Photo by: Jarrett Thompson Insurance and Financial Services
Jarrett Thompson (pictured) was bit by the entrepreneurial bug early on his career, which led him into the insurance industry. After working in a variety of management positions spanning several sectors, Thompson realized that he was more suited to being his own boss, and discovered that a career in insurance could satisfy his entrepreneurial spirit.
“I had been contacted by a recruiter for State Farm Insurance [now Desjardins Insurance Agents] and decided that opening my own local office would be the best decision. It was a great learning opportunity and I am thankful for all I learned in my time with State Farm,” Thompson told Insurance Business. “In 2015, I decided that I needed to be able to move in a different direction, and we parted ways with State Farm and opened up our own independent insurance brokerage.”
Moving from the corporate world into the entrepreneurial world was not without its challenges, and is certainly not for the faint of heart.
“You realize that you are responsible for everything,” said Thompson, who is the president and chief risk manager at Jarrett Thompson Insurance & Financial Services in Ottawa. “This includes marketing, HR, accounting, compliance, and everything else. Making that decision to leave a comfortable career with a salary and jump into the world of small business ownership, it is scary. The hardest part though is finding the best team to help you grow your business. If you make the wrong addition to your team, it can be catastrophic. We have been lucky with our success in this area.”
For other insurance professionals who are thinking of making the leap and opening their own insurance brokerage, Thompson has a few key lessons to pass along, though he notes that many of these are ones that most independent businesses have to be wary of.
“Keep costs in control, use technology where you can and use human beings where you have to. What that means is that having the biggest office, with the most staff and the most opulent furnishing might feel good,” he said, “but unless it directly relates to making it better for your customer experience or ability to deliver your service, it is simply fulfilling an ego, not [the] business. Being bigger isn’t better; being more profitable is better, wowing your customers is better.”
The benefits of being at the helm of a brokerage are worth the balancing act that owners have to play. First of all, Thompson gets to work with his wife and brokerage co-owner, Erin Thompson, who he credited as the glue holding the brokerage together. The brokerage’s first hire, Maggie, is also still with the company and was one of “luckiest hires I have ever made,” said Thompson, adding that together, the team is “building something unique and remarkable in an industry that is very much a whole bunch of the same.”
“When we get to look at our marketing, what our value proposition is and how we want to brand ourselves, it becomes more than a job,” he said. “The only way you know if you are successful is if you are continuously able to turn the lights on the next morning. It is frightening, but exhilarating at the same time.”