The Hendrickson Agency – Farmers Insurance owner, Heather Hendrickson, has passion for service and community that shines through her work. Her story exemplifies the determination and resilience found in all Chattanooga’s entrepreneurs. She sat down for an interview to share her story and talk through lessons on starting a business in Chattanooga.
Trend: Where are you from? Have you always lived in Chattanooga?
Hendrickson: I have not. I grew up right outside of Atlanta, Georgia. My father is a pastor, and we moved to Illinois during high school. I met my husband and moved here when I was 20 years old, right after we got married. We have been here for 14 years. I love it!
Trend: How did your business start?
Hendrickson: I left my previous company in December. I was in a car accident in the beginning of 2021, and it resulted in a spinal cord injury. Because of that, I was working from home and going to constant therapy to regain my mobility. Through the last year though, I knew that change was coming.
I feel like through the accident, as terrible as it was in so many ways, it allowed me to see who I really am and what I am supposed to be doing. It brought things that I had already been feeling to a head, so I left in December thinking, ‘Am I not healing because I am working? Do I have so much going on that I can’t just focus on healing?’ With that in mind, I left and felt complete peace about that [decision]. I started full-time rehab and started to see improvements almost immediately. I was so grateful and a little bit mad that I didn’t do it sooner.
A recruiter with Farmer’s reached out to me. He happened to be a friend and knew where I was. Shortly after that, I acquired this agency. The agent that ran it previously was looking to sell his book of business. So, it was just total [serendipitous] for both of us. Not only was I doing this, but now this book was available and the two merged together. I was already contemplating the next steps of my career. I was not necessarily looking into ownership, but I also knew that I am very service minded where most people, in this position, are very sales driven. I want relationships first. There were times in other positions where my values did not align with theirs. When your name is on the door, that is when you get to decide how things are run. I don’t want to sling policies. I want to build relationships and make other people’s days brighter.
Trend: How would you say your experience has affected your business life and career?
Hendrickson: My experiences over the last several years have been both positive and negative. They have shaped me into the agent that I am. I’ve learned the best ways to manage an office, to be proactive with communication, to ensure empathetic care as my priority, to treat my team well in training priorities as well as rewards and incentives. This is honestly the most important piece for me. I have worked for others who do not hold as tightly to the values that I do in terms of team commitment, office environment, participation in the agency’s incentive revenues and things like that. I am grateful that my shared experiences have allowed me to lead with compassion and empathy above all else.
Trend: What marketing strategies have proven to be most effective, and how can other business owners engage their communities?
Hendrickson: Honestly, simply building relationships. That is the repeating mantra. I realize it’s not always easy for everyone. I insist that my team members and I get out of our office, so we walk and talk with others through life. The best thing you can do for your brand is put yourself out there. You won’t necessarily be best friends with everyone, but I guarantee they will meet people along the way that are absolutely amazing and inspiring. Also, try to partner with local schools, sports teams and leagues, and community events. You can even host events in your workspace to give other people safe places to meet, whether it’s small groups or coffee brunches or things like that. But most importantly, aim to help someone every single week.
Trend: What are some business goals you are looking forward to in the upcoming months?
Hendrickson: My greatest desire is to be able to serve as many people in Tennessee and Georgia as possible. I realize that I cannot change the insurance industry, but I can change the way my agency serves. At Hendrickson Agency, we really center around a model that puts the relationship first, honest policy assessment second and devoted service always. I do truly care about those who have given me an opportunity to serve them. Again, I am not about slinging policies, or even being number one in the area, or how much money this agency can profit every year. It is about helping other people know that they’re getting the most empathetic care, prompt attention, proper protection for their most precious possessions. I truly want to make a difference for others so that they can feel loved and appreciated by my team and I.
Learn more about the Hendrickson Agency through its website, here.