Joanne Ackerman, 70, has worked at Sargent’s Title Company for 52 years, starting as a 17-year-old co-op student. According to Owner, Mike Sargent, the Flint company’s longevity is due in large part to employees like her. “Joanne exemplifies why we have been so successful,” he says. “She embodies the loyalty, caring and trust that built the foundation for Sargent’s Title and our 52 years of success.”
Sargent, second-generation owner of the company founded in 1966 by his father, William “Larry” Sargent, grew up in the business. “I’ve been here my entire life,” he laughs. He started out as a youngster cutting grass and sweeping the parking lot and at age 16, started making deliveries and doing filing. After graduating from Michigan State University, he began working full-time for the family business as a delivery person and abstractor. He was a proofreader for a while, then moved to the escrow department and also spent time on the road as a sales and marketing rep. “I’ve pretty much done every job from the bottom to the top,” he admits. “Now, I’m the owner and still picking up the yard.”
Ackerman started working for Larry Sargent when he was working for a different title company before Mike was born. “I was his dad’s first employee,” she says. “When the company Larry worked for was leaving the area, he asked if I would stay with him if he started his own company, and I said yes!”
She has worked in various roles with Sargent’s, at first manning the phones. Larry would be out all day gathering information at the courthouse and various other offices. “He would do the research for each property and come back at 5pm, put the work on my desk and I would type it up. I did that for four or five years,” she remembers.
Then, Ackerman began doing the research at the various offices, which she did for a number of years. The business began to grow and more employees were hired. “All of our kids and brothers and sisters worked here. Mike’s grandmother was here, too. It’s a family place.”
“Joanne embodies the loyalty, caring and trust that built
the foundation for Sargent’s Title and our 52 years of success.”
Mike Sargent, Owner
Ackerman saw many changes over the years, but the biggest change was when the County implemented a computer system and she no longer had to go to the County offices to do the research. “I thought the way we gathered work could never be put on a computer,” she remembers, “but they devised a program. Only one company had a 100-year index of Flint property and Sargent’s bought that.”
Today, Ackerman continues to work as a title examiner. “I was in the closing department for a year, but research is my niche.” And now, she doesn’t have to leave the office to do her job. “I love working in the office!” she exclaims, “especially now that I don’t have to go to the court offices in the winter weather.”
Everyone is treated like family at Sargent’s Title Company – customers and staff alike, according to the owner. Mike’s wife, Tracy, is also on the team. “Mike and Tracy treat me like family,” Ackerman shares. “I was here before Mike was born and watched him grow up. He calls me Aunt Joanne.”
Mike and Tracy’s kids have also worked for Sargent’s from time to time. Jordan, 24, graduated from Oakland University, and twins Noah and Nikole attend Michigan State University, as did their parents. “We are very proud of our kids,” says Sargent.
Sargent’s Title Company now has 14 employees. Ellen Wigard has been with the company for 40 years and Lorrie Wilcox for 36. “I remember when Lorrie came to our office for an interview fresh out of Baker College, wearing a navy-blue suit,” Ackerman remembers. “We all enjoy each other’s company.”
“Our focus is on service,” says Sargent. “Our staff are like family and our customers are like family. It’s all about loyalty and trust. Creating relationships is the key to our success.”
Photography By Kayce McClure