Looking back on the important stepping-stones of his life, Tim White says his most motivating-and enlightening-moment came after losing a Dickson County government position just shy of 30 years old. He had been a local high school teacher and coach up until that point, and ran for office as a way to transition from a career in education.
What the Dickson native didn't know is that the race would eventually lead to founding Benefits, Inc., an independent insurance agency that specializes in group benefits, individual insurance, business insurance, retirement plans, and human resources across the Southeast.
"You know, I lost a county-wide election when I was 28 years old. I spent the entire summer putting up signs around the county, sporting a t-shirt and shorts, and telling people how I would help them," he says. "That was probably the best thing I've ever done; running and losing. As a result, I became acquainted and re-acquainted with folks in Dickson, and I realized I had the potential to make a difference.
Soon after Tim's election loss, he ran into an old friend during the TSSA state playoffs in Dickson. He learned that Kevin Smith was a manager at a Brentwood, Tenn. general insurance agency for Principal Financial Group. Within two weeks, he left the teaching world and began his foray into insurance client services, both for individuals and businesses.
Two years later in 2001, Kevin and Tim opened Benefits, Inc., and began to develop a relationship-centered business into one of the leading independent agencies in Tennessee.
"We quickly identified the need for our kind of agency from a handful of clients. Really, what we are doing now was gaining traction back then," Tim says. "It's a very, very hands-on concept. We'll take you from A-to-Z, from the benefits strategy, through the enrollment communication, to the on-going service and management of the plan."
This isn't the first business that Tim's started. There's entrepreneurship is his blood: he created several concepts while teaching that didn't evolve, but he says that it's an important characteristic that's made he and his partner so successful.
"In this business, you better be an entrepreneur or you don't need to be involved. You constantly need to create separation. There's a very high failure percentage in this profession... so you can create separation, or someone else will do it for you," he says. "In addition, I believe the agency would have been extremely difficult to start at a younger age. I really don't think anyone can be very successful without a line in their face or kids in the yard. It takes a special person to have the contacts and life experiences to build and relate to folks."
Over the past decade, the business partners have grown the firm into a regional agency. More than 50 percent of its business lies outside of Dickson County.
Today, the agency boasts 22 full-time employees, an on-staff attorney and another 20 individuals that work for the company as commissioned agents. Tim says it's a two-fold approach that continues to buoy his agency above the rest.
"It's service and expertise. If you want a short and simple answer, that's what it is. There's nobody in the state that's going to out-service us. We are basically the room service of insurance," he jokes. "We've also been fortunate to have never hired any service representatives from an existing agency. We've brought them in, and we've trained them our way."
But even though Tim stays one step ahead through "a lot of caffeine and sweat equity," he says he also thrives on the nature of the business and how he can make a difference.
"I enjoy the entire business. I really enjoy working with people and establishing a plan to solve a problem," he says. "I can tell you story after story where we've made recommendations, and as a result-even though they may have had a loss or a setback-their finances weren't affected. You feel like there is an enormous sense of accomplishment, and you know you've made the difference."
Tim says it's the people and the sentimental value that keeps the business rooted in Dickson.
"This is home for us. We just like it here," he says. "And the office we're in has some sentimental value to me as well. My dad was a founding attorney with the law firm White, Regen and Garton in Dickson, and built this office building. Twenty-four years after he passed away, we bought it and my office is in the exact same room of my dad's office... so, moving out of Dickson isn't on the table."
For more information on Benefits, Inc., visit their website at www.benefits-inc.com.