In this episode Jess talks to Teri DiGrande, the owner of a State Farm agency in New Jersey. Teri reflects on her journey in the insurance industry, starting from her early days at State Farm to eventually becoming an entrepreneur and opening her own agency in 2010. Throughout the episode, she emphasizes the importance of building long-lasting relationships with clients and helping families recover from unexpected events. She also shares personal stories and lessons, including the significance of having proper insurance coverage, the challenges of running a business, and the value of being present in one’s family life. With her passion for her work and dedication to her clients, Teri inspires listeners with her story of resilience and success in the insurance industry.
- Building wealth and assets requires careful consideration of risks and the importance of insurance coverage.
- Balancing different roles in life, including both work and family, is essential for success and well-being.
- Planning for the unexpected, such as through life insurance, is crucial to protect loved ones and their future.
- Opening up and seeking support can lead to financial freedom and a brighter future.
Contact Our Guest:
Jessica Weaver 0:02
Welcome to women behind the millions. I am Jessica Weaver, your hosts wealth advisor, Best Selling Author and founder of the woman’s wealth boutique. And I’m so excited to have Teri DiGrande with us. She is an owner of State Farm in Morristown, New Jersey. She has been in the insurance industry for more than 35 years, but wanted to become an entrepreneur, have her own agency in 2010, which we’re gonna get into that, because I’m excited to hear about this journey that she’s been on, a very successful journey. Her passion has always been helping families recover from the unexpected, and her favorite motto is enter as strangers and leave as friends. So you can tell right away where her heart is with her business. And she wants to create those long lasting relationships with her clients, because it’s a win win for everybody there. Right? That is her credit to her success. So thank you so much, Teri, for being with us here on women behind the Millions.
Teri DiGrande 0:59
Thank you, Jess. So nice to see you.
Jessica Weaver 1:01
It’s so good to see you, too. I cannot wait to hear about your business. So you’ve had a business 22 years now. You started in 2010. Which, let’s think back to then, Its then you started right after a recession. One of the hardest times during our economy, the great recession, we had the market crisis, the mortgage, housing, everything was tanking. People were getting laid off. What was the moment when you realized you wanted to make the switch and open up your own agency?
Teri DiGrande 1:37
Well, I started at State Farm back in the early 90s actually, and so you know, having been through so many different positions within the company, having worked in agency management before I thought this is easy, I could do this, I can run my own business. And so I had had interviewed a time or two before this actually two times before this, and I was not selected. And so so the reason that I was told I was not selected is because I didn’t have the passion behind it.
Jessica Weaver 2:09
Really? Oh my
Teri DiGrande 2:11
And and so, but at that time, they were probably right, right? I wasn’t mature enough and ready to run my own business. And I’m still you know, every day we struggle to run our own business, right? There’s so many, there’s so many facets, there’s leadership and management and being your CEO and being a team member, etc. So that’s yeah, I mean, I decided, probably in 2008/2009, I wanted to do this. I thought I could do it. I thought I’d be great at it. And it’s been, it’s been challenging, but it’s the best decision I ever made.
Jessica Weaver 2:42
And you’re married. You have two beautiful daughters. Did you have the support of your husband? Was he a part of all those conversations?
Teri DiGrande 2:53
Well, you can’t do it without the support, right? Gratefully thank God. My husband is everybody calls him the saint because he puts up with me and yeah, he’s amazing. My two daughters, I mean, the I’ll never forget the day I opened my agency that night, I came home and I was so excited. It was my first opening day. And they were all dressed in State Farm gear. They had the whole house decorated in State Farm gear. And they were all just standing there hugging and big hug. You know, family hugs, and I still get chills even thinking about that.Yeah.
Jessica Weaver 3:25
How old were your daughter’s when you opened?
