There are more than 65 Farmers Insurance agents in the general Tucson area. Add in State Farm, Allstate, and all of the other insurance carriers, and the number of insurance agents from which to select is easily in the hundreds.
When we talk about businesses building Tucson, all of these agents are small business owners who are contributors to the economic health and growth of the Tucson region. They all pay business and personal taxes, employ people and use independent business services.
In the course of their business, when the unforeseen does happen to a client, each one of these agents employs other businesses. It could be car repairs or new car sales, home repair or new construction, or any multitude of other companies that help fix the insurance-covered problems.
The ripple effect of even the smallest business impacts the economic health of a region.
Sandi Eghtesadi is a Farmers Insurance agent who, both individually and through her agency, touches a lot people and impacts Tucson in many ways.
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Eghtesadi has been a Farmers agent for 31 years. She has consistently ranked in the top 3% of agents nationally, and was the No. 1 life insurance agent for all 13,000 of Farmers Insurance agencies in 2019, 2020 and 2021. She still has clients that signed on with her 31 years ago, and many of her clients are represented by three generations of family members.
What makes her different, in her own words, are relationships. She does not view what she does in terms of products. She says she really doesn’t sell anything. She views the whole spectrum of products and services she offers in one context — risk management.
Eghtesadi describes herself as a risk advisor. To do this well, she needs to view the world from the client’s minds-eye. Only through the eyes of the client can she accurately assess risk. This requires a personal connection and empathy at the highest level.
A perfect story to illustrate the value Eghtesadi places on empathy occurred early on in her career. Prior to starting her own agency, Eghtesadi worked in human resources for several companies in town — Sundt,, Canyon Ranch, O’Reilly Motors. One of her HR roles was to interview potential new employees.
She wanted to become a better interviewer, so she decided to become an interviewee. Build empathy with the person across the desk. Farmers Insurance advertised interviews for potential new agents. Eghtesadi signed up so she could improve her interviewing skills.
If one believes in fate or being in the right place at the right time, this was the case with Eghtesadi and Farmers. She definitely improved her interviewing skills, but she also found the next path in her career.
Eghtesadi liked the entrepreneurism of the Farmers business model. She liked the connections made with people and development of relationships. Still, it took six months before she left O’Reilly Motors to start her own agency.
She started with a phone, a list and cold calling. Beginning at 6 p.m., she would make calls, either for two hours or 20 leads, whichever came first. Farmers provided two years of direct support, with district managers and independent agents mentoring Eghtesadi.
Eghtesadi’s success, back then and today, is a result of hard work. She became proficient in what she was doing. Proficiency led to success. Sustained success led to a strong book of business and a somewhat self-perpetuating entrepreneurial business.
The late Bill Valenzuela, founder of W.G. Valenzuela Drywall, was an early mentor. He encouraged Eghtesadi to find communities or causes in Tucson to which she could contribute. For Eghtesadi, that translated into the military, more specifically the Air Force National Guard and Reserve. Some highlights:
Volunteer since 2002 with Employers Support of the Guard and Reserve.
Board of Directors of Southern Arizona Defense Alliance.
162nd Fighter Wing Air Guardians — Board of Directors 2015 — Tucson Business Magazine’s “Woman of Influence” Award in the Military Champion category.
Air Education and Training Command Commander’s Civic Leaders Group since 2014.
Eghtesadi’s mission in supporting the Guard and Reserve is to help ensure community support, and to let the Guard and Reserve personnel know that the community appreciates their sacrifice and efforts.
Be it through her business or volunteer efforts, Eghtesadi’s ripple effect in Tucson is strong and wide. She helps people every day. And most importantly, she still enjoys it.
Ken Cook is the co-founder of How to Who, a program on how to build strong business relationships. Learn more at howtowho.com.