Susan Coon

Independent Agent Susan Coon

Committing to education — for yourself and others — can take you places you never imagined.

Before Susan Coon opened her eponymous agency in Shelbina, Mo., she had worked in higher education as an administrator and consultant. That work led her to Vietnam, where she helped integrate more critical thinking into school curricula.

Over her 18-day visit, Coon saw how a lack of critical thinking affected people’s daily lives there. “Everybody rides bicycles, but few know how to change a tire,” said Coon. “Many ride motorcycles, but few know how to change the oil or the battery.”

Getting an insurance education

When Coon considered what the next steps in her career path could be, she discovered that insurance fit her values and her skill set.

“I wanted to work in something that contributed to the betterment of our community. I decided that insurance was the way to go for me because you have such an impact on people’s lives. You help protect people’s assets,” said Coon.

She earned her license in 2016 and began work as a Farmers Insurance agent in January 2017. Before the end of 2017, she had already opened her own independent agency.

“I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into. It takes more time and investment than I had anticipated. If I knew then what I know today, I might have been too scared because there is a lot to insurance and it’s constantly changing,” said Coon. “I realized there are a lot of moving parts and so many questions you need to be asking when you interview a client.”

Educating insurance customers

Coon brings her belief in education and critical thinking to how she serves her customers.

As well as being mystified by all the insurance jargon, Coon finds that many customers don’t understand how insurance works as a risk management tool.

“With my education background, I can help explain insurance to people, so maybe they won’t be as intimidated or find it so scary,” said Coon. “They need to understand what they are purchasing.”

Her approach includes sitting down with customers at renewal to review the policy limits and what those limits mean. It may feel redundant, but, she says, “I’ve met with clients who are 40, 50 years old, who’ve obviously carried insurance for years, and say, ‘Tell me that again?’”

Grinnell mutual academies helping the process

Not only does Coon keep her educator muscles in shape by teaching her customers about what they’re buying, she is committed to her own continued learning, too. Coon attended Grinnell Mutual’s Farm Academy, an exclusive continuing education course for producers at Grinnell Mutual affiliated agencies.

In addition to getting face-to-face time with her dedicated farm underwriter, she came away with ideas to improve how she serves her customers — such as a list of endorsements common to her area and checklists of questions to ask when meeting with a customer.

“I know a lot about the farmers in our county, but farmers are very personal about their business and not always forthcoming! They want to know why you need to know and why the insurance company needs to know,” said Coon.

“As insurance agents, we need to know what risks are out there. If we don’t know that, then our customers may not be covered properly. The insurance company needs to know the risk it’s taking on. If I follow the checklist, I know I’m asking the questions I need to ask.”