Mission Matters: Mike Heister

Heister Insurance has been in existence since (are you ready for this!?) 1901! That’s right, Mike Heister’s great grandfather, J.P. Heister started the agency’s legacy nearly 120 years ago. In fact, a manufacturing building that J.P. Heister wrote fire insurance on in the 1920s, is still insured with the agency today. Believing deeply in allowing the next generation to step forward, J.P. passed the business to his son, Albert Sr., then to his son, Albert Jr. (Mike’s dad), and nearly 35 years ago, Mike eager but terrified, took over the Heister Insurance.

Mike recalls his dad called him and provided him a 6-month warning that he was planning to take a 2-year hiatus and turning the agency fully over to Mike. His dad handed over the agency to him on October 1, 1986 and Mike joined the PIA/OIA on October 2, 1986!

The week he took over, he remembers receiving a letter from one of the agency’s largest clients saying they were moving their business. Mike always wanted to take over the agency, but now he felt lost, scared, and didn’t know who to turn to. With a wife, 3 small children, a mortgage, and now some agency issues that were surfacing, he knew he was going to need to find someone he could trust.

He reached out to the PIA/OIA because he needed E&O insurance, but what he found was so much bigger than the insurance policy. He attended every meeting, learning something new and meeting new people with similar issues. It was truly the old adage where he was getting far more from the organization than he was putting in. And because of this, he is still involved after 35 years and has served on every committee and sat in every position at one time or another during his tenure.

As a result of his early years and the support he received from the organization, you will never meet a fiercer advocate for the association. Not surprisingly, about 4 years ago, Mike received the Ohio Insurance Agent’s Lifetime Achievement Award. A much-deserved honor for all that he has done for the association.

Over the years, he has built a reputation of pulling the troops together and making goals happen. From membership to surpassing the PAC goals, he has a way of building excitement to accomplish big initiatives.

Mike is very familiar with rallying the crowd to accomplish great things, with a small, 4-person agency, it’s all hands-on deck. But that is precisely what makes this small agency such a gem. Because when a client calls into the agency, it’s most likely they already have a relationship with the person that answered the phone. The clients have a personal relationship with everyone at the agency and the team know their clients on a personal level.

Outside of time at the agency, the team is deeply committed to various organizations within their community, including their local Chamber, local schools, church, and recently a charity that provides meals to the needy.

In the nearly 40 years of service, Mike finds that the claims process is the moment of truth. It is when his clients need him the most, and it is when all those years that he spent in CIC courses, talking with his peers, taking time to better himself, was imperative for serving his clients.” There’s no better feeling then when you can help put a client’s life back together and make them whole again”, said Mike. “It’s the most rewarding experience of being an independent agent.”

It is these experiences that have shaped Heister Insurance core values – Heister Insurance offers the best protection, best service and being an advocate for the client. The entire team is constantly learning, expanding their knowledge, all in the pursuit to provide the best advice to their clients.

Mike has always been a great listener, and it serves him well as an independent insurance agent. Listening and asking good questions to ensure his clients are receiving the best insurance advice. Mike notes, “insurance isn’t always the answer to risk management. You may be able to address the risk without an insurance policy. It’s in these moments where you can build trust and establish relationships.”

After almost 40-years, Mike finds himself taking a step back, and allowing the next generation to move forward and into spotlight, just as his father, and his father, and his father did before him. So today, you will find Colleen Heister Miles, Mike’s daughter, taking a greater lead in many aspects of the agency. Mike feels his new job and role is to share his wisdoms, where he made mistakes, and “get the hell out of the way”, as Mike so candidly puts it.

To his daughter, Colleen and to all Next Generation leaders, Mike leaves this advice for you. All the technological advancements we have come to rely upon and embrace have been imperative for business success. However, you cannot forget the personal touches. Instead of sending a “like” or posting a message on social media, try picking up the phone, sending a handwritten note, or calling people when you want to celebrate with them, or perhaps console them. It is so much more personal and is almost guaranteed not to be forgotten.

Also, we need to listen more closely. With much of what we see in media, it is obvious that we have lost the ability to listen to what people are really saying. If you want to build a relationship, you can’t do all of the talking, you have to listen.

Mike shares, “we seem to be so much more entrenched in our platform convictions, and thinking about what we will say next, that we forget to listen to the person in front of us. If you just stop thinking about your next sentence and listen to what the person is saying in front of you, not only would that better our world, but all of us in our industry could do better by our clients to better assess our clients’ needs and risks.”

Important words, especially in our uncertain world.

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