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Protea Conversations: Chet Laws

Protea Conversations: Chet Laws

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high quality outsourced bookkeeping and accounting at an affordable price.  Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were previously overlooked.  Protea strives to represent people from all backgrounds and provide an environment for them to grow and succeed in a setting that provides the flexibility and acceptance of who they are as people.

We selected the name Protea because it is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.

Protea Conversations in 2022 will focus on positive transformation and representation from all backgrounds. We are broadening our Conversations with the hope that these conversations will continue to create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges leaders face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.

In May of 2022 we spent time with Chet Laws, Director of Business Development, North Bay at InterWest Insurance Services, LLC. Chet is a native of San Francisco and has lived in the local area his entire life. After graduating from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA, he began his insurance career with Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company as a commercial underwriter. After 12 years with Fireman’s Fund, he joined a small insurance brokerage and began his career in insurance sales and consulting. Chet joined InterWest Insurance in March 2019.

As a student of the insurance industry, Chet has obtained several insurance designations including Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) and Certified Risk Manager (CRM) from The National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research. Chet maintains both Fire and Casualty, as well as Life and Health Insurance licenses.

Chet is actively involved in the business community and frequently attends events whereby he meets and mingles with business owners and leaders; always looking to promote InterWest Insurance.

A father of two adult boys and stepfather to two teenagers, Chet and his wife live in Santa Rosa, CA. Enjoying the local wines and food offerings in the area is one of Chet’s favorite things to do. Chet is an aspiring photographer in his spare time.

Protea Financial Chet Laws Protea Conversation

Tell us about your decision to go into insurance world and your journey to through your career that now finds you working at InterWest Insurance Services?

After graduating from college, it was time to find a job.  I had no real idea of what I wanted to do for a living.  Looking through the want ads in the newspaper, I saw that Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company was hiring credit and collections trainees.  I did not really know what that was, yet I applied and was subsequently accepted.  After 3 years in the collections department, I entered an underwriter training program.  I learned property and then inland marine insurance.  After a 9-month training, I was hired as a property underwriter in Fireman’s Fund’s San Francisco Office.  After a 3-year stint in San Francisco, I was transferred to the Santa Rosa Office.  Three years later, I was transferred to Home Office in Novato.  After almost 3 years in Novato, I was asked to transfer back to San Francisco, and I declined to do so.  This is when I began my career as an insurance broker.  I worked for a small family insurance brokerage in Novato for 4 years and was mentored by a veteran insurance broker.

After 4 years and a great learning experience, I sought a larger insurance brokerage to help advance my sales career.  I joined (the original) ABD Insurance in Petaluma and really grew my knowledge and skills in insurance and risk management. All the while I furthered my insurance knowledge by studying insurance and obtained my Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC), Certified Risk Manager (CRM), Associate in Risk Management (ARM) and Associate in Underwriting (AU) designations.  ABD went through several mergers and ultimately became part of Wells Fargo Insurance and then USI Insurance.  I realized that I was not too happy working for an extremely large, publicly traded national company, and sought a new insurance brokerage.  I ran into my now boss at InterWest Insurance and talked about continuing my career with him and the InterWest Insurance team.  I have been with InterWest Insurance for just over 3 years now and absolutely love it. My insurance career has been and continues to be a fruitful journey.

What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?

Now, as a veteran insurance broker, I look back at all the great insurance professionals I have been fortunate to work with and for.  As a younger insurance broker coming into the industry and now as a long-time insurance broker, I understand that personal and professional relationships play a big part in the insurance buying decision.  The biggest challenge I have and continue to face is that of an established relationship between prospective clients and their current insurance broker.  In the insurance industry, the only way for a new client to join me and my team is for the current insurance relationship to be terminated.  My challenge for each and every new opportunity is to figure out the relationship between the prospective client and their current insurance broker.  This takes some detective work, local connections and intelligence and being at the right place at the right time when a prospective client has a need.

What are your short-term goals for your career and yourself?

Short-term, I plan to be in the industry for at least another 5-7 years.  I am taking an active role in the education and training of new, younger insurance professionals.  The mentor / coach role is one that I enjoy immensely as I can see results each day.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?

I have been told repeatedly to be patient and persistent.  Oftentimes the sales process can take several years.  Patience and persistence have proven to be sound advice.  Good things do not necessarily happen overnight.

Protea Financial Trust The Process Chet Laws

What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?

Our InterWest Insurance CEO says, “Trust the Process.”  There truly is a process to insurance sales.  Had I learned this simple truth years ago, I could have avoided the “reinventing of myself” time and time again as I sought to grow and prosper.  Trust the Process is sound advice.