Teri DiGrande 3:28
Oh, gosh, 12 years ago. So my oldest is now 27. And my baby is 20 years old. So yeah, and that was one of the reasons that, you know, like many of us, we decided to open our own business too. Because my 27 year old, I was so focused on a career career career. She’ll remind me, I missed quite a few birthdays, you know, being out on the road and traveling for business. And then my youngest was born. And I didn’t want to do that they’re six and a half years apart, okay, but I wanted to be more of a part of both of their lives. But this enabled me to make that decision as hard as it was. But
Jessica Weaver 4:06
It’s amazing how as working moms, the kids are part of every decision we make with our career, with our businesses. And I remember I missed my daughter’s first birthday, so I can relate to that. And it tore me apart. But my husband who does shift work, he misses holidays, birthdays on a regular basis. And like but for me, it’s like I left my heart behind when I went on this business trip. I completely understand why you would want to do that and to make up for lost time maybe even.
Teri DiGrande 4:37
Yeah, I think it’s a mom thing, right? It’s a woman thing, right? We just, they’re our children they’re our babies, you know?
Jessica Weaver 4:46
Then you had another baby starting your agency. Your Business baby we’ll call it. How was the start of that? Was it always growing, always building and building? What was it like in the early days?
Teri DiGrande 5:00
Yeah, no, I mean, like many of us, we struggle in our first several years. And they say, if you don’t make it five years, you’re not gonna make it. I think I was telling you earlier I had my first year in business, I went into debt, I went into six figure debt – $124,000. And I cried every single day, I came home I cried, I cried the minute I walked in the office, and it was a real struggle, particularly the first three, three and a half years, financially. And so about two months, I opened in July, about two, three months after that, the company because it was 2010 and you know, the economy was kind of crashing at that time. State Farm really, they put the squeeze on us in terms of what we could and couldn’t write for property and casualty, okay, so it became more difficult to grow the business. And we had to find other ways, right. So if I couldn’t write auto, because we weren’t competitive, I had to find something else to write. Maybe that was business insurance, or commercial vehicles, whatever that was. But it was a real struggle for the first three years. And my accountant told me, You better close this business, you’re not going to make it and you’re gonna lose everything. And I wouldn’t do that, this was going back to the comments I received earlier in my career, this was my passion. This is where I want to be. And this is where I’m meant to be. And so fast forward here today, and we’re doing great, I’ve got the best team and supporting my family. And I just I do it because I love my clients. And, and I think that’s where the motto comes from, right, enter as strangers, leave as friends. So that’s kind of where it came from.
Jessica Weaver 6:39
It comes across right away, Teri, but what I keep hearing from your story is, no matter what the rejection was, no matter what the people were telling you to do, you trusted your gut, your heart, and you push through. For somebody an accountant, somebody that you lean on for advice to tell you you need to shut your doors. That must have been an insane moment for you mentally.
Teri DiGrande 7:01
Oh, gosh, yeah, I mean, and I would not tell my husband how much debt I was in. So this was all just between my accountant, and I and it was like, You’re not going to make and so finally, about three years later, and I was embarrassed to tell him because like, you know, I’ve been in insurance so long, like why can’t I make this work? And, you know, being a leader, being a CEO, being a mom and trying to trying to do everything at once, it was just, it was a matter of it all coming together, right? And I was embarrassed. And one night, I had to sit down with him and just say, you know, here’s, here’s the issues. Let’s put together a plan. And he took it great, thank God. And he said, let’s consolidate our debt. And don’t worry about it, we’ll get you out of this. And within a year and a half, I believe it was like 18 months later, I was out of debt and took care of everything. And yeah, we had to make some, we definitely made some hard decisions, right. But I wouldn’t have done it any other way honestly.
Jessica Weaver 7:53
Yes. And that’s just how much he believes in you that despite being in the debt, he knew you were gonna pull through it. And sometimes we just need to have those vulnerable moments with somebody else. So that I mean, even with myself, you get to that point where you have you believe you can do it. But when you’ve had bad things happen along the way and these setbacks, you get to a point like, can I really do this, but then to have your spouse step up and say, we’ve got this. It’s that wind that you needed.
