“Listen to Your Heart” The 5 Lessons I Learned Being a 20-Something Founder

I had the pleasure of interviewing Samantha Foster, founder of Chief Insurance Solutions LLC

Jean: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” of how you become a founder?

Prior to starting my company, I got experience working at your average local insurance brokerage. I quickly learned the flaws of their company, namely that none of the other brokers actually understood insurance and the impact it had on businesses they were working with. When I started working there, I received call after call from business owners who were on the verge of shutting down their company because of complications and costs involved with workers’ compensation insurance. No one at this brokerage knew how to or cared to help them so I took it upon myself to research as much as I could about workers’ compensation insurance, workplace safety, claims management, insurance carriers and human resources in general. As I developed a wealth of information and tools, I realized there was a demand for a true workers’ compensation insurance specialist and I founded my company to be able to help employers resolve their issues, save money, and make the most of their coverage.

Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I believe my company stands out because of its values and approach to workers’ compensation. The insurance professionals at Chief Insurance Solutions, LLC are not “sales people.” Our goal is to consult each clients individual needs and issues through our quotes, services, and additional benefits. We believe transparency and integrity are key to building valuable relationships. When we say we support the financial wellbeing of our clients, we really mean it. That is why we do not charge broker fees. It feels contradictory to promote saving our clients money while taking a superfluous amount on top of the commission we receive from the insurance company. Communication is also a core value. Unlike many other insurance brokerages, we do not volley our clients from one department to another for assistance, we do not take days to return calls or emails and we do not treat our clients like a number. Each client has one dedicated account manager who has a vested interest and personable relationship with them. Our clients rely on us for a prompt, professional and personable customer service experience.

Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?

Yes! Right now I am in the middle of a huge expansion of my company which includes hiring regional representatives throughout the country. This is a project that is close to my heart. I designed my company so I could work from home and work efficiently without the bureaucracy, distractions and red-tape you often find in your standard office workplace setting. Another motivator was my desire to be home when I started a family. Now that I am a wife and mother of a beautiful baby boy, I am extremely grateful for this freedom. As an employer, I value an autonomous workplace model, where motivated, intelligent individuals can serve employers from the comfort of their home. I also have designed a written promotion structure that is transparent and achievable. This is unlike many companies who promise growth opportunities when hiring candidates, but never explain how or when that growth can be achieved. With the expansion of my company, I hope to change the tide of the employer-employee relationship and promote professional growth, wealth and independence with our horizontal organizational structure. I believe the work/life balance should favor life and I hope my employees come to appreciate the autonomous model I have to offer.

In addition to the expansion of Chief Insurance Solutions LLC, I am in the process of forming a non-profit organization that strives to combat the negative stereotypes, stigmas and discrimination of people suffering with mental health issues with education and empowerment. Despite the fact 1 in 5 adult americans experience mental health issues every year, our societies stigmas and judgements leaves these individuals feeling alone and afraid to get the help they need. This is a serious and heart-breaking issue to me and I am excited to create an organization that can and will proactive make a difference.

Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

I do not have a favorite book that made a deep impact on my life. I am a writer in my spare time and have written multiple books, but I am not an avid or “good” reader. It actually stems from when I was a child and had a love for writing. I used to get quite a lot of praise about my stories even as early as elementary school, but one constant advice I received was that you cannot be a good writer if you are not a good reader. In response, I vowed to break the mold and become a good writer without being a good reader. While it is hard to find time to write now a days, I still plan dedicating my time towards writing when I retire. With hard work and my can-do spirit, hopefully that will be sooner than later!

Jean: What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

These are 5 Lessons I learned as a Twentysomething Founder:

1. In the words of Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

Doubt is the number one thing that holds people back both in their professional life and their personal life. When I began developing plans to start my company I received many warnings and cautionary advise. Some people questioned how I could start and run a business without having college degree. Some people insisted that I was too young and should have more work experience. And some people warned that 50% of businesses fail in the first 5 years. The fear of failure began weighing on me and I too began to doubt my abilities and losing confidence. It was then that my husband (who I was only a month away from marrying at the time) shared Henry Ford’s quote with me. I contemplated this quote and actively removed the negative noise that had flooded my mind. To this day, the concept that whether I think I can or I can’t, I’m right, has been the cornerstone of my success.

2. Balance risk and reward.

When looking to start a business, I wanted to keep the risk (financially) to a minimum until the right time. A majority of business start ups take out big loans to get themselves off the ground. The concept that you need to spend money to make money is true, but with hard work a business can run and thrive on a modest budget. For the first year I operated as a “one man show” with only $150 of overhead every month. My start was slow, but it was also manageable and I have turned a profit every year because of it. The other benefit to taking it slow was that I was able to get the kinks out of my business before investing. A start up will have kinks regardless of how well it is planned out. I feel much more confident investing in my business after I have established a solid system, a strong set of services and a positive reputation in the industry.

3. In the words of Heather Hart, “It’s better to do one thing well, than ten things poorly.”

The insurance brokerage I worked for before starting Chief Insurance Solutions LLC claimed that their competitive edge was that they worked on all lines of insurance for a ‘one-stop-shop experience.’ At first glance, I agreed that this was advantageous to business owners, but I soon learned otherwise. This brokerage offered more than ten lines of insurance, but they did all of them poorly. By specializing in one line of insurance, I have been able to change the way employers view workers’ compensation and made significant improvements to the safety and bottom-line of my clients operations.

4. Be flexible and patient.

I am a big proponent of planning, making lists and bring timely. I often refer to myself as organized to a fault. Organization and planning is important in efficiently running a business, but I have learned that flexibility and patience (two traits that are not my strengths) are equally important. Flexibility is necessary in most industries to survive. You need to be able to adapt and think on your feet when unexpected changes arise. You also need to be able to move on to a new direction when something you planned did not work out. No amount of planning can prepare you for all of the obstacles you face running a business. In addition, patience is essential. As a very impatient person, the most trying times in my business were when I needed to wait. I have learned to find peace in the waiting periods and trust that things will work out. After all, there is no sense in worrying if you can’t do anything about it.

5. Listen to your heart.

I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit about me. Ever since I was a child I was finding opportunities to help people and developing unique products and services. My older sister has always been a horse rider and when I was no more than 7 years old I set up a shop at the stables mixing and selling custom-made bran mash (a slop for that horses eat with bran, water and other treats like carrots, sugar cubes, molasses and hay pellets) for the people who boarded their horses there. It was wildly successful until the owner of the stables advised me that I would need a business permit to operate on her premise. From that moment on, I kept my mind open until I found the right opportunity to use the entrepreneurial drive I knew I had and finally bring a business to fruition.

Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

I would love to have lunch with Elon Musk. Not only is he an extremely savvy businessman, but his work has challenged the norms of everyday life. His ability to pioneer his industry and creating cutting edge technologies is both impressive and inspiring. I would love a chance to learn more about his motivations, inspirations and work ethic.

Jean: This was really inspiring! Thank you so much for your time.

— Published on June 27, 2018