Lawson’s business background and education was originally in mechanical engineering. He worked 15 years as a car designer, moving from such varied places as Greenville, S.C., to Munich, Germany.
"I never really enjoyed being an engineer," he said. "I’d played golf with a guy who was a State Farm agent. He kept asking me to think about being an agent. Years later, I called him and told him I was thinking about it and he said, ‘You can come work for me.’"
After starting in the insurance business in Colorado, Lawson believes it’s what he was meant to do because of his background. He was 15 when his dad died unexpectedly at the age of 43 from a heart attack.
"He owned his own business," the agent said. "It all got tied up in probate. I always planned to take over my dad’s business. You wonder why things happen. When I took this job, it was truly about life insurance and that peace. The point is having a purpose and helping people. I think this is a noble job. I always wished someone like me would have talked to my dad."
Prior to moving to Kingsport, he was first an agent for State Farm in northern Nevada, leading the company as a top agent his first year. Then he became a regional manager in the western region of the country, based in Las Vegas, but covering areas not only in Nevada but also in New Mexico, Wyoming and Arizona.
"I had a good run as a manager in Nevada," he said. "But I traveled three to four days a week."
And at the time, he and his wife of 21 years, Jennifer, were living in Nevada without any family nearby while raising their three young children: Palmer, 12; Holden, 7; and Delaney, 3.
Then Lawson and his daughter were both seriously injured in separate accidents about a year apart. Since Jennifer’s family hails from Florida and Lawson’s mom lives in Michigan, they decided to move to this area. Raised in the Detroit area, Lawson had visited the southeast region of the United States as a child with family, camping, fishing and hunting in Cherokee National Forest.
Lawson talks about the company he’s worked 12 years for as easily as he talks about his family. He said State Farm has been the largest auto and homeowners’ insurer in the country for the past 70 years and the number one home insurer since 1964. It’s a mutual company, owned by its policy holders. State Farm has been run by the same family, the Mecherle/Rusts, for the last 90 years.
Lawson is a registered representative who also does mutual funds and retirement planning.
"It’s about service," he said. "I tell my customers when I see them that I know why I’m in business - it’s because of them. I never forget that. I think I’m the only agent in town who has his cell phone number on his business card. I’m available 24/7. This is what I do."
A self-professed social person by nature, Lawson said he enjoys being involved in his community. He’s already sponsored Sullivan South High School sports in the short time since he opened his business in August - after the previous Colonial Heights agent, Betty Rumph, retired. He’s been setting up his office in the meantime.
"My team does so much for me. Their service standards are the same as mine," Lawson said. "They’re all local, and office manager Susan Dotson has been here for 16 years."
Office details aside, Lawson looks forward to meeting even more local people.
"We just love it here," he said. "This area has been perfect for us. I still pinch myself every day. I truly think it’s the friendliest place I’ve ever lived."
Lawson’s office is located at 4227 Ft. Henry Drive, Suite B. His business hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and at other times by appointment. He can be reached by calling 423-239-9429. You can also "like" his Facebook page at Bill Lawson State Farm Insurance.