(415) 418-0020 info@proteafinancial.com
Protea Conversations: Karen Alary

Protea Conversations: Karen Alary

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high-quality outsourced 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 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 July, we talk to Karen Alary of the Personnel Perspective. Founded in 1987, The Personnel Perspective has an outstanding reputation for quality service in human resources consulting, leadership training and development, recruitment, organizational design, conflict resolution and mediation. The firm works with companies of all sizes in all industries and provides customized solutions based on the client’s individual needs and circumstances.

After completing college, Karen Alary began a career in human resources.  Her experience, not the typical career progression you might expect, was well-rounded and prepared her to eventually become owner and Managing Partner of The Personnel Perspective.  The Personnel Perspective was founded and is still based in Santa Rosa and Napa, and is currently celebrating its 35th year in business.

Karen grew up in Sonoma County and has deep ties to the community.  One of her personal values is to give back to her community through volunteer work and supporting some local non-profits.  She believes that through the work The Personnel Perspective does and the time she gives to non-profits, she is helping make businesses stronger, leading to a stronger community.

Tell us about your decision to start a career in human resources and your journey to Managing Partner of The Personnel Perspective?

The HR profession found me.

The confluence of two important factors brought me to the HR profession and, later, as the Managing Partner of The Personnel Perspective. 

My degree is in business management.  Out of college, I worked in a national labor and employment law firm.  I was fascinated with the myriad issues businesses faced with their employees, the counsel attorneys gave to business owners and leaders, and the resolutions reached.  I was clear I did not want to be a lawyer and so I gravitated toward the HR profession.

Years into my HR career I had the opportunity to do some consulting work.  This work expanded and I realized there was a lot of need in our business community.  The thought of helping many businesses was very appealing to me and as I continued consulting I had the opportunity to buy The Personnel Perspective, a well-established HR consulting firm based in Santa Rosa.  This was a huge attraction because I loved the work I was doing and the idea of becoming a small business owner was kind of full-circle for me as I had grown up in an entrepreneurial environment.  My father was a successful business owner and I witnessed the rewards and challenges he faced. 

Protea Financial Personnel HR

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

As a small business, we face many of the same challenges as our clients in trying to keep up with all of the state’s employment and business regulations.  California regulations are challenging for all small and medium sized businesses and the cost of business and living are so high in this state that the balancing act we all have to perform to continue has to be part of the overall strategy.  As HR professionals, the biggest challenge in the current environment is being pulled in so many different directions given that there continue to be pandemic protocols to account for, we have to be on top of all the potential legislative changes being considered and be ready to help clients continue to be compliant and we need to manage our own internal infrastructure so that we can be efficient and responsive.  The HR profession in itself is a balancing act with many competing priorities and that is what keeps the work interesting and worthwhile. Our main function is to be problem solvers and with the competing needs of small businesses, it can be a perfect storm; sometimes there aren’t perfect solutions and we have to exercise creative thinking and be flexible.

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

In the short-term, my goals are to provide value and excellent service to our clients.  We focus on building long-term relationships and take the time to get to know our clients, their needs, their industry and organization, and prioritize the strategic partnership. 

In the long-run, I would like to become an advocate and voice for small businesses in California at the state level.  According to a report published by the California Governor’s office, California small businesses create two-thirds of all new jobs and employ nearly half of all private sector employees; they are the drivers of economic growth and we must ensure they remain strong and relevant. Legislators can often be a bit out of touch when they write bills that affect businesses in that they may not have awareness of the challenges businesses face in having to follow the new or amended regulations.  They are policy makers and not in tune with the cost to implement and the day-to-day or practical issues that arise during implementation.  While policy and legislation is important to protect employee rights, a balance must be struck between worker protections and for keeping the legal and regulatory quagmire from becoming so cumbersome that businesses can no longer stay afloat particularly given that entrepreneurs play such a vital role in California’s economy and job market.

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

A colleague shared the analogy of HR being like a bicycle wheel.  HR is the hub of the wheel with all the spokes coming off of it to make the larger wheel itself.  All the spokes are the various stakeholders and priorities for a business.  HR’s job is to keep everything balanced so the wheel doesn’t become warped.  A warped wheel is hard to peddle on and can cause the bicycle to become unusable.  We want to have balance and fairness, appropriate legal compliance, awareness of risk, solve the problems and keep employee satisfaction high, all while ensuring the business remains strong and can continue to meet its mission and goals. Every aspect, each of the spokes, matter to the wellbeing of the organization—the wheels ability to balance and function.

