While visiting with one of our agents this past week in Valrico, Florida…I couldn’t help but ask the agent about the history of this quaint community. Main Street was a meager 100 yards long…if that.

So, a walk ensued…with the agent, and ‘Bella,’ the office Chihuahua.

During our trek around the town, the agent pointed out the former civic club, circa 1916 (now a community playhouse), the once-popular post office, the area’s first general store and the original, turn of the century farm house. All of these charming buildings were still standing…and, all somewhat showing the wearing of time.

In reading more about Valrico this past weekend, I was fascinated with the history of the rise and fall…and, rise again of this tiny town.

Here is what I know…

Valrico originated as an area of cotton plantations prior to the Civil War. Formerly called “Long Pond”, William Tousey, a professor at Tufts University, renamed the town “Valrico”…Spanish for “rich valley”. And, rich it was indeed…in its early years with nurseries, dairy farms and lumberyards, with its saw and turpentine stills among the busiest business happenings in the area. By 1893, the town’s population was a robust 100 inhabitants.

Unfortunately, the freeze of 1895 put an end to some of the big dreams of this small bedroom community. By 1911, there were just 50 people left in the town. Most of the business ended up heading out of town after the ’32 stock market crash and the eventual closing of the packing plants in the area. It wasn’t until the mid-50’s and the construction of State Road 60 before Valrico started seeing a resurgence in growth, and new residents moving back into the region.

To-date, this community has rebounded with several new subdivisions that have been completed over the past few years. Numerous other communities in the general area have also had a rise in home and business construction as well. Estimates put the town’s population in the 2000 census over 6500, but in the last few years, the population has risen to over 36,000 inhabitants.

The community has definitely come around full circle…and, then some.

This got me to thinking about each and every one of our Florida communities’ history:  where did they begin, where have they been…and, where are they heading now.

What unlimited stories of our specific communities do our insured have to tell?

Does the history of our individual communities really matter in the overall scheme of things when it comes to building a relationship with our clients and potential clients?

Perhaps there is some value in these history lessons.

You see…everyone has a story to tell…from where they’ve been with stories of a history long-since passed, and dreams of where they are heading in the future. And, for those of us that are engrained in our own communities, we also have stories of our past, stories of our future. These stories are what help us relate to our insured….and, vice versa.

Try asking about your client’s history. You’ll find some common ground which will enable you to gather some valuable information on their life. All it takes is a question.

Me? I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida…”The Bold New City of the South.”  How many of you remember that coined phrase from the 70’s?

Does anyone know the original name for my hometown, prior to being named Jacksonville? ‘Cow Ford.’ Why? Because, one of the first settlements was stationed at the narrowest part of the St. Johns River, and this is where cows crossed to the other side. My hometown was ultimately renamed ‘Jacksonville’, after Andrew Jackson, the first military governor of the Florida Territory (and 7th President of the United States).

I personally have plenty of stories to share…and wonderful memories of a treasured past growing up on Jacksonville’s Southside. I am rich in history. I am also the picture of your insured. I have stories to tell…if you just ask me. I’ll guarantee…I can talk your ear off! Get to know me…my history…my recollection of my yesteryear. Identify what makes me tick.

Identify with your clients!

Ask them to paint a mental picture for you…of their past. You’ll be amazed with the amount of color some of your clients will use to describe their history.

All it takes is a question.

Doing so, you’ll be able to connect with your clients on a level that perhaps hasn’t been tapped in years.

There are plenty of stories…stories of a hometown history that helped shaped them into whom they are today. As a result, you’ll find out more about your client, but also some history of our State of Florida that you might never, ever had even thought of. From rolling orange groves…to crystal clear natural springs…to miles of sandy beaches…to hiking trails that wind and stretch through towering pines and aging oaks. Our state is one of natural, unmatched beauty.

Ask the question…and, take a walk through time with your clients.

They are all rich in history!

Steve Shepherd

About Steve Shepherd


Steve’s entire career has been focused on helping companies to increase sales. He has sold, managed, trained and coached sales and sales management with noteworthy results. Steve’s results-oriented, highly interactive style has the ability to increase sales for many companies statewide. He makes sure the workshops are productive, interactive, and, above all, fun.