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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.

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