Workplace culture, succession and scaling up at Megson Fitzpatrick
In this episode we chat with Laura Bolster, president of Megson Fitzpatrick Insurance (MFI). Laura started working at MFI at the age of 19 and became president just this year. In this podcast, Laura shares how MFI is navigating the pandemic, the impact on their culture and the resulting hybrid workforce. She outlines their succession planning strategy, the roll out of their employee share ownership program and their renewed focus on scaling up.
49 Second Clip
Perseverance…I’m just trying to think outside the box, and I’m trying to really be open-minded to changing the business model and not getting stuck into… “We’re going to go back, we’re going to go back to the way it was…we can’t wait for the things to get back to how they were.” I’ve got to totally change my mindset there…we’re going forward to work as opposed to going backwards to work and just trying to think differently and be really open-minded.
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Laura: I don’t know if you knew Paul, but as of March 1st Jay stepped down as the CEO and so…
Paul: Good timing on his part.
Laura: Yeah, right. So I decided…Well, it had been a long time in the work that I would be stepping up and taking on the president role here at Megson on March 1st which is the start of our fiscal year, which is also kind of interesting timing, and Jay went on vacation basically in the end of February for two or three weeks.
Paul: Also good timing.
Laura: Everything hit, and he was in the US. So he did not come back to the office, he had to quarantine. So yeah, I started my new position without Jay here, and then with the pandemic. So sort of served on a silver platter I suppose. And so I think just lots of people it was pretty much mayham around here, and our biggest thing was just getting our team members to work from home. Historically, we had maybe five remote workers who currently could work from home, but it was never really our business model. Insurance has always been based on location and certainly on the ICBC front, it’s all about your store front and how your people can find you, how your clients can find you. And we were very happy. A couple of years ago, we made a big strategic decision to go from five offices down to three, and it was a big decision, big business decision for us.
Dave: And it’s one thing we were certainly is very, very happy we’d made that decision. We have to deal with three offices in the pandemic as opposed to five, and that’s just come up to a year now that we’ve only had the three locations. But yeah, we just sort of like everybody scrambled to get people working from home. Obviously, IT was a huge, huge piece of that, and I think we had the platform, thanks to you guys, we had a pretty good foundation set up, we had a great phone system and a good website. And so pretty quickly we had 80% of our staff working from home.
Paul: Do you sell any products from the website?
Laura: You can’t bind, and quote and issue on the website, but you can certainly get the process started. A big piece for us was ICBC historically, since beginning of time, ICBC has been a very retail in-person product in British Columbia because it’s government insurance, and so they had to switch fairly quickly because we have licensing guidelines to tell you where you have to sell insurance and a lot of it was you had to be on-premise, like a location that was registered with ICBC, which was our three locations. But when we closed down right after the pandemic, I think we closed our offices on the Wednesday the 19th to the public. ICBC still hadn’t figured it out. And so we were panicking because obviously, people still need ICBC, but we’re not open to the public and how are they going to deliver the product, but they switched around pretty quickly, and so even our ICBC agents were able to be home with the computer to access ICBC and do everything to our website or the clients could actually phone. And before you could never call in to renew your insurance, it just wasn’t an option ICBC gave you, you could call in and get a quote and make some inquiries, but you have to actually physically come to our office in order to make your purchase, and so that’s changed. We were mailing out decals, very restricted to renewals only. To do a new plate or transfer, that just kind of went on hold for a while until we opened our doors back up.
Paul: You still have to do that, you still have to go in to get that done now?
Laura: Yeah, and we had a couple of team members who were willing to come back into the office and help those transactions by appointment, and we knew when the clients were coming, we did all as much as we could before they got to the office, and then they would come in to exchange plates or papers in exchange for doing most of it over the phone.
Paul: Well, and just because a lot of people went home didn’t necessarily mean everybody could stop using the roads, right? There are still deliveries and there’s still commerce going on, and obviously people still need to go places.
Laura: A huge part of our auto business is dealing with fleets, and so dealing with commercial organizations who have fleets of vehicles, and this was a time when they needed to be on the road, and one way or the other, either they had to take all their vehicles off the road because business wasn’t going well, or they had to ramp up because the food delivery or just all the essential services had to keep going, and so our fleet department was extremely overwhelmed with the amount of whether it was a bunch of cancellations, or getting new vehicles put on the road or transferring insurance from one vehicle to the other and our fleet department stayed in the office the whole time. Doors locked, clients knocking on the backdoor secretly saying “can I get my plates?”
