2009 Women to Watch: Jenny L. HousleyPosted On: Dec. 6, 2009 12:00 AM CST
Lockton Cos. L.L.C.
Kansas City, Mo.
Jenny Housley began her employee benefit consulting career 14 years ago when Lockton Cos. L.L.C.'s Kansas City, Mo., benefits operation included 14 associates and generated 10% of the revenue that it does today. Ms. Housley was selected as one of Lockton's first two unit managers/team leaders in employee benefits and was pivotally involved in developing the service team structure and performance standards for the organization. Today, Lockton's employee benefits division has seven service teams, more than 100 associates and retains 95% of its clients. In 2003, after eight years in managing accounts in the employee benefit consulting field, Ms. Housley became the second female employee benefits service associate at Lockton to transition to the role of producer. She is now responsible for new business acquisition and existing client retention and has grown her book of business to more than $1.1 million a year. Like mentors that helped her early in her career, Ms. Housley now mentors a female employee benefits producer who recently joined Lockton. She is responsible for the new producer's sales growth during the next 18 months while continuing to grow her own portfolio.
Your professional role model: I have found role models in many different places. Of course, my parents were excellent role models for me as I worked my way through school and entered the professional world. When I began my insurance consulting career in 1995, the then-president of Lockton's employee benefit division, Sam Reda, very quickly became my primary mentor as I learned the business and developed a style I could call my own. In addition to Sam, several other key leaders within Lockton complemented his efforts to show me the ropes and, from each of them, I learned how to develop my analytical skills needed to advise our clients. As I progressed through the ranks at Lockton, I would always ask Sam what I needed to do to reach the next milestone. How could I be better? He would always tell me, "Jenny, it is a nine-inning game. Slow down. Enjoy your achievements. You will win the game." Finally, my husband and children are my daily reminders of why it is important to work harder every day and do the right thing for my clients, Lockton, my family and me. There is no greater reward than my happy and healthy family and celebrating our lives together.
Best professional advice you've received: My son's (school) principal shared this with me and I wrote it down and look at it daily: “It's easy to be thankful for the good things. A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks. Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive. Find a way to be thankful for your troubles and they can become your blessings.” The author is unknown. Another piece that is hanging on the wall in my office that I look at daily is the five keys to success according to a Deloitte & Touche executive: 1) Enjoy what you do. Love your career. 2) Celebrate successes. 3) Embrace change. 4) Stay true to your values. Give back to your community. 5.) Mentor and mentee. Coaching is a two-way street.
Advice for women entering the field: As a mentor to a new female producer at Lockton, I have had the good fortune of coaching someone new to our industry. Brooke Runnion is a go-getter with an incredible aptitude to sell herself and our company. One of the things I encourage her to do is work hard at learning our business, develop a niche to differentiate herself and do the right thing every time. If she consistently strives to do these things, she will find great success in this business. Staying focused on our customers and ensuring our decisions are made with their best interests in mind is why Lockton is different and why our clients stay with us for many, many years.
What you wanted to be professionally while growing up: On the day I took the LSAT to enter law school, I joined a friend at her company holiday party as her guest. That night, I was introduced to the then-12-person staff of Lockton's Kansas City benefit operation, including the president, Sam Reda. Sam called me shortly thereafter and I began interviewing with Lockton. At the same time, I was registering to attend law school to begin my journey to become an attorney. Sam promised me if I did not love employee benefits, he would personally pay to send me to law school. I was worried I would get bored with insurance and need new challenges and told him I would take him up on his offer. That was almost 15 years ago and not a single day has bored me in this dynamic field.
Best book you've read recently: I recently reread “The Wedge” by Randy Schwantz. This was the first book I read when I transitioned from service management to sales/production at Lockton five years ago. The book talks about proactive service being our only competitive advantage. Selling is believing in the process. Winning is focusing on the results and crafting a specific, workable, well-rehearsed method to achieve those results. The real difference between selling and winning is focus. What I do every day for my clients is not a differentiator. How I do what I do every day makes me unique. The book talks about creating instant rapport with prospects by consistently creating an environment where people feel comfortable. It taught me the value in helping a prospect go through a period of self-discovery. Listen, listen, listen. To me, that is the only way to identify a prospect's/client's pain and then develop a plan to resolve problems and satisfy goals. Finally, this book validates my primary objective with any prospect, client, friend—connect personally and tell the truth.
Phone or e-mail and why: I prefer telephone conversations. I think tone in e-mails can sometimes be misinterpreted, and I still very much appreciate the personal touch of a live conversation. I can gain a greater sense of a prospect's or client's feelings and, often, more substantive information is exchanged when talking on the phone vs. the back and forth of e-mail correspondence. I recognize the value of written documentation via e-mail, but when possible, I would rather talk to people on the phone or better yet in person.