ATHENS BOROUGH – On Oct. 1, 2014, Adam Bennett took a leap of faith and opened up a new State Farm office along South Elmira Street in Athens Borough.
He had one employee, no clients, and knew he had to get to work to get his name out there. That initial push was “a lot of everything” including internet leads, local print, billboards, helping students in the schools, and getting out to local events with his family.
“All of those types of things are fun to us, to get out in the community,” he said.
Now with three full-time staff and help from his wife Christian, many clients and community connections, and the business constantly evolving with new technology, Bennett felt that the beginning of this month was the perfect time to celebrate.
“It feels like I have just opened up my doors,” he said. “I can say that God’s been good. It was a leap of faith to open up the doors that day with no customers. Our community and the area has been super supportive and we’ve grown with a lot of customers who are loyal and have made a lot of new friends. We have many many more friends now than we did six years ago. That’s made it fun.”
Bennett was drawn to the business by a lifelong interest in finances, which was inspired by advice his father Richard gave him many years ago that he continues to apply in his dealings with customers to this day.
“Wealth is the availability of options,” Bennett explained. “So, the person who has the most options is the most wealthy, and options may or may not equal money. … That’s a concept I use now when I’m speaking with customers because when it comes to insurance, what you’re really doing when you purchase insurance is that you are buying options. When you invest you buy yourself options by investing wisely and not just flippantly. That concept can help steer people properly in the long run.”
The State Farm office provides insurance; banking services that will soon be merged with U.S. Bank, “which will give us better tools and technology;” retirement planning and investment; and mortgages through Rocket Mortgage.
“We really enjoy building relationships and understanding what a customer’s unique individual situation is and helping them with how they can reach their goals,” he said. “Our goal and passion is to help our customers be more prosperous.”
Bennett is currently assisted by Kathy Ostroski, who has been a fixture of the office for most of its existence and long-time employee Peggy Pelchy. His daughter-in-law Megan Bennett is the most recent hire.
“Everybody is fully licensed, and we’re licensed in New York and Pennsylvania,” he explained. “We’re actually the first State Farm agency ever to be dual state licensed in both states.”
With technology putting more options for services at people’s fingertips, Bennett said it’s the human connection that sets his business apart.
“Just like a lot of businesses, the internet and technology has changed how we do business a lot, so there’s a lot of options for customers in various areas,” he said. “What’s missing is relationship and being able to personally help people with things. We are always updating and staying up to the times with technology, and we have that for customers as well, but there will always be a significant portion of society that also wants someone to give them advice, to help steer them right, who knows their name and knows where they live and is a personal friend. The fact that we can help people in a broader way than just selling them insurance products, investing and setting goals, doing banking all in one place. I think that really sets us apart from other places.”
As times change and the business continues to adapt, he said people’s core needs will pretty much remain the same and they will need help when times get tough.
“People will always need help and want a relationship with another person that can give them good advice and be there for them when things go wrong. It’s harder to get that from just an app. We do have apps and technology for the convenience sake, but I think our customers have the best of both worlds because they have the technology and that person to talk to.”
Meanwhile, Bennett will continue being involved in the community, whether it’s through the Rotary Club, setting up at local fairs, or participating in safe driving initiatives at the schools.
“It’s nice to be involved with helping people,” he said.