What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?

Rely on teamwork! I am an advocate for team selling.  Insurance sales can be an individual role, yet team selling will derive results far more than those gained individually.  I always talk with our sales team and highly encourage a team selling approach.

Can you share something interesting about yourself that will provide insight into who you are outside of the professional space?

My wife and I enjoy spending time together as we travel through the Sonoma and Napa communities visiting the many fabulous restaurants, wineries and breweries in the area.  We both enjoy live music and can often be found at one of the local music venues enjoying music from most all genres.  We also have a beehive and organic garden in our backyard.  Oftentimes we are faced with hundreds of bees flying around as they do what they do in the yard as we are trying to work in the garden.  It can be a fine balancing act.

As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will donate to Positive Images (https://www.posimages.org/). Positive Images is a grassroots nonprofit organization serving Sonoma County since 1990. Their LGBTQIA+ Community Center hosts multiple weekly support groups, a youth leadership development program, mentorship opportunities, an LGBTQIA+ Library, resource and referral station, and a Transformation Station. They proudly offer a warm, welcoming, and affirming environment for young people to explore their individual identities, develop leadership skills, and contribute to our collective community. Positive Images staff lead LGBTQIA+ Cultural Competency Trainings and presentations that educate the greater community focusing on human connection, compassion, and inclusion. Their goal is a community where all LGBTQIA+ people are valued, compassionate community members, creating a just society.

Call Protea Financial for More Information

Want to learn more? Contact Protea Financial and we can help!

Protea Conversations: Jon Sooy

Protea Conversations: Jon Sooy

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high quality out-sourced accounting at an affordable price.  Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were previously overlooked.  Protea strives to represent people from all backgrounds and provide an environment for them to grow and succeed in a setting that provides the flexibility and acceptance of who they are as people.

We selected the name Protea because it is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.

Protea Conversations in 2022 will focus on positive transformation and representation from all backgrounds. We are broadening our Conversations with the hope that these conversations will continue to create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges leaders face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.

A sales and marketing veteran of over 30 years, Jon’s main focus is to generate awareness, drive transactions and increase market share for BroadVision Marketing’s clients. Jon has a proven reputation for success and is known for instigating change. Jon possesses a high aptitude for presenting to and inspiring others to be creative. As CEO of BroadVision Marketing, Jon’s focus is to build a digital marketing agency that is committed to transparency and to drive its clients towards revenue acceleration and growth.

Jon is married to Laura who manages customer service for World Centric, a Sonoma County B Corp that produces compostable products for the food service industry. Jon and Laura are currently building a new home near Tucson Arizona.

Protea Financial Digital Marketing with Jon Sooy 4.28.22B

Tell us about your decision to go into marketing and your journey to CEO of BroadVision Marketing?

Having recently lost my father to cancer, I can’t seem to answer that question without acknowledging the impact my father has had on my life and career. So much of who I am is directly related to my father’s influence. My father owned gas stations in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Back then, many Service Stations had repair garages and this was my playground. When I was very young, he noticed that I was quite mechanically inclined and began bringing me objects to take apart and reassemble. This gave me confidence and a great desire to understand how things worked. As I matured, this evolved to where I was interested in mechanics, electronics, software, programming and business. However I also learned that I tended to get bored with things once I mastered them. This meant I was constantly looking for something new to learn and master. When the internet began to change how we did business, I was immediately intrigued and excited by the possibilities. I still remember the first time I saw the internet in the early 90’s. I turned to the person who showed it to me and said ‘Do you have any idea what this means? What the potential is for this?’ From that point on, the internet was directly involved in my job and my life. The industry I am in is ideal for me as it appeals to almost every aspect of what excites me in life. And, I will never stop learning or become bored. It’s impossible!

What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?

Our biggest challenge in recent years has definitely been navigating the crazy business environment during the pandemic. We all heard the word ‘pivot’ a million times but for us it was quite intense as we were not only making sure that BroadVision Marketing was positioned well but were trusted advisors to our customers who were going through a wide array of challenges. I am so proud of the work we did during that time as we helped many of our customers have their best years ever.

What are your short-term goals for your career and yourself?

