Editor’s Note: Rachel is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) at NEHDA for the year. Her roll involves a variety of tasks, such as recruiting volunteers and applying for funding opportunities to plan really cool, really fun events that benefit the community. Rachel graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BFA in Sculpture and a minor in psychology. She spent the past year serving in another AmeriCorps program where she traveled the state of New York to help out with various environmental projects. As part of Rachel’s work with NEHDA, she is writing some posts for us to share. All of her posts can be found under the “NEHDA” category. To learn more about NEHDA, visit their website and Facebook.
David is Vice President at Dominick Falcone Agency, where he has worked for almost 12 years. Dominick Falcone Agency has been a Northside Business Partnership member since 2012. David attended SUNY Geneseo and is a lifetime resident of Onondaga County.
Q: At what point did you realize that you wanted to go into this career?
A: It was about 20 years ago. I was getting out of school. The plan was ultimately to go to law school but I was going to work for a while, while my then fiancé, now wife, was at law school. But I went to work for an insurance company, thinking it was temporary, for a few years and really liked it, had some good opportunities, so stuck with it. I did that for about 10 years and I’ve been here for about almost 12, but it’s been insurance the whole time.
Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?
A: I do a lot of commercial insurance, so the best part really is just meeting with business owners of all types. Our typical client—there’s some very good size businesses, but not publicly traded companies or anything like that. I find it interesting to talk to, say three different machine shop manufacturers in a week, and they all are a little bit different, but they’re all successful in their own way. It’s just interesting, there’s a lot of different ways to be successful in business and personality types.
Q: Dominick Falcone Agency has been in service for 90 years. In what ways has the industry changed and in what ways has it remained the same?
A: The thing that’s remained the same in any customer service business—you really have to focus on listening to customers. There’s a lot of opportunities and a lot of different ways you can purchase insurance. So there’s an incredible amount of competition. The way we stay ahead of that is you have to pay attention to what customers need and listen to them and help guide them, maybe sometimes see some of the exposures that they don’t see. That really hasn’t changed. If you were doing that 70 years ago, it would still be—while the world was probably more simple as far as what businesses needed, you still needed to help them understand what risks. The building could still burn to the ground, workers can still get hurt.
The number of people you needed to handle the amount of business has really changed, and it’s technology. With rare exception, we deal with our insurance companies electronically 95% of the time. There’s still underwriters you talk to and claims adjusters, but so much of the communication is back and forth electronically. Frankly the technology has made it so that agents—we do a lot of work that the insurance companies used to do. They used to have dozens of people that were rating and quoting policies manually. It would be pen and pencil. Now, we enter the data and we can get a proposal in real time. Someone walks in, I can gather some information from them, and if they have 15 minutes or so, 20 minutes to wait, my commercial team or my personalized team can get a proposal together.
Q: If you had an afternoon free to spend on the Northside, what would you do?
Q: If you could manage insurance for any business, which would you pick and why?
A: As far as a very large company, I think it would be interesting to handle the insurance for Starbucks. That may sound kind of crazy but, I would say that only if I could talk to the CEO. Howard Schultz, is that his name? He’s just a pretty interesting guy. I look at Starbucks and he took a product that’s been around for hundreds of years, if not longer, and convinced us that what we were consuming before wasn’t really all that good. We didn’t know that, and yet we’re willing to pay a premium for it. That’s not easy to do, and to see how that business has really thrived, I just find that amazing. If you think about it, you can get coffee anywhere. You can make it yourself, it’s not that hard to make, it’s not inaccessible, and yet look at how it’s taken off. It’s incredible. And he’s kind of interesting character, too, so that would add to it.
The interesting thing about commercial insurance is that there’s kind of basic needs, that whether you have no employees, in a small business, or you have a thousand employees or beyond, there’s basic things you need. You need general and building, you need to insure your product, you need to make sure that–it’s really just a financial hedge. You say to yourself, I don’t have enough cash to rebuild my building if it burns so I’m just going to transfer the rest to an insurance company for a fraction of what it would cost to rebuild. As things get bigger, things get complex. That’s where the interesting part of making sure what people have what they need. You start from the same general template, but then you really talk to business owners. You can look at the website and you can talk to them in terms of the insurance, but if you’re really not asking them about their business, then you’re really not going to know what their exposures are and what they need insurance for . . . Sometimes they’ll tell you about something they’re thinking about doing, and there might be insurance repercussions for that so you don’t want to help them, not be a road block, but help them, facilitate, and get it done. A guy who had been an attorney for a very long time told me that it’s so easy as an attorney to just throw down the bad things that can happen and try to protect everything but in reality, if you can facilitate getting business done, that’s being a good attorney. Help the person protect themselves, but don’t say no and no and no.
Q: What’s your favorite part about having a business on the Northside of Syracuse?
A: For us, it’s funny. We’ve been on the Northside so long, we kind of take it for granted. The agency was started in the front room of a house near I think what is now Our Lady of Pompei school. That’s just where it was and it’s always where it’s been. Dick and Joe, who are retired now, they grew up in Segdwick, they grew up less than a mile away from their office, where they worked for 40 years. It’s important for us to be in the city. It’s a hard question to answer because we just like being here. We’ve always been here, really in only two locations, unless you count the house they started in. When you’ve been somewhere for 90+ years, it’s just part of who you are.
To learn more about the Dominick Falcone Agency, visit their website.