. It made sense for me to be in those markets. I could continue to get more licenses if the business presented itself. We also offer insurance if you’re driving outside of the country.
Question: So for somebody that possibly is thinking about going into the insurance field there’s a ton of potential it sounds like. Say it’s a spouse of a military member. As long as they’re licensed in that state they can practice while they’re stationed there?
Ty: Yes, that’s correct.
Question: Technology. Has it made it easier or more frustrating on business in general?
Ty: It’s been very helpful for us, to be honest. The fact that we can run both of our locations and work together as one team versus two separate offices has been critical to our transition to opening up a second location. Just our ability to communicate with each other and be working in real-time with each other has been extremely helpful.
Question: Do you find that while it’s helpful in the business it can sometimes work its way into off time or are you pretty dedicated about keeping work and home life separated? Kind of like if it’s an emergency you are available, but you have that time where – I guess what I’m trying to ask in a round about way is, do you find that you take work home with you?
Ty: Oh, there are constant distractions, yeah. Our society is more distracted than ever, and as a husband and a dad it’s really important to me that I block that time off and put it away, because it’s always going. I mean, between the non-profits, my team, and clients, my phone is non-stop going. So it’s really important that I block that out, because at the end of the day, my faith and family comes first.
Question: Mentor. Who do you seek advice from in the business?
Ty: Yeah, well my dad’s been a great inspiration and great model for me. But I also meet with 11 other agents throughout American Family and we take four days a year, lock ourselves in a hotel room and just talk shop. It’s off the books and off the record, and we just really dive deep into what we’re doing and where we’re going, and how to get there. Nothing’s off the table. We share a lot of our information, a lot of our personal information on how we’re running the business.
And it’s been really fun to have a culture of people that can do that with each other and have the trust to be able to do it. They’re also all in positions of places I want to be so I am so appreciative of that time. I feel like the waterboy on the team – just glad to be included.
Question: That’s an awesome analogy. But I’m sure that you have more than earned your spot on the team.
Ty: So being able to work with these guys that are absolutely killing it in business and learn from them is great. Our business has doubled since the last time that group got together.
Question: So it’s working.
Ty: It’s working, yeah.
Question: How do you invest your profits? Do they just go back into the business, employees, maintaining the business itself? Do you have a certain amount each year that you put towards certain charities? Are the charities something personal when it comes to investment or does the agency sponsor some of the charities?
Ty: Yeah, so AmFam has a matching pool that allows a lot of the monies that we give back to the community to be matched to make our gift that much stronger, which has been awesome. American Family’s culture is very very different than any other insurance company – I guess I should speak just for myself, because obviously I’ve got a history with my dad and me only have been working with American Family. But when people get hired here from other competitors, the first thing that most of them say is, “I just cannot believe how different the culture is and how different people treat each other.” It’s a family environment and they feel it from day one. Nothing’s perfect. There are things that go wrong all the time. But at the end of the day, we really want what’s best for each other, for clients, and it shows through. But yeah, so we make sure to give as much as we can. I try to take home as little as possible and — because my desire is to put it into the business, to grow the business. Some day I’m hoping that pays off in the long run. But right now, I want to invest in the community, invest in my business.
Question: The name fits.
Ty: There you go.
Question: How many employees do you have between the two offices?
Ty: We have six full-time employees. We are currently interviewing for a few more.
Question: Now, when you hire new agents or agents in training, is that the timeline that they go through? They come in as an agent in training and then learn and kind of move up like you did? Or do you hire established agents and just kind of bring them in as a regular agent?
Ty: Well there’s actually only one agent per agency.
Question: Or staff I should say.
Ty: Yeah, so they’re all employees, but how it used to work is more similar to what you were saying. Where somebody would kind of maybe learn the business for a little bit then go start their own agency. Now American Family has kind of shifted towards building some larger agencies. So the opportunities within an agency are much greater than they used to be. Like right now I have an Agency Manager, I have an Operations Manager, I have an Account Manager. There are different locations that will have responsibilities and there are a lot of different roles within one agency that maybe weren’t there four or five years ago.
Question: And how old do you have to be to get started in insurance? 18? 21?
Question: Do you run into clients a lot when you are out in the community. Like when you are grocery shopping?
Ty: There is a lot of that. I love working with people locally. We have developed strong relationships all over the state of Arizona, and we do have a good mix of business that covers everywhere. But yes, the majority of our business is nearby so it’s not uncommon to run into clients around town.
