WHEELING – Insurance agent Gary Dietz knows it’s a competitive world where “dogs eat dogs,” but luckily for him, he also knows how to train dogs.
Dietz was able to draw on the experience he gained working 10 years as a dog trainer at the Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack as he moved through the business world. Sometimes the bark of change is loud, but you have to be on top of it, he said.
“You have to go with the change,” he said. “Change happens every day, and you can’t let it bite you. It happens all the time, but I’m not always sure it’s for the best.
“There seems to be less and less of a personal approach to doing business, and a lot of them want you to talk to machines.”
The family’s legacy in the insurance business is ultimately the rabbit that drove Dietz to sell AllState Insurance. His father, Elmer, was a longtime agent for the company, and Dietz’s siblings also got into the business. Brother Phillip is an agent in Westerville, Ohio, while Brother Thomas works in Dublin, Ohio. Sister Cyndi, on the other hand, is a retired insurance agent.
Dietz is a graduate of Wheeling Central Catholic High School and the former West Liberty State College.
Dietz admits he’s always loved training dogs, but he had the opportunity to enter the family business in 1988 and it kept him closer to home.
“The kids were younger than when I worked as a dog trainer,” he explained. “And as they got older, I found myself traveling more.”
It took time to build his business, and success didn’t come overnight, Dietz noted.
“It takes perseverance, time and a lot of hard work in the beginning,” he said.
When he started his business, there was no computer on which to call up customer and policy information. Instead, the data was stored on microfiche, and officers had to examine the microfiche to find out what they needed to know.
“Since then, we’ve probably gone through five to six computer systems,” Dietz said. “We have standing desks and use headphones to talk on the phone.
“Times have definitely changed.”
He suggested that those who are successful over the long term need to “stay ahead,” which means getting the basics right.
Dietz said if location is everything, where he chose to do business was a good decision. Dietz opened his office building at 1010 National Road in 1994, and he called it “an excellent location” for his business.
Building and maintaining relationships is also crucial, he said.
“We’ve taken care of some families for many years, and that’s also resulted in a lot of referrals,” he said. “We take care of our people.”
Dietz said what probably sets his office apart is that he and his staff don’t treat customers “like numbers.” Customers who call with problems will likely have their calls answered by a live employee in the office and not by the company-mandated answering system, he said.
“We like to answer our own phones,” Dietz said.
He also thinks that people’s attitudes are changing and that people everywhere need to respect each other more.
Dietz employs two other insurance agents, as well as a life insurance agent and a claims clerk, he said.
National trends show that more and more people want to work from home and not in the office, but Dietz said that’s not really the case at his office.
“COVID has changed everything in that people can work from anywhere on their computer with the internet,” he said. “But 95% of our employees work here. It’s a good place to come to work.
Dietz says he doesn’t foresee any future changes to the formula that will take him to the finish line.
“We’re just going to keep running like we always have, and I’m going to keep running like I’ve done for the past 35 years,” he said.