Paul: Laura, how long have you been with Megson Fitzpatrick?
Laura: I just had my 31st anniversary.
Paul: Oh wow.
Laura: Yeah, crazy 31 years.
Paul: So you were in what middle school or something?
Dave: I was going to play that joke.
Paul: Actually, my first job was in middle school, but not for an insurance company.
Laura: I was 19 when I started. It has been a long haul, I did not see this in my future as nobody did.
Paul: Are there people that have been in the company longer than you that are still around?
Laura: Yeah, there’s a few people.
Paul: And when you ask those people, how does 2020 compare to every single other year here? What are they going to tell you?
Laura: On the weekend I ran into David Fitzpatrick, who was one of the founders, and he’s fully retired now, but I saw him on the weekend. And he was very gracious and said, “Laura I can’t believe this. You’re doing such a good job.” And he was really, really nice to be valued, but I’m like, “David, we’ve been through worse, you must have been through something worse in all of your forty years he was in the business.” And he doesn’t think that he has been or we have been, but insurance has lots of cycles, and so we’ve definitely been through some bad cycles that are hard on us and hard on the team and hard with our customers, but I think affecting the whole entire organization, the way it has this is, this is probably the biggest challenge we’ve been faced.
Paul: So what kind of a culture does Megson Fitzpatrick have, where a teenage Laura Bolster can enter the company and 31 years later become the President, obviously that speaks to the culture there and I imagine it has changed over the years.
Laura: You know what it changed because we’ve evolved, but the nice thing is that it hasn’t changed that drastically, we’re all really focused on keeping the culture, which I would say is very family-based. I think we’re very collaborative, we have a great group that we try to tap into everybody’s strengths and make decisions as a group, there’s no real hierarchy here there never has been and that’s what makes up the Megson and Fitzpatrick. And all of us that have come through the leadership road behind Michael and David, we’ve mentored with them and learned from them, and I think that’s why we have such a great team, and I think we attract a lot of good employees because of that. It’s been challenging the bigger you get maybe now where I think there was 16 people when I started out 30 years ago, were just over 100, we’ve had up to five offices, now we’re down to three offices. We brought a new partner on with the Rogers group, so the dynamics have definitely changed, but we put a big focus on creating a nice family culture, we like to have a lot of fun, I mean, but we also take our job pretty seriously, we have to and everybody works really hard. And yes I think, I think we’ve done a good job keeping the culture going.
Dave: I’ve always really admired the my culture. So congrats for that. So maybe can you speak to that with respect to the pandemic, you talked to the operational adjustments, you have to quickly just on a fly, but we’ve found there’s a real range in how people have dealt with working from home, the distractions, the isolation anything in there in terms of what you’ve done?
Laura: Like right out of the gate, it happened all so quickly we didn’t really put a lot of thought into all those things, you don’t really think about your culture, or all the things that you’re missing out on, you are just kind of in overdrive and you just get it done, and then when the dust kind of settles and you realize people are actually doing it, then we started to think about those types of things like engagement with the people at home, isolation, especially right at the beginning when there was a lockdown, how are we going to stay connected, what’s going to be important to people? What do they want? And so we’ve dabbled with a number of different things. We were having a virtual cocktail or almost every Thursday or Friday, and that was quite popular at the beginning, and then when things kind of loosened a little bit, we were getting less and less interest. I mean I get it, you’re working all day and then to come back on for another event at the end of your day, especially when things started opening up, but we found that really helpful. Like I said, we have a theme every time a little bit of a theme, and you get to see what different people do at home, whether it was wear a silly hat day or bring your fancy cocktail. And we would always try to make it fairly light, I mean, it’s a challenge it…you’re on a Zoom call with 40, 50 people, it’s hard to get engagement going…I’m not going to lie. Somebody always has to be the mediator almost like you’re running… It’s supposed to be a fun cocktail hour that somebody needs to mediate and say, so everybody gets an opportunity to talk. We’ve done…I’m just trying to think, we’ve done a couple like a trivia night. I’m just trying to think of some of the other things we’ve done. And really, we’re just encouraging people to connect with each other through the messaging system we have. Each department does have a call team huddle, like either on a Friday or a Monday, where you get everybody on the call, and we just try to have a little bit of fluff, I guess, kind of checking in with people, and then there’s a couple of business things we need to talk about. We take that opportunity. But yeah, I think it will continue to be a challenge if this continues, which we see it continually well into 2021, just trying to get creative in that engagement with the team members at home.