My short term career goal is to refine BroadVision Marketing into a well oiled machine. We are what I consider to be a boutique agency in that we do not have cookie-cutter approaches to solving our customer’s marketing challenges. Add to this the ever changing nature of our industry and you can see the challenge emerge. How can you organize a company so that all the people and processes are aligned when the search engines change the rules on a daily basis? The answer is that we as a company need to retain a certain degree of plasticity with our processes and to keep a keen eye on where we need to focus as technology and consumers continue to evolve. This plasticity and mindset are a critical component of our current success and will be for years to come.

Protea Financial Jon Sooy 4.28.22B

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?

“Don’t force a pass.” One of my heroes is John Wooden. As a kid I was very fortunate to attend a John Wooden basketball camp. During a practice session, I saw a teammate across the court who had an open shot at the basket. However, there were several opponents between myself and my teammate. I tried anyway. I failed. The pass I made was stolen and it resulted in an easy 2 points for our opponent. The coach paused the practice and told me that when I was confronted with a difficult decision, to take a breath, think about my options and to pursue the opportunities that had the best potential for success. I think about this almost every day when confronted with a challenge. Rarely do we end up in situations where there are no options. When I witness someone else making a poor tactical or strategic decision, you may see me whispering to myself “Don’t force a pass.”

What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?

The one piece of advice that I wished I had gotten was that it’s ok to follow your gut. As a young business person I followed the rule book and relied on facts and figures to make decisions. However it wasn’t until I began to listen to my gut that I began to see my full potential.  I don’t make all decisions by listening to my gut, but my gut certainly has an important role to play and I listen.

What advice would you give to others to help them become better leaders?

I think that the number one mistake leaders make is they are not always present when engaging with their team members. I think it is important to take the time to listen carefully to those who you lead. We are all human beings and it is so important to be mindful and intentional when listening to your team members. Get to know them as people. Get to know their talents, challenges and ideas. They will come away with the sense that you truly care about them. I firmly believe that this is the secret to getting a group of people all headed in the same direction.

Protea Financial Jon Sooy DIY 4.28.22B

Can you share something interesting about yourself that will provide insight into who you are outside of the professional space?

Because of how I was raised, I am an avid DIY person. I am comfortable repairing my cars, remodeling my home, repairing virtually anything and inventing solutions to problems. My wife once bought me a t-shirt that said “I VOID WARRANTIES” because I frequently take things apart in an effort to see how they work.

As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will donate to Positive Images (https://www.posimages.org/). Positive Images is a grassroots nonprofit organization serving Sonoma County since 1990. Their LGBTQIA+ Community Center hosts multiple weekly support groups, a youth leadership development program, mentorship opportunities, an LGBTQIA+ Library, resource and referral station, and a Transformation Station. They proudly offer a warm, welcoming, and affirming environment for young people to explore their individual identities, develop leadership skills, and contribute to our collective community. Positive Images staff lead LGBTQIA+ Cultural Competency Trainings and presentations that educate the greater community focusing on human connection, compassion, and inclusion. Their goal is a community where all LGBTQIA+ people are valued, compassionate community members, creating a just society.

Call Protea Financial Today for More Information

If you have any questions or want to learn more, please reach out to us here at Protea Financial!

Protea Conversations: Chelsea Kurnick

Protea Conversations: Chelsea Kurnick

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high quality out-sourced bookkeeping and accounting at an affordable price.  Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were previously overlooked.  Protea strives to represent people from all backgrounds and provide an environment for them to grow and succeed in a setting that provides the flexibility and acceptance of who they are as people.

We selected the name Protea because it is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.

Protea Conversations in 2022 will focus on positive transformation and representation from all backgrounds. We are broadening our Conversations with the hope that these conversations will continue to create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges leaders face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.

In March we spent some time with Chelsea Kurnick, the chair of Positive Images (PI). Positive Images is a grassroots nonprofit organization serving Sonoma County since 1990. This LGBTQIA+ Community Center hosts multiple weekly support groups, a youth leadership development program, mentorship opportunities, an LGBTQIA+ Library, resource and referral station, and a Transformation Station – a closet of free lightly-used clothing. They are proud to offer a warm, welcoming, and affirming environment for people of all ages to explore their individual identities, develop leadership skills, and contribute to our collective community. Positive Images staff lead LGBTQIA+ Cultural Competency Trainings and presentations that educate the greater community focusing on human connection, compassion, and inclusion. The vision is a Sonoma County where all LGBTQIA+ people are valued, compassionate community members, creating a just society.