Question: Ethical concerns. Is there anything you ever run into with that when it comes to cover-age?
Ty: Yeah. I’ve seen competitors get into trouble with some of their business practices. The company has put a lot of trust into us to do the right thing and to take care of the company, as well as taking care of the clients. And sometimes when it’s a business that you get compensated for, people get that area greyed out.
Our morals, and our ethics, and our reputation are all we have. So when I hear stories of people trying to cheat the system or something like that, I just don’t understand. I don’t understand why that would ever be worth it. You know? Because all you’re doing is putting your clients at risk if a claim were to happen. So it’s really important to us that we do it the right way and that we’re very clear and open.
Question: Transparency seems to be very important.
Ty: Yeah, we try to be transparent about how things will go. Eliminate surprises and make sure we’re doing everything the right way.
Question: Next question is, how would you describe your management style?
Ty: Leadership is one thing I’m really very passionate about. And to me, the better our people are, the better we are. So I try to do as much as I can to invest in them, like taking a couple of my managers to a local leadership conference. Checking to make sure everything is going okay with them personally. You know, it’s really important that they know it’s an open door here and that we’re a family. I do treat them as family, and I treat them as business partners. Sometimes that’s a mistake and sometimes it works out really well. But it’s really important to me that I’m open with them. They know exactly what our goals are here, and I want them to help set those goals. I want them to know that we can all be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Question: So you’re all invested in the success. It’s not just, I work there. They really feel like they are part of the team.
Ty: Absolutely. Absolutely. If they don’t feel that way then we talk about that, talk about why. Then we try to take steps to make sure they feel that way. Fortunately, I’m blessed with a team of six people who are all in and have a strong desire to see the agency be successful and the team to be successful. They want to be a part of that.
Question: So many people say similar things, but seldom follow through with the actions to make what they say a reality. It’s good to hear you say that and I can see when I talk to you that you truly do mean what you say. Next question. Do you have any issues retaining employees? For example, do you find that people come in and say, okay I’m gonna learn the business and then go out on my own? And if they don’t end up going out on their own, do you tend to keep the same staff long term?
Ty: Yeah, we’ve developed a strong team. We have a strong team and looks like this team will stay together for a long time. But yeah, there are absolutely people that have been here for a while and then have left for various reasons. You know, one thing that I pride myself on is with many of them I continue to have a very strong relationship, and I continue to be very supportive of them, very excited for them. I cheer them on wherever life takes them.
Question: I ask that because a lot of the smaller businesses run into seasonal issues with keeping people. The population around here varies so much with Canadians moving and snow birds – it seems to be less than it used to be since the area is growing and there’s more building going on, but it always kind of peaks my interest.
Ty: Yeah, it’s definitely hard. It’s a hard market right now because all employers are looking for good people. Insurance is an interesting career because a lot of people want to try it because everybody needs it, and it’s in an office. They aren’t outside in 120 degrees. So there are a lot of people who have an interest in working in the business, but because we have such high goals and we want to do so many things as an agency, not everybody in the world is cut out for it. Sometimes we come to a mutual agreement, that that may not be the case for a certain person. When that happens we do our best to make sure the parting is done respectfully and that everybody’s in a good place, and that it makes sense for all.
Question: So this is the last question.
Question: What is the mission statement that you try to live by? Your personal mission statement.
Ty: Personal mission statement? So our family motto is “Love God, Love People, and Do Stuff”.
Question: I love that!
Ty: That has been a great filter for us when making decisions as a family, to make sure that it sticks and it resonates and passes the test of accomplishing those things.
Question: Well, that’s it. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to meet with you and share your story with my readers.
Ty: It was great meeting with you. I look forward to reading the piece.
I really enjoyed meeting with Ty and learning about American Family Insurance and how he runs his agency. I walked away proud that he and his family are part of the community. Make sure you check out the links in the article as they will take you to the respective sites where you can find out more information on the non-profits Ty spoke about as well as his agency locations.
I have also had the pleasure of reading and subscribing to Hayley’s blog Mary, Martha, and Sparta. I highly recommend checking that out as well. She is an amazing woman, wife, mother, and writer.
And last but not least, when you are out and about shopping local, if you see the Schraufnagels make sure to say hi. And if you are in need of insurance, you know where to go to first!
#StaySaucy and #ShopLocal