|CEO Message |
When one of Mary Jo Irmen’s clients died from COVID in 2021, she cleared her schedule to drive 15 hours and hand deliver benefits checks to his widow and adult son. But her visit was about much more than fulfilling a claim.
“My client owned a construction business with his son, and there was a lot they needed to figure out to protect the business. But when a family is grieving, the last thing they need is to try and sort through the finances alone,” Mary Jo said. “Those are my clients. Am I supposed to just send them the check and go on my way? No. There’s a family to take care of, so of course I’m going to go see them and sit with them.”
Mary Jo learned at a young age the importance of entrepreneurship and building relationships. It’s how she was raised.
“My parents were ranchers, and I worked in the family business,” Mary Jo said. “When I was little, if I sold a bull, I would write a thank-you note to the person who bought it. That was just the way things were done, you were always building relationships.”
These days, Mary Jo remains just as adamant about making the professional personal. As a result, her customer retention rates are among the highest for agents who work with OneAmerica. She has also distinguished herself as the No. 1 top-producing female agent servicing OneAmerica policies and the second-top overall agent within that category.
“When I was little, if I sold a bull, I would write a thank-you note to the person who bought it. That was just the way things were done, you were always building relationships.”
- Mary Jo Irmen
Owner, Fiscal Bridge, LLC
But Mary Jo isn’t focused on her own achievements. Instead, she reserves her pride and passion for the people she’s fighting for.
“We have farmers working land that’s been in their family for 10 generations,” Mary Jo said. “That legacy is very important to them. So how do we help them protect it?”
Part of the answer is education. At the core of her philosophy is a unique understanding of what business owners and entrepreneurs need.
“The people I serve have to maintain a good cash flow so they can buy supplies or equipment when they need it. My approach is to use life insurance to help enable that, and to ensure that when someone does pass away, their family doesn’t lose what they’ve built.”
But as intimately as Mary Jo understands the challenges her clients face, she has also come to understand grief. At the age of 31, one of her closest friends lost her husband in a terrible accident. The aftermath opened Mary Jo’s eyes.
“I couldn’t believe the completely insensitive things people said as part of her benefits claims process. Here she was grieving, and she’s expected to answer these ridiculous questions,” Mary Jo said. “It’s crazy to me, and so many people have to navigate it without any help. I don’t want my clients to ever be in that position.”
And if that means going the extra mile (or a thousand miles) for her clients, then so be it. To Mary Jo, this isn’t extraordinary. She says it’s the very least she can do.
“If we as agents don’t participate in these conversations, are we saving farms? Saving businesses? Are we actually helping people?” Mary Jo asks. “Sometimes you just need to give people permission to sit on the money for a year or even two, so they can mourn and then make the right decisions for their families. So I go, and I talk to them, and I listen as they share stories of loved ones. Otherwise, why do this job? This is the hardest time of their lives. I want to be there for them.”