Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Cindy Vail of Vail Insurance provides information during the 2018 Madera County Job Fair at Hatfield Hall on Thursday.
When Cindy Vail heard the phone ring, she did not imagine the call would be the start of a new journey, one that led her to owning her own insurance business.
Vail, a Central Valley resident, already had a job in corporate business and was not particularly interested by insurance when a recruiting agency called her inviting her to an interview in 2005. She went to the interview out of curiosity and, with a newfound appreciation for insurance, she left with a different career path.
“I had no idea why I was going, but I was curious, so I walked into a big room of people, almost making U-turn and walking away, but I decided to sit down and hear what they had to say,” Vail said. “I liked what they had to say so much that I signed up to be an insurance agent.”
Vail went to school and, shortly after, started working as an insurance agent at a captive company, learning the business and creating connections. However, after four years of referring clients to other companies that could offer more services, Vail decided to take the next step.
She started Vail Insurance in 2009, running the one-woman business out of a home office for several years. Her passion for the business was fueled by her desire to help others and sell a beneficial product.
“The products, although they are intangible, are absolutely necessary to purchase, and so I know that I am actually providing a helpful service and not pushing a used car on somebody,” Vail said.
Vail explained that when working with customers, she wanted to develop close relationships because they were not only customers of a product, but members of her own community, one she finds pride in.
“I tell people this and they laugh: I would like to go to our local grocery store and not have to duck because of something I did wrong,” Vail said. “I would like to go to the grocery store and say ‘Hey, how are you doing? It’s good to see you.’ My customers like that, especially here, locally.”
As her customer base expanded through referrals and more products being offered, Vail decided to expand her business. In 2014, Vail relocated her office to downtown Madera and began hiring employees.
In hiring, Vail has seen her role shift from agent to mentor. Although she still consults with customers and is an active employee within her own business, Vail sees it as her responsibility to guide her employees.
For Vail, she has found that she is able to apply much of what she learned from working in the corporate world while maintaining close relationships to all levels of her business.
Although business expansion has created a challenge for Vail to maintain one-on-one interactions with the community she serves, she said her employees are trained to do the same as she would. In addition, Vail explained that Vail Insurance has a team of employees specifically selected to ensure close relationships.
Vail said despite the change from one-on-one to a larger business, the core values and motto of Vail Insurance remains the same: “to H.O.P.E.: Help Other People Everyday.”
“We all hope to live happy, healthy and forever after and in order to do that part of it is remaining healthy so we came up with the slogan ‘Helping Other People Everyday,’ because that’s what we do.”
Vail Insurance does so by assessing a customer’s situation and evaluating which insurance plan is best for them. The company is known by its customers for their in-depth explanation of Covered California, which Vail said, is not itself insurance and can be confusing.
Vail said her company’s goal with potential customers is to find what the customer liked about their previous carrier and try to provide more of or improve upon those positive aspects, rather than focus on the negative. All of which is done through their free consultations.
“Our customers feel comfortable knowing that they can talk with us anytime without having to drain their pocket, and if I can’t help somebody at that moment in time, I know sometime in the future I probably will be able to,” Vail said.
The free consultation is a way for Vail Insurance to provide quality customer service without overcharging, and hopefully, Vail said, a way to promote customer referrals.
As a result of customer referrals, Vail said, she has been able to reach out to customers all over California, not just in the Valley. In addition, Vail Insurance has recently been granted insurance licenses for eight other states. The expansion across state lines began when some of Vail’s customers moved out of state yet still wanted to use her services. She saw this as an opportunity to expand her business while still ensuring quality service to loyal customers.