WHEELING — Insurance agent Gary Dietz knows it’s a competitive “dog eat dog” world out there, but fortunately for him he also knows how to train canines.
Dietz was able to draw upon the experience he gained while working 10 years as a dog trainer at 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 change,” he said. “Change happens every day, and you can’t let it bite you. It happens constantly, but I’m not always sure it is for the better.
“It seems there is less and less of a personal approach to doing business, and many of them want you to chat with machines.”
The family’s heritage in the insurance industry is ultimately the rabbit that drew Dietz to selling AllState Insurance. His father, Elmer, was a longtime agent for the company, and Dietz’s siblings also went into the business. Brother Phillip is an agent in Westerville, Ohio, while brother Thomas works out of Dublin, Ohio. Sister Cyndi, meanwhile, is a retired insurance agent.
Dietz is a graduate of Wheeling Central Catholic High School and of the former West Liberty State College.
Dietz admits he always enjoyed training dogs, but he got his opportunity to go into the family business in 1988 and it kept him closer to home.
“The kids were younger then when I worked as a dog trainer,” he explained. “And as they became older, I found myself traveling more.”
It took a while 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.
In the early days of his business, there were no computers upon which to call up customer and policy information. Instead, data was stored on microfiche, and agents would have to examine the microfiche to learn what they needed to know.
“Since then, we’ve probably been through five to six computer systems,” Dietz said. “We have stand-up desks, and use headphones to talk on the phones.
“Times have definitely changed.”
He suggested those who succeed over the long haul must “stay ahead of the game,” and that means doing the basics well.
Dietz indicated if location is everything, the place he selected to do business was a good decision. Dietz opened his office building at 1010 National Road in 1994, and he termed it “an excellent location” for his business.
Establishing and maintaining relationships is also crucial, he said.
“We have taken care of some families for many years, and that’s also resulted in many referrals,” he said. “We take care of our people.”
Dietz said what likely sets his office apart from others is that he and his staff don’t treat customers “like numbers.” Customers phoning in with issues are likely to have their calls answered by a live employee in the office and not the company-mandated answering system, he said.
“We like to answer our own phones,” Dietz said.
He also believes people’s attitudes are changing, and there is a need everywhere for people to show more respect to each other.
Dietz employs two other insurance agents, as well as a life insurance agent and a claims employee, he said.
National trends show more and more people are wanting to work from home and not at the office, but Dietz said that isn’t really the case at his office.
“COVID has changed everything in that people can work from anywhere on their computers with the internet,” he said. “But 95 percent of our employees work right here. It’s a good place to come and work.”
Dietz says he doesn’t foresee any changes in the future to the formula that gets him to the finish line.
“We’re just going to keep running like we always have, and I’m going to keep going like I have for the past 35 years,” he said.