Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Managing Editor 

Cheney's newest insurance agent

 

Last updated 8/20/2020 at 9:58am

CHENEY – When it came to a career, being an insurance agent was not on Layne Stoops’ radar.

“I don’t think anybody grows up wanting to be an insurance agent,” Cheney’s newest State Farm representative said.

Raised in Sun Valley, Idaho, Stoops came to Whitworth University in 2001 with music on his mind, having played saxophone for a number of years. But musical theory wasn’t his cup of tea, so he switched to psychology, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 2006 and a masters of education in behavior therapy in 2009.

Stoops briefly worked in a North Idaho clinic and then an area practice, but always feeling he had an entrepreneurial spirit, didn’t like the limitations he experienced. He formed a group with other practitioners who provided therapy for clinics in Redmond, Wash. and in Spokane.

As independent contractors, Stoops said they were seeing between 300 – 400 patients, something that was going well until one Monday morning when he walked into the group’s office and found one of them had abruptly left the practice and took most of the clientele with her.

Stoops shut down the practice, and after another attempt at a business with a friend was sabotaged by events beyond their control, got a call in December 2011 from a recruiter with State Farm who told him of openings in the Spokane area. Stoops said he met with a number of agents in Spokane and found out none of them started with a background in insurance, but all liked the independence of owning their own agency that is State Farm’s philosophy.

“With State Farm, the customer is always first,” Stoops said of what attracted him to sign up.

After a long application process and 17 weeks of training, he was given a choice of three locations: North Spokane, Coeur d’Alene or Cheney. He chose the latter because of the potential for growth and its familiarity with the product — already having a long-time State Farm agent in Jackie Scholz.

“It just seemed it was a great fit,” Stoops said.

He also liked the fact the city has a younger demographic profile than other locations as he felt he could connect with them. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age of Cheney’s population is 23 years old while data from Census Reporter.org puts it at 26.6. In both cases, it’s younger than median ages for the nation and the county respectively.

Stoops also said his background as a behavioral therapist is very much applicable to working with customers on insurance needs since those can often be emotion-based and uncertain. The psychology behind sales is “people-based,” he said, and he counsels the five people working in his office to work to understand what clients are saying and reflect that understanding back to them.

Stoops’ office opened in November, 2019, but like most other businesses, shutdown in March due to COVID-19 restrictions. They re-opened in May, and since then have had three of their best months since the initial opening.

Stoops said they respect customers preferences, and are set up to provide consultation through video conferencing and in-person, with staff wearing masks and conducting frequent disinfecting. Even without the pandemic, insurance has far more complexities than most people realize, and Stoops said they are there to listen to people and assist them with their needs, even if they don’t now what those might be.

“It just feels good to help somebody,” he added.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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