Teri DiGrande 8:23
Right. I mean nobody understands better than you, right? Look what you’ve achieved. But yeah, it’s so hard. It’s it’s hard to sort of juggle everything at one time. And that took a little bit of realization on my part, I really thought I was going to be amazing, you know, manager, leader, everything, you name it. I struggle, I still struggle to this day. I mean, I look to folks like you, and your books and your mentorship to learn from that.
Jessica Weaver 8:54
Oh, same! Always looking to other people looking to you who’ve been so successful. And that’s why we’re having these conversations. That’s why we started the podcast woman behind the millions because we go on social media, and we see the nice cars, vacations, beautiful houses, but we don’t see us crying in the closets in the off hours or wanting to scream. Or why did my kids have to get sick the exact moment I’m about to be on air, or meet with a new client?
Teri DiGrande 9:25
It’s so true. It happens all the time. It does.
Jessica Weaver 9:27
And I love how you said finding your way to make it all work. Like all of a sudden you’re stepping into this unknown new territory for you. And there’s so much growth, we’re still learning and growing just as you said, and figuring out how am I going to get this all to work? What does that even look like? And so it’s amazing having women like you so that I can learn. I have young kids. How do you do it? So I don’t have to figure it all out on my own.
Teri DiGrande 9:58
Yeah, I still don’t know. I really don’t know, honest to goodness, honest to goodness, I idolize single moms because I could not do it without the support of my spouse, you know? We definitely take on different roles in the household. Whether that’s financially or emotionally, you’ve got to have that balance. There’s no other way around it. Or on the flip side, I learned not to worry about the mess on the floor, right? You know, with when my children were young I used to stress out about oh my gosh, pick up the toys and this and that. And I didn’t have a cleaning lady. I was the cleaning lady right? So I learned to just forego some of those things. And you know what, tonight we’re gonna have pancakes for dinner, instead of making, you know, sometimes you’re just gonna have to forego some things for your mental health.
Jessica Weaver 10:48
That’s funny. You said that we are doing breakfast for dinner tonight at my household.
Teri DiGrande 10:52
It’s the best. It’s more like a treat, right?
Jessica Weaver 10:55
I know I’m like cinnamon rolls, pancakes, what do you want kids? I, yes learning to ignore the crumbs and the appearance. I think for me, it’s always been what is the appearance because my mom, German, she is so clean organized. She cleans out her cabinets, probably twice a year. I’ve maybe the last decade I’ve cleaned them out once. But yeah, you have to prioritize.
Teri DiGrande 11:22
Exactly, exactly. I want to go to my daughter’s soccer game, then this is not getting done. And I have to do X, Y and Z to get there. Right? And isn’t that why we all do what we do? Right? We do it for our families, for our children and, and for our own mental health if for nothing else.
Jessica Weaver 11:38
It’s true. Yes, I’ve learned this year, everything can wait a day. There’s no task for the most part, that can’t wait 24 hours to get done.
Teri DiGrande 11:48
That’s a hard lesson to learn that is really hard lesson to learn.
Jessica Weaver 11:52
I’m like 24 hours, it’s okay. If somebody gets back in 24 hours, and such. But let’s go into really, as we’re building wealth, we’re building a business, which is an asset, and wealth or even build our house, now we’re buying a house, there are always things and this is when you come into play. There’s always risks out there that can jeopardize our our wealth, our peace of mind, whether you’re driving and you get hit in an accident, somebody falls in your house, somebody falls at your work. And I’m thinking of that, because I’m using Teri and her company for our workers comp policy, which I have to go into the mailbox and see if it’s come in today. How do you come into play when you’re looking at here I am, I’m starting to really build wealth and assets. What do I need to be looking out for?
