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An Interview With Bob Black

A mere thirty minutes changed the course of career and life of Triple A’s Bob Black. During a job search almost 43 years ago, he answered first the call from the California State Automobile Association responding to his job application and inviting him to join the company; 30 minutes later an electrical contractor called to say that the job he had also applied for (his original choice of work) was his. “In those days” Bob explained, “it was considered bad form to renege on a promise once it was made, so I honored my commitment to AAA and once there, found that I really liked the company and the work.”

Bob is currently a Homeowner Claims Consultant which does not indicate independent contractor status in his case but rather is an acknowledgment of a knowledge base that spans a wide variety of subject matter that relates to claims; from policy interpretation to product development and employee engagement.

His career started here in Sacramento County in the Carmichael AAA office as young Bob started like many other veterans of the AAA Company; in the Auto Claims area, taking the initial claim on triple carbon forms by hand. “It seemed hectic at the time” Bob remembers “but now it seems like we had it pretty easy- even without a computer.” Within a year, Bob started on the first of many promotions that marked his extraordinary career, the first to the outside as a Material Damage Inspector. “We didn’t write our own estimates in those days, we reviewed body shop estimates by consulting huge Mitchell books which needed to be disassembled and updated monthly. There was one set of books for domestic autos and another for foreign cars. Besides containing a wealth of information they were so heavy that they could provide traction in snow if you ever got stuck!”

After 5 years, Bob was promoted to the Bodily Injury department, now known as Casualty claims, in Fresno. After 5 years in the Central Valley, Bob was called to the main office as a Material Damage Examiner and moved to Livermore to become a supervisor for the Bay Area. Reno followed after a year where he became a high level supervisor, soon after he was named as the Division Manager for all of Nevada. After 7 years, he was called back to the main office in San Francisco as the Manager of Claims Administration and then promoted to a Regional Manager for the next 7 years. “San Francisco was a dramatic culture shock after the years in Nevada,” Bob recalls “but I was fairly young and eager to advance so I welcomed the changes. All of my promotions that required a move were to my benefit - even if they may not have felt like it at the time. My children were small during most of the moves that I made so it wasn’t too disruptive in their lives. When I returned from Reno I was able to live in Napa where I still live now and enjoy it very much.”

Bob spends his leisure time in the outdoors as much as possible, hunting and fishing. The elegant and slender gentleman finds it surprising that so many people do a thinly disguised double take at the sight of him riding his Harley - perhaps it is his gentle and courteous demeanor that belies his recreational vehicle of choice.

His advice to young people in the insurance industry is to ‘do the best that you can do for yourself and your company and be honest to yourself.’ Bob takes exception to the common complaint that the companies no longer offer the training that can help young people succeed. “There is help for employees in every company I’ve ever known about” he said “people need to take the initiative and tap into the resources that are available to them through their managers and supervisors and if they need further information they should seek external training. The claims associations like the Sacramento Claims Association and conferences such as the Claims Conference of Northern California (CCNC) are always clamoring to provide information for adjusters but the desire to learn and improve has to be there for them to take advantage of it. The future managers are going to go out and find the information they need to help them move ahead in their career while those who just complain about the lack of training are unlikely to be on that path. People need to keep on top of the changes in the industry and that may be something they do on their own. People earn the authority they are given by proving that they know how to handle their job and further training from internal or external sources can be invaluable in understanding their job better as a basis for earning that authority. “

by Joan Barrett -

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