The other side of what I do is to develop the business itself. This means that I am working on a strategic plan as to where we want to take the business. Marketing and sales of our business is a particular favourite of mine and this has been quite instrumental in the development of the dot2dot children’s nursery scheme which is a national facility. This can involve finding PR opportunities, digital marketing on Facebook and twitter or writing articles for the industry press.
The business was formed in 1962 by John S Gorton a Chartered Accountant who decided there was an opportunity to add an insurance brokerage to his developing accountancy business and building society agency. The original business was called Life and Home Services and the main target was to provide personal insurance to the local community of Radcliffe, Manchester.
My greatest accomplishment has been dot2dot, which was developed and driven by me from day one. Approximately 20 years ago Stanmore was approached by Commercial Union to sell another brokers children’s nursery scheme. I completed some market research and quickly realised there were a number of nurseries locally and we didn’t insure any of them. I agreed to become a sub broker for the scheme and secured a number of new clients in a relatively short timescale. After a couple of years the main broker offered us a franchise and the relationship developed for a total of 8 years.
All clients have a dedicated account handler who personally gets to know them and their business. It also creates individual ownership at the office. Cards and gifts regularly leave the building to celebrate births, marriages or simply wishing a client well when they are poorly or having a difficult time
Claims trends are regularly monitored and solutions sought when a need arises. Previous examples have been to persuade clients to fit finger guards to doors to prevent children suffering major injuries. Incorporation of an on-line management toolkit to assist clients with documentation so clients can be defended should a liability claim arise or a H&S allegation occur. Safeguarding and mock tribunal events to raise awareness of challenging issues have been a relatively new development.
The gross written premium has grown from £100,000 in 2003 to £1.7 million in 2015 and is on target to reach £2 million by the end of its next trading year. dot2dot currently insures over 1,500 nurseries on a national basis, 50,000 children and £1.2 billion material damage.
We have recently changed insurers to Aviva which takes us to the next stage of development. There are lots of great ideas in the pipeline and we are so looking forward to what the future holds.
On the 2 January 2014 my business partner sustained a brain injury and was subsequently away from the business for 19 months which has recently resulted in me purchasing his shares in July 2015. Overnight the business needs changed, as I had to not only to service my clients but immediately needed to understand the requirements of my partner’s clients and build relationships very quickly. In addition, the whole of the responsibility for running the business became mine with the need to have a greater understanding of regulatory matters and finances which had previously been my partner’s area. To add a further challenge I was diagnosed with breast cancer two months later, so treatment took place with two weeks off for surgery and radiotherapy outside business hours.
We never took the foot off driving for new business or ensuring our clients still received the service they expected.
What are your future plans for the business?
Stanmore is on a growth trajectory and alongside the goal to become the number one niche insurance provider to the nursery market we plan on becoming Bolton’s best community commercial broker. This will demand focus on efficiency and systems, marketing, branding, team appointments and development, clear leadership and investment in new partnerships.
If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
There are not enough women running businesses and certainly not in the insurance broking industry. So much emphasis these days is put on qualifications and although they are important, they are not everything. Some people are just not academics. I haven’t a degree and I don’t have great qualifications however I believe you can achieve a lot by sheer determination and hard work.
What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
Speak to lots of companies and find out what suits you whether this is a large corporate or a small independent company. Listen to their values and beliefs, see if they suit you and then learn the ground roots of the insurance industry. Once this is done, then you can start planning your future. Let your bosses know you are keen as often people wait to be noticed. You cannot beat working your way up through any business but you always need to show your determination and interest to succeed. Insurance is not the most sexy subject but it can be great fun.
I am a big fan or Richard Branson and love to read his books and blogs. He built his various businesses from nothing but he has such a passion for what he does but more importantly for the people that work for him.
What is your favourite inspirational quote?
I don’t have one to be honest. Jane taught me the importance of being authentic and this is my “work rule” which has served me well.