Teri DiGrande 12:46
That’s a great question Jess because, you know, I when we talk with our customers about just a simple auto insurance policy, right? People base it base it on premium, I don’t want to pay more than this X amount of dollars, you really have to look at your assets. Because if you get sued, you can lose everything you’ve worked so hard to grow and in one single accident, you’re one phone call away from tragedy, and losing it all.
Jessica Weaver 13:15
Very very scary. And we’ve seen it happen. I’ve had clients happen, and it’s a freak accident, or one I remember one she blacked out, doesn’t even recall the accident. No idea. But then there was a pending lawsuit, or children are now driving. Or your parents who shouldn’t be driving anymore, but you haven’t taken their driver’s license away from them yet. They’re driving. And now you have the most money you’ve ever had. How are you? How are we protecting it? So what is it like going through the process with you and figuring out? What are the things that I’m not thinking about? Maybe I don’t want to think about going getting into an accident or my husband passing away, or certain things. What is it like working with you, Teri?
Teri DiGrande 14:02
So I’d like to think, you know, listen, we all have to share our value statement, right? We all have a different value statement. But when you call a one 800 Number, they don’t really go into the different coverages that you have, and the reasons why. And oftentimes, I’ll sit with a customer and review just to review what they currently have. And we’ll explain this is what your liability means. This is what you have. Now let’s talk about your assets. And they don’t put the two and two together. Why do you why do you care? You know, what I where I work, and why do you care how much money I make and well because it’s my job to protect your assets and the liabilities that come along with that and that could be an auto accident that could just be a slip and fall. Whether an invited guest or uninvited guest comes to your house right? Somebody walking past the house slips and falls, they’re gonna sue the homeowner. So it does not have to be anything, obviously we buy insurance because of the unknown risk. But again, you know, talking about just protecting everything from A to Z, I go through the entire policy with them, make sure they understand it. And I have to tell you 99% of the time, they say, Well, I did not know that. I didn’t know that I needed that. I didn’t know I didn’t have that, or or I don’t need that coverage, you know, vice versa.
Jessica Weaver 15:18
Yes, it kind of goes into that faux pas of talking about money, right? We don’t talk about money. We don’t talk about lawsuits, the possibility of being sued, and we are in a country that there are a lot of lawsuits. We’ll be honest about that. Yeah, you have to protect yourself. Growing up my father, he’s been an advisor for 40 years. But did I hear him talking about insurance? I mean we talked about money here and there. But then you go to insurance, really not talking about it much besides home & auto, right? I got my driver’s license, I have to get an auto insurance policy.
Teri DiGrande 15:54
Well, yeah, I mean, listen, auto insurance is mandatory in most states, right? If not all states, I’m not sure. But we buy auto insurance. We have to buy home insurance to protect the risk of fire and because the mortgagee tells us, but then there’s that flipside, what you guys do, you know, in terms of protecting your paycheck, and you’re your biggest asset, when I say to the customer, what is your biggest asset? What are your greatest assets? They say – my house, my car, my boat, I love my boat. And they’re insuring everything, but they’re not insuring themselves.
Jessica Weaver 16:28
Their ability to earn an income.
Teri DiGrande 16:30
Exactly, exactly. And if you were an ATM machine, or if your husband was an ATM machine, wouldn’t you insure that? You absolutely would.
Jessica Weaver 16:38
You would protect it. Right? You put it in a locked room, some bubble wrap, chain it up.
Teri DiGrande 16:38
Thats exactly what your life insurance policy is, and financial planning for those for those issues, right? For those unknown, and you don’t know what’s coming in the future, I will tell you unfortunately, we are all going to pass away at some time. But we don’t know if we’re going to have an auto accident. And we don’t know if we’re ever going to have a fire in our house. But but that is the that is one thing we do know we should be protecting our paychecks and our ability to earn that income whether its disability insurance, financial planning, make sure you have a plan in place for those you love.
