Then & Now: Transition to Walmart is ‘best move’ for Mills

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 646 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the April 13 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.


Justin Mills saw an opportunity to sell his insurance company after a long-time employee wanted to stay home with her children, and the three-year lease for his business was ending.

In August 2013, he sold Justin Mills Insurance Agency after owning the Farmers Insurance affiliate for about eight years. He considers starting a business from the ground up as the highlight of his career so far.

“I had an opportunity to sell my agency and take the family to Disney World,” he joked.

As a business owner, he was involved with the Small Business Council of Rogers, eventually becoming a committee chair, and worked with small businesses and employers in the community. The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named Mills to the Forty Under 40 class in 2010. The previous year, company profits rose 40% while in an economic downturn.

“One of the things when you’re a smaller agency, it’s easier to grow than it is when you get to be a larger agency because you’ve already hit so many of the natural markets,” said Mills, who is 49.

The company steadily grew over the years until he sold it. He had up to two employees and more than 500 clients.

After selling the business, he spent about two years working for Corporate Risk Services. He worked for the insurance company until June 2015, when he started at Walmart as a case manager.

“It’s a hard company to crack into, but once you get inside, your opportunities are pretty much limited by yourself,” Mills said. “I just thought the benefits, the structure and everything just really outweighed the self-employment aspect of it. And as of this point, it’s been the best move I’ve ever made.”

Mills was promoted to case manager II in June 2017 and is one of 11 employees on a team that handles bodily injury claims for Walmart stores in Georgia and Ohio. For example, if a customer slips and falls in a store in those states, the claim would be handled by his team. The team would investigate whether there was negligence on behalf of the store or if it was a fraud situation. The team would handle the case to completion unless it becomes a lawsuit. Then it’s turned over to the legal team.

“We don’t want anything to go to a lawsuit if we can help it,” Mills said. “For one, you never know what’s going to happen in court when you’re in front of a jury. And two, it costs us a ton of extra money. So if we’re going to spend that money, we’d rather spend it on the front end and keep it out of court and shut it down as opposed to go to court and possibly cost us two to three times that amount.”

The team handles between 75 and 125 cases per week. But amid the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the number of cases has fallen to about 60 per week because the states the team handles have been heavily impacted as a result of the respiratory illness. The majority of claims he handles involve slips and falls, but his team also works cases related to falling objects or being bumped into by an employee.

“Even though every claim we get is the same, every one of them is totally different,” Mills said. “There’s no two scenarios that are the same.

“I work with a great team, a great group of people,” he added. “It’s fun going in every day. Everybody’s always got … some crazy story that comes up every day.”

As a case manager II, half of the team sends their work to him for approval. Mills is one of two case manager II employees on the team reporting to the team leader. He’s also more involved with planning and structure, compared to his previous role.

Because of the pandemic, he and his team have been working remotely and keeping in touch via virtual meetings. The team had already been working remotely in some cases, allowing the group to test its capabilities.

Mills supports the Police Athletic League of Benton County and the Samaritan Community Center. He spends his free time fishing, wakeboarding and running marathons.