EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story appeared in the Aug. 7 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
Walking inside Randy Hutchinson’s office in the Oak Plaza Shopping Center in Fayetteville is like walking into a quasi-museum.
It’s strategically decorated with Arkansas Razorback memorabilia. Magazine covers and reprints of vintage game programs mostly, but the amount of other plaques, posters, ornaments and knick-knacks would make Hog fans feel like proverbial kids in a candy store.
The intentional display is two-fold. Hutchinson is a proud University of Arkansas graduate, to be sure, but it’s also a way to keep customers engaged while Hutchinson tends to their insurance needs.
For 21 years, Hutchinson has been a Shelter Insurance agent/owner in Northwest Arkansas. He’s closing in on 2,000 policies, so he knows the clientele. Hutchinson is a staff of one, so if a customer drops by the office, there’s a good chance the Razorback museum will be a perfect way to pass the time while Hutchinson fills out paperwork or performs some other task.
“It’s all about customer service,” Hutchinson said. “If you take care of them, they’ll take care of you.”
Hutchinson, 49, was recognized as a member of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class in 2005. He began his insurance career in 1989 as a claims adjustor. Seven years later, he had the chance to join the agency side by taking over a local office and hasn’t looked back.
He’s built a book of business that’s comprised mostly of auto insurance. The rest is a variety of personal lines of insurance from homes, boats, motorcycles and life insurance.
Hutchinson said the advances in technology have made being an agent/owner more efficient through the years.
“It’s made it to where I can do things by myself,” he said. “I’m an independent businessman, and I am here by myself. I am always available, but I may not always be [in the office]. But my customers know they can pick up a phone and call me or shoot me a text or email me. And they are OK with that. I can be gone for two or three days, take my laptop with me and not miss a beat.
“A lot of [insurance] offices have five or six employees. I could do that and, yes, my agency might get a little bigger. And I could make more money, but I’d also have more expenses and maybe more headaches. And I kind of like not having a lot of expenses and headaches. That’s my mentality. Maybe that’s wrong, but that’s the way I look at it.”
When he’s not tending to his insurance business, Hutchinson often has a camera in his hand. He and his wife, Cynthia, launched a new business in 2009 called 5H Photography. The business sprang from the actions of proud parents.
“We had three sons who all played sports,” Hutchinson said. “We wanted something other than a point-and-click camera to take their photos, and parents started asking if we’d also take a photo or two of their kids. We didn’t mind of course, but then it kind of clicked … we could make some money doing this.”
The business has grown exponentially, Hutchinson said, and 5H accepts bookings for sports, senior photos, portraits and many other occasions. “We don’t do weddings, but just about anything else,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson’s insurance office may be in Fayetteville, but he says he’s Springdale “through and through.” He’s a 1986 Springdale High graduate and was inducted last year into the Springdale Schools Athletics Hall of Fame, recognizing his accomplishments as a Bulldog basketball player.
He’s also been a Springdale school board member for the past nine years, and is just finishing up his second year as president. He says he’ll continue as a board member for at least the next five years.
“I feel like being a board member lets me be part of something that matters, being part of the community,” Hutchinson says.
As for the insurance business, Hutchinson says there’s nothing else he’d rather do, and prefers being a staff of one.
“It’s taken me 20-plus years to get the business where it’s at, so I’m nervous about [hiring] just any Tom, Dick or Harry,” he said
Hutchinson celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary last year, and is the proud father of three sons, ages 23, 20 and 19.