Jessica Weaver 17:20
Yes, of course. What about as a business owner, let’s talk to the women business owners who are listening right now watching this. What are some things they need to think about? And you’re going to be speaking to all of our advisors at women’s wealth boutique in the next two weeks about this. Let’s say now I’m opening up my doors as a business. What do I need to be thinking about when it comes to the risks and the insurance?
Teri DiGrande 17:45
Well, similarly, right, you’re opening up a business that maybe it’s an LLC, maybe it’s an incorporation or an S corp, etc. You also need to protect against bodily injury, physical death. There’s there’s many facets of business insurance. So I mean, there’s general liability, it could be just a basic, basic business policy, what we would call, but then what about your employees, you’ve got to but now you’ve got to worry about protecting your employees and lawsuits against them? Or perhaps yourself, right? So there’s insurance against discrimination. There’s so many facets of it. So we’ve got to understand your business. My job is to get to know you, get to understand what your business is, and what your risks are, and how I can protect that.
Jessica Weaver 18:31
Oh, yeah, you’re bringing up a lot of things. So we have we hear e&o insurance for doctors, attorneys and us as advisors. We have E&o insurance, we start to hear about that. Right and I have my policy through you. I rent office space. So then I need to protect what’s in the office. Like technology, the computers, things like that, because you’ve heard horror stories of that, right? There’s a fire and now they don’t have the money to rebuild or all the money’s gone, or maybe they bought it on debt.
Teri DiGrande 19:06
That’s right, maybe you’re financing your business. But again, one phone call, you can lose everything right? You’re one phone call away from a tragedy is what I always think. And that’s kind of scary to think, right? Today everything’s great, but tomorrow, and think about those that are now working from home. Because that brings up a whole different conversation. What do we need to protect that’s different, that’s not insured under your homeowners policy? Right?
Jessica Weaver 19:29
Sure. That is a whole new dynamic that we’re seeing even as we’re virtual team, we’re in all different states. That is a great point to that.
Teri DiGrande 19:38
And that’s just an endorsement that you add to your homeowners policy or maybe it is business office policy, but you get business and residents credit for being because you want God forbid you have a claim made it’s a pipe burst or vandalism or whatever that might be. Your homeowners often doesn’t cover your business stuff, right so your inventory, your computers that you use for business?
Jessica Weaver 20:02
Yes, good points inventory, I didn’t even think of that. You’re known as services, kind of relationship or business. That’s right. And items. How about I want to talk a little bit about key employee insurance. Or let’s say you’re in a partnership and you buy insurance on each other. I’ve seen this happen a few different times with relationships, not with our own business, but with friends and two people enter business together, their partners and the one passes away, what happens to the business then?
Teri DiGrande 20:37
I’ve got a perfect situation, a friend down the street, her husband passed away and did not have life insurance. And he owned a he owned a huge roofing company. Guess who’s in charge of the roofing company right now? The wife, who knows who knew nothing about roofing, nothing about anything, right? And the partner, his partner? Yes. Does he really want her involved in something she knows nothing about? You have to think in it, especially if there’s a partnership buying insurance on one another. So they can buy one another out in the event of a of an early passing, premature passing of one of the partners. So we do that. Again, it’s just understanding the business the value of the business, but this poor woman, she’s, you know, she’s trying to help help. And I feel awful for for them because they didn’t plan and she’s she’s bitter about his lack of planning, right? Because she’s, why didn’t he have a plan for me, in the event that this happened, because I know nothing about roofing. And here she is trying to maintain a business for her. Just her standard of living. She’s got a 12 year old son.
Jessica Weaver 21:50
Oh, wow. And then you’re also you’re processing you’re grieving. And you have to figure out how to run a business and get along with a partner that you never expected to have to deal with.
Teri DiGrande 21:59
He doesn’t want to deal with her. He’s like, Well, she knows nothing about how, you know, John used to run the business. So yeah, it’s it’s conversations that people often don’t think, hey, it’ll never be me. But when, when never, it’s never gonna happen to me happens, that’s why we plan ahead.
