Family Owned and Operated: How Jane McLean Views Entrepreneurship and Careers of the Next Generation
Jane Ann McLean is a licensed insurance broker and business owner in Tillsonburg. She started her personal journey of self-employment back in the early 2000s when she joined her family insurance business, Hogarth Insurance Brokers Ltd., becoming an owner after taking over the reins from her father. Fiercely committed to the highest level of service and community involvement, she knows a thing or two about time management. I sat down with Jane with the goal of clarifying what it really means to be an entrepreneur and what it takes to find success.
You began in the insurance business back in the early 2000s, so what did you do before that and what led you to take over the family business?
I actually went a little bit of a different path, as I was working part-time with Scott’s business, Green Lea, or what I referred to as, ‘The Shop’. I had gotten my insurance license when my son was about a year old, as my Dad was having some health issues and I was always interested in getting involved with the insurance business. My Dad had actually never wanted my brother and I to come into the insurance business without doing something else first and getting some experience to make sure insurance was something we wanted to do, rather than feeling obligated to.
I got married and had my first child, and I kind of knew it was always there and that I could be my own boss, so as hard as you work, you reap the benefits. And I was fortunate because when the kids were little, I worked part-time so I could be off two days during the week with the kids and then work three days a week.
Could you picture yourself in a traditional job now?
It’s crazy to me because, to be quite honest with you, I worked at a golf course from the time I was 13 until I was 28 when I graduated university and I kind of had free rein over what I did there. I knew what needed to get done, I would rearrange the whole pro-shop, I would order clothes because I knew what the ladies liked, and since my boss and I worked together, he never really told me what to do. Because of that, I don’t know if I would do well with someone telling me what to do and I think I would go a little stir-crazy.
My parents did actually suggest I go try working in a factory, so I went to a factory for a summer. I realised that I wanted to get an education to do something different than that because I was just not built to work in a factory. Some people are more than happy to do that, and I think that is great, especially since they get to leave their work at work and not have to take anything home.
What challenges did you face in the insurance business that you didn’t expect?
I will say, and I hate to sound like this, but as a woman coming into this type of industry, some people thought I should be a secretary. That was only 18 years ago but it was still a big deal to me then. I tend to shoot my mouth off more times than I should, so I found out when I could push to that point to try to make them understand or knowing that I just had to prove myself.
There are obviously challenges being in a family business too, as I was working with my brother, and that was challenging sometimes. Part of it was nice since you’re working in your family business, but then part of it was kind of an added pressure to make sure you up-held the same level of what they were expecting. When it came to Scott and me, there were some challenges, but the good out-weighed the challenges because I understood his business better and why he would make some of the business decisions he made.
What kinds of misconceptions do you think are out there about entrepreneurship?
Everybody thinks it is sunshine and roses since you’re your own boss, you can come and go as you please, and you can do whatever you want. There is that aspect, but ultimately, it is a huge sacrifice. I remember Scott would have to go out at 3 AM because a farmer is stuck, and we have no staff available. Or, when times were tighter, you didn’t know if you could make payroll the next day. It is just you and nobody else is helping you, it’s on your shoulders. In my situation, if a claim goes bad or someone is in trouble on a Sunday night, I’m going out there because that is part of the service we provide. There are obligations to insurance companies and obligations to banks, so there are a lot of behind the scenes things that other people have no idea about. The mental things that go on in your head or what you have to deal with mentally to be able to keep going. You’re the last straw, really.
I know community involvement is super important to you, so I was wondering how you made the time for that being as busy as you are?
Sometimes it was a struggle. My situation now is a lot different, but Scott and I were both very active in the community and we also wanted to show the boys that they could do all these sports, but people have to work behind the scenes in order to do that. Another part of it is, being a small business, getting customers through people I was on different boards with, other members of organizations, and parents. That wasn’t my primary intention, as I also just love it. Honestly, if I could, I would do 75% of community work and 25% of business, but that is just the way I was raised. My Mom volunteers at the school every day and my grandmother volunteered at the hospital every day until she was 102, so I’ve been brought up that way.
Do you have any advice for the next generation that might be contemplating the next step in their schooling or careers? Do you think post-secondary is always the answer?
That’s a tough one. I believe sometimes the best school is the school of hard knocks or the school of get your hands dirty and figure it out. But then I know, depending on what your path is, you can be limited. There are companies that won’t even look at you without a university degree, so I just think that with social media and the internet that there are more avenues than just schooling. That being said, I do think schooling is a good thing to have as a fall-back plan, but is it the be-all, end-all? No. It depends so much on personality and sometimes having a degree in your back pocket isn’t a bad idea. If you have an energy level and a desire to do something, then that loses some of its importance, but if you’re not an overly aggressive and ambitious kind of person, it might not be enough to go gung-ho into something on your own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Patrick MacDougall and I am a licensed REALTOR® based out of Tillsonburg, Ontario. I service the Oxford, Norfolk, and Elgin County areas and work everyday to bring as much value to others as I possibly can.