I’m kind of feeling like the group that has come back to the office, now we’re about 50% back. They’re the ones that really wanted to be back and what it is, and I think I feel fairly good that the 50% that are still working from home, that is really where they’re most comfortable, so I think that helps a little bit, but yeah, mental health is definitely on our mind.
Dave: Have you wrapped your mind around what you’ll do in years to come in terms of those people that are doing it well at home. We’ve been talking about me to a hybrid system where people can share an office, all that kind of stuff?
Laura: We figure there could be a handful of people that will really advocate for themselves and say no, “if I feel like a) I’ve been productive. I don’t know, maybe I don’t have small children, I have an office, I can lock the door, I’ve got a good set up.” We feel we’re going to allow them to advocate for themselves for permanent remote work. And then we are looking at some hybrids, we’ve set up a couple of I guess they’re just kind of…I don’t know, we’re calling them “flex desks,” for lack of a better word, where you can book an office for a week. And we are encouraging those that are working from home to do that, and we’re going to set one up at one of our other locations, we have three of them here at the location that I’m at, and just encouraging people to come for the week and just get that contact again and just that office feel. And we are also trying to map out a plan if you were to maybe get people back three days a week and work two days from home. And we’re just costing that out because as you know, that means you have to have a set up at the office and a setup at home which obviously adds a little bit to the budget for IT equipment, but we are looking at the option.
Paul: Just for the record, Laura, every day is “wear a silly hat day” at Smart Dolphins, so it’s hard to one up us.
Dave: Just for Paul, we’ve tricked Paul into thinking that but he wears a silly hat but he loves it.
Paul: Oh shoot. One of the things that I’ve really admired about Megson Fitzpatrick, from what I’ve seen, is the community involvement that you guys really take pride, and I’m wondering how much that’s changed over the last year, and if you’ve found creative ways to continue to give back in the same way that you have?
Laura: We definitely had a strategy and we were able to roll out our new strategic initiatives for the new fiscal, and then as soon as the pandemic that we had to go back to the plans that we had, and one of the pillars of our plans was how we were going to donate now, and how we were going give back to the community, and we kind of re-looked at that and we definitely made some changes to our giving. We allow our staff, we have a committee that represent the staff and they put some suggestions forward, and then we’d like to support our clients. So our clients bring things to us as well, and we look at that, and then we have kind of our corporate. And I think through corporate, we’ve definitely made some different donations. I shouldn’t say we haven’t done any activity like we normally would like fundraising events within the team because it does make it a little bit more challenging. But a year ago, just over a year ago, we also introduced our “Megson Fitzpatrick Day of Giving” and so we arrange with local organizations to have some of our team members go and volunteer, and just last week, actually on Tuesday, we arranged one over here at the Comfort Inn and so the Comfort Inn is our new neighbor, which was also a tough pill to swallow when that news came that they were going to take over that space, Our Place, BC Housing and Victoria Cool Aid and I had a tiny little bit of the meltdown, I knew exactly where I was when I got the news, and I knew it was happening, but I just didn’t think it would possibly be the Comfort Inn. And they’re literally 20 feet away from our office, we park over there, but it has actually not been bad at all, and so last week we donated money and their cook and kitchen staff made a big barbeque and then we went over there and we had it outside and we served them all food and had lunch with them, and just trying to be a good neighbor really, and I know it’s been tough on a lot of the people in this neighborhood, but it is in our community, and I think for us we have just decided to embrace it and build relationships with the organizations that are helping over there, and I think that is going to serve us in the long run.
Dave: Totally, that’s great.
Laura: Yeah, so that’s kind of the first event that we’ve done, Paul out of the office, otherwise, we are just doing some local community giving, and then again, it’s how you get creative, especially as we head into Christmas and thinking about the Mustard Seed, the United Way, and some of the things that we normally as an organization, like to support, finding creative ways to continue to support them.
Paul: Is there any other community initiatives that you guys supported early on in the pandemic that are with noting or anything that sort of stands out?
Laura: We had because another thing, obviously, the whole diversity inclusivity, that is also revealed itself in the last six or seven months, we had somebody come in and speak to that and we made some local donations that kind of fall under that category.
