These fourth-generation agency owners excel in the tutelage and protection of the next generation. The children whose lives they touch include fourth-grade Brady Chalmers, who asks when he can take over his dad’s office, and a multitude of boys and girls, who’ve attended the summer camps insured through the family firm.
Working from eight offices in Maine and New Hampshire, the firm’s account managers and nine outside sales producers generate more than $50 million in total annual p-c premium. Commercial p-c business represents 48% of the business mix; personal p-c business represents 46%; and the remaining 6% is employee benefits. Producers each choose a major and minor specialty and join the trade associations serving those industries. They strive to be expert contributors at meetings and trade shows.
Jim Chalmers, Vice President of Sales
My children pop into my office, which was Dottie’s dad’s office. Steve, Dottie and I have one goal: a successful transition to the fifth generation. We have a long road ahead because my oldest is just 10. We have no strategic plan that includes a merger, aggregation or cluster. We’re a fiercely proud and independent family firm.
Summer camps in the Northeast have been our specialty for nearly 90 years. Dottie’s and my grandfather, Herb Chalmers, collaborated with a carrier on the first insurance form to meet their needs. That floater schedules every little piece of camp equipment and blanket limit amounts.
Camps are seasonal and diverse—from traditional eight-week programs for boys or girls to intensive one-week sports camps. They use a wide variety of equipment, including bunk beds, 12- or 15-passenger vans, ski boats and challenge courses. They need coverages for the distribution of medications and the health and wellbeing of children as young as 7 years old. They also need coverage for abuse and molestation. As parents of camp-age children, we maintain strong relationships with industry leaders and stay on top of trends.
Dottie Chalmers Cutter, Vice President of Operations
My dad always whispered “insurance” in my ear when I was a child, so now I whisper it into my daughter’s ear. If you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she’ll proudly say, “a Chalmers insurance agent like my mom.” Collaborative communication drives our success. We use an intranet platform that looks and acts like Facebook to keep our eight offices with different personalities operating as a unified company. Our coworkers know the intranet is the best way to stay informed. We can post and respond to information easily as an organization, which greatly reduces email traffic.
Status updates tell us what we’re all working on. A calendar tells us who’s in or out. We’re constantly talking about learning opportunities. Through iKNO, we communicate our goals, initiatives, challenges and general announcements.
We stress the importance of being willing and able to evolve, and we're committed to helping coworkers be motivated, happy and engaged. They want meaningful work, followed by a commitment to each other, dedicated bosses, and finally, a great organization. Our performance management process includes monthly coaching and customizable individual development plans (verses the standard annual performance review.) Coworkers help shape their own goals, which are tied to merit-based pay raises.
High-potential employees can take a six-month professional development program, led by an executive coach. Subjects include humble inquiry, ongoing regard, how to give course-corrective feedback, and so on.
Steve Cote, President
Dottie, Jim and I agreed to be transparent. If our team doesn’t know our goals or how we’re doing, how can we hit those goals? During quarterly roundtable meetings at each location, we share year-to-date production data and our financial position. We open up about our culture. We share the results of motivational surveys. We ask for the team’s input. Small charter groups are tasked with taking an idea for workplace or client-service enhancement and making it happen. We provide rigorous consultative training in leadership, relationship-building, sales and time management. We want our team to feel prepared, well-rounded and empowered to serve others.
As a result of constructive dialogue during roundtables, every co-worker at Chalmers has completed an Emergenetics assessment. Our HR manager is the only licensed Emergenetics facilitator in New England. The tool analyzes behavioral and thinking preferences, so we can better understand one another. It allows us to tailor the presentation of information in the way our people like to receive it.
I joined the firm in 2000 as the Ossipee general manager, just before we went into an acquisition phase. By 2012, Dottie and Jim’s fathers, Bill and Bruce, wanted to wind down, and I was tapped as a transitional steward. In 2014, Dottie, Jim and I took over the agency operations as a team. I’m not related by blood or marriage, but the Chalmers embraced me as family.
PHOTO BY BRIAN FITZGERALD