FAIRFIELD — Don’t ask Gary Falati when he’s going to retire. It’s just not going to happen.
The 73-year-old is celebrating 30 years in business as a self-employed State Farm insurance agent and he’s still going strong.
“It’s not in my vocabulary,” he said of the “r” word. “What would I do? I’m not a golfer. As long as I get excited about putting my key in the door, I’ll be here.”
A self-described people person, Falati said that he has to have people in his life. That has translated to how he runs his business: the old-fashioned way. While the State Farm organization – and the insurance industry as a whole – has moved into the social media world with Facebook, Twitter and the like, Falati still likes the face-to-face component of doing business.
“We’re very old school,” he said. “We still have a conference room in here . . . have a problem, come in here, sit down. People still want personal service.”
Along with concern for his customers, he said concern for his staff – “team” is the word Falati uses – is paramount. He’s had some sleepless nights, he said, over the realization that he’s ultimately responsible for the entire operation, which includes three full-time employees and one part-timer. His newest team member has been with him for five years, the longest, for 20 years.
“If I in turn take care of my team members, they’re going to take care of the community,” he said. “It’s a real simple formula.”
Customer Fred Barnes, who has known Falati since 1961, said that his team is part of his success.
“He gets his staff motivated,” Barnes said. “They’re very nice, very helpful.”
Falati attributes much of his success to an optimistic attitude – the glass is always half-full, as far as he’s concerned – good friends who keep him stabilized and grounded, and a strong support system. Part of that support system includes his mentors. He said he’s had mentors his entire life. These days it’s an 82-year-old San Francisco resident.
“I’ve always had a mentor a decade in front of me,” he said. “He’s 82 and still going strong. I’m around (him) and I’m energized.”
His kick into the insurance business came in the form of long-term Fairfield resident, Mac McManigal, and his then-wife Gloria, who kept asking Falati to come on board the State Farm insurance train. Falati, who was also a city councilman, longtime Fairfield mayor and a school board member, was the city’s recreation supervisor. He taught McManigal’s children how to swim. He left the city’s employ and went into education, eventually becoming the assistant principal at Armijo High School.
That was never a goal, he said, but neither was becoming an insurance agent in a field that he said “seemed pretty boring to me.”
McManigal kept after him and, in 1983, Falati began the lengthy process to become a State Farm agent. He was six years into being the city’s mayor at the time and he said he almost wasn’t selected as an agent because of that.
“They thought I’d spend too much time being the mayor,” he said. “I had to prove it to them.”
Falati spent the next 10 years in both roles: State Farm agent and the mayor of Fairfield. He’s still going strong with no signs of slowing down.
“I think he’s a good agent,” Barnes said. “He wants to do what’s best for you.”
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.