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From Retail Assistant Manager to Business Owner with an Office Space in Creve Coeur

From Retail Assistant Manager to Business Owner with an Office Space in Creve Coeur

Written By Cory Edwards

On September 3, 2020

A talented manager with an eye toward profitability, Jonathan Hacker caught American Family Insurance’s attention. Now, awarded an agency of his own, he called on Frank Yocum of Hilliker to find office space in Creve Coeur.

A St. Louis Success Story

Jonatha HackerJonathan Hacker was an assistant manager at a Famous Footwear when his quality service and care for customers earned him an unexpected break.

Hacker had just sold shoes to a man who visited the store with his adult son, Rodney Devlin. Upon leaving the store, the dad turned to Devlin and said, “I like that guy — you should hire him.”

Devlin, a Sales District Leader for American Family Insurance, agreed. He walked back into the store, found Hacker, and said, “I want to talk to you about an opportunity.”

The opportunity, which was to work as a producer for a local AmFam® office, proved to be an excellent fit and life-changing career move.

Hacker already had an impressive background. He earned it through forward-thinking hard work in the retail business.

He started his career as a “grunt” in an underperforming PetCo® location near his home. After three years, he was awarded an assistant management position. Seeing inefficiencies in his department, he came up with a plan to fix them.

Within a year, the changes he and his team made increased the store’s revenue from $800,000 per anum to $1.3 million.

Hacker brought the same level of excellence to the new job at AmFam. Devlin saw him as a rising star and started preparing Hacker to open an office of his own.

After four and half years, an opportunity presented itself, but it came at a time neither of them expected.

Transitioning from Employee to Entrepreneur

In February 2020, an American Family agent who operated an office in Creve Coeur decided to retire.

It was sudden. The corporate office had to scramble to find two talented agents who could each take half of the former agency’s book of business.

Office Space in Creve Coeur

Devlin called Hacker, convinced Hacker was ready to make the leap. American Family brokers are independent contractors, meaning Hacker would grow from employee to entrepreneur in just a few weeks.

It would be a huge step.

Hacker had to put together a business plan, present it to a board of decision-makers, and wait to see if they’d choose him.

Though he had offers from other insurance companies before, he had turned them down, waiting for an opportunity with American Family.

He said, “The responsiveness of the corporate office and the comradery between the people involved really appeals to me. American Family is really there for their agents.”

The board was impressed and offered him the agency on May 18 with agency appointments beginning June 1.

He just needed an office.

Finding Office Space in Creve Coeur on a Tight Timeline

Frank L. YocumHacker knew Hilliker’s Frank Yocum through their connection to the Maryland Heights Chamber of Commerce. The two were referral partners, and through their business dealings, became friends.

Hacker said, “I already knew that, if an opportunity ever came up, and I needed to find an office, I was going to go with Frank. There was no way I was going to look for somebody else.”

As soon as American Family awarded Hacker the agency, he contacted Yocum and asked for his help finding an office space in Creve Coeur for lease.

Hacker relied on Yocum to narrow down the field of options for him. He told Yocum he hoped for a space between one-thousand and fifteen-hundred square feet in size— something he could grow into over the next several years.

He also wanted a space with a full-service lease, a lease type in which the landlord pays nearly all property-related expenses.

(Read about lease types here.)

But Hacker said, “When I started going in and seeing how big that space actually is, I changed my mind.”

Yocum and Hacker decided to look for a space between five hundred and six hundred square feet. Then, Yocum printed out thirty possible offices for their review. Together, they narrowed the field of choices to a handful they could visit together within Hacker’s tight timeline.

They settled quickly on an office at 711 Old Ballas Road. It’s 560 square feet and was occupied previously by a psychiatrist, which gave it an ideal layout for an AmFam office:

  • A waiting area
  • A glass-enclosed reception area (“perfect for COVID,” said Hacker)
  • An office
  • A break room that can easily become an office for a future salesperson
  • An elevator
  • A full-service lease

Transforming an Office Space for Go-Time

Hacker and a friend of his did some work on the office according to stipulations he asked Yocum to negotiate into their lease. He tore out old floors and had a friend put in new flooring. He’s painted and quickly started seeing clients.

Hacker said, “I look to grow this office ten to fifteen percent each year over the next five years. We’re looking to eventually add two sales staff and an extra support staffer.”

Through the process, Yocum’s experience and responsiveness made all the difference.

“I’d text him and get a response within twenty minutes,” said Hacker. “He would drop everything and talk to me because he knew how stressed I was over this situation. It was very helpful — very comforting.”

Hacker continued, “I was still working for my previous agency, closing things up. It wasn’t right for me to leave work in the middle of the day and go find another property. So, I had a lot of conversations after hours with Frank.

“I really appreciate him going above and beyond for me.”

St. Louis Entrepreneurs Continue to Choose Hilliker Corporation

At Hilliker, we love seeing entrepreneurs succeed. Many of our clients have grown their enterprises from nothing. They’ve leveraged their work ethic, intuition, and hard-won wisdom to help them achieve their dreams.

But smart entrepreneurs know they can’t do everything alone. They rely on consultants who know how to help assistant them along their chosen path.

That’s when St. Louis entrepreneurs call Hilliker Corporation. They can leverage our experience and know-how to get better deals with less stress.

If you’re ready to take the next step in your career through a commercial real estate lease or purchase, contact Hilliker broker Frank Yocum today.

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