TJ Larkin: Real Life Turns Out Better Than Movies
Glendora, California, sits at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, sunny and warm and quintessentially Southern California. Tim Larkin operated a successful Allstate agency there beginning in 1979 and hoped his son, TJ, would follow in the family business.
TJ’s eyes, however, pointed about 30 miles due west on the Ventura Freeway – to Hollywood.
“I didn’t want any part of the agency,” TJ, who worked in the agency as a teenager, says. “It was the perfect story of parents knowing better than the kids.”
TJ’s movie career, however, lasted one day. The long hours on set, working behind the scenes, were boring. And Dad did know best, as TJ turned back to insurance. He worked as a claims adjuster, then owned an Allstate agency in Arizona before moving home and taking over his father’s business in 2019.
“We always told him, ‘we think that would be good for you,’ but we never pushed very hard,” says Tim, whose wife, Barbara, is also a longtime Allstate agency owner.
“He loved our lifestyle; whenever we needed to be somewhere, we could. We had employees that almost became like family.”
But not until TJ was about 30 and he met Ashley, his future wife, did he start to look differently at the family business. Within a month of meeting her, TJ said, he knew she was “the one” and the prospect of stability and flexibility on which his parents had tried to sell him was suddenly appealing.
TJ purchased a small agency in Arizona, then sold that to return to California with Ashley and run two agencies – his father’s in Glendora and his mother’s in La Verne. Finally, in January 2019, the Glendora agency passed permanently from father to son.
Not surprisingly, the transition from father to son had some bumpy moments. Young and full of ideas, TJ sought to introduce more technology and change processes that had been part of the agency’s successful for more than 30 years.
“TJ, his whole life, he’s kind of been one of those combative kids,” Tim says. “He always thought his way was better than Dad’s way.”
But at least one lesson Tim provided through his example was burned into TJ’s brain and helps drive his success today.
In the mid-1990s, Allstate altered the format of its relationship with agency owners. Some struggled with the change but Tim embraced it and found success.
“It was absolutely the best thing that ever happened to him in the business,” TJ says. “I’ve heard that story tons and tons of times, to the point where I’ve internalized it, which helps me. Whenever I hear something negative, I think, where are the positives?”
Barbara says: “TJ paid attention – not outwardly, he didn’t talk about it, but he took in how smart his dad was.”
While TJ forges his own opportunities, Tim is now doing the same in retirement – or, rather, non-retirement. He bought an agency in San Gabriel in April 2020, giving the Larkin family, once again, three agencies with three owners across two generations.