Women in the Workplace

Featuring Kelly Thompson—President, SurNet Insurance Group 

Has your career path been what you expected?

I  think being an insurance broker was always in my future, but it took some time to figure that out. I skipped my last year of high school to attend college for advertising when I was 17. When I completed the program, it took time to find a job in the industry. Everyone wanted experience, but no one was eager to give it. 

For the year following my graduation, I divided my time in half—one half working in the family brokerage, the other to finding an advertising job. I eventually found one willing to give me the experience I needed, but they made it clear I’d outgrow the position in two years, and they had nowhere for me to go from there. I must’ve told my dad because almost two years to the day, he asked if I’d come back and work for the family brokerage. 

I agreed, and within one year I had my RIBO license, within five I had my CAIB and Level 2 designation. Within the next three years, my dad slowly eased into retirement and 10 years later, I bought the business from him completely. 

Was it my plan to own the business my dad started in 1983 from the spare bedroom of our home in Whitby? No. But I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your role as President of SurNet? 

I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by some very talented and knowledgeable people over the years. I’ve been part of industry boards and participated in broker councils. The most rewarding aspect of my role today is having the opportunity to share the knowledge I’ve gained and the relationships I’ve built with others who are looking to build their own book of business. I can’t say I had the aspiration to own a business growing up, but it became very clear early in my career with SurNet, that this job is what I was meant to do.

What advice have you received that’s been the most beneficial?

I’ve heard a lot of great advice over the years, but I think what resonates the most is accept that you’re not going to be the best at everything and surround yourself with people who compliment you—together you can accomplish anything.

How can we motivate more women to pursue leadership positions inside and outside the industry?

A lot of insurance companies have made Women in Leadership a focus just as they’ve done with DEI. They bring women in varying positions together to form non-threatening relationships where we can mentor, encourage and learn from one another. I think more of these events are available now, inside and outside our industry, than they were 10 years ago, and I hope they’ll continue for all types of leadership roles. Brokerages who have room to move people into management roles should be encouraging the women on their teams to attend these events where they can learn from their peers and bring valuable ideas back to the office.  

What advice do you have for women who want to run their own business?

Surround yourself with people who can provide the knowledge, experience, connections and advice needed to be successful. The bigger and broader your network, the better. Find a mentor and in time, be a mentor. It’s safe to say that most successful businesses are built on relationships. Foster those relationships, work hard, stay focused, set goals and check in regularly.

What would you tell your younger self that you wished you knew at the time?

Nevermind what everyone else thinks you should be doing, do what feels right for you. This doesn’t come from any negative experience, but I know a lot of people, myself included, can be consumed by what everyone else thinks, especially now with social media. 

There’s no right or wrong, just you. Own it!

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