Susan and Sonja Polk in front of our San Luis Obispo office in 2021.
By all accounts, Susan Polk is an institution in San Luis Obispo. We’re talking about the woman, not just the business.
If you do the math, Susan has been in the insurance industry for 50 years. She began working in life and health insurance in Pasadena in 1971, then moved to San Luis Obispo in 1982. In 1988, she officially hung the Susan Polk Insurance shingle in SLO. Since then, she has served tens of thousands of clients, most of them right here on the Central Coast.
In 1997, the Susan Polk Insurance office found its permanent home, downtown on Marsh Street near California Boulevard.
Factor in her decades of heavy community involvement—as a Leadership Class II alumna, she helped bring CASA to SLO County in 1993 and has been involved in several other nonprofits—and you’d be hard-pressed to find a local who either hasn’t been helped by Susan or doesn’t know someone who has.
Susan’s impact on SLO is definitely deep and wide. That’s precisely why it’s so encouraging that her own daughter, Sonja Polk, is continuing as the owner of Susan Polk Insurance. Ownership of the business was officially transferred to Sonja at the end of 2021.
As they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. “It’s empowering, and I feel honored,” says Sonja when asked about the future of Susan Polk Insurance. “My mom is an industry leader with a wealth of knowledge, awards, and experience, but the greatest thing that stands out is that she truly cares. She goes above and beyond what’s required and develops personal relationships with clients. She has always been at the forefront of innovation, actively searching for ways to make each client experience easier. She takes the time to emphasize the small details, like hand-signing each birthday card for thousands of clients. She has helped folks find government programs when commercial insurance isn’t suitable. The people in this community know and trust her, so yes, it’s a challenge. But my mom has done a great job of passing along her knowledge, expertise, and empathy to me.”
Is Susan’s passing of the baton to Sonja a family advantage, or is it because Sonja is capable, tested, tried, and proven? Some might be tempted to speculate that she’s simply the beneficiary of favorable family circumstances.
They’d be wrong.
Before joining the Susan Polk team in 2018, Sonja spent 15 years in computer technology, education, and management in the energy industry. In fact, at one point, she was the first woman in her respective sphere to hold a training position.
In other words, she’s got professional chops in her own right.
Sonja’s preparation for leadership at Susan Polk Insurance has been ongoing for several years now. “My mom has trained me in every aspect of the business and has continued to pass on more and more responsibility to me over time. And that’s a big job, because Susan Polk Insurance is not just a business, it’s her life’s work,” she says.
“I’m learning from the best,” Sonja adds, thoughtfully. “It has been hard work, but I feel honored that I have this opportunity to carry on my mom’s legacy.”
At the end of the day, the truest test of a leader’s character is how well they’re able to produce good leaders. ‘Wisdom,’ as the old saying goes, ‘is proved right by her children.’ It follows, then, that the best way to be encouraged about Sonja and her future at Susan Polk Insurance is to simply look at the past.
Susan couldn’t agree more. “I’m so pleased that Sonja shares my values and commitment to our clients, our employees, and the community,” she says. “Because I know that the business is safe and secure, I am finally able to slow down knowing that the future of Susan Polk Insurance is very, very bright.”