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Commercial Insurance Broker
Barney & Barney L.L.C.
Sara Bennett joined Barney & Barney immediately after graduating from college. At the brokerage she has established a reputation as an expert within the healthcare industry and is one of only a handful of female producers in the firm’s commercial division. She says that while insurance is still in some respects a boy’s industry, it is also fun, and she attributes her success in part to her ability to establish empathy with her clients.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO WOMEN ENTERING THIS FIELD?
The first that comes to mind is be prepared to work hard. Be prepared to thicken your skin a little bit. It’s such an amazing industry for women to be in. I work with all males in my department, and I get treated as an equal pretty much, and it’s a pretty unique opportunity where you can be financially independent and have a great work/life balance. But I think women take things a little more personally than men do. My husband tells me it’s just insurance, don’t take things personally, and I think being in the insurance industry in general is kind of a boy’s industry. (But) it’s still an industry where women can succeed, and it’s nice that the boy’s club mentality is changing, so if you kind of just keep your nose to the grindstone and work hard, you’ll succeed.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED IN YOUR LIFE?
My mom told me when I was young to never rely on someone else, meaning a man, and to never rely on a man to make all your money. I think that’s kind of stuck with me in my career. Thankfully, I’m happily married — pretty newly married — but it’s nice I feel that I can contribute and I have my own independence and my own career. You never know what can happen in life. I never grew up thinking, “Oh, I hope I can marry a guy who can take care of me.” It’s always been, “I really want to achieve this so I can continue to be independent and feel good about myself and my own accomplishments.”
WHAT’S THE BEST-KEPT SECRET ABOUT WORKING IN THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY?
Insurance is really fun and there’s a lot more to it than just the insurance policy. You’re solving problems, you’re helping your clients stay in business or grow their business, and it’s always changing, so you’re always learning.
WHAT’S THE NEXT MAJOR CHALLENGE IN YOUR BUSINESS SECTOR?
The hard market.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?
Exercise, time with my family and a Cosmo martini.
WHAT’S YOUR SECRET VICE?
WHAT SKILL HAS BEEN AN UNEXPECTED AID TO YOUR CAREER?
Empathy. I think your clients want to know that you understand what they’re going through if it’s a renewal or if, conversely, they’re excited about something in their business that maybe they made their own goal or went public or whatever. It is that you can be in their shoes and celebrate with them. We’re in a hard market now, so I’m dealing with a lot of challenges. I’ve been told what makes me most successful as a broker is the fact that I care. I almost make their problems like my own to a fault, perhaps.
WHAT’S AT THE TOP OF YOUR BUCKET LIST?
I’m doing my bucket thing next week, actually, to charter a sail boat in the Caribbean and bareboat from island to island, (which means) we’re the captains of the ship. We don’t have a crew. We’re our own crew.
Business Insurance's annual Women to Watch feature recognizes women doing outstanding work in insurance, risk management, employee benefits and related fields.