Eugene, Oregon-based Jake Stone is a massive Oregon Ducks fan – so much so that when his daughter was born in 2008, he looked all around for a children’s book on the mascot, only to find one offering on the market. Dissatisfied, the English major wrote his own rhyming, Dr. Seuss-style Oregon Duck children’s book that eventually got picked up by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Costco and the Duck Store.
Today, as a public entities account executive with WHA Insurance, Stone’s literary past still helps as he continues to build his book of business with Oregon school districts, cities and other entities.
“We do a lot of inspections at our school districts, and occasionally I’ll be walking through a library and I’ll see my book and I’ll say, ‘I wrote that,’” Stone told Insurance Business America
. “It’s a good icebreaker and it’s funny to run into from time to time.”
Like many producers, Stone didn’t originally intend to enter the insurance industry. He was working in beverage distribution and writing his children’s books on the side when his mother-in-law – a quality control manager at WHA – urged him to check out the agency.
Stone was originally hired to work as a producer in WHA’s transportation division, but was quickly transferred to the public entities space when a long-time employee announced her retirement.
“Knowing my background with the children’s books, they thought I would be a good fit to work with school districts,” Stone said. “I took it seriously and decided to jump in, feet first, and it paid.”
It certainly did. Stone approached producing as a problem-solving exercise, differentiating himself and WHA by doing regular on-site inspections and preparing top-of-the-line presentations for potential new clients.
In 2015, he set a sales record for the agency’s public entity department by eclipsing $100,000 in commission. This year, he’s already broken that record and has written more than $150,000 in commission. He also helped WHA score two of the largest school districts in the state.
“I try to make things personal,” Stone said of his success. “I have two young children in kindergarten and third grade, so I tell everyone, ‘Hey, I’m a parent – safety is important to me. Keeping my children and others safe is my top priority.’”
One emerging issue Stone has encountered in his work with schools is active shooter situations. Narrowly avoiding being present at the 2015 Umpqua Community College shooting that left nine dead, Stone has taken the issue seriously, attending prevention groups and training in order to become an industry leader on the topic.
This work has become particularly important in Oregon, where none of the insurance industry’s new active shooter policies are yet available.
“The risk management side is big,” Stone said. “Many schools in Oregon are considering arming teachers, which involves a lot of tricky legal issues and contradictory laws. I’ve done some newspaper articles and spoken at community meetings where it’s being discussed to talk through alternatives and what it means if you take that step.”
In insurance terms, arming teachers or other staff adds roughly $2,500 per year per employee to the district’s liability policy. Because of the expense, Stone estimates just 10 to 12 of the state’s 300-plus school districts have taken that route.
But it’s this kind of extra care and attention that has quickly made Stone one of WHA’s top producers. In fact, he’s on pace to win the agency’s Insurance Producer of the Year award for 2016 – an honor that is most often claimed by a transportation producer with the company.
“At our agency Christmas party last year, I said I was going to get $150,000 in commission and win the Producer of the Year award,” Stone said. “I wasn’t sure if I set the bar too high, but luckily the first has happened and we’ll find out about the second in the next few months. It would be great for me and my team behind the scenes – I want to win it for them.”
Benefits exec carries on family tradition of customer care
Barrier-crushing young producer pays it forward