Chelsea Rose Kurnick is a queer bisexual woman from southern California and has lived in Sonoma County since October 2017. She joined the board of Positive Images in 2018 after volunteering with the organization for about a year. With Jessica Carroll, she co-founded and facilitates the weekly Friday evening LGBTQIA peer support group. Chelsea knew Sonoma County well before moving, as she has worked in the wine industry for nearly 12 years. She spent more than three years doing public relations and digital marketing for a variety of Sonoma County tourism businesses and organizations. Chelsea is currently a development coordinator and film programmer for AVFilm.

 

Tell us about your journey from wine to marketing to nonprofit development?

I got interested in wine and spirits while working as a server at a fine dining restaurant during college. When I graduated, I decided to pursue my sommelier certificate and another certification from Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET). After several years in restaurants and bars, I felt eager for a change of pace, and started exploring what other careers might be available to someone with my specializations. I was lucky to find a PR and marketing agency that specializes in wine and tourism. They were expanding and needed an experienced writer with wine knowledge; my skills proved to be a perfect match. It was an exhilarating job which led me to travel all over the U.S. and, most frequently, to Sonoma Wine Country from my then home in Los Angeles.

I moved to Sonoma County full time on October 1, 2017. When I say that to anyone who lives here, their eyes widen, knowingly, because on October 8, 2017, the most destructive fire in California history (then) swept through Santa Rosa, taking human lives, leveling more than 5% of the homes in our county’s largest city and changing our lives forever.

That tragedy—and a political climate that threatened the rights and safety of queer people in the U.S.—impelled me toward some major life changes. As much as I enjoyed my marketing work, it was the right time for me to change course again. I began organizing arts events in support of causes that matter to me. It turned out that many of the skills I’d acquired in my PR and marketing job came in handy. Today, I work in development at an arts-based nonprofit called AVFilm and am learning new skills every day.

 

Protea Financial Protea Conversation Chelsea Kurnick

 

Tell us about your role with Positive Images and how you got involved?

Before I was invited to join PI’s board, I volunteered at our peer support group for youth and young adults. That program is fantastic and impactful — so much so that I wondered why queer and trans adults didn’t have our own peer support group. Together with PI’s Director of Programs Jessica Carroll, we co-founded a weekly adult group in 2018. Four years later, that group is thriving.

In my role as chair of our Board of Directors, I create the agendas and lead PI’s board meetings. I work on donor development, professional development opportunities for the staff and board, and outreach in the community. I am an experienced grant writer, so I also co-create grant and contract proposals for the organization. We’re in a big growth spurt right now, so there are a lot of moving parts to my role at PI.

 

Why is Positive Images important to you?

Our center is like a home to me and the community I find here are my chosen family. I’m fortunate to also have close relationships with my blood family, but that isn’t the case for many LGBTQIA+ people. Family and societal rejection of queer and trans people results in heightened risk for all sorts of hardships in life–from depression and suicidal ideation to job and housing insecurity and so much more. PI exists to affirm and celebrate LGBTQIA+ people in their identities and exploration thereof. Our trainings reduce stigma and increase empathy and understanding of LGBTQIA+ individuals and issues to foster a safer, more just world for us to exist in, while our direct services reduce feelings of isolation and provide life-saving support for queer and trans people in our community.

 

What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?

PI is my first board, so learning all of the pieces involved in governance has been a big job and is an ongoing process. I take a lot of continuing education courses in nonprofit leadership and board boot camps. Learning to delegate tasks effectively and to share the work is crucial to successful collaborative work, which doesn’t always come naturally to a person who has done a lot of freelancing and independent projects.

 

What are your short-term goals of your career and yourself?

This year, professionally, I’m focused on slowing down and working more strategically. Personally, I’m really trying to spend more time away from my phone and computer.

 

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?

In 2019, I took a workshop with the arts & equity consultant Beatrice L. Thomas. Bea presented a binary where they said that a talent is something you’re inherently good at and that gives you energy to do, whereas a skill is something you’ve had to learn and takes energy to do. Many jobs will require you to use a combination of your talents and your skills, but if you find yourself doing work that is mostly skills-based, you’re going to burn out. I reflect on this all the time.

 

Protea Financial Chelsea Kurnick Mentoring Protea Conversation

 

What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out on your career?

I guess this goes back to what I said about my present short-term goals – I wish someone had told me that often investing time upfront to learn something deeply often saves time in the future. Take time to research broader solutions rather than trouble-shooting in a vacuum.

 

What advice would you give to others to help them be better leaders?

Connect with and learn from others! Are there leaders or organizations you admire? Ask if you can meet with them and pick their brain. Leaders are usually flattered and delighted to share their knowledge with others.