Jessica Weaver 22:17
Yes, I remember sitting on a plane talking with a woman and she was going on vacation with her grandchildren. She said her son had passed away. And the children were young, some were in college, some weren’t even in college yet. No life insurance, nothing. And they had to move. The kids had to leave college, go to cheaper colleges, universities, she goes you know, the kids is exactly what you said, are bitter. They resent their father because he thought if he loved us so much, why didn’t he plan for something like this to happen? And it’s horrible, though, but when you think of grief grieving is in itself as a selfish emotion because we’re viewing how sad we are losing this person. So it’s not selfish in a bad way. It’s just how grief is naturally to us, right? We’re viewing how upset and sad and heartbroken we are. So we don’t usually think about things beyond just that relationship and now its lost.
Teri DiGrande 23:15
That’s unfortunate. But you’re absolutely right. A good friend just gave me a great piece of advice. And she said, Well, if you can’t afford the coverage, you can’t afford the problem. Right. Think about that, oh, I can’t afford life insurance but can’t afford life insurance. Well, when that person passes, or your spouse or your money maker or your ATM, you know, is no longer there for you. You certainly can’t afford not having the coverage. Right? You can’t afford that problem, if you will.
Jessica Weaver 23:44
Yes, its very true and come back to the priorities. So it’s more than just what is that slogan, 20 minutes could save you 20%. 10 minutes or more can save you 20% or whatever I don’t remember. But how can you fit your life into a 10-20 minute phone call or your business into that? And you’re just looking at what’s the cheapest price but the cheapest price isn’t what’s going to protect your money. When you look at millionaires. They’re not going with the cheapest, they’re going with value. What is the value behind it? What are they getting? And how are they protecting the wealth that they’ve worked so hard to build and create?
Teri DiGrande 24:25
Exactly that you can lose in a heartbeat? Right? And it’s interesting to me you know, some folks will have like, you know a 2022 Mercedes, right, the greatest brand new Mercedes, but they’ll call that- I just need I just need quick coverage. I just need the basics. No, you just spent time you didn’t shop for a Hyundai, you shopped for a Mercedes for a reason. You wanted value, you wanted quality. And so we’ve we’ve got to protect that.
Jessica Weaver 24:52
Yes, we do. Very true. How can people find you Teri?
Teri DiGrande 24:57
So my website is direct. It’s WWW.Teridegrande.com That’s one R t e r i d i g r a n d e.com. And then pardon?
Jessica Weaver 25:09
I said, amazing.
Teri DiGrande 25:10
Oh yeah, nice and easy, right? And my email is Teri @ Teri de grande.com. So nice and easy. I’m always open. You know, if you don’t have the coverage, I’m open to helping you with it. Whether or not is with me, it doesn’t matter. I just I enjoy helping people and I enjoy even if you’ve got the greatest coverage, I will tell you to stick with that greatest coverage but at least you have second set of eyes looking at it, you know?
Jessica Weaver 25:37
Honesty is I have to say yeah, the integrity behind Teri and and her team as well because we’ve worked with all of the team, very good to have a conversation with her because especially when there’s insurance, we don’t know what we don’t know. If I just could encourage one person who’s listening to help protect their wealth and it doesn’t mean you have to wait until you have wealth, as you’re building it as you’re building it start protecting it, because like she said you’re one phone call away from tragedy happening we don’t want that to dismantle everything that you’ve worked so hard for
Teri DiGrande 26:11
Perfectly said, perfectly said. Young couples you don’t know the future. You’re gonna have children, you’re gonna buy a house, you need to protect that future of your family as well.
Jessica Weaver 26:21
Yes. So thank you very, very much, Teri, for being on here. Thank you. Thank you for listening and watching women behind the millions. Go get protected ladies, get protected if we learned one thing. Go and make sure that your risks we’ve managed them, we’ve neutralized them, we’ve protected against them. So thank you, Teri.
Teri DiGrande 26:41
Thank you, Jess.