If the powers that be in New Jersey hadn’t decided to make things so difficult for anyone trying to start an insurance business back in the early ’90s, Nancy Morris might never have crossed over the border and opened an insurance agency here in Manhasset 22 years ago.
Morris, with the advice and backing of her husband, Alan, decided to make that move, going on to build a very successful business here with the State Farm Insurance Company. She has become a continuing strong supporter of the Manhasset business community. She’s a past president of the Manhasset Chamber of Commerce, holding the position in 2008-2009.
“If someone had told me years ago that I’d wind up running my own insurance agency,” Morris said, “I would have told them, ‘You’re crazy. You’re absolutely crazy.’”
Morris, who has been instrumental over the years in boosting the impact of the Chamber of Commerce, strongly believes in its importance. “We can do a lot more collectively than we can do individually,” she stated. “It’s about pooling your resources and doing things together.”
During her two years as president she suggested that each succeeding president serve a two-year term. “I suggested it,” she explained, “because many presidents were doing it just for one year. But I felt it was important for continuity purposes to be more than that. By the time you’re finishing your first year, you’re just getting your feet wet.”
“I feel that getting involved in Chamber activities is important whether it affects your business profits or not,” said Morris, who still serves as a director with the organization and is involved in a wide variety of community activities. When she was interviewed in her offices last week, she and her staff were busy putting together arts & crafts kits for distribution later on in the day at Mary Jane Davies Park for Kids Safety Day.
Along with Ed Wassmer of Young’s Fine Wine & Liquors and T.J. Costello of Hierarchy Architects & Designers, Morris helped launch and develop the Chamber’s website (www.manhassetny.org) which serves both merchants and consumers with a wide array of information.
Her interest in becoming an insurance agent was piqued by her husband while they were still living in New Jersey. Her husband pointed out that his two brothers had become very successful in the industry. “I think you’d be good at this, too,” he told her. “This is a great career for you. It gives you flexibility. I see what my brothers have and the kind of life they have.”
When she considered New Jersey and ruled it out because of that state’s new auto insurance rules, the Morris family found Manhasset. “I wanted to live and work in the same place and Alan was commuting to the city every day, so Manhasset was perfect,” she explained. “I knew it would work for us, personally, and work for me, professionally.” State Farm was eager to open an agency on the North Shore and made a connection with Morris.
They brought their 2-year-old daughter, Katie, who is now 24, with them. She currently works for a consulting firm. Their son, Charlie, was born in Manhasset and the 19-year-old is currently in his second year at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. “Charlie was inspired by his late grandfather, who was a Navy man,” Morris said, proudly. “Charlie is very patriotic.”
The Nancy Morris Agency started out renting space on Plandome Road. The couple owns the present site at 22 Bayview Avenue, which underwent recent renovations. Alan, President of Morris Marketing, Inc., has his office on one of the building’s three levels.
Nancy traveled a twisted path to insurance sales. Born in Chicago, she studied singing with an aim to reach Broadway, but didn’t follow through on that ambition because she was concerned about being able to make a living. She then tried music publishing, and then several positions in marketing, hospitality and sales.
To what does she attribute her success? “It’s hard work. It’s a lot of hard work. That’s how you get a business started and develop it,” she said. “You have to do everything you possibly can to get yourself out into the community. I went to every community event or school event I could possibly go to so people out there would know ‘Nancy Morris, State Farm agent.’”
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to make things work,” she continued. “You need to treat your staff well and keep your customers happy. That’s the bottom line. It’s service, service, service. Just imagine how you’d like to be treated if you were a customer. It’s also about being friendly and meeting the expectations of your clients. And if someone calls, make sure you call them back.”