Owner, Adams & Associates L.L.C.
Selected to be part of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Enterprising Women of Color Business Center’s post-certification training application process
Tracy Adams is entering her 35th year in the insurance industry. She began her career in 1987 as Secretary before being promoted to Vice President of Sales and Marketing for National Mortgage and Finance, the founding entity for Island Insurance and Atlas Insurance Agency. She remained with the company as on-staff agent for 15 years until the Atlas acquisition. She later worked for Servco and Philadelphia Insurance Companies before returning to the independent agent space in 2010.
“I always knew I’d be back on the agency side because I like the variety and different types of people I get to engage with,” Tracy said. “My time spent working for an insurance company allowed me to learn how the mind of an underwriter worked, allowing me to make my submissions compelling and acceptable.”
In 2018, Tracy started her own agency Adams & Associates L.L.C.
“That thought popped into my head while I was still at Atlas,” she recalled. “I thought, ‘I’m really good at this and I’m doing all this work for somebody else. I think I could do this myself.’ But with kids, it was crazy to think I could do it at that time, and it took me 20 years to do it.”
With the insurance industry being relatively small in Hawaii, Tracy has differentiated her agency by focusing on education versus selling.
“If the client goes with us, great. But if they walk away having that much more knowledge to make better decisions with their insurance-buying process, that’s the main thing,” she explained. “Insurance is often seen as a necessary evil and not something people want to buy, but that’s because they don’t understand the stability it can bring during a time of loss or injury to your home, a loved one, or your business. We help them understand what the design of insurance is intended to be—to help them be whole again. We focus more on conversation and not so much a sales approach.”
Insurance is also a male-dominated industry, which poses its own set of challenges for Tracy and other women in the field.
“Definitely early on in my 20s, there was no respect,” she remembered. “With my name alone, there was an expectation that I was going to be a Caucasian person with blonde hair and blue eyes, not a local girl. I’d walk into a prospect’s office, and they’d see that I wasn’t haole and we’d have to have that conversation. They’d say, ‘You’re awfully young. What do you know?’ and second guess me because of my age and gender. The first 10 years were really hard, especially in the business insurance area versus personal.”
Tracy overcame this challenge by changing her approach from trying to tell them how things should be done to listening to their concerns, pains, disappointments, and issues with their current insurance program to see how she could help versus sell. Eventually, conversations became more relaxed and easier, and she became savvier with experience and confidence.
“Once I got to that point, everything changed—the way I was received, heard, what I was listening for,” she said. “I tell people coming into the industry now not to get frustrated because there’s a huge growth period that has to occur. It’s an investment of time and energy, but once you get through that rough patch, it’s very rewarding.”
Tracy takes great pride in working with clients who are in difficult situations.
“I’ve helped clients in bankruptcy, who in normal cases wouldn’t be able to get financing or insurance or be able to operate,” she said. “People don’t want to touch them because they’re not confident they can pay the premiums. Nobody would take their call or try to help them. I think having the reputation in the insurance community that I have helped me to help them. I took a chance on them and normally I’m very cautious, but you can tell when people are genuine and just need help. Those are the best ones to help, and I’ve seen them bounce back and thrive again. And they’re still my clients today after decades. They’ve been through so much and the pandemic is just one more thing. To see them have that resiliency—then and now—is awesome.”
Tracy learned about the MBDA Enterprising Women of Color Business Center through her classmate and Center Director Marla Momi Musick. When Marla shared about her new role, Tracy graciously offered to help by sharing the Center’s intake form with clients so that they could take advantage of the programs and services being offered. She also served as a subject-matter expert for a webinar on insurance and bonds. Tracy is now in the process of getting her business recertified with assistance from the Center’s instructor/consultant Mari Villa.
One of Tracy’s goals is to bring more people, especially women, into the insurance industry by starting an insurance license training academy. At present, there’s only a self-study route, but she understands that some need a classroom setting. Tracy wants to focus on reaching those who may not fit into a typical 9-to-5 office environment and need flexibility, such as single mothers.
“I’ll soon have two new women on my team, and by the end of 2022, I’d love to get five,” Tracy said. “Recruiting more women in this field is number one for me. We listen better and are empathetic and solution driven. This field could also be for older women looking for work-life balance. The thing about this industry—I know agents who are in their 70s and 80s and they’re sharp as a tack. They can continue to do this work and they do it because they enjoy it; not because they have to. You can even bring in your children to take over; it’s an opportunity with succession. It’s a career that’s not going to beat up your body and you can still enjoy it. We all need purpose in our lives, and in this career, you’ll always have purpose as long as you want it.”