How Tom Olvitt Grew His Insurance Business

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The staff of Trust Shield recently got together in front of the building the company has purchased on N. Richardson Street in Vicksburg. It will house the Ralph Hayward Agency personnel that are a part of Trust Shield, along with some members of the Schoolcraft operation.

By Sue Moore

Trust Shield in Schoolcraft and Vicksburg is a family insurance business that has grown from a one-person shop to over 36 employees. It started in February 1993 in what today is the Subway shop on Grand Street in Schoolcraft.

Tom Olvitt, owner and head guru, after graduation from Western Michigan University, began his career in 1986 at Krum-Hallam Chevrolet in Vicksburg in sales. When he decided to leave after three years and go into the insurance business, Bud Hallam provided advice: “You will never make it. Everyone tries it.”

Today the independent insurance agency has just completed its purchase of Bobby’s Restaurant at the corner of N. Richardson and North Street in Vicksburg. Olvitt expects the building will house at least 18 employees, culled from both the Schoolcraft and Vicksburg’s Ralph Hayward agencies. In the meantime, remodeling is taking place to turn the former restaurant into a standard office building without the drive-in wings that identified it as a unique building. “Buying Bobby’s and expanding our Vicksburg operation represents a commitment to the community to stay here and grow,” Olvitt said.

Trust Shield is the new name Olvitt and his staff adopted for the several agencies that have become a part of the corporate name of the South County Insurance business. It covers Prairie Ronde and Wakeshma Townships as well.

The agency began after Olvitt left Farm Bureau Insurance in 1992. Initially the Schoolcraft office was affiliated with A.W. Ayres Agency in Sturgis. Olvitt and his partner bought the Mason Rice Agency in 1994. In 1999 they built the current office at 452 N. Grand St., across the street from the old one.

The Ralph Hayward Agency in Vicksburg was purchased from Kim Lathwell in 2005. Steve Brundige, as Olvitt’s partner, took over the management of this location. Jeff Olvitt, Tom’s son, opened an office in Harbor Springs to grow the business in the northern part of Michigan. They now write personal, farm, commercial and benefits business from Detroit to Grand Rapids, Traverse City to Mackinac Island to the home towns of Vicksburg and Schoolcraft.

“Insurance is all about intangibles,” Olvitt said. “It’s a necessary evil. You don’t need it until you need it! If you write the right coverage, the business will take care of itself. Our job is to build relationships and go the extra mile to advise people on what will serve them best.”

“It’s not so much about pricing as about the need,” said another son, Tanner Olvitt, who with brothers Dan and Jeff are the next generation looking to grow the agency. “The focus is on education in this agency. Insurance is confusing. It requires an agent that’s professional to keep track of the constantly changing dynamics by making sure a customer has the proper coverage. It feels good to give back to the community [in this way].”

Deana Bowman, an 18-year employee emphasized the feeling: “We care about people, so we write it right. Our staff cares about what we are doing.”

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