In April 1982, I had the opportunity to become a partner in a property/casualty insurance agency.
That was the good news.
The not-so-good news was that the opportunity was with a start-up agency with no carrier contracts and no clients. However, we continued to persevere. Even though we had zero experience in how to operate an agency, we did have an office in the storeroom of a toy store; a sign on the door; and an abiding belief that hard work and a little help from friends would provide a pathway to success. So, that was something.
Little did I realize how important help from others would be.
My partner and I were very fortunate to have met and worked with several extremely successful insurance professionals who mentored us and provided much-appreciated and much-needed guidance and encouragement. They didn’t see us as competition, but rather they saw us as part of the future of the p/c industry.
Our obligation to the future
One of the most valuable lessons I learned during my mentorship was that—as members of the insurance community—we all have an obligation to provide for the future of our industry.
This is especially true as insurance agencies continue to gray, and the need to introduce the next generation of insurance agents to the industry becomes paramount.
Find the right mentor
Wanting to expand on the lessons I learned during my mentorship, I joined PIA and I quickly realized that the organization was an excellent source for finding and developing mentors.
The information, services, and resources available through the association can certainly help agents become more successful.
A natural progression of the belief that resources leads to success resulted in the formation within PIA of the Women’s Leadership Alliance—formerly the Women’s Business Forum—with the mission of promoting career and agency development for female agency executives.
Room for women to grow
As I became more involved in insurance, I recognized that—although women make up over 60% of the agency universe—the number of women agency principals was, and remains, small.
This has reaffirmed my commitment to assist women in any way possible to become agency principals. It’s time for agency owners to step up, mentor, and include female executives as part of their perpetuation plans. I believe that a commitment to mentoring at any level is a responsibility we all should embrace. The return on investment on both a personal and professional level just might surprise you.
Donna Cunningham, an insurance industry veteran of more than 40 years, is owner and president of ADP Partners Insurance Agency Inc., Florham Park, N.J. Cunningham has been a PIANJ member since 1989 and she has served on the board in such capacities as president, vice president, treasurer and secretary. In 2012 and 2013, she was named the Agent of the Year by PIANJ and PIA National, respectively. Also, she is vice president and chairperson of the PIANJ Women’s Leadership Alliance. Active in her community, Cunningham is a member of the board of directors and former treasurer of the Family Reach Foundation. She has served as chairperson of the Orange Head Start Program and is a past president of the Orange Chamber of Commerce. She is a former treasurer of the Orange Rotary Club and a past chairperson of the Manton B. Metcalf Memorial Association.