Paul: I know you guys do a lot. I wasn’t sure if there was ones that sort of stood out. I don’t want to put you on the spot. We should talk about, obviously, the big changes that have happened in your business, you’ve got a broader platform now with the partnership with Rogers, maybe for those who didn’t know because I don’t know… I don’t know how broadly that’s out there, but maybe explain what the strategy is there.
Laura: For sure so it really was a succession planning strategy, right out of the gate, trying to figure out a way for our new business, which has grown over the 50-year history that Megson has been in business for and trying to figure out how we can have some of the older shareholders retire and are we going to bring on new shareholders, are we going to be able to continue to do what we’ve done, which started out with Michael and David, that was Megson and Fitzpatrick. And at one point there was seven, seven of us, Michael and David were selling their shares, and then it just got to a point where the affordability was not going to be there, and so we knew and also just with a lot of mergers and acquisitions in our industry, we knew that in order for us to continue to drive, we needed to bring on a partner, and we needed somebody that could help with our succession planning so that some of our older shareholders could retire, and then we also needed a plan to make sure that we continue to grow and stay independent and have scale in an industry where there’s a lot of M and A going on, and so we did a little bit of research on possible partners that we think would be a good fit for us with culture, independence, technology, kind of being really important, and in the end, it was Rogers. We started an interview process, and it was the Roger’s Insurance Group out of Calgary that we thought would be the best fit for us, and so they started out as a minority shareholder, allowing one of our shareholders at the time to retire, and then slowly they’ve become a majority shareholder over the past three years.
And so that’s kind of the relationship. They are in Alberta, in Ontario, they just bought an office in Edmonton, and it’s quite a complex group of companies run out of Calgary, and now we’re part of the larger group. And so we do get a lot of input. They certainly have been through a lot of catastrophes in Alberta. So through the pandemic, they’ve been very, very supportive. They have an office in Fort McMurray and so they went through the Fort Mac fires from two or three years ago, obviously, flooding in Calgary, hail in Calgary, all those things that affect insurance. And they’ve been really helpful, they dealt with a lot of that before, so we were really grateful that they were in our camp during this.
Dave: Another huge success for you guys. Any advice for others? I mean, I think succession planning is going to become more common as boomers want to get out of the business, and so people looking at you guys as an example of how to do that, any advice, what to do, what not to do, generally for other business leaders?
Laura: Well, I mean it is quite complicated. It really is about finding the right partner that you think will be a good fit. Our situation was different because two of my shareholders were staying on, and so it was really important for us to have that relationship where a lot of times in our business, it’s just the larger corporation buys the smaller corporation, and they bring all of their influence in and make some high-end changes. And we were fortunate that that didn’t happen here just because of our structure and what we have set up, but it’s definitely about finding a good cultural fit and the values. We do share the same core values, theirs are worded a little bit different, but at the end of the day, their values are the same as us. And so that was really important. And the other thing, which I forgot to mention earlier was they have an employee share ownership program at Rogers, and when we chose them as a partner, that was really important to us because the succession plan that we had done, where I was able to buy in, well four of us outside of Michael and Megson and Fitzpatrick, five of us over the years, we’re able to buy shares in Megson Fitzpatrick and then it did get to a point where we just couldn’t see how that was going to be sustainable for more people to do in the future. So when we partnered up with Rogers, the fact that they have an employee share ownership plan, that was really enticing for us, because we really wanted to have our employees have a vested interest in Megson and we just couldn’t figure out how exactly to do that. And so we’re happy that we just…It took a little bit, but we just rolled out our ESOP to our staff just in the summer, August… I think it was August 31st or July 31st. We had a group of our employees buy into the group, which includes Megson Fitzpatrick, so that was really important to us and we’re happy that came to fruition.
Paul: Take notes on that one Dave because we’re planning your succession.
Dave: Right, right. Actually honestly, I’ve thought about it, so I’m curious, I didn’t know you guys were doing that. So that’s great. So again, kind of a similar question is there kind of general advice you’d pass on to people that are considering that route for succession?