 

Can you share something interesting about yourself that will provide insight into who you are outside of the professional space and your role with Positive Images?

Writing and art are still at the center of my life. When I’m not writing grants, I’m writing freelance journalism or poetry. In 2020, I got to teach a community workshop at the Museum of Sonoma County on ekphrasis – responding to a work of art through creative writing.

As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will donate to Positive Images (https://www.posimages.org/).

Call Protea Financial for More Information

If you have any questions, please reach out to us here at Protea Financial!

Protea Conversations: Carter Welch

Protea Conversations: Carter Welch

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high quality out-sourced bookkeeping and accounting at an affordable price.  Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the work force after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were previously overlooked.  Protea strives to represent people from all backgrounds and provide an environment for them to grow and succeed in a setting that provides the flexibility and acceptance of who they are as people.

We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.

Protea Conversations in 2022 will focus on positive transformation and representation from all backgrounds. We are broadening our Conversations with the hope that these conversations will continue to create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges leaders face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.

In March we have a conversation with Carter Welch. Carter is a branding, sales and business coaching professional with hands on experience in multiple industries, including wine, manufacturing, and professional services (law, accounting, consulting, among several). After growing up in Maine, he was a History major at Bowdoin College. Upon graduation, he worked in Brand Management for Procter & Gamble, Pillsbury and Brach’s, where he built a consumer brand from $9 million to over $50 million in less than four years. For much of the past 20 years, Carter has built his own company, focusing on branding, marketing, and sales growth.

Carter is married to Tracey, the President of CompleteDTC, a comprehensive DTC management system for wineries, who was featured in one of our earlier Protea conversations. Carter is active in youth leadership and competes in short-distance triathlons several times a year (when he isn’t playing golf). Carter & Tracey love camping and driving vacations, especially visiting their 3 recently graduated sons, living in LA and Sacramento.

 

Tell us about your decision to go into marketing and your journey to Business Advisor, Coach and Consultant?

Right out of college, Procter & Gamble offered me one the best business management training opportunities in the world, in their Brand Management program, which included marketing, sales, general business management, P&L management and consumer research/education.  It was the perfect job because it included not simply marketing, but also general business management. It was such a great fit for me, I continue and progressed in Brand, Sales & then General Management for P&G, Pillsbury, Brach’s and an internet FinTech startup for the next 15 years. After moving to Fin Tech for a few years in 2000 at the height of “internet startups”

I then got the itch to start my own Marketing Services business, focusing on providing branding and marketing services to primarily small and light middle market clients in many different industries. We later moved to California, where I took a role as head of marketing, sales, and business development for a sizeable ($750 million) company, until I again had the desire to go out on my own again.  Today, my passion is to guide owners of smaller companies (generally start-ups to $20 million in revenue) to help them grow, scale, and lead their companies – all while helping them find joy in their work and balance in their lives.  

 

Protea Financial Protea Conversation Carter Welch

 

What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?

Lack of clear road maps has been the biggest challenge. There are lots of books to read, but how do I apply it for me and for my clients? As an independent business coach/consultant powered by The Shirlaws Group, I have access to incredible intellectual property that I use to help my clients. Some of the tools I use now, I really wish I had access to when I started my own Marketing Services business. I made mistakes that I may not have made if I had access to the “road maps” that Shirlaws gives me to use with my clients. For me, like most business owners I encounter, the problem isn’t a LACK of ideas, it is often TOO MANY ideas. How do they simplify and focus? How do they get help in developing a very specific road map, for their very unique business? That is what drives me – to help my clients avoid mistakes I made earlier, so they can achieve the kind of success and balance they seek.

 

What are your short-term goals of your career and yourself?

I’ll provide a personal goal that translates into professional lessons for success: I want to be a triathlete. Last year, I lost a bunch of weight through the Kaiser Weight Management Program (which I HIGHLY recommend).  I then decided I would try to complete a short-distance triathlon, which I did at the end of last year.  (Short distance means: ½ mile swim; 13-mile bike race, and a 5K run.) I will compete in several more races this year and next (moving up to the next distance level later in the year).

I love triathlons because they make me a much better business coach. Why? It teaches me the value of perseverance.  There is no way I could have completed even a short race when I started training.  And had I tried to “ramp up” too quickly, I would have gotten injured and failed.  Instead, I built up training slowly and didn’t try to do more than I really could or should until I was ready to continue to “scale” my training. This is the same thing I work with for my business clients.

