I saw Justin Skipton of Skipton Claims Management at a United Policyholders fundraising event in California last week. I recalled Amy Bach from United Policyholders mentioning how impressed she was with Justin at a recent National Association of Insurance Commissioners meeting. My mind then wandered to this thought: “What was it like working with David Skipton?”
In one of my presentations, I display a picture of David Skipton, informing the audience that he epitomizes someone who has undergone significant personal growth and development. Since our first meeting, his expertise in persuasion, personal interaction, and knowledge has soared due to his commitment to self-improvement. David obtained the CPCU and SPPA designations and even wrote a book, Broken Promises. However, I was curious about what David Skipton was like as Justin’s boss before witnessing this transformation.
The transition of a public adjusting firm from one generation to the next is not easy. Running a public adjusting business, participating with the time demands of a national leader in the trade, and keeping a balanced life with a young family were the types of topics I wanted to elicit from Justin Skipton.
Here is the interview:
What is the story of your public adjusting firm?
In the early ’90s, my father, David Skipton, worked as a contractor focusing on restaurant design and installation. A pivotal moment in his career came when a client’s restaurant that he designed had a devastating fire. Dealing with the insurance adjuster became frustrating. My father, an experienced restaurant builder, could not get the claim paid fairly.
Eventually, the restaurant owner hired a public adjuster, something my father had never heard of. The public adjuster was able to get the claim paid with the same documentation my father had submitted just weeks before. This left a strong impression on my father, and he began seeking mentorship on how to become a public adjuster. A unique opportunity arose when Hurricane Andrew hit Florida, and a seasoned independent adjuster offered to mentor my father if he went on assignment with him.
This mentorship led to a partnership with a respected public adjusting firm, solidifying my father’s commitment to helping policyholders get fair treatment from insurance companies. Eventually, as I grew into my teens, I became their gopher of sorts, starting my journey to become a public adjuster.
What is the size of your firm, and how does it operate?
Our firm is designed to provide a personalized and attentive claim adjusting experience. Presently, we have a dedicated team consisting of five full-time adjusters, two full-time scope writers, and five additional professionals handling various marketing and administrative tasks within our office.
Regardless of the claim’s size, I personally strive to be involved in the early stages of the claims adjusting process. This hands-on approach enables me to become familiar with each client’s property, which, in turn, allows me to guide our adjusters and estimate writers on what should be included in our claim submissions and where potential pitfalls may arise during the claim process.
What struggles did you observe your father face when he was first in the business?
I’ve witnessed my father navigate several challenges when he first entered the business, and these experiences have valuable lessons.
One of the most formidable hurdles he faced was maintaining a consistent flow of new claims while effectively managing the ongoing workload. Shifting from the mindset of actively seeking new projects to the meticulous handling of existing claims can be a daunting transition, especially when your livelihood depends on it. We used to joke that whenever we planned a vacation, a significant new claim would inevitably come our way, making it seem like signing new losses was directly tied to our family vacation plans.
How did he overcome those challenges?
To overcome these challenges, my father demonstrated resilience and adaptability. He understood that in the world of Public Adjusting, it’s nearly impossible to eliminate the natural ebb and flow of business. Instead, he focused on two crucial strategies: consistently keeping the pipeline of new claims/processing full and ensuring that we had the financial stability to weather the quieter periods.
What are the best lessons you have learned from your father as a public adjuster, either positive or aspects to avoid?
The most enduring lesson I learned from my father is both elegantly simple and profoundly impactful: ‘Put the client’s interests first, and the money will follow.’
This core principle lies at the heart of our profession and deeply influences my daily work. Interestingly, I’ve found this lesson to be truer than I ever imagined. As a young adjuster, I once managed a claim for a couple whose college-aged son accidentally burned down their home. I devoted hours with them, listing the non-salvageable items for submission amidst intense debates and emotional moments. While it would have been easier to simply leave them with the task and return later, I chose to stay the extra hours, ensuring the job was done right. I reassured them, understanding their situation’s gravity and promising we would get through it together. That week, I revisited them several times and made calls in the evening whenever I sensed their spirits flagging.
Years later, just a few months before I proposed to Kat, I encountered this couple at a funeral for one of her relatives. When they inquired about my presence, I mentioned I was there with my girlfriend, Kat. The woman, in surprise, exclaimed, ‘You mean my niece, Kat?’ She then turned to Kat and said, ‘Justin played a vital role in saving our marriage.’ She elaborated, telling Kat that the house fire had been an incredibly challenging time for them, and it was my empathy and patience that saw them through.
I share this story not to seek praise or bolster my ego but to underscore for public adjusters the significance of our role. It’s crucial to always treat each client with the same care and consideration as one would a family member, for who knows? One day, they just might become one.
How is it to transition the business over to the younger generation?
Transitioning a family business is a nuanced endeavor, especially when it involves the dynamics of a father-son relationship marked by strong personalities. This journey demands a meticulous assessment of when and how to initiate the shift. One pivotal element, especially for a boutique family-operated public adjusting business, is mastering the timing. It’s essential to discern the right moment for the younger generation to assert leadership and for the senior member to recede.
