Up Front With Susan Potter: Principal of ISU Bob Gabriel Co. Insurance

Thursday, 8 Dec 2011, 12:04:00 AM

Brenton Garen

Susan Potter, Principal of ISU Bob Gabriel Co. Insurance.
Photo by Damon Biviano
Susan Potter, Principal of ISU Bob Gabriel Co. Insurance.

Since 1936 the ISU Bob Gabriel Company, founded by the late Robert Gabriel, has been serving the personal and business insurance needs of Santa Monica and the surrounding area.

ISU Bob Gabriel Company is a member of the ISU Group, the nation’s largest franchise “network” of independent agencies and brokers. This affiliation gives the company national-sized strength and resources while retaining the high level of personal service that is characteristic of this independent, locally owned agency.

ISU Bob Gabriel Company believes in personalized service and has kept that philosophy in practice for more than six decades.

As the second generation to take the helm of ISU Bob Gabriel Co. Insurance, when did you decide you decide you wanted to be part of the family business?

I do not believe it was a conscious decision; it seems as if it was my evolution. As a young child, I listened to my dad as he shared stories of experiences he had with clients. He felt good about being of service to them. I wanted to be of service as well. I chose the field of education although it was short-lived. My dad asked me to help him one summer and I have been working at ISU Bob Gabriel Co. ever since.

I found that there is actually a relationship between teaching and insurance – you are providing knowledge to your clients on how best to protect themselves before and after a loss. Insurance, like education, is building relationships.

How have you steered the company since taking on your father’s role in the company?

Both my father and mother (Louise Gabriel, President & Founder of the Santa Monica History Museum) were very passionate about helping people within the community and through their business. They taught me at an early age the importance of putting people’s needs first. Over the years I have grown to appreciate their teachings and I have seen the real value this practice has created for our customers, staff and business.

Although today’s insurance environment is much different than in my father’s time, due to new legal requirements, increased competition, new players and the Internet, one thing that has not changed is our customers’ needs. Staying true to the practice of putting clients’ needs first has helped me stay focused on what matters since taking over the company. As long as we take good care of our customers I am confident that we will continue to grow and to provide value.

Are there other family members currently involved in the business?

My husband, Pat Potter, a graduate of Loyola, and my son Bryan Potter, a graduate of the University of San Diego, are part of the management team. Pat has been an integral part of the agency for more than 30 years and my son Bryan joined the firm two years ago.

What types of insurance and services does the company offer?

Our agency is committed to serving both the personal and commercial insurance and risk management needs of our clients. We have access to most insurance markets, which gives us the flexibility to provide our clients with the products and services that best meet their needs. Our personnel also focus on insurance niches and have the expertise to address the most complex situations. For our personal lines clients we offer homeowners, automobile, umbrella, flood, fire, and renters insurance. For our commercial clients we offer workers’ compensation, general liability, apartment owners, employer liability, error and omissions, director and officer, and commercial auto needs. We also have a benefits department, which is fully equipped to handle individual and group benefits to include health insurance, life insurance, long-term care, and more.

What is the philosophy of ISU Bob Gabriel Insurance?

Excellence, integrity, and professionalism is our philosophy of business. We strive to excel on every level – from the products and services we offer, to our people and product knowledge. We treat people like we want to be treated and we challenge ourselves to grow professionally and have fun. Happy employees make happy customers.

As a family-owned independent insurance agency, why do you think the business has been so successful for so long?

The success of ISU Bob Gabriel Company is a tribute to our loyal customers, dedicated staff, supportive partners, and the involvement in our community. It is also directly linked to our business model, which I feel best serves our customer needs. Our size and location in relation to our customers has positioned us to personally respond to the small and large clients we service, as well as our large clients that require our tailored insurance and risk management solutions. Many of our customers have stayed with ISU Bob Gabriel Company, some following a family tradition from one generation to the next.

What are the advantages of the ISU International network?

With our unique affiliation through the ISU International network, we bring together the market clout of the fourth largest U.S. insurance broker. These benefits include access to more than 350 insurance companies, the expertise of insurance professionals in more than 100 ISU offices coast to coast, and the ISU resources for placement and service of insurance risks. We are proud to offer our clients the high level of personal interest inherent in an independently owned agency combined with the strength and resources of a national organization…. the best of both worlds.

How has ISU Bob Gabriel been involved in the community?

From the beginning my father had steered the company on a course of commitment and service both to his clients and to his community. Without the support and interest of its citizens no community can hope for a better lifestyle or a constant improvement in the happiness and well being of its people. I have followed in his footsteps. I feel a deep sense of pride toward the business owners in our community. Not only do they work hard to run successful businesses, but they also take the time to give of themselves and encourage their employees to serve our city through service clubs. I too have contributed my time and effort to the growth of the city in my participation in many community activities and professional associations. I am on the executive board of the Chamber of Commerce, Rotarian, Board Member on the Santa Monica History Museum and Board Member of the Santa Monica College Associates.

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