Also, with triathlons, I need to have balanced training, doing something nearly 300 days a year.  But I may only compete in 5 or 6 actual races a year. So, my success is completely dependent on my finding joy in training, in putting in the effort to build up strength and endurance the 98% of the time that no one is watching (when I’m competing in a race).  The same is true for my clients. They need to focus on improving all the little details in their business day in and day out.  Get a little stronger here.  A little faster there.  A little smarter here. A little more efficient there. Budget time (and resources) effectively. These are great lessons and goals for my career.

 

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?

I’ll offer two.

First: Diffuse and disarm.

So many people, especially inside organizations are ready to fight.  Rather than fight an outside competitor, they turn to working at cross-purposes within their organization. Someone once taught me that when tensions are high, I need to diffuse the situation. Listen (genuinely) and then diffuse the heat and tension.  Next, disarm opponents within your own organization. A great mentor once pointed out that the biggest challenge to sales success is internal sales prevention.  So, with my clients, I help them identify and root out sales prevention within their own teams.

Second: your brand isn’t what you think it is, your brand is what your customers (and potential customers) think it is.

Seek first to understand what your customers (and people who have chosen to NOT become your customers) really think and believe about you. You cannot be understood unless you first seek to understand (shout out to Stephen Covey).

 

What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?

Don’t seek to be right. Instead seek to implement right solutions that can be supported by your team.  Great ideas executed poorly always fail.  Very good ideas that have buy-in from the team implementing them, usually win. Being right if you can’t convince anyone to follow does not a leader make.

 

Protea Financial Group Cooperation Success Carter Welch

 

What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?

Seek win-win solutions.  Listen.  Collaborate.  Encourage. Don’t seek credit yourself for good ideas – give that credit FREELY to others. No one wants to be beaten into submission. Find solutions that are a win for your company AND a win for the people on your team.  They will feel empowered, your business will be successful, and the moment will feed on itself and create extraordinary power within your organization.

 

Can you share something interesting about yourself that will provide insight into who you are outside of the professional space?

I love to serve as a youth leader, and I have throughout my life. When our boys were younger (they are now in their early 20’s), I coached many of their sports.  I believe I coached or assisted for about 40 different teams (basketball, baseball, soccer) for my 3 boys.  I still serve as a church youth group leader, which I’ve done for over 20 years. This involves serving a number of high school students as a mentor, friend, coach, and listener. Especially over the past two years, I’ve seen how difficult it can be for students to navigate through high school.  Every week, I look forward to the time I can spend with these amazing students. Plus, it keeps me sharp on current popular culture (yes, I knew all the performers at this year’s Super Bowl half-time show). On a more serious note, I just like being able to lean into students’ lives and be able to listen and make a difference in their lives.

As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will make a donation to Positive Images (https://www.posimages.org/). Positive Images is a grassroots nonprofit organization serving Sonoma County since 1990. Their LGBTQIA+ Community Center hosts multiple weekly support groups, a youth leadership development program, mentorship opportunities, an LGBTQIA+ Library, resource and referral station, and a Transformation Station. They proudly offer a warm, welcoming, and affirming environment for young people to explore their individual identities, develop leadership skills, and contribute to our collective community. Positive Images staff lead LGBTQIA+ Cultural Competency Trainings and presentations that educate the greater community focusing on human connection, compassion, and inclusion. Their goal is a community where all LGBTQIA+ people are valued, compassionate community members, creating a just society.

Call Protea Financial for More Information

If you have any questions, please reach out to us here at Protea Financial!

Protea Conversations: Andrea Christensen

Protea Conversations: Andrea Christensen

Protea Conversations

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high quality out-sourced accounting at an affordable price.  Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the work force after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were previously overlooked.  Protea strives to represent people from all backgrounds and provide an environment for them to grow and succeed in a setting that provides the flexibility and acceptance of who they are as people.

We selected the name Protea because it is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of its striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.

Protea Conversations in 2022 will focus on positive transformation and representation from all backgrounds. We are broadening our Conversations with the hope that these conversations will continue to create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges leaders face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.

In February we have a conversation with Andrea Christensen.  Andrea is the principal of Allstar West Insurance Services LLC which is the current iteration of H.N. Christensen Co., Inc., the insurance agency her grandfather started in 1923 in San Anselmo, California.  She is the 3rd generation to carry on their business and her daughter, Janelle Robello who is her “right hand”, brings 4 generations to the agency.

Andrea’s career has spanned more than 30 years providing service to her clients, many of whose families have been with the agency for generations as well.

