Ours is a nation of dreamers. We grow up believing that just about anything is possible. But dreams change along the journey of life, as we discover new opportunities and face unforeseen challenges. That’s where insurance comes into play.
We visited the Zimnys of Lockport, Ill., to hear their compelling story of how Russell Zimny pursued the American Dream of family, home and business. It’s a real-life illustration of how dynamic dreams are … we start out in full pursuit of a dream, only to find our perspectives shift, our dreams change or we encounter obstacles along the way.
Across our 19 operating states, American Family helped preserve our customers’ dreams with anticipated payments of $3.4 billion for claims occurring in 2012. That amount included $840.6 million for damage caused by storms, tornadoes and wildfires.
We also marked our 85th anniversary with the opening of DreamBank, a place dedicated to the inspiration, celebration and protection of dreams for individuals, families and the community in our hometown of Madison, Wis.
Late in the year, we expanded our family with the acquisition of Permanent General, a group of companies that writes direct non-standard auto insurance. Permanent General is successful and growing, and the addition improves our ability to meet our diverse customer needs and preferences.
Our customers like the changes we’ve implemented in recent years – customer satisfaction and customer loyalty measures are at record highs. We will continue to refine our products and services, and we’ll also start serving customers in new parts of the country.
It’s an exciting time in our family, and we’re so grateful you trust us to protect your dreams.
Editor’s note: You can read the stories – and the financial reports – from our 2012 Annual Report on our website.
I have always liked helping people.
That's one of the main reasons I've enjoyed working for the past 12 years in American Family’s claims area, where we help customers at times when they need it most.
It also has been a big motivating factor in my 14 years of service in the U.S. Army. I've been deployed in Iraq, which was a very dangerous and trying experience, to say the least. I’ve also served in Kuwait. Whether abroad or in the states, I've always made sure I did a good job taking care of my fellow soldiers.
In short, I like the fact that people rely on me, and that I can be there for them.
So, it has meant a lot to me that American Family has been there for me, too, especially in connection with my military service. The company and my colleagues have been very supportive when I’ve gone on military leave, and have welcomed me with open arms when I returned.
But one of the biggest honors came recently, when the company invited me and Alex Barajas, a senior research analyst at American Family (who appears to the left of me in the accompanying picture), to attend the U.S. Army All-American Bowl game, sponsored by American Family. For me, the experience was amazing and eye-opening. We were among thousands of military personnel who watched the nation’s elite high school football players compete in an exciting east-west matchup. American Family also recognized our service in many different ways throughout a warm and welcoming weekend that culminated with on-field recognition during a very moving pre-game ceremony.
Additionally, American Family Executive Vice President Peter Gunder presented a special award to an outstanding defensive player, and another award honoring a family for strongly supporting one of its family members who is a top musician in a high school marching band.
During the past several years, I have had more than a couple people thank me for my service and wish me the best. I smiled and thanked them for their kind words because I didn’t really know how to handle it. I have come to see that what I have done through my service is not just unique and rare, but appreciated and honored.
I am grateful for this incredible opportunity and experience, and proud to work for a company that protects dreams of customers, high school students and other community members, and people like me.
Editors Note: For a closer look at American Family’s support of John Neppl, Alex Barajas and other employees who serve in the military, watch this video from our YouTube channel.
American Family is a past recipient of the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, which is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their support of their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserves.
I’ve given blood a few times in my life. Involuntarily, that is.
Like the time I got a bloody lip from a wild pitch during a Little League game, prompting me to consider pursuing other sports. Such as badminton.
Or, later in life, when I accidentally sliced myself on a water bottle while vacationing in Slovakia, leaving me with a timeless "souvenir": a crescent-shaped scar on my left thumb.
Ah, good times.
So, I’ve always been a tad squeamish around blood – especially blood drives. Until recently. All it took was a few facts and figures to change my mind.
For instance, one pint of blood can save up to three lives. Every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood, spurring the need for 44,000 donations every day.
Given these facts, along with the critical demand for blood heightened by Hurricane Sandy this fall, I signed up for one of the many American Red Cross blood drives routinely held at American Family.
It turned out to be a pleasant experience. It didn’t hurt, and only took a little over an hour – a small price to pay for helping others whose lives may be at risk. I’m already planning to donate again in the future.