It’s often within this transitional phase that challenges crop up and familial bonds are tested — a lesson I learned somewhat painfully. I came to grasp the significance of patience and reverence for my father’s leadership, even in the face of disagreements. It became evident that he wasn’t entirely prepared to relinquish control. Hence, I embraced a more auxiliary role for a more extended period than I’d initially anticipated.
During this interval, I channeled my energy into refining my presence in the insurance sector. I plunged into a range of business projects, such as tackling storm claims and emerging as an expert witness. Additionally, I delved into industry education, acquiring various certifications, and fortified my career by taking on leadership roles in professional associations like NAPIA. This strategy allowed me to carve out a distinct identity in the insurance world, all while cherishing and leveraging my father’s wisdom and experience.
In essence, the transition hinges on striking the perfect equilibrium: honoring my father’s legacy while equipping myself to steer our firm into the forthcoming era. This metamorphosis demands mutual respect, patience, and a united dedication to the enduring prosperity of our business.
How is your style of leadership and operation of the business different from your father?
In reflecting on the evolution of my leadership style and the way we operate our business, I’ve come to recognize the influence of my father’s methods and the valuable lessons learned from him. He was a tough mentor when I first entered the business, much like his own mentor was with him. I vividly recall the early days when I would draft letters to insurers and send them to him for review. His feedback was often direct and, at times, felt relentless. He would tell me my letters weren’t up to par, (they suck), and he’d delve into complex insurance concepts, almost like speaking a foreign language. His message was clear: ‘Rewrite it and send it back.’ Sometimes, I found myself rewriting those letters four or five times before he deemed them ‘fine,’ never good but ‘fine.’
Those challenging interactions, though demanding, served as a trial for my growth. They pushed me to either fail in my role or truly understand the job of Public Adjusting. I chose not to give up, and this demanding learning process laid the foundation for my approach to leadership.
Today, I aim to replicate the valuable aspects of that mentorship. I believe in giving my employees my mentorship time, where I guide them in understanding the intricacies of their tasks or help them navigate complex insurance concepts, much as my father did for me. However, I’ve also learned the importance of doing so in a motivational way. I then provide them with the autonomy to excel or fail at their task, just as my father did with me.
Do you sense that there is a “generation gap” between established public adjusters and public adjusters in the 20’s and 30’s? If so, what are the differences?
There is a noticeable ‘generation gap’ within our community of public adjusters, primarily centered around the differences in learning methods and a resistance among some in the older generation to adapt to these evolving styles.
One of the most significant shifts we’ve witnessed is the emergence of unvetted, uncertified, and unqualified “internet gurus” on social media who present themselves as experts. They often produce flashy and captivating video content, which can be enticing to younger adjusters seeking faster and more convenient learning opportunities. This trend reflects the appeal of a quicker path through rapid knowledge acquisition compared to the traditional methods of learning the art of public adjusting.
However, it’s important not to place the blame solely on the younger generation’s eagerness to learn and adapt swiftly. Rather, it’s a shared responsibility. The older generation can play a crucial role by better understanding these emerging learning preferences and integrating traditional methods into a more diverse and streamlined educational approach. By bridging the generational gap, we can create a seamless and effective learning experience that combines the wisdom of our seasoned experts with the innovative approaches of the younger generation.
In this way, we can foster a stronger, more united community of public adjusters that leverages the best of both worlds—experience and innovation—ultimately raising the bar for our profession. It’s not about one generation versus another but about working together to adapt, evolve, and ensure the continued excellence of our field. This is why I am committing so much of my time to NAPIA and its Public Relations, Marketing, and Website Committee, which is working to extend the reach of true public adjuster education.
What are the best methods and avenues for public adjusters to learn their trade and the business of public adjusting?
Becoming the most effective Public Adjuster requires a commitment to continuous learning. While I had the privilege of learning from an exceptional mentor who pushed me to excel, my real journey to mastering Public Adjusting truly began when I delved into industry certification courses like the AIC (Associate In Claims) and CPCU (Chartered Property and Casualty) which are taught to the upper-level executives of insurance companies. I also enhanced these concepts by becoming involved in upper-level trade organizations such as NAPIA.
These industry courses provide a comprehensive foundation for our work as adjusters on either side, helping us grasp the essential elements of policy interpretation, endorsements, and the intricacies of proper claims handling. The knowledge gained in these courses is not just a matter of my personal opinion; it’s a collective understanding of how insurance carriers teach the industry standards and best practices. When I engage with carrier adjusters, I don’t simply assert my viewpoint; I share insights based on the principles and teachings their bosses are taught.
In addition, if you want to be the best at your chosen profession, you need to surround yourself with the best. This is the reason I decided to join NAPIA when I was a young adjuster. I wanted to be the best, and I only knew how my father and books had taught me at that point. I believed it was time to also learn from the titans in our industry with multiple generations of adjusters, and that is why I joined NAPIA.