Her vast experience, understanding of the current insurance climate and commitment to education set her apart from her peers.  She calls herself an “insurance nerd” and enjoys monthly classes to keep abreast of the continued changes in the coverages provided by the myriad insurance policies she sells.

A lifelong resident of Marin and Sonoma Counties, Andrea enjoys travelling with her husband, John Ranis, time outside in her vegetable garden, waterskiing and spending time with her family and friends.

Tell us about your journey into the insurance world?

I remember going to the office on weekends with my father when I was 11 or 12 and “cleaning” while he worked.  I’ve never looked back… except for the few minor jobs during school, and the time I quit for a few days over a large disagreement with my father.  I actually am very fortunate to have learned about giving within your community, Rotary International, supporting local business and referring and doing business within your community.  This is where I learned the “giving culture” I still use today and will continue to use.

 

Protea Financial Andrea Christensen

 

What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?

Professionally – I was a young mom (under 30) with about 5 years of insurance experience when my father had his first heart attack and could not go to the office.  There I was running a male dominated business with 8 employees all older and much more experienced than I.  Here is where “community” comes back in….3 insurance brokers in Marin County that my father knew all called and came to the office to assist me with accounts and questions and my amazing mentor and friend, Joan Capurro, (who just passed away at Christmas) who was a local banker, helped me with personnel issues.  They all helped me get through that time with no one quitting, no losses of accounts and boy, did I learn a LOT!

Personally – staying on track to grow the business and find time to enjoy TODAY.  So really it is what we all talk about these days – work life balance – what are we working for?  We need to enjoy today AND work today AND spend time with our family today…how do we fit it all in?

What are your short term goals of your career and yourself?

2023 will mark 100 years since my grandfather founded our agency.  We started as H.N. Christensen Co., Inc. and have had different names as we merged, purchased and bought out partners over the years.  My family and I are now the sole owners and I am working toward going back to a derivative of the Christensen name (as allowed by the department of insurance) and rebranding for our 100 year anniversary.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?

“It is a bigger feather in your cap to turn an employee around than to dismiss them” …Joan Capurro 1983

What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?

If you are running your own business and don’t have an accounting background, take some accounting classes.  You always should hire professionals to handle your accounting, but if you don’t understand how to read your balance sheet, make projections, understand your expenses and true cost of doing business, you will have a rough road ahead.  Professionals can and will guide you in this but you are ultimately responsible for the success of YOUR business.

Also, and equally important, treat your employees well – VERY WELL – what you give will come back to you time and again.

What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?

See above ????

Be real – be yourself – don’t take yourself too seriously -laugh at yourself – reach out to get to know who you are working with or leading and do your best.  We are all human, with time constraints – ask for help!  We can’t do everything ourselves so surround yourself with good people – that may mean professionally strong or people who “get it” – depending on what you are doing, but try to choose well and then don’t micromanage!

Can you share something interesting about yourself that will provide insight into who you are outside of the professional space?

I’m a wife, mom, auntie, grandmother, sister, friend, volunteer, businessowner, crafter, Rotarian, photographer, horseback rider, water skier, gardener and we own a 5th wheel trailer for travel.  There aren’t enough hours in the day ever! (I also love watching Women’s College Basketball and the Warriors) –  I love reading and learning – the two go hand in hand – so I read a lot.

I was the first woman inducted into the Rotary Club of Ross Valley in 1988, a club in which my grandfather was a charter member and my father was a current member.  3 men who had known me all or most of my life resigned their membership when I became a member.  I don’t consider myself unique – just a part of the time of change for women in many ways in the world, not just the work environment.  It is interesting to look back on that now.

Last, I had stopped volunteering some in 2017 and was looking for something new when ProVisors started in Marin that year.  When I left home to attend the first meeting, my husband asked me to “sit on both of your hands” so I did not volunteer for anything…. look how well I listen!  I am a member of ProVisors Larkspur and the Group Leader of ProVisors Santa Rosa 2.  It is a fabulous community and how I got to meet Zane Stevens.

As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will make a donation to Positive Images (https://www.posimages.org/). Positive Images is a grassroots nonprofit organization serving Sonoma County since 1990. Their LGBTQIA+ Community Center hosts multiple weekly support groups, a youth leadership development program, mentorship opportunities, an LGBTQIA+ Library, resource and referral station, and a Transformation Station. They proudly offer a warm, welcoming, and affirming environment for young people to explore their individual identities, develop leadership skills, and contribute to our collective community. Positive Images staff lead LGBTQIA+ Cultural Competency Trainings and presentations that educate the greater community focusing on human connection, compassion, and inclusion. Their goal is a community where all LGBTQIA+ people are valued, compassionate community members, creating a just society.

