ST. CLAIRSVILLE Chris Baugh went to Wheeling Jesuit University as a nuclear medicine major.
However, the 2000 St. Clairsville High School graduate admits that the insurance business always intrigued him.
It captured his interest so well that he decided to pursue it as a career after spending much of his early working years in the medical field.
T-L Photo/SETH STASKEY
CHRIS BAUGH, a 2000 St. Clairsville High School graduate, recently opened his own Allstate Insurance Agency on Banfield Road in St. Clairsville.
"I saw a real need to educate people on insurance," Baugh said. "Many of my family members and friends weren't covered with the necessary coverages. No one ever really explains the reviews and a lot of people don't understand it, so I thought it was a great calling for me. In the medical field, no one seemed to want to explain anything to anybody, and I hated that."
Baugh became involved with insurance on the financial side with another local agent some three years ago. He enjoyed that, but found his latest opportunity just too good to pass up.
"People are always on me about how I don't use my degree and this and that, but my professors at Wheeling Jesuit taught me more about life than they ever did about nuclear medicine, which has carried me this far," Baugh said. "I learned a tremendous amount about the insurance business from the previous agent I worked under. He helped me get to here."
He landed a job working on the life insurance side of the business at Allstate and thinking outside the box, like he so often does, Baugh worked to get all of his approvals and licensures in line with the hopes of one day running his own office.
And earlier this month, Baugh's hopes became a reality when he formally opened St. Clairsville's third Allstate Agency on Banfield Road, overlooking the Ohio Valley Mall. He specializes in auto, life, business and home insurance as well as financial services.
"I live in St. Clairsville, grew up in St. Clairsville, want to keep business in St. Clairsville and I thought let's do a business here," Baugh said. "That really intrigued me, too. Because once I get up and running, I really plan on doing a lot to give back."
Leading up to the opening, Baugh had several months of training through AllState as well as dotting several "I"s and crossing numerous "T"s before he set up shop.
"AllState provides you with a lot of great signage and a lot of people who are dedicated to helping you get going when you first start out," Baugh said. "A lot of times you feel like you're totally on your own, but there are so many great people who've been willing to help get this up and running. Allstate provides you with every tool you'd need to be successful, so if you don't succeed, it's pretty much on you."
Baugh joins agents Rick Ferrell and Joyce Lunsford in the Belmont County seat.
"Allstate says it wants the hometown feel," Baugh said. "They don't want the mega books where there are 4,000 policies in one office. They feel they'd rather two or three agents with smaller books to take care of them because you're taking care of the actual people in it, and I agree because it's still different locations whether you live east of town, west of town or whatever. I guess St. Clairsville is kind of the insurance capital of Eastern Ohio."
Baugh's agency is a captive agent, meaning he can only sell Allstate products, which is big because the rates are all the same as well as the level of continuity at the corporate level.
"I know Allstate is great products and I don't have to worry about these other independents ad other companies where you don't know if they're going to be there in 10 years. You know Allstate isn't going anywhere and we're making a push to be number one."
Along with the aforementioned services and coverages, Baugh's agency offers policy reviews.
"We're basically a one-stop shop," Baugh said. "I want to get back to the face-to-face interaction with the customers."
While the products are Allstate, the company gives Baugh and all of its agents the freedom to run the agency the way they see fit.
"That's a great thing because you can do a lot of different things," Baugh said.
Baugh, who is licensed in health, life, property and casualty and is working toward his his Series 6, knows the biggest hurdle ahead is getting his name out there and gaining clients, but he's prepared to take on that challenge.
"It's a competitive world," Baugh said. "With the way the economy is, people are out shopping, which is a good thing for me since I just opened. I think once I get up and running people will realize I am a personal guy and easy to talk to."
Baugh has acquired some clients through a personnel change at Allstate in the area and has already begun working with those people.
"When those people call the number on their policy, it's ringing here and some of them haven't realized they're not dealing with the former agent any longer," Baugh said. "As soon as I get everyone downloaded, I can send out a letter to welcome them and let them know about the address and would like to have a late-summer cookout for them."
Currently, Baugh is the only individual in his office, but he's actively seeking employees.
"I want three to four staff members," Baugh said. "I've called local colleges, I'm on the Internet looking and I've not gotten anything back, but I am looking for people who are property and casualty licensed."
The agency can be reached at 695-4574 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staskey can be reached at email@example.com.