The next time a blood drive takes place in your community or at your workplace, consider rolling up your sleeve and giving. Or, arrange a time to donate when it might be more convenient for you – just contact the American Red Cross or America’s Blood Centers.
It’s not every day that you can say "I probably saved someone's life today."
Giving blood gives you that opportunity.
Those who know me would think Spanish is my first language. I carry a slight accent and sometimes pause to find the right word in English.
I can assure you that’s not the case.
I grew up in a small town in Minnesota where English was the only language. My mother has always been fluent in both Spanish and English, but Spanish wasn’t needed, and we quickly became an English-speaking household.
That only lasted about six years. Then, we moved to Denver, where many people speak both Spanish and English. It was difficult because I hadn’t spoken a word of Spanish in my life!
I got away with it for about four years until one day my mom said, “It is really too bad that being Hispanic you don’t know how to speak your language. From now on, solo Espanol” - only Spanish.
Growing up around family, friends, neighbors, school mates and even teachers, who spoke Spanish all day, every day, made learning the language very easy. However, speaking the language isn’t enough. You need to be the language.
The Latino culture is very different to what I was used to seeing in Minnesota. We would get together four or five times a week for no particular reason. We are loud, close and do everything together. We always had visitors who would come over for a cup of coffee and end up staying for hours. All they really wanted was to talk, catch up on things, or to hear the latest chisme - gossip.
This brings me to the topic of talking to American Family’s Hispanic customers. The call is rarely simple.
When asked, “How may I help you?” Their response will start with what road they were on when the accident happened, but will quickly move to why they were on that road, where they were going, who they were going to see, and why they were going to see that person.
This is why most Spanish-speaking calls take an average of two to three minutes longer than English-speaking calls. We come across so many different accents, dialects, rates of speech, and countries that it really puts your listening skills to the test. Every call is a different story and can even be taken out of context if you are not paying close attention.
So when bilingual claims care center employees are asked, “What’s the main difference in claims called in by Hispanic customers?” we say the key to providing excellent customer service is to tratar los como familia - just treat them like family.
If we're able to do that, then the rest is just … another language.
I like to garden, put vegetable plants and seeds in the ground and see what happens. I like to tend the plants, watch them grow, flower and start to fruit. I wait impatiently for a tomato to turn just the right shade of red before picking it.
So it comes as no surprise that I jumped at the opportunity to ask for one of the 56 10x10-foot plots in American Family's new community garden on the company’s National Headquarters grounds.
What did surprise me is what happened next.
I talk about the garden with anyone who has five minutes to listen. I explain how proud I am what we've built in just two years. I describe how the community garden is much bigger than a 10x10-foot plot. I show off photos of the garden, gardeners and the produce we harvest. I talk about the 377 pounds of fresh produce we donated to food pantries in the Madison, Wis., area this year.
We call it a "community garden" for a reason. Our community garden has 118 plots, but many more people are involved. I've seen husband-wife teams, entire families and small groups of coworkers work garden plots together.
I'm always meeting new people in the garden. We share seeds, gardening tips and recipes. Together, we celebrate that great big onion (a one-pound onion) and mourn together the loss of a plant or an entire patch of sweet corn (darn raccoons!). And I've met children who wouldn't touch a green bean but after growing them, can't get enough.
My involvement with the community garden is an incredibly engaging and educational process. Not only do I go to work each day, I visit my plot before or after work. I joined the garden committee. Then I volunteered to be a garden monitor. Now in our second year, I volunteered to co-chair the garden's leadership team.
The community garden is also part of American Family's overall sustainability efforts. The garden sits on previously unused land, making it productive. In addition to 118 individual plots, we planted six fruit trees that will eventually be harvested by community members. And being right here on the company's national headquarters campus, people don't have to drive far or out of their way to get to it because most of us tend our gardens before or after work.
The garden has also sparked my interest in writing about it, so I started a personal blog about urban gardening, where I encourage people to comment, share their perspectives and have gardening fun.
Josh Feyen is a social media specialist at American Family Insurance, where he also grows vegetables in a community garden plot. Josh writes about his gardening adventures in The Urbane Farmer blog.