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

Every HR professional struggles with confidence at the beginning because there is so much technical information we have to store in our knowledge banks.  When starting out we all can be hesitant when we don’t have enough experience and exposure yet.  Nonetheless, giving HR practitioners time for the steep learning curve and allowing space to take risks is the best way to learn and grow confidence and professional experience and knowledge.  HR as a profession can lend itself to individual practitioners becoming too risk averse in general because we are always thinking about the risk and potential exposure to lawsuits or other expensive employment claims for the business.  Even with the legal environment as it is today, in order to be innovative, we have to be willing to try new things while thinking through our decisions and the possible consequences.

Protea Financial Protea Conversation with Karen Alary

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

Leadership is all about building strong, authentic relationships, developing strong listening skills and emotional intelligence, determining what the tone and example is that you want the organization to follow, and being real and consistent.  Trust is the foundation of leadership and it takes humility, reliability, caring, good boundaries, and a structure and value system that establishes the type of culture that will result in retention and performance.

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

This is a tough one because my professional self and personal self overlap.  I think one part of me that is not visible though is my spiritual mindset, which, by nature, is a path for continual growth.  Rather than having a limited, negative thought perspective that leads to a belief that we live in a world of lack and scarcity, I believe in operating from an abundance mindset which allows me to shake off the disappointments and keep going.  

*****

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.

Protea Conversations Let You Expand Your Network

Grow your network by connecting with the amazing companies we speak with in our Protea Conversations. If you need help finding the right fit, contact us here! We will do our best to help. 

Protea Conversations: Jessica Carroll

Protea Conversations: Jessica Carroll

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high-quality outsourced 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 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 June, we spend some time with Jessica Carroll, the Director of Programs of Positive Images. 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. They are proud to 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. The vision is a Sonoma County where all LGBTQIA+ people are valued, compassionate community members, creating a just society.

Jessica Carroll (she/her) grew up in the Roseland community of Santa Rosa. After graduating from UC Davis she started her career in non-profits working with youth and young adults in the foster care system, suicide prevention programs, and mental health treatment. After 12 years away, Jessica returned to Sonoma County and immediately reached out to Positive Images knowing that she had the skills, knowledge, and experience to serve the unique needs of the local LGBTQIA+ community. With positivity, warmth, and excitement Jessica hopes to create space at Positive Images (and the greater Sonoma County) where all LGBTQIA+ folks are accepted, respected, valued, and loved. Outside of PI, you can usually find Jessica and Puppy Frank on the rugby field!

Protea Financial Protea Conversation Jessica Carroll Rugby

 

Tell us about your decision and journey to dedicate your career to the non-profit space?

I’m not sure if there was a conscious decision to dedicate my career to the non-profit sector, as much as a lifelong pull toward opportunities where I felt like I could be of service to others. I have always sought out opportunities to be a helper and offer what I could to those around me. As a kid, I watched my mom tirelessly give her time and energy to people and causes she cared deeply about. Caretaking, sharing resources, and offering to others were values ingrained in me as a child and have certainly been the throughline in my career thus far. When I look to the people I love, my community, and this world, I see ways that we can, and should uplift one another. My career in the non-profit sector has always been opportunities to put the values I learned early on into practice.

 

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

As the Director of Programs, I work closely with the Board of Directors to guide the organization, support our staff and volunteers, and oversee the programs and offerings to community. I grew up in Sonoma County, but spent over a decade in other parts of the state. When I moved back to Sonoma County in my thirties, there was an immediate opening for a part time administrative assistant at Positive Images. It was not the position I wanted, but I loved the mission, programs, and the heart centered community work, so I applied anyway. I ultimately did not get that job. It was actually the best job rejection I’ve ever had! The people I met were so incredible and the organization so powerful, I knew this was not the last interaction I would have with this organization. I ended up working for a different local agency where I learned a lot and met some wonderful friends and colleagues. About a year later, the chair of the board reached out to me and invited me to apply for the position I am currently in. I’ve been the Director of Programs for four and a half years now and am wildly grateful that things aligned when they did. It was a wonderful lesson in patience, trust, and persistence. The universe does not operate on my timeline, but I’m so glad it didn’t.

