Pam Tidrow does something unexpected — she puts her personal cell phone number on her business card. That’s because Tidrow, a 31-year-old independent agent with RMD Patti Insurance Agency in Cambridge City, Indiana, wants to be there for her customers, even after hours.

Even when she’s busy giving birth. In April 2016, Tidrow went into labor. That event just happened to coincide with a major storm in her area. “I was receiving emails and text messages on my cell phone while I was in labor,” she says.

And Tidrow had no problem working right from her hospital bed, taking claims information and answering questions. One of those claims came from a friend of hers. Two days later when she announced her son’s birth on Facebook, her friend sent her a text message: “You were totally in labor when I was talking to you, weren’t you?”

That’s the kind of flexibility Tidrow says she loves about her job. While she did have to take time off to deliver her son and take some time during maternity leave, she says she was still on the job. Tidrow, a mother of a 4-year-old as well, says the job gives her more than just flexibility — it gives variety.

Finding the right path

In 2007, Tidrow left college with a degree in geology and Spanish, and immediately began wondering what to do next. “Where do you go with that? I knew that whatever I did, I wanted to be involved with people. I’m a rather altruistic person. I wanted to be able to do something to make the world a better place even if it was just in one person’s life.”

She got a corporate job, but was quickly disillusioned. So she switched to nonprofit work, which was better, but still wasn’t fulfilling her need to work with people.

Two years later, a family friend approached Tidrow and asked her to consider becoming an insurance agent. “We had some discussions about the day-to-day and what he actually did, and I thought that was something I would like to do.”

So Tidrow started her career with a captive agency in 2009, a job that brought her back into the area from Terra Haute. While at the agency, she handled all types of accounts, including mutual funds and banking products. But it was within the personal lines that Tidrow most wanted to concentrate her efforts.

That fact was brought home to her when she had to serve a life claim check. “That experience made a big difference for me and made me want to make sure people understood the importance of life insurance. I feel that oftentimes it’s something that people don’t realize they need until it’s too late.”

So in 2013, Tidrow left the captive agency to work for RMD Patti, an independent agency, which she says was more conducive to her desire to sell life and health products. She’s no stranger to insurance, either; Tidrow’s father was a claims adjuster, something that she believes gave her an inside look into how insurance can positively impact a person’s life.

The agent’s value

She sees that kind of knowledge as the value independent agents can bring to their customers. “The true value of an independent agent is we have lots of options. Because of those options, we have to be very knowledgeable what our industry is doing and what our companies are doing. That knowledge is for our customers’ benefit.”

Plus, Tidrow says meeting and helping new people is another value the agent can add to the experience. She feels fortunate to be with an agency that fosters relationship building, and promotes becoming “less of a product provider and more of a service provider.”

One thing that’s going to remain a challenge, she says, is the commoditization of the industry. “I’m an early millennial, but nonetheless with this generation, we want answers and we want them fast. We want to be able to go on and get a policy issued at 3 o’clock in the morning, if needed.”

Those very quick fix companies, she says, will continue to challenge the independent agent simply because agents can’t work 24 hours. Yet she sees it starting to change. “People are starting to understand, after they have more experiences with these companies, that maybe that’s not the right move for them.”

Of the customers who would rather just get their policies and move on, she says this: “There are people who don’t need any extra service from me. And those people, at times, are better off if they choose what fits them perfectly. But there are also people who have discovered they’d like to be more knowledgeable about what they’re paying for. They want somebody to teach them what their insurance is supposed to do. They want more of a trusted advisor and less of a salesperson. And that’s where we come in.”

That service can often trump cost, she says. One incident with an insured sticks in her mind. The insured had been with her since she’d started, but left due to price. “About a year later, I got a phone call from them. It was one of the most humbling phone calls I’ve received. The gentleman said ‘I was stupid. I can’t ever find these people to pay my bill, nobody answers the phone.’”

Also, she says, such service is what drives her to ensure her customers understand the value of life insurance. “When someone comes into my office and wants to talk about getting insurance on their new home purchase, that’s great. But I’m going to talk to you about protecting more than just your house investment. I’m going to talk to you about protecting your family.”

Career flexibility

That conversation could happen by phone, text or in person. It’s that part of the job that Tidrow loves — unimaginable career flexibility. While not every agent would be servicing accounts during labor, she says it’s a great job for people who want a flexible schedule, financial gain and variety in what they do each day. “If you want to know if this career is right for you, there are a couple of things you need to think about. First, do you like people and want to be around them? Are you willing to build relationships with those people? That is the single most important part of my job.”

Also, part of the job is accepting the changing nature of it. “Do you like routines and doing the same thing every day, because you’re not going to get that here. You’re going to get new opportunities every day. You’re going to get new challenges. If you want a job where you can truly grow on a daily basis, that’s what this is.”

Every day is something new, she says. “There’s always a new question regarding a claims situation or there are new people every day. That kind of variety keeps my interest.”

Know a great young advisor who is making a difference in the industry? Nominate them to be featured in The Succession Initative or LifeHealthPro’s 30 under 30 feature by emailing kbeckman@alm.com.

Related: 30 under 30: Meet the millennials who are transforming the insurance industry