A woman of influence
This award winner sees herself as a co-worker, not a boss
Q: Congratulations on being named one of the West Kootenay’s most influential women in business. Do you know who nominated you for the award?
A: Thank you. No, I don’t know who submitted my name, though I think that it was a staff member.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about what you do?
A: I’m the co-owner of the company with my business partner, Scott Morey. I am a certified general accountant by trade, but do very little accounting anymore. I do the general management of the business. I do all of the staff stuff, I do the business end of things, correspondence with insurance companies on the management of the business, but I don’t write insurance policies.
Q: How long have you been involved with the business?
A: Since 1998.
Q: Have you lived in the West Kootenay all your life?
A: Well, I was born and raised in Nelson, then went to Calgary for nine years for schooling and worked there for awhile, then saw the light and came back.
Q: Can you describe your business philosophy for me?
A: We are a general insurance company, which means that we are a retail insurer, so people come to us for their own personal, auto, home and business insurance. We have one person who does life insurance. I think our philosophy in business is to find the right product for the individual at a fair price. We don’t just cookie-cutter the insurance policies. You see some of the big outfits, national companies, online companies where you are just a check in a box, just a number. We don’t treat our people that way. Every person is an individual and every person has a policy designed for them.
Q: How many people work with you?
Q: That’s big! In a company that size, how do you make sure that people are not processed through like a number?
A: We talk to our clients. When we do the initial new business policy, we sit down and talk with them. We have photos of their home, we look at things with them, we ask a lot of questions, so that we make sure that we’re giving them the right product. Then we do follow-up phone calls every year to check in with them, to make sure they have not made any substantial changes to their home. We communicate with our clients—it’s not just pushing paper.
We also do a ton of staff training, and we liaise with the insurance companies to tailor the product to what we need. We’re not Kelowna, we’re not Vancouver. We don’t have a ton of theft and burglary and that kind of thing here, and we don’t have earthquakes—lucky us!
What we have that’s unique to RHC is what we call our “personal lines program.” We have several insurance companies on the program, and we tailor-make that product to fit the Kootenays. We have to lobby with the insurance companies to get what we want, so we can tailor the products to the needs of people in the Kootenays.
Q: The person who nominated you said you are an awesome boss. What do you do to make that so?
A: I don’t know that I am! First of all, I do not like the term “boss.” I prefer “co-worker.” Nobody is indispensable in any organization, including me. We all have a job to do, and we all work together to accomplish that job, so I’m just in a different position than my co-workers. But I do listen to them, as do all of my team leaders and my business partner, Scott. We are very much hands-on.
Q: Are all of your 62 staff in one location?
A: We have eight locations: two in Castlegar, two in Nelson, and one each in Trail, Rossland, Grand Forks and New Denver.
Q: Do you have to travel around a fair bit?
A: Yes, I try to. I should do more, but all of our computer systems are tied together. If someone phones me from another branch, I can be looking at the very same thing they are. Sometimes that’s more efficient than travelling. Certainly, though, Scott and I get out to the other offices a lot.
Q: Is that a bit of a challenge in the winter?
A: Nah, I have a four-wheel drive; living in Nelson, everywhere is a hill. We just deal with it.
Q: We talked about business; now can you tell me about your personal philosophy?
A: Oh, family is hugely important to me. I have one daughter in university, a son graduating next week, and a daughter in Grade 10. I’m still very much a hands-on mom.
Q: Do you know what career plans your kids have?
A: Not for sure. My son is going to Calgary in September to start engineering tech training. I encourage them to try new things and new places. They can always come back to Nelson later if they want to.
Q: Is there anything else you would like people to know about how you do business or what’s important to you in business?
A: I guess I’m a person who does not enjoy the spotlight. I’d like people to know that in our group of 62 people—two men, 60 women—with this talk about influential women, I want to emphasize that every person on our team is important. We draw knowledge and skills and ideas from every single one of those people. We are asking people’s opinions all the time, and that’s what forms a great organization.