 

Why is Positive Images important to you?

Despite the fact that by the time I was a 15 year old angsty queer kid Positive Images was already in its 10th year in Sonoma County, I had no idea this resource and beautiful community existed in my own back yard. I can only imagine how different my youth and young adult years would have been had I been connected to such affirmation and support. At our heart, PI is a place where we come to feel affirmed and offer affirmation to others. It’s a place to be you, free from judgment or disdain. A place to be wholly authentic, even as you’re still figuring out who that is. Even though I didn’t get connected to these services as a youth, the fact that I now get to help create and nurture a space for young people to get what they so desperately need, is incredibly healing.

 

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

Something that I’ve been meditating on lately is the idea of trauma stewardship. As a leader in our organization, I serve as a steward for the multifaceted trauma the people in our community face. Knowing how to hold, direct, and assuage that trauma is an ever-changing experience. This is true both throughout my career and also personally. Because of the realities of oppression, homophobia, and transphobia, the queer and trans community has and will continue to experience disproportional hardship and trauma. Being able to find support for stewarding that reality has been what makes this hard, yet rewarding work sustainable.

 

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

My short term goals for my career are very intertwined with my short term goals for Positive Images, as an organization and a community. PI has been operating with a small staff and a very dedicated community of volunteers for decades. I want to continue to nurture and guide the organization as we move into the next chapter of our history. As we look to grow, I’m excited about the mentorship and professional development that will come from serving alongside an experienced executive director. I hope to be developing new and exciting programming to build upon our foundation and bring even more service opportunities for entirely new populations to find connection, strengthen protection, and build community.

 

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

Queer icon and rapper Lil Nas X said in a speech recently that “its ok to be a little delusional when you’re chasing your dreams,”. We must have the freedom to dream unburdened and unencumbered to imagine the world we need, before we can begin to actualize it. That perspective has helped me to look at things I previously thought impossible and wonder, “well, how could we…? What if we…?” This shift to not judging or immediately shutting down dreams and ideas, even if they are non-traditional or a little out of the ordinary, has allowed me to become more creative in problem solving and solution building. Pushing and bending the realms of possibility has sometimes allowed me to access things I’d never have achieved if I didn’t try.

 

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

You yourself are your organization’s most valuable resource. The best way to help those around you, is to take care of yourself first. Take care of yourself in every way possible: emotionally, physically, spiritually, and professionally. This work can be draining, emotionally charged, and exhausting. Burnout is real. Find and prioritize balance, joy, and laughter. Be diligent in your personal self-care and hold clear boundaries. Practice affirmations and gratitude. Be tenacious in going after the opportunities you want. Ask for help when you need it!

 

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

Be better listeners. As leaders, it’s our job to listen to the people we support (our employees, clients, community) then use our influence and positions of power to help actualize what needs to be done to serve them effectively. Ask those you are serving what they need, and listen to their responses. Be open to and appreciate of feedback from those around you.

Protea Financial Womens Rugby Jessica Carroll

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?

On a whim, and with a sense of intentional teenage rebellion, I found myself joining a rugby team when I was 14. We were one of just a handful of high school girls’ rugby teams in the state at that time, as it wasn’t, and still isn’t, a very popular sport in the United States. I had no idea this sport would truly influence so many aspects of my life. Rugby is more than just a game, sport, or athletic endeavor. Rugby, like PI, is community. It was one of the first places I found refuge in affirmation, acceptance, and understanding. Being a part of the community gave me the freedom to be exactly who I was, and for that person to not only be accepted, but celebrated. I’ve played and coached at many different levels over the course of 20 years, finally retiring when our season was interrupted by the pandemic. At every level, every season, teammates become family and the community takes care of one another.

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.

Protea Conversations Help You Find People Who Can Help

You can expand your network with the many individuals we speak with during our Protea Converations. Find out more about these individuals, or about Protea Financial, by contacing us now!

