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Temping for a bit while figuring out a better career path, I was scheduled to a three-day assignment with an insurance brokerage to type auto ID cards. When I churned out more than five times as many cards as the other temp on my first day, I was asked back. This pattern continued at the same firm in a variety of capacities until, six months in, I forced the issue. After brief salary negotiations, I became part of a national accounts practice team.
From calamari production to one of the last piece-work plants in the United States, insurance provided an amazing window into a seemingly endless variety of business types and risk and liability problems. I also found a mentor - a woman at the firm who saw more potential in me than I did in myself at the time. With her guidance, my knowledge and confidence grew steadily. Over the better part of a decade I moved with the team to two different agencies, rising in roles as we went.
In the summer of 2006, my husband, himself retired from the insurance industry, was invited by an old boss to his birthday party in Italy. A multi-day affair well-stocked with industry veterans, I found myself in conversation about career path and goals. Asked what I found interesting in my work, I immediately responded, “workers comp” and began explaining why I thought it was a very undervalued, fascinating, and important element of business success. I also explained why I believed a workers comp specialty focus would make a great foundation for a brokerage. By the party’s last day, I’d convinced myself to take a leap out on my own.
In December of 2006 I launched my company out of one room in my house, and included my maiden name as part of the company name to make the company appear bigger. I focused initially on New Jersey and operated primarily as a program manager providing work comp products and services to under-served, high mod, difficult class accounts, like moving and storage.
Concentrating on the best accounts, I worked to provide loss control, engineering, and claims handling services in order to make them profitable against what was already a high premium. As this approach succeeded, my business expanded to some 23 states in just four years. My success, however began to catch up with me.
Solving tough problems engenders deep trust. Clients wanted us to take on more, and take on more we did by expanding to a specialized, all lines retail agency focusing on the moving-storage, auto-dealer and final-mile home delivery industries. While we have very strong market relationships, we knew that in order to continually evolve to offer our clients the best products and services available, we needed to be part of something bigger.
In early 2021, an industry friend made an introduction to an M&A firm which specializes in insurance agencies. We clicked from the start and, after providing the vital statistics, they screened potential buyers.
Risk Strategies was my last interview video conference, but my first offer and definitely the right fit.
Some firms I met with seemed lock-step corporate, others couldn’t articulate where my specialty would fit in their business mix. Risk Strategies had the national scale, a clear match for my capabilities in their specialty practices, would let me run my business and could provide support for things I didn’t do well and didn’t want to do any more – like HR and accounting.
Culturally, Risk Strategies was also a great fit.
The M&A team I met with was down-to-earth, likable, very knowledgeable and credible. On their web site, among the companies Risk Strategies had acquired, I recognized a lot of great people I respected and had worked with. It said a lot that they’d joined. I particularly recognized Risk Strategies CEO John Mina, whom I’d worked with on a challenging project in Nashville 20 years ago when we were both at Willis Towers Watson. In addition, my husband had known and respected Risk Strategies Founder and Executive Chairman Mike Christian for over 30 years.
Building something from the ground up, working shoulder-to-shoulder with clients on hard problems, I wanted to be sure what I built and the clients who trusted me were on a solid footing and a sure path forward. I found that in Risk Strategies.