Laura: To keep it simple. I find it a little bit complicated and then trying to explain it to our team because they’re making an investment, and so… It’s not that straight forward, it can be a little bit convoluted, so if you are able to keep it simple, I think that’s better and really is just trying to get all your ducks in a row, so you can really encourage it, and I think we could have done a better job in promoting it to our team, I think… Because maybe it was a little bit more complicated than it needed to be. It might not have been that appealing to people, but we’re hoping it’ll pick up momentum, right. This is our first year, and then we hope more shares have become available next year, and that more and more of our team members will be able to see the value in that. But no, for us, we have a really strong team, and we know that that’s something that is important to them in order to retain some of these high performers, there’s got to be some kind of skin in the game, and so we really think that that that’s important.
Paul: I think it’s just generally really hard right now for people to make (because there’s so much uncertainty) to make decisions about the long-term, nobody kind of knows the world’s going to look like in two years, much less 20, right. So you hadn’t had a huge take up on your employee share ownership program, it’s probably more to do with 2020 then the employee share ownership program.
Laura: Yeah, you know what you’re actually right. I was like when we went into our strategic planning right before Covid hit, the ESOP was one of our priorities, this is something we got to get this going, and then when Covid hit, we said, “Okay, let’s put it on the back burner.” I think, you know, yeah, who’s going to want to make an investment right now who has 10,000 laying around or what have you. But then as we kind of came into the summer, we also thought why not? What are we waiting for? We might not have the uptake that we would have a year ago, but why not get it going and get a few people in for security maybe for them too, right? There’s, I think a lot of people not sure what the job market is going to look like in the future. Insurance is an essential service. And so we were very happy that we were able to keep everybody employed. And they were all very happy as well, and we’ve made a couple of new hires know during Covid, which again, we thought we would be putting on the back burner, but we’ve needed you, and so we’re excited that for us and I know it’s not the case for everybody, but for our business that we were able to continue to move forward in the right direction and keep everybody employed.
Paul: It’s awkward to have to apologize for being successful, right now. But the reality is of course, there’s lots of businesses that are truly devastatingly suffering, but I think it’s still important to celebrate small successes, so it’s great to hear that you guys we’re able to grow and hire some people.
Laura: Yeah, obviously, because we insure a lot of small businesses, so again, we’re fielding the calls all the time asking questions about their insurance and having to cancel, or if they open up again, can they get their insurance back or is there ways to reduce their costs or they’re not making…Their revenues are down, and so our team is fielding a lot of those calls if it’s tough, it’s a really tough time to be having those conversations, and we’re just trying to help the clients the best we can through all of this, and with their insurance, because it’s an important piece. But insurance is a necessary evil, as people call it.
Paul: Well, I don’t know if I ever told you this Laura, but I sold insurance for a few years as well, but it’s one of those things where you can ensure almost anything in your life, so it’s always finding the balance of what should you ensure and what shouldn’t you, obviously, ensuring your automobile is you don’t have a choice with that, but almost everything else, you have a choice. So I’m curious though, to hear what kind of conversations, if there’s some broad strokes on those conversations you’re having with business owners, are you be able to… Is there some directions you’re steering them?
Laura: I think that the gate it was “is there insurance for this?” Yeah, you know, and insurance isn’t straightforward, insurance is complicated. Everyone has seen their policy and get a bad rap for a lot or not wanting to cover claims, but that isn’t true. That’s just an urban myth and that kind of thing. But it’s complicated, and there’s lots of controversy right now about pandemic coverage in insurance, and it’s all across the whole world, and I don’t think it was ever an intention that a standard insurance policy would pick up lost due to a pandemic, it’s just… It’s so big, it’s so huge, it’s like, it would take down the insurance industry. But we’re just yielding one phone call at a time and dealing with each client and going through their particular situation, and it’s not so much like, “do I have insurance for this?” It’s just like “how can I reduce my cost because I can’t keep paying this much insurance.” Or a lot of business insurance is based on your revenue, so your premium is based on how much money you make, and so you’ve got businesses whose revenue is, unfortunately, is going… is going down, and so they’re calling to say, “can I make some adjustments? And so we’re working our way through each case, file by file, client by client, and working with their insurance company that we have them insured with and what their needs are, and just…yeah, just taking it one customer at a time.
Paul: I guess everybody’s going to have a bit of a different need than everybody else right now. Yeah, and especially depending on where they are. It’s funny actually, when you mentioned the insurance, pandemic insurance, I don’t know if you caught this or it made waves in the insurance circles, but I read an article, I’m pretty sure it was in Wired Magazine, about a guy who invented a pandemic reinsurance product about five years ago, and he was really excited about it, got it all hyped up and promoted it and everything else, and sold zero policy. And so they did an interview with this guy and basically “yeah, I had it all figured out, but nobody bought it.”