In essence, the pursuit of continuous learning from truly qualified mentors and reliance on industry-accredited courses like the AIC are essential not only for our personal growth but for the collective advancement of the profession of Public Adjusting.
Are there any new trends regarding the operation of public adjusting firms?
The only real trend I have noticed is the trend to be either a traditional public adjusting firm working fires and water losses or firms that chase storms around the country. Neither is right or wrong, and we do both.
What have you learned by participating so much in NAPIA?
Participating in NAPIA has been one of my life’s most fulfilling experiences, one that I believe every public adjuster in our community can benefit from. It’s not just another association; it’s a close-knit group of individuals who share a common passion for our profession.
What struck me most when I joined NAPIA was the unwavering willingness of its members to lend a helping hand. I’ve yet to come across a member who hesitated to assist, even if they didn’t have an immediate answer to my questions. They’d go out of their way to connect me with someone who could provide the guidance I sought. This spirit of camaraderie and knowledge-sharing is invaluable and sets NAPIA apart.
I became a member at a young age because I realized that if I wanted to excel, I needed to surround myself with the best. And that’s precisely what NAPIA offers – a platform to learn from the very best in our industry. Every event I attend, I come away with new insights and a deeper understanding of our work as PAs. I firmly believe that my ability to work in multiple states today is a direct result of my NAPIA membership.
As someone who’s actively involved, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the inner workings of NAPIA and the remarkable dedication of my fellow officers. Their commitment to advancing the field of public adjusting is truly commendable. I currently serve as the 3rd Vice President, with the honor of being in line to become President for the 2026-27 term. My focus is on enhancing and improving NAPIA’s Public Relations and Marketing efforts, a goal I’ve been passionate about since joining the association.
I’ve also had the opportunity to witness the legal battles NAPIA fights tirelessly to ensure the free practice and licensing of public adjusters in every state. It’s a testament to our association’s dedication to protecting our profession. There is no way I am the man I am today without my NAPIA mentors.
What are your fears and worries for the profession of public adjusting?
The profession of Public Adjusting is under its most crucial attack in years. Some carriers are pushing or have already included an endorsement that would eliminate the insured’s right to hire a public adjuster. NAPIA, in coordination with FAPIA, is fighting this at all levels in both the courts and legislative ways, but the costs are going to be enormous. It is time that the public adjusters on the sideline step in and join NAPIA, FAPIA, and the other real organizations that are at the front line of this cause. If they can get it in one state, it is only a matter of time until it comes knocking on your door.
What are your challenges as a husband and father while running a public adjustment firm?
Balancing the demands of running a public adjusting company with being a husband and father is no easy task, but it’s a challenge I embrace wholeheartedly. Family always comes first for me, and it’s a Christian principle I hold dear.
When I see a storm brewing in some distant city, I can’t help but look at my children and wonder if it’s worth hitting the road to another storm. It’s a tough choice, but I firmly believe it’s possible to excel in both roles – as a dedicated family man and a successful business owner.
If I were to offer guidance to young adjusters entering this industry, it would be this: Never forget to “date” your spouse, engage fully in your children’s daily lives, and always remember that your top priority lies with your family. While there will always be more claims to adjust and storms to chase, there are certain moments in your family’s life that can never be reclaimed.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m no stranger to hitting the road, chasing storms, and adjusting claims far from home. But you’ll also notice that I’m frequently on a plane, eager to return to my family’s side. When I’m in town, I make it a point to be present at dinnertime, to listen to my kids’ stories, and to share in their day.
No matter the nature of your business, being the best husband and father while also excelling in your career requires dedication and hard work. It’s a commitment I’ll never waver from, and I’ll always cherish the community that supports me in this endeavor.
Why do you support Amy Bach and United Policyholders (UP)?
I wholeheartedly support Amy Bach and United Policyholders (UP) because I genuinely believe in the importance of their work. As public adjusters, attorneys, and consumers, we all play vital roles in the insurance marketplace, and UP’s mission aligns perfectly with this perspective.
Amy’s organization stands out as a unique and invaluable resource. They not only empower policyholders with a deep understanding of the insurance process but also actively participate in critical conversations with regulators who are inundated with requests and lobbyists representing insurance carriers.
My support for UP isn’t driven by personal gain but by a profound sense of duty and the belief that our collective efforts can make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who need it the most.
I encourage my fellow public adjusters to consider joining me in supporting UP. Together, we can make a positive impact on the insurance industry, advocate for fairness, and ensure that those facing insurance-related challenges have the support and resources they need to secure their rightful claims.
Justin Skipton has an engaging personality. It is obvious to me why policyholders hire his firm and why his peers voted him onto the ladder of NAPIA. He is one of the best of the new generation of leaders who have been involved with public adjusting from a tender age.
Thought For The Day
I was lucky that I met the right mentors and teachers at the right moment.