One of the older businesses in town with uninterrupted family ownership, Schaefer Agency has been around more than 60 years as an independent full-service insurance agency.
“Most of our business is word-of-mouth,” said owner John Schaefer. “If we take care of our customers, they sell more than we do.”
Schaefer’s dad Jack started the company in 1952. John Schaefer started there in 1989. His father, now 85 and retired, comes by for lunch almost every day.
Schaefer maintains customers by keeping his promises. Also, he doesn’t make new promises before fulfilling the old ones.
The agency provides property, casualty and liability insurance for home, auto, business and workers compensation. The business also sells builders risk, insuring property until construction is completed. The agency sells most types of insurance, Schaefer said, except health and life.
Being an independent agent, Schaefer can shop around for the best deals.
“We take your information and find the best pricing for you,” Schaefer said. “Different insurance carriers have different appetites.”
For example, one carrier charges less for insurance for a client with a ticket for driving under the influence than speeding.
“We shop around. Different companies use similar parameters to price your product,” he said. “Nobody likes that youthful driver,” but some policies cost less.
As an independent agent, Schaefer can shop Travelers, Safeco, Hartford, Farmers Alliance, Progressive and more. Agents of companies such as Allstate, State Farm and Farmers are “captive,” Schaefer said. “They don’t represent a bunch of carriers.
“All the companies we represent are financially strong, and I have confidence in their ability to pay a claim. With that array, we’re able to pick and choose the brand that’s most cost-effective.”
That can change, depending on timing.
“For a few years, it could be Safeco, then Travelers could be the hottest thing on the market,” Schaefer said. Independent agents can skip from carrier to carrier, depending on prices and specials offered.
“Since 1989 when I started here, I’ve had four different carriers insuring my home and auto,” Schaefer said. “Remaining independent allows us to provide the best product at the best price. What we’re talking about is the value of an agent.”
Schaefer also said he’s a small agency “and proud of it,” because the benefits are that “we can concentrate on your needs.”
Schaefer has turned business away, when he knows another carrier that would better suit a prospective customer’s needs.
For example, if a nurse asks Schaefer to provide an errors and omissions policy, he will advise the health care practitioner to ask his or her professional association about a policy because the prices are more reasonable there, he said.
“We’ll ask them to come back with their home and auto policies, where we know we can do better,” Schaefer said. “I’m known as a turtle and proud of it.”
Schaefer said being honest and providing what the consumer needs has worked well: “I would rather make less money and keep you for many years.”
Insurance is the one product people buy that they hope never to use, he added. Also, plan ahead, he advised. After a house fire or car accident “is not the time you want consultation,” Schaefer said. “We don’t want surprises at the time of loss.”
Schaefer “would love it” if his two children were to follow in his footsteps into the insurance industry.
“It’s a good business, where you can truly help people,” Schaefer said.
Schaefer said 2013 was his best year, as he sold more than $3 million in insurance, a growth of 8 percent over the previous year.
Colorado is under the insurance microscope, thanks to the Hayman fire in 2002, the Waldo Canyon fire in 2012, the Black Forest fire of last year and the resultant flooding along the Front Range.
Those fires equated to the loss of one house per day to fire two years straight, Schaefer said.
For Waldo Canyon, he had insured four homes that were total losses, and in Black Forest, his agency insured one total loss.
Prior to that, since 1989 when Schaefer started in the business, only one client lost his home to fire. But devastating hailstorms are not uncommon, he said, adding, “In Colorado Springs, anything with a rooftop costs more to insure.”
Not everyone has an Olympian in the family, much less a gold-medal winner.
Schaefer has both: Gold medalist bobsledder Steven Holcomb is his nephew.
Holcomb pilots U.S. Olympic teams in two-man and four-man bobsled. Four years ago in Vancouver, the four-man team took gold, and in 2012, the two-man team won gold in the world championships.
“This is his third Olympics,” boasted Holcomb’s uncle.
For the Sochi Olympic Games, the bobsled action starts Sunday, Feb. 16, with two runs of the two-man bobsled, followed the next day by two more runs of the two-man bobsled.
Saturday, Feb. 22, is the scheduled time for two runs of the four-man bobsled, followed the next day by two more runs of the four-man bobsled.
Holcomb is favored to repeat in the four-man event. And if that happens, nobody will be prouder than his uncle.
Schaefer Agency Inc.
Info: 707 N. Nevada Ave., 633-2641
In business: Since 1952
Number of employees: 4