Five years ago, Kevin Hayward, at 27, decided to open his own State Farm office in Lacey. There was no existing book of business to inherit, so he started from scratch, getting financial assistance from the company, which allowed him to secure office space and hire staff members.
That financial assistance tapered off over the years but his business grew and his income went up, finally resulting in a fully sustained business. We sat down with Hayward, now 32, to ask him five questions about his business and what he would share with anyone wanting to start a business.
Q: What would you have done differently?
A: I had a staff of three and maybe two would have been enough. And investing more in my staff from the beginning and spending more time developing them. My attitude from the beginning was to get the job done, but the more time I spent with customers, the less time I had to coach and develop my team. My first couple of years, I felt like I needed to get results, but looking back I wish I had learned more quickly how important it is to achieve results in partnership through employees and empowering them to get the job done. Learn to be a leader. It’s about recruiting, training, motivating, encouraging and coaching people and generating results through other people.
Q: What are the most important things you have learned about running a business?
A: There are no substitutes for hard work and determination. Also, a lot of people romanticize business debt, as in ‘everybody does that.’ And I didn’t. I lived very modestly and I don’t have any business debt. Be very careful with your finances and don’t spend lavishly and watch where your money goes. There’s a misconception that everyone has business debt.
Q: How important is it to hire an accountant?
A: Very important. The first or second month in business, my accountant contacted me to schedule a withdrawal to cover payroll tax. And I explained that I had taken care of payroll. And he said, ‘No, not payroll, payroll tax.’ Know where you’re not the expert and hire those to help. I’m not sure how many different taxes I pay, but as a small-business owner it doesn’t feel like the federal government wants me to do this and do it well. I willingly pay my taxes, but it’s a lot.
Q: How do you handle rejection?
A: You definitely learn to get a thicker skin and I’m still working on it. You have to learn that it’s not personal. Just be as consistent, persistent and polite as you can possibly be and the results are going to come. Keep the door open. No doesn’t mean forever, it just means not right now. Some days will be slow, other days you’ll be tripping over new business.
Q: Have you had to let anyone go? And how was that?
A: It was terrible. But if your gut tells you it needs to happen, it needs to happen. Don’t kick the can down the road. It’s better to deal with it now, and addition by subtraction is a real thing. There are times when the remaining staff will have to do more, but you are better off without the problem, whatever the problem may have been. You evaluate the facts, consult with people you respect and admire, and when it’s time to make the decision, don’t kick the can down the road.
Kevin Hayward, State Farm insurance office agent and owner
Location: 700 Sleater Kinney Road SE, Suite A, Lacey.
Years in business: 5.
Type of business: State Farm Insurance office that offers auto, home, life, business and property insurance, as well as banking services, including mortgages.
Staff: Three full-time and one part-time employee.
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and by appointment on Saturdays.
Did you know? Kevin is a longtime fan of the San Francisco Giants.