Why Women Are Successful Leaders: Meet Loretta Fuller

Loretta FullerLoretta Fuller

President
Insurance Solutions Associates
Washington, D.C.

Why insurance?

I married a man from Louisiana and I moved there. He’s an elected official, so we traveled a lot together. In 1998, I met a State Farm agent who asked if I was interested in helping her develop her office. From that day forward, I’ve been in love with insurance.

Leadership style?

What works for me is acknowledging that we’re all team players and we all have input. My leadership style is not to micromanage, but to teach. Self-motivation. Self-determination. We also believe in continued education—we have a CE class every Monday. No matter what someone’s employment is here, they have skills they can learn to be more marketable to another place. This isn’t about improving my business—it’s about improving each individual, which makes us a team.

We have two offices—one in Maryland and one in D.C. Building this business is not just to build it to sell it. I want this to be a hereditary business. My daughter runs the D.C. office now. She’s excited about insurance, and I’m excited that she’s excited. So this is a generational agency, and I want the leadership skills to flow from generation to generation.

Challenges along the way?

Becoming independent, there were a lot of obstacles. There still are many obstacles for a woman in this industry. Most of the time you talk about advancement and being recognized for your skills and your leadership roles, but women go unnoticed most times. Those are roadblocks because people can’t get past the fact that this is a woman doing the same thing that you’re doing.

We need to be more inclusive, more diverse. I’ve seen the industry get a little more diverse, but we are not moving at a steady pace. The lack of diversity has been a roadblock for me. And that goes for all sectors, whether it’s my business clients, the government or individuals. It’s like, “You can’t be able to do that. You can’t handle a million-dollar project.” I don’t understand it.

How has the insurance industry changed over the years?

We specialize in construction and transportation—construction is all over in the D.C. area. When you’re talking about changing and companies, you’re talking about how consumers are dealing with the changes. Coverage used to be broad. Now, it’s driven by data, which we discussed on the Hill before. One of the biggest things is that insurers are starting to exclude New York on their general liability policies. That’s become very tough for a midsize or large construction company that can’t do any work in New York unless they find insurance that does, which is very little to none. The tow truck market is also in need of repair. Transportation is getting really slim.

I’ve had to go through additional classes to offer contractors different coverages. I’m a construction risk insurance specialist—this is what I love to do. If it’s something you love to do, you have to know as much as you can. But in D.C. area, the construction, the bridges, the water—we have a lot of challenges in this area. And without additional information, we’re doing ourselves an injustice.

Advice for young women getting started in insurance?

Do not run out and start your own agency. You need to spend three to five years working with someone. It’s going to take you that long just to get to know some products. I strongly encourage you to work for a captive company and that’s because they have a lot of processes and procedures that work. Before you get into the industry, being out there as a fish in the water, learn the system and learn about production. Learn how to be an employee. You need to find your niche, then step out.

I’ve seen so many small agencies that can’t get off the ground because they don’t know how and they don’t have mentors. I try to be a mentor for young people. I always tell them I think it’s a bad idea to just get your license and open a business. You can write some policies, but if you talk about making this your career, you’ve got to put some time in the industry before you set out to have your own brick and mortar.

It worked for me. When you study for the license, that’s theory. And when you’re in production, that’s practice. So now you passed the test, but it doesn’t work in practice. That’s why errors & omissions is so high for new agencies—the risk is there.

Goals?

To move beyond running the agency on a day-to-day basis and more into training and mentoring programs. I would really like to be able to teach and train people to do this well. Those are the things you have to be able to do before you start an agency. You don’t have to make the same mistakes as someone else. I’m already a provider of CE classes, so that’s where I want to move eventually.

My agency is built to be hereditary so growth will continue, but it’ll be from generation to generation. I believe that in every generation, someone is going to be interested in what we do here. We’re here for the long haul, not for the highest bidder. We want to make our footprint and make it stay in the cement.

Moving forward, I want young people to know that they are welcome at our agency. It’s going to be a dying industry if we don’t get young people involved. We’re all more than 50, 60 years old. Go to any conference and see how many young people are involved in the industry, let alone those who are agency owners.

This article is the fifth in a series that profiles women leaders who are thriving in the independent insurance industry. Keep an eye on IAmagazine.com and upcoming editions of the News & Views e-newsletter for more.

Jordan Reabold is IA assistant editor.