Call Protea Financial for More Information

If you have any questions, please reach out to us here at Protea Financial!

Protea Conversations: John Comfort

Protea Conversations: John Comfort

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high quality out-sourced bookkeeping and accounting at an affordable price.  Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the work force after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were previously overlooked.  Protea strives to represent people from all backgrounds and provide an environment for them to grow and succeed in a setting that provides the flexibility and acceptance of who they are as people.

We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.

Protea Conversations in 2022 will focus on positive transformation and representation from all backgrounds. We are broadening our Conversations with the hope that these conversations will continue to create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges leaders face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.

In January 2022, we spoke to John Comfort. John developed a passion for IT when serving in the military nearly 3 decades ago.  After the military, John obtained his BS in Business at Sonoma State University. During and after college, John has been engaged in IT projects and services for numerous organizations ranging from a single location to over 800 locations with the most challenging industry being Banking. He founded his first outsourced IT service company over two decades ago and eventually went solo until recently due to client interest and feedback in the area. John has an aptitude for solving IT and cybersecurity problems, helping organizations enhance their competitive edge by leveraging technology to improve the efficiency of processes in the business environment. If there were just two strong points that could be assigned to him, it would be root cause analysis (problem solving) and implementing technologies in creative ways to benefit businesses. After designing network security and infrastructure for middle market clients, he broadened his focus to include smaller businesses, guiding them in the protection and accessibility of their vital data.

John is currently President of Linked MSP, a new startup Managed Services Provider with offerings in three key areas: general IT consulting, fully Managed IT Services, and Cybersecurity services. He enjoys spending quality time over a lunch or dinner with clients to get to know them and their needs. ‘Conversation over a meal is always a more relaxing and engaging environment’ he says. Frequently he finds topics come up over meals that have helped solve upcoming technology and non-tech hurdles. On his free time, he would spend time riding dirt bikes in the mountains with his sons. But since they’ve moved on, he spends the extra time with his wife Melissa puzzling or looking for ways they can visit their children more often, or even trying a new restaurant with a nice glass of local wine! Between John & Melissa they have six children.

 

Tell us about your decision to get into the IT world and your journey to start Linked MSP?

My career began in the US Navy programming small proprietary applications. After finishing my term with the Navy, I entered college on a computer sciences track. During college, I was hired by a large integrator in Los Angeles building servers and migrating systems and is essentially what got me into IT. After moving to Sonoma County in 1997, I started an IT consulting firm (in 2000) providing IT services to the SMB market. In 2009 I left the company to consult independently for customers in a number of sectors including wineries, financial, manufacturing and large estates. In 2017 Linked MSP was formed in response to clients’ requests to contract with them, as it is difficult to find quality service providers with the knowledge, skillset and attention to detail required for today’s challenges.

 

Protea Financial John Comfort Conversation IT Services

 

What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?

Finding good employees has been and continues to be the biggest challenge in the IT space. The second most challenging aspect is educating customers to understand that there is a heightened importance of IT and Cybersecurity today compared to what it was even 5 years ago.

What are your short term goals of your career and yourself?

Short term goals are to continue to build Linked MSP and provide IT service excellence.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?

Anyone can be good at what they do, but few choose to be excellent.

What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?

Stick with computers! (this was in high school, in the late 80’s before I had any interest in computers)

What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?

Work hard, have integrity, take care of your customers through attention to detail and forward thinking.

Can you share something interesting about yourself that will provide insight into who you are outside of the professional space?

I enjoy riding dirt bikes in the mountains with my sons, noodling around the technical trails that comb through the forest, reading, and puzzling with my wife.

As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will make a donation to Positive Images (https://www.posimages.org/). Positive Images is a grassroots nonprofit organization serving Sonoma County since 1990. Their LGBTQIA+ Community Center hosts multiple weekly support groups, a youth leadership development program, mentorship opportunities, an LGBTQIA+ Library, resource and referral station, and a Transformation Station. They proudly offer a warm, welcoming, and affirming environment for young people to explore their individual identities, develop leadership skills, and contribute to our collective community. Positive Images staff lead LGBTQIA+ Cultural Competency Trainings and presentations that educate the greater community focusing on human connection, compassion, and inclusion. Their goal is a community where all LGBTQIA+ people are valued, compassionate community members, creating a just society.

Call Protea Financial for More Information

If you have any questions, please reach out to us here at Protea Financial!