Laura: I have not read that.
Paul: I’ll find it. I think you’d find it really, really interesting, it’s sort of… it’s the classic case. Like I said before, you can ensure anything… Does it really make sense to ensure that…I think the great example for me is when you go into the electronic store and you buy a $50 electronic item and they try to sell you the $30 extended warranty on it… Right. That’s a form of insurance.
Is that really the best return on investment for insurance in that situation is probably not, right?
Laura: It’s all about your threshold for risk. If you’re a risky person, then you’re probably not going to buy the extended warranty, you’re not going to buy any of the frills and just want the basic coverage, and then if you know you don’t want to have any risk and they can transfer that risk over to the insurance companies for as much as you can.
Paul: Yeah, I’m curious, speaking about these sort of macro things, what sort of changes do you see happening within the industry longer term as a result of what we’ve kind of been through?
Laura: Well, I guess the big thing is just the virtual workspace and having our teams work from home, looking at our retail footprint for sure, we have three locations, and a lot of what’s going to depend on ICBC and what they end up doing and ICBC is complicated too. They’ve got some things with licensing and the value of an autoplan license, and the way that they’ve normally been given out in the way you are to conduct business, it’s not like they can just automatically say, “you can work from home and you can sell ICBC from all these locations at home,” they have a lot of work to do behind the scenes. I’m thinking that they are doing that they have, I think they have some task force groups put together that includes broker representation, and so they’ve got to figure out some things on their end that will help brokers like Megson make long-term decisions on our own, like our retail footprint and certainly the work from home. We’re trying to be open-minded and flexible. Maybe three or four years ago, I would not have been like that about people working from home, especially because we are a brick and mortar type of industry and that we got these locations and we are paying rent for them. But I definitely changed my mind and I know that that things are going to be done a lot differently. I think the customer’s demands for technology to be able to do things on our website, to be able to do things over the phone, to have things mailed to them, instead of coming in. I think… I know for us, we’re already looking at different technologies to incorporate that will support all of that, that we think is coming… I’m just trying to think of an example. We’re looking at a product right now that will be like a customer portal, and so our customers will be able to go in and sign in and they’ll be able to get their insurance policy, normally, you’re maybe going through your filing cabinet or maybe you call us, say “can you send me a copy of my policy.” This would be a way for them to log in and get a copy of maybe even their home insurance or a copy of their business insurance or their life insurance, whatever. And so I think that that’s something that more and more customers are going to one, and then the ICBC model where they don’t want to come in. And then for business insurance and home insurance, we were already doing the majority of that over the phone and by email anyway, so whether if the agent is in the office or if the agent is working at home, that does not really make a big difference, if you were already calling it. I think the one big thing is maybe networking for some of our sales people trying to get out and meet new clients and bring new clients to the office. I think that is going to change a lot.
Dave: How have you been handling that shorter term like this year?
Laura: Well, there hasn’t been a lot of it.
Laura: There really hasn’t been. And we had a couple of new young people that were getting into the sales mode and they were looking to build up their networks and start getting new clients, and that had to just be put on hold, so again, just trying to get creative. And I think a lot of networking groups are going online virtual now, just encouraging them to join and do it that way. For some of our clients, our existing clients are open two meetings now, so not just zoom or phone call or emails. So some of our sales team is out having face-to-face meetings a bit more now than they were a couple months ago.
Dave: Yeah, and sort of pulling out the crystal ball, where do you see things going over the next few years, and what’s the vision long-term vision for the company? Both MFI locally and Rogers, broader scale?
Laura: I would say the strategy is to continue to build our scale so that we have a bit more klout I guess as the size of the group, so just kind of like more buying power as with our insurance company so we can negotiate more, we can get better service I guess maybe at a different tier of service, if we are all part of the larger organization. And I think… Yeah, I think for Megson if we really are trying continue to grow and we want to offer a great place for our employees, and we want to continue to build the company, which obviously means getting more clients into the office and just increasing our client base and continuing to offer the great customer service that I think our Team brings to the table and looking for more acquisitions that maybe smaller agencies that might not be able to or don’t want to be into the future. Yeah, it’s going be interesting, for sure.
