Dannielle Dixon Thomas: ‘Daddy’s Girl’ Forges Her Own Path
As a child, Dannielle Dixon watched her father build an independent small business in Moncks Corner, South Carolina.
Richard Lee Dixon’s Allstate agency opened in 1985, the first tenant in a new brick office building in Moncks Corner, about 45 minutes north of Charleston. He built his business through long hours and a gift for crafting relationships. Dannielle grew to understand the business better as a high school student while helping in the agency, and in watching her father operate, she reached an inescapable conclusion.
“’I am not doing this,’” she recalls thinking. “Typewriters, paper applications … I didn’t see the purpose of it.”
But after about 10 years and “a heaping plate of crow,” Dannielle Dixon Thomas asked her father for a job. Eventually, in 2017, she joined the ranks of second-generation Allstate agency owners. Her agency is still in the building where her father started.
“I’m glad that she was willing to give it an opportunity to continue the legacy in the business,” Richard Lee said. “Her reputation and her personality do well with the community.”
Dannielle grew up around her father’s agency. Her middle school was across the street, and she went there every day after school. While in high school, she worked there part-time. Richard Lee says Dannielle was observant, though not heavily involved.
Once it became time for Dannielle to think about a career, she says her parents never pushed her or her younger brother in a direction.
“Initially, that was not a discussion for either of my children to come into the agency,” Richard Lee says. “They had their minds set on what they were going to major in college and what they were going to do.”
Dannielle graduated from Elon University in North Carolina, then worked for a power company. But four years into that career, Dannielle lost her job. Reluctantly, she turned to her father, who was more than willing to offer her a job. For which she was late. On the first day.
Dad was not amused.
“To be at work at 8 a.m. means you should be there at 7:45,” he says. “I had a terrible taste for any of my employees coming in at 8 and a customer walking in at 8 right behind them.”
But Dannielle is a “daddy’s girl,” as Richard Lee says, and that earned her a break.
“He was patient,” Dannielle says.
Over time, Richard Lee Dixon’s lessons landed with his only daughter: punctuality, of course, but also building relationships. Dannielle says Moncks Corner is rapidly growing thanks to major employers entering the region, but she still meets many people who have had little or no insurance and need information about how it can help protect them. She often missed that nuance early in her career, focusing on the sale more than the relationship.
“I’m glad that she was willing to give it an opportunity to continue the legacy in the business. Her reputation and her personality do well with the community.”— Richard Lee Dixon
“Danni, I hear the passion in your voice, but it’s almost too much,” Dannielle remembers her father telling her.
“You win people with honey, not vinegar, so I’m going to be kind, keep educating them, keep being kind and seeing it from other people’s point of view,” she says.
As Dannielle’s comfort in the agency grew, it became clear she would take over when her father chose to retire. Richard Lee began to let Dannielle make decisions about the direction of the agency while he was still “on the hot seat,” in her words. Then came a symbolic move – Richard Lee came out of the back office to work up front and meet customers, while Dannielle moved to the back to run the agency.
The transition completed in 2017, Richard Lee arriving for his last day as agency owner with his shirt unbuttoned “like he was ready to be on the beach,” Dannielle says.
Richard Lee Dixon still pops into the agency occasionally. Now Dannielle still relies on key lessons from her father: being honest and patient and meeting people where they are at their stage in life. They both emphasize the value of being able to look customers in the eye when greeting them in the community, knowing they have treated those customers well over 35 years.
When they do talk about the agency today, Dannielle says she always tries to thank her father for putting up with her growing pains and helping her succeed.
“Everyone should have a dad like my dad,” she says.