LAPEL — Cooper Insurance Service Inc. of Lapel turns 100 this year.
The company also was named Agency of the Year recently by Indiana Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. during a celebration of independent agents.
Indiana Farmers selected Cooper Insurance from more than 250 agency partners for the award.
The Times-Post took this opportunity to ask Cooper Insurance Service President Bill Cooper several questions via email about the company, which is located at 904 N. Main St., Lapel.
Company owners — Rodney Littlefield, William Cooper
Number of employees — five
Business services — independent property and casualty insurance agency
Q — Who founded the company?
A — Harry P. Cooper Sr., my grandfather.
Q — How did the business start, and how has it changed through the years?
A — Harry P. Cooper Sr. actually worked for an insurance company. That company sold only fire and wind insurance. There was demand for other lines of business, such as auto insurance, and the agency was started to accommodate those lines.
Q — At 100 years old, the company was fairly new at the time of the Great Depression. How did that historic period affect the business?
A — The Depression did affect the business. I was not around then, but I heard about cutbacks, long hours and the wives going into the office to help work. They survived and came out stronger because of it. My dad, Earl Cooper, came in around 1940. In 1943 he went into the Army, but after the war he ran the business until 1979.
Q — What have been some of the company’s greatest challenges and achievements through the years?
A —As in any industry, there have been a lot of changes in how business is conducted. Many insurance companies have sold or consolidated. The industry has become more global. The business model has become more dependent on technology. Key people have retired, and new people have taken their places. The fact that we will be 100 years old soon is probably the biggest accomplishment.
Q — How long have you been running the company?
A — Employed since January 1975. Began management in 1979.
Q — Do you have any business philosophies that guide you in running the company?
A — Try to treat people as I would like to be treated and control the things that are in our ability to control. I have always thought business is fairly simple. The hard part is the discipline to do those simple things again, again and again.
Q — What is your proudest business achievement to date?
A — Several: Shepherding the agency into its 100th year, being committed to it for more than 42 years, and taking steps with two new young recruits to take it well into the second century. We have several people now, and in the past, who have worked with us for decades. Attaining the Indiana Farmers Mutual “Agency of the Year” award was also huge. That was a goal for many years.
Q — What do you consider to be the biggest challenge overall to running a business in general and your business in particular?
A — Technology now requires business to be conducted in real time. Sometimes that is difficult to sustain. Keeping up with state-of-the-art coverages and business practices is important. Planning and anticipating steps to do in the future is a challenge as they are a moving target. Business still requires the discipline to do the right things.
Q — What is the most rewarding part of running a business?
A — We have seen many individuals and businesses go from idea stage to fulfillment stage, which is unbelievably satisfying. We like to think the insurance function is part of the process. The satisfaction of achieving our goals, and having more control over your career, is also rewarding and important. While running a business takes considerable hours and energy, I was able to spend time with family, church and other meaningful activities.
Q — What are your future plans?
A — I plan to work to assist the new young people coming in starting and building their careers. I still am involved in new production, ongoing service and higher-level management activities. I expect the daily management activities, and things such as technology and communications, will be transitioned to the younger people.
Q — Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A — I have made many great friends and have had numerous satisfying experiences.
Cooper Insurance can be reached at 317-770-1784 or 765-534-3152
Information compiled by editor Scott Slade.