Dave: Always is.
Paul: As a business leader locally, and obviously you have a window 30 feet from where you work there into the broader community as well, and obviously are connected in the broader community in many ways, what advice would you be giving to other business leaders right now to sort of muscle through the next little while and try to keep their businesses on track any broad strokes there, perseverance?
Laura: Perseverance, I think I know for myself, I’m just trying to think outside the box, and I’m trying to really be open-minded to changing the business model and not be getting stuck back into…“We’re going to go back, we’re going to go back to the way it was. We’re going to go back to work, we’re going do things the way we were, we can’t wait for the things to get back to where, how they were…” I’ve got to totally change my mindset there. We’re going forward and we’re going forward to work as opposed to going backwards to work and just trying to think differently and be really open-minded and treat your team or staff well. I can’t tell you how important our staff in to us, they stuck through it and they’ve persevered for sure. And they’re our biggest asset. So just trying to be flexible and stay open-minded to some of their needs, knowing that they are going to be very different and they might not be consistent, and we might not be fair to treat every situation the same. But we’re being very open-minded and flexible which I think is going to be really important.
Paul: So Laura we’ve talked about perseverance, we talked about working, changing, we talked about some broader things that are going on today, what are we not talking about that we should be? What questions are we not asking? Anything come to mind?
Laura: I don’t know. I guess what…I’m not very political Paul, but I suppose I know what’s coming down the pipe here in the next 35, 40 days in the US. It all impacts everything. From an insurance perspective, I don’t really know what that is going to do to our industry, but I’m sure it will be some effect on us…Yeah, I don’t know. What is around the corner for us? You know, is it another catastrophe? Do we even want to talk about the earthquake?
Paul: Please wait until 2020 is over before we talk about the earthquake or the comet.
Laura: I suppose it has given some insight to what something like an earthquake would look like in Victoria, but it really isn’t something that I think any of us want to deal with ever, but that could be something that we’re maybe we should be talking about, but again, I do not want to….
Paul: A certain component of good mental health is remaining positive, right. There is positive things, that like celebrating small successes and that sort of thing, and I think my personality and find it easy to get piled on with the negative, but I think as a lot of it is just sort of being able to remain focused, you got a job, you got an important job that you need to get done, you need to help people, you’re building on a legacy, in an amazing business. How do you keep yourself positive and not allow yourself to get bogged down with the negative?
Laura: I’m honestly I’m a pretty positive person.
Paul: I’ve always gotten that from you.
Laura: Yeah, I’m pretty consistently the same inside the office, outside the office, my personal life, what have you, but I know…I do have to remind myself that All eyes are…All eyes are on you, and I have to keep that in mind quite a bit to continue to stay positive. And I have a really positive leadership crew. I have surrounded myself with really positive leaders who’ve been amazing through the last six or seven months, I couldn’t have done it without them, just trying to keep the morale going and keeping the mental health on our mind, and we’re always talking about brainstorming what things we can do to engage the team and doing surveys to see what they truly want from their employer so that we can deliver on that. And my mental state is, I know myself, I have to exercise, I know when I don’t exercise what happens and I always have to remember that and surrounding myself with my friends and… yeah, and then just coming through the door every day with a positivity, and I think to your point, yeah, you can go down this road and why is this happening? And it’s such a drag every day something new comes up, you know, and you’re just seriously that to? But really flipping it around and thinking about the things that really positive that have come out of this, and there is some really, really good, cool things that I think you know maybe would have taken two or three years to unfold that happened in a very short period of time, and so just reminding ourselves about those things, we do try to celebrate whenever we can, here the good things that have happened and remind everybody so that it all isn’t just doom and gloom.
Dave: Awesome that’s great.
Laura: Well, thank you so much, Laura. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you, so it’s a pleasure. It’s always a pleasure and I always, always get a thrill from your very positive persona, and I know you’ve got the world on your shoulders there at Megson Fitzpatrick. So it’s great to still see you smiling and enjoying what you’re doing and staying positive. So I’m sure that’s resonating through all through Megson Fitzpatrick and the amazing culture you guys have there, so we wish you guys the very best and know that we’re all trying to muscle through this very strange time we’re in, and…Yeah, and thank you for joining us.
Laura: Yeah, thanks. Thanks, Dave, thanks Paul, it was nice chatting with you.