"On the Job With ..." is a weekly feature in Sunday Inc. Today's feature is on Tim Thomas, an agent with State Farm Insurance.
Q. If you were a young adult fresh out of college, what would you do first in searching for a job?
A. Network. Start networking in college. You never know who you are contacting that could impact your future. Join a professional organization and take extra courses specific to your desired profession. Employers want to know what you are doing to better yourself. Also, attend Chamber networking events with the intent of getting to know many employers in the area. Collect prospective employer's cards at the events and follow up with a note. Ask a person in the profession you are seeking to help you do "mock interviews" and be open to their critique. You may even ask if you can shadow them on their job. Be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up.
Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?
A. My tithe. It still is. After that, it was probably gas for my car.
Q. What's the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?
A. Two things. Thanking employees for doing a good job and running your business with integrity. Employees want to know you care about them and that they work at a place they respect.
Q. What was your first job?
A. A delivery boy for a florist.
Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?
A. I worked as a claims adjuster for 10 years with State Farm. Prior to that I was an underwriter and a systems analyst with another insurance company. I always wanted to own my own business. An agency manager approached me about being a State Farm agent. After much prayer and hard work, I became a State Farm agent.
Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?
A. My father. He passed away in 2008. He was a grocery salesman and taught me there is no substitute for a good name.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?
A. Prayer. Never underestimate its importance. Secondly, having contact with customers during tough economic times is essential to keeping them with you. Our business is built on relationships. Customers want to know you are looking out for their best interest. Additionally, they want to know when something happens, you will be there to deliver on your promise.
Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology -- examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. -- what would you most like to see go away?
A. The Internet. While I use the Internet daily and it does have many benefits, we as a society may have been better off without it. It has taken away the personal touch of customer service, closed local brick and mortar businesses which provided local jobs and expertise that could not compete with the price of an online virtual store, opened up a new world of fraud and identify theft. It has allowed things into our homes that have broken up marriages and corrupted our conscience. The convenience of it is great, but the unintended cost of local jobs, marriages and other issues is very high.
Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?
A. I do not have a gadget. My laptop is what I use the most.
Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?
A. "The Noticer," by Andy Andrews. I read several chapters of the Bible each day. I also read The Albany Herald every morning to get my local news since I do not watch a lot of TV.
Q. I'm up and going by? And what is your morning routine?
A. 6:30 AM. I wake the kids up, have a cup of coffee, a bowl of cereal and read the paper. Then I'm off to take the kids to school and go to my office.
Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?
A. My hobbies and activities revolve around my family and church. I enjoy playing ball, swimming, fishing, hunting, singing and bike riding. Whatever my family and I can do together is what I want to do. I also enjoy planting a vegetable garden, making wood cutouts of photos and teaching an adult Sunday School Class.
Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?
A. While any business owner has decisions they regret, I do not have one that stands out above another.
Q. Best thing about your job?
A. Getting to know my customers and feeling like I make a difference in their lives and futures. I really see my customers more as friends. I want them to succeed in their lives and families.
Q. Worst thing about your job?
A. The stress. As a small business owner, you are the bookkeeper, personnel department, marketing department, service department, finance department, technology department, maintenance person, sales person, team leader and sometimes counselor. It is extremely difficult managing it all while staying focused on growing a profitable business.
Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?
A. I hate to admit it, but the typing class I took in high school has become my most beneficial course. Being able to type is essential to everything I do.
Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?
A Farmer. I enjoy gardening and would love to have a farm. I know it is hard work, but I enjoy the outdoors.
Q. Finish this thought; "on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself...
A. Going on a mission trip to help others while spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?
Q. Crystal ball time: What's your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?
A. That is difficult to even guess at. We need another larger manufacturer or employer to bring a significant number of good paying jobs back to our area. In order to have the best possibility of attracting new businesses we have to market the best of Dougherty and Lee County together. We must work as one community and not two.
Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?
A. Mostly Christian music. I also like rock music from the '70s and '80s.
Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?
A. It depends on the job market. If we can't attract another large employer, we may lose more of our population and business opportunities.
Q. What was the best vacation you've ever taken? Why?
A. Disney World. When my daughter and son were younger, the Disney magic really came alive for them. It made me feel like a kid just watching my kids.
Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?
A. A fine tuning of the underwriting process by companies. Companies are looking to more accurately match price with the associated risk and limit exposures to certain risk.
-- Interviewed by Danny Carter