Protea Conversations: Margarita Wear

Protea Conversations: Margarita Wear

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 June we have a conversation with Margarita Wear of Maier Law Group. Margarita guides employers in preventing and addressing workplace conflict by conducting workplace investigations, mediations, and trainings, and providing proactive and business savvy advice to employers regarding employment and personnel issues. Margarita’s investigation practice includes both workplace and educational institution (Title IX) investigations. Margarita completed the Association of Workplace Investigators (AWI) Training Institute and is an AWI Certificate Holder (AWI-CH). Margarita’s mediation practice includes both workplace mediations and mediations of civil disputes. Margarita has received mediation training from the Mediation Offices of Steven Rosenberg. She is a mediator for the County of Alameda Day of Court Program.

Before joining Maier Law Group, Margarita worked as general counsel for several hospitality companies, where she counseled the companies regarding employment and labor matters and oversaw Human Resources departments. Margarita’s in-house experience gives her a unique perspective when advising clients, allowing her to give practical and business-minded legal advice. Margarita has also worked at several law firms where she defended companies in the hospitality, retail, financial, real estate, and technology industries in wrongful termination, retaliation, wage and hour, and breach of contract litigation. Margarita is recognized for her ability to achieve great results for her clients, including getting complaints against her clients dismissed and reaching effective compromises. 

Outside of the office, Margarita enjoys spending time with her family, going to Giants games, and playing tennis.

Tell us about your decision to become an attorney and your journey from associate to Partner on Maier Law Group?

My grandfather was an attorney and following in his footsteps was always something I considered, but it was also a bit of process of elimination. I’m terrible at math so I knew a job dealing with numbers was out. I took whatever legal classes were offered in college and really enjoyed them. My first job out of college was an admin position at a law firm. I enjoyed that too, but I wanted to be the one writing the briefs and arguing them, so I studied for the LSAT and applied for law school.

Before joining Maier Law Group, I worked at several law firms and held several in-house positions. When I was in-house, my company hired Maier Law Group to conduct a workplace investigation, and I just really enjoyed working with the people at the firm. I know it’s unusual for an attorney to move from an in-house position back to a law firm, but I was getting burnt out from my hours-long daily commute and not being able to spend as much time with my family as I wanted, and Maier Law Group’s emphasis on balance and finding joy in the law really resonated with me. I reached out to my now partner, Diana Maier, and told her that I was interested in joining the firm. Fortunately for me, the feeling was mutual and I joined Maier Law Group as a Senior Counsel. It truly was (and is) the perfect job for me. I think Diana recognized that I felt (and feel) that way and offered me the Partner role because she saw it as a long-term fit as well.

Protea Financial Margarita Wear Lawyer

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

It was realizing that in order to achieve professional success in the way it’s defined in law firms, I would not achieve personal success the way I defined it as a wife and mother. The biggest challenge was trying to figure out how achieve both. I was fortunate enough to find a firm and team that values both.

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

Professionally, I’d like to work more strategically and take projects and get clients that are in line with the firm’s long-term goals and vision.

Personally, I’m trying to enjoy the last month I have at home with my four-month old son, before he starts daycare.

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

Progress, not perfection. I’m pretty Type A and I found that in trying to achieve perfection, I would sometimes find myself paralyzed on how to start something or what my next step should be. Focusing on progress rather than perfection removed that paralysis and helped me enjoy and appreciate the smaller achievements on the way to achieving the end goal.

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

Be yourself. When I got my first job out of law school, I was a litigation associate and worked with and against mostly men. As a young, Filipina attorney, I felt like I had to act in a certain way to prove that I belonged and was capable. You often hear clients say that they want a “bulldog” attorney representing them in litigation. I’m more collaborative and practical in nature so the “bulldog” attitude never really resonated with me. Plus in my experience, that attitude resulted in every little thing being a fight with the other side, which resulted in more legal costs for my clients. You can be an effective and zealous advocate for your client by using your personal strengths rather than trying to act how you think others want you to act.

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

Don’t lose your compassion just because you reached a leadership role. Treat your employees well.

Protea Financial Margarita Wear Tennis

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

I’ve always enjoyed being active, so I enjoy hiking with my husband, 3 kids, and our dog. I grew up playing sports and missed doing something competitive (as I mentioned, I’m Type A), so I picked up tennis as a hobby during the pandemic and I’ve really been enjoying playing.

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

Interested to find out more? Contact Protea Financial and we can help!

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!