Editor’s Note: The Northside Business Partnership (NBP) is an association comprised of Northside businesses, property owners, and organizations. It serves as an advocate group for the Northside, strengthening the vitality of the business community by connecting, engaging, and promoting its members. NBP is administrated by NEHDA.
Bill is the president of Sinclair & Andrews, an insurance agency founded in 1932. Sinclair & Andrews has been a proud Northside Business Partnership member since 2014 and Bill serves on the Board of Directors. Keep reading to find out advice, predictions, and dreams of an insurance agent!
Q: Have you always lived in Syracuse?
Q: On the Northside specifically?
Bill: I grew up on Westvale and I went to Westhill. My junior year of high school, I started working, I got a job at Williams, a grocery store in Fairmount. At that time I was driving my parents’ car and I wanted to get my own car and I started to discover money. I was on the golf team in the fall and the baseball team in the spring but I stopped playing sports ‘cause I signed up for a work study program. My job at Williams would continue on and I got credit for it through the school. The head of the business department would come and meet with the supervisor once a month to see how I was doing and do a report. So that’s when I really began to love work, when I was at Westhill.
Q: So how did you get into this line of work?
Bill: It was a series of jobs for me. When I went to Le Moyne College, I worked buildings and grounds during the school year, and then when I was on break and it got busy at UPS around Christmas time for those five weeks, I would work loading trucks there. And then every summer I was in college, I would get a job. My first summer was the Onondaga County Highway Department in Marcellus, my second summer was the New York State Thruway Authority in DeWitt, and then my third summer was Miller Brewing Company in Fulton. It was a great job, great pay, long hours but very well paid, a lot of overtime, and three free cases of beer a week.
Q: Can’t argue with that. What did you study in college?
Bill: Business administration at Le Moyne College and a minor in economics and a concentration in marketing.
Q: And how did you decide what to study?
Bill: I just knew I liked business, just from my work experience. When I graduated college in 1982, I think unemployment was at about 12% then. So I took the first job that was offered to me, which was Assistant Manager in K-mart in Geneva and I worked there for a year. Then I switched—I love being around people and I love being social but I wanted to try sales so I worked for a P. Lorillard company which owned tobacco products, like Newport, Old Gold, Kent, True, and I helped do the advertising on the billboards around here, and marketing in the stores. Back then, you could advertise. I did that for four years and it was a fun job. I got to see the terrain around here. I covered down in Ithaca, and within about a one mile radius, but I knew that the future wasn’t going to be in tobacco. This is before everything got outlawed of course, but I wanted a job where I knew that if I worked hard, you know I could help other people and make more money. So my roommate from college, Greg Dunn, had been in insurance right out of college. Russ Andrews and Avery Sinclair who owned this agency asked him if he wanted to join them and do property casualties as well as life insurance. He said no, he really wanted to stay just doing the life insurance. But he said, he called me to see if I wanted to do it, so I said sure! I’ll do it. So Greg referred me to Avery and Russel and that was thirty years ago. So I’ve been here ever since.
Q: What do you like about it?
Bill: I like the interaction with all the customers, helping people out. I like the freedom. I make my own hours, and I have a great staff that allows me to come and go in and out of the office.
Q: Did the skills that you learned through your various jobs, did they translate nicely into this line of work or did you have to learn a lot on the job?
Bill: Well, I had to get licensed. So I got licensed, and then I went through—the first year I worked here—I went through the Aetna Prime Agent Program, which covered training me in personal lines, which is auto and home owner’s, life insurance, and also small commercial insurance. So I went to the Aetna Institute in Hartford, Connecticut probably about four or five times my first year, for training. And then there was local training here, for the Aetna offices.
Q: Your website lists various types of insurance that we consider fairly standard, such as auto, homeowners, and business. It also lists less traditional types of insurance, such as wedding and recreational vehicle. What markets do you think insurance will be expanding into in the future?
Bill: Right now, cyber. Cyber liability, which would cover an office, not only if they got hacked into their computers and got private data information, such as social security numbers, dates of births and all that, but also it would cover for data breach, it would cover to pay for all the expenses that company would have to go through to notify all their customers, and then to provide free credit monitoring and all that. It would also cover paper files, if somebody came in and stole paper files out of a doctor’s office or an insurance office.
Q: Is that standard or required for doctor’s offices to have currently?
Bill: No, but in the future, it may be required for companies to do businesses with other companies. Like if one company wants to come in and do some IT work, the company they’re doing business with might say, we want you to provide us with proof you’ve got a cyber policy in case something goes wrong when you’re doing work for us.
Q: How does the Northside location of Sinclair & Andrews affect the business?
Bill: Well, it’s a great location for us because I can be in any town in this county in ten minutes because 690 and 81 are right here, right at the intersection of it all…I’m also a general partner of 306 Hawley Ave. Associates, which is separate from Sinclair & Andrews. Sinclair & Andrews rents space from 306 Hawley Ave. . .It was built in 1874 and it originally had someone who owned a brewery here, there was actually four of these houses in a row, now there’s three—bought it, one for each daughter.
Q: If somebody was thinking of going into insurance, what advice would you give them?
Bill: Nothing’s’ changed since I started. You just have to be social, you have to be—you can’t be aggressive, but you have to ask. You have to ask for the sale. You have to ask people how their insurance is going, if they want to review it. Things like that. You gotta have an “A” personality.
Q: That’s all the questions that I have—
Bill: Well, you have to ask me that one question that you asked Dave [Bill is referring to this interview I did with the Vice President of the Dominick Falcone Agency].
Q: Which one was that?
Bill: What would I like to insure.
Q: Oh, okay. What would you like to insure?
Bill: The Empire State Building!
Q: Okay, and why?
Bill: Because it’s iconic. Everybody knows the Empire State Building.
To learn more about Sinclair & Andrews, visit their website.