Agency Profile: Mom Genes

APMichaud Insurance Agency, Inc.

Methuen, Massachusetts
Founded: 1979
Employees: 9

Michaud Insurance Agency is a family business with the next generation taking the lead. But instead of a father and son, it’s a mother working side by side with her daughters—with an agency staff comprised solely of women.

Trudy Lawler’s father started the agency in 1979 and she retained control of the agency in 1985—a time when there were few female agency owners. “Back then, being a female in the business was tough because it’s such a male-dominated business,” she recalls. “And it is still male-dominated. But it is getting better.”

Hiring an agency staff comprised of exclusively women was not by design. “It’s about finding the right people,” she says. “I don’t think there are many male CSRs in this industry. I think most men want to be producers and upper management—they don’t want to walk in and start from scratch. If a man had come in to interview and was good, I would have hired him. But it never happened. As we have grown, we’ve hired more women.”

KATE HENDERSON, ACCOUNT MANAGER

After college, I wanted to follow my own path. I ended up working as an adjuster. My perspective of working in claims helps me service my clients better. I can answer questions a lot of agents don't know the answer to.

One of my biggest frustrations with insurance is that we need more women. It’s not that there’s a lack of women in the industry—if you walk into any agency, there are women working behind the desks. They’re just not often in leadership roles, and maybe that’s lack of opportunity.

I think the demeanors of men and women are totally different as producers. I talk to a lot of other young producers, but they’re all men. They’re going to walk in and make a sale. Then they hand off the paperwork to the girls in the office and move on to their next sale. I view sales as nurturing the entire relationship. I think people appreciate that because they know they’re going to deal with me.

TRUDY LAWLER, PRESIDENT & CEO

It was a completely different business back in 1979, because in Massachusetts, we were regulated by the state. Prices were the same, there was no competition and it was really hard to get markets.

It was difficult to differentiate yourself from all the other agencies in the area. You had nothing to go by other than your own reputation. We stayed in business and grew, but once competitive rating came in, it changed everything for us.

The benefit of working with my daughters is that I can trust them completely and give them more responsibility. The disadvantage is if we have a family party—next thing you know, you’re talking about insurance. Drawing the line between business and family is tough. You can’t take advantage of each other.

TRICIA SABULIS, VICE PRESIDENT, SALES & MARKETING

I went to college and worked in marketing for a little bit before I decided to come back to the agency. I used to laugh that I was like Hurricane Tricia when I did come back, because I wanted to take over the marketing. Back then, Trudy was so focused on customers and insurance that she really didn't have the time to do real marketing.

As a young female in an agency leadership role, it’s very difficult sometimes to be taken seriously.  But I just have to be myself and push hard and let people know I do know what I’m doing. Trudy taught me all that—to be confident in myself and say, ‘This is me, this is how I work, this is how I’m going work with you. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to work with me. But you’re going to like working with me if you give me the chance.’

I love that our agency is family-owned. As a small agency, we insure people’s families for generations, and we treat them like family. Being a family agency is so much more than just being owned by a family.

Photo by Adam Perri