Jackie Hyde, Director at childcare and nursery insurance provider dot2dot, Women in Business – Q&As
I came from a working class family that always instilled in me some real core values. Always treat people how you would like to be treated. Remember the little things in life, as they mean a lot. Always look the part and take pride in whatever you do. With hard graft you can achieve anything. These values have never left me and although I am not an academic, the hard graft in particular has worked well for me. There have been times when life has been particularly tough but these challenging moments or when things have just gone wrong, teaches you lessons that make you stronger.
In more recent years, I have really got to understand my skills and more importantly my weaknesses. As a business, you are only as strong as your team as you cannot do everything, so it is so important that you keep bringing in new areas of expertise, so the business can keep moving forward.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Stanmore and dot2dot Nursery Insurance?
I had only a few years working at Commercial Union before I moved to Stanmore as an Account Handler. However, the insurance company world and independent broking are two very different businesses, so I have never forgotten what it is like to be an Underwriter and remember this when we are negotiating the best terms for our clients.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Stanmore and dot2dot?
My biggest challenge took place on the 2 January 2014 when my business partner sustained a serious injury and was subsequently away from the business for 19 months which has resulted in me purchasing his shares in July 2015. Overnight the business needed changes, as I had to not only service my clients but immediately needed to understand the requirements of my partner’s clients and build relationships very quickly. In addition, the whole of the responsibility for running the business became mine with the need to have a greater understanding of regulatory matters and finances which had previously been my partner’s area. To add a further challenge I was diagnosed with breast cancer two months later, so treatment took place with two weeks off for surgery and radiotherapy outside business hours.
During times like these you realise the support that is around. I have a fantastic team who did whatever was needed to ensure clients were not neglected. Insurers provided renewal terms for us well in advance which helped us with planning. Clients were so understanding about what was happening and were prepared to be flexible where needed. Business peers were amazing, providing reassurance, guidance, understanding and the occasional stern word whenever it was needed. The business needed looking after alongside my own person situation.
We never took the foot off driving for new business or ensuring our clients still received the service they expected. The business not only survived but had the best financial year for a long time with an increase in turnover and profitability.
Many lessons were learnt personally. The business had to undergo changes but this predominately brought opportunities to lots of individuals to develop within our organisation.
I had some really tough days but there were lots of good ones too and I am so much stronger for this experience.
My greatest highlight has been dot2dot, which was developed and driven by me from day one. I launched dot2dot in 2003 and it was important that we had an innovative approach to providing insurance to the children’s nursery section which included a nursery branded product with a name that is associated to children and an appropriate brand with a teddy bear as our mascot. At events we promoted the dot2dot product in jeans and t-shirts giving away stickers, wall planners and children’s CD’s to demonstrate we were in tune with the Early Years industry. It was so well received that all our competitors who had previously presented their products in the normal insurance style followed our approach.
Blue-chip insurers have always been the backers for our policy which benefits from minimal warranties and conditions that ensure claims are met. Since the change of insurer to Zurich in 2009 dot2dot has had 100% growth.
All clients have a dedicated account handler who personally gets to know them and their business. It also creates individual ownership at the office. Cards and gifts regularly leave the building to celebrate births, marriages or simply wishing a client well when they are poorly or having a difficult time.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
It’s a great industry to work in and many people do not understand the depth of knowledge that we have to have to succeed. There are some great success stories of women in the insurance company world but I would love to see more women owning independent brokerages. My advice would be to understand what your core strengths are and then complete some research on the industry to see which roles would suit you. There are so many options. For young women there are a number of apprenticeships available alongside graduate positions. We have provided work experience to graduates during their summer breaks, so just send an introductory email as you never know what opportunities are out there.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This is a constant challenge and changes all the time so I have to adapt regularly. When my career developed and I had two small children, my husband and I sat down to agree who would do what and when. This helped enormously and I have always had the mentality that when I am at work, this is my priority and when home then family life is then the focus. I have a wonderful relationship with my children and delighted to say that my daughter now works with me in the business.
The family is really supportive and understands when the business has to come first. This doesn’t remove the guilt completely when there are times you still feel you are in the wrong place. I have a business coach who has helped me manage the various changes in my life and she has been instrumental in my success.
As stated earlier I have had a period of ill health coupled with a very difficult time in the business. This resulted in me working ridiculous hours during the week and often needing to work at the weekend too. When situations like this happen, you cannot under-estimate the support of family, friends, work colleagues and business peers. You just need to off load and get back on with what needs to be done. You have to aim to find long term solutions and seek guidance when needed. It comes right in the end.
I love to read business books and my latest is Busy by Tony Crabbe which is about thriving in a world of too much. It gives some great tips and I have now recommended to lots of my business friends.
So no golden rules – just try to keep your priorities as good as possible and forgive yourself when you don’t always get it right.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Very often their lack of self belief which I know I have had lots in the past but this is improving day by day. You need to surround yourself with good quality peers, business friends and if possible a coach/mentor.
Guilty can be another one as women want to be the homemakers and juggling is not always easy. In the early stages of my career this was difficult with two young children and not much disposable income.
Women are so resilient and when life is tough, then can overcome challenges but they have to believe in themselves
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I can honestly say my business coach transformed my life and without doubt played a major part in helping me be who I am today. I met my coach in 2010 following a recommendation from a close business friend. I was having a tough time following the loss of the major account which had dominated my career over the 7 years we had looked after them. I had lost my mojo and was feeling unsure what I wanted to do or what steps to take next.
My business coach mainly works with business women so understood the guilt feeling the majority of women carry with them. She also understands the challenges of the business world and in particular the difficulties you have if working in a predominately male industry.
The first work I did was to understand my profile which meant we both got to know my strengths and weaknesses amongst other things. When this was identified, we started to understand why I was so fed up and came up with a plan to fix it. In fact, part of the process was to take 6 weeks off work as there were doubts as to whether a complete change was needed. After the time away from the business, I knew Stanmore was part of me and when I returned, I had no regrets and had a renewed vigour and passion for the business.
It is also great to be able to share you inner thoughts whether business or personal confidentially with someone you trust. A good coach listens, doesn’t judge you and wants to help you grow as a person.
Top tips for women in business:
Positive role models, whether male or female, are vital. I am also an advocate of reading good quality books about business and in particular positive ways to believe in your ability to succeed or overcome adversity. There are lots of these books available and they can give you great tips or sometimes just reinforce that you are doing a good job.