Back A blog post from awards finalist Claire Russell - part 2
In my last article I wrote about the very beginning of my career in insurance – and some of the struggles that I experienced. I don’t write about those experiences because I want sympathy, but to show others that it is possible to overcome the challenges that life deals us – to take them and learn from them. I am convinced that the difficult experiences I have had, have helped shaped me, have helped me become the woman that I am now. I am more resilient and more tenacious than I ever thought possible!
And tenacity is the theme of this blog…..
My last blog article ended just as I was getting started out on my career as an insurance broker – when, shockingly, I experienced a major stroke. I was lucky – I was not expected to survive, but I did. It was expected that I would have brain damage, but I didn’t. When I recovered consciousness, I had lost the use of the right side of my body – my speech was badly affected and I had to learn to walk and hold a pen again.
I was determined that I would recover fully – and with lots of help and support I did. A few months later, I was back at work – more determined than ever to have the career that I wanted.
I worked hard, learning everything that I could about commercial insurance. It was a very male dominated business that I worked in, and I know my director was right – I would never be a leader in this business. I knew I wanted to run my own business but I also understood that I need more experience. Somewhere in the back of my mind the idea was forming that maybe I could run my own business by the time I was 21!
I was offered a job as an office manager at another independent brokerage- I was still only 19 years old. I accepted the job and for the first year I loved it. I took on a lot of responsibility, dealing with all classes of business, driving new business initiatives, supervising other staff and even starting to learn about the accounts function of the business, which I eventually took responsibility for.
I remember an event that really crystalized for me that it was time for me to start thinking about taking control of my own future. I had a performance review with my manager – the owner of the business. I had been promised, if I met my performance objectives, that I would be given a pay rise. Despite exceeding every target and having added value in all areas of the business, I wasn’t given the salary increase that I had been promised. It was the first time that I saw very clearly what is one of my most important values in business, and in life: “
Do what you say you will”.
A few days later I was offered an opportunity to co-found my first insurance broking business. There followed months of fear, late night planning, regulatory hoops to jump through, facilities to set up, finding premises, some tears. We opened the doors just weeks before my 21st birthday.
Those first few weeks and months were…..nerve-wracking! We had no clients. I spent many, many hours sitting in my little office on my own making call after call after call – speaking to every business within a 30 mile radius. At first- nothing. And then, slowly, the tenacity began to pay off – the phone began to ring.
Within a few years we had team of seven and had moved to new premises. We were building something great – but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. It wasn’t the business I wanted. I wanted to be a niche brokerage but I had made the mistake that many new business owners make and- in the early days, I had accepted work I didn’t really want because I needed the business. We needed the income. Then I met my husband to be and we wanted to relocate. I sold, we moved, and I started the business I would run for almost the next decade – a Solicitors Professional Indemnity brokerage.
Join me for the third and final instalment of my blog….