Founded in Kitchener, Ontario in 1873, Staebler Insurance is the oldest insurance brokerage in Waterloo Region.
Insurance is definitely in Staebler President Joanna Mendonca’s blood. A third-generation broker, her family has owned and operated Staebler Insurance for over 40 years. Mendonca began working at the family business in the summer of 2006 as a teenager – and it’s been a major part of her life ever since.
“I had begged my mom to consider me for a role,” said Mendonca. “I’m pretty sure my conduct in my teen years hadn’t given her any indication that I could manage a full-time job, but eventually she agreed to give me a try!”
Over the past thirteen years, Mendonca has truly experienced all aspects of life at Staebler. She held roles in HR, Operations, IT, Personal Lines, Commercial Lines and Business Development before becoming President of the brokerage at the beginning of 2019. She loves what everyone at Staebler Insurance brings to the company and is excited for what the future holds.
“Despite having been around for almost 150 years, our staff are almost 50% millennials or younger,” she shares. “We’re a big supporter of local charities and organizations. We have a very fun, lively and passionate culture that our brokers and staff members embrace and reflect whole-heartedly.”
We spoke with Mendonca about a wide variety of things including the changing world of insurance, the value of education, technology and even Cardi B!
Let’s see what she had to say.
Why do you like working at your brokerage?
I like that our brokerage is full of people who are passionate and engaged. Every day, we strive to do the right thing for our clients, our co-workers and our company partners. We hold ourselves to a high ethical standard, and believe in authenticity, advocacy, honesty, innovation and tenacity. Our staff embrace our company values and carry them out each day.
The world of insurance is changing. What new opportunities do you see for brokers and customers going forward?
Customer expectations are high, and rightfully so. Customers become jaded when providers make changes that ultimately result in poorer service. They’re all too familiar with being stonewalled by 404 errors and “Page Not Found” messages or getting the runaround from an automated attendant that is “having trouble understanding your request at the moment”.
We have a term for this: faux service. I believe that our clients can truly see and feel the difference between faux service and genuine care. For brokers, I believe that opportunity lies in delivering service to customers with genuine intent and care. Our society is becoming more and more fast-paced, and I think brokers are in desperate need of technology systems and solutions that enhance and enable their efforts – not replace them. I think opportunities for brokers and their clients lie in technology, innovation, ingenuity, moral conduct and genuine care.
You’re very involved with broker education and have been a speaker at the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) Convention, and you’re also a Young Brokers Council (YBC) Team Leader. Why is it important for you to help mentor peers and young people in the industry?
I want to use my experiences to educate people about the broker channel, the role of a broker and how fulfilling this career can be. My goal is to inspire young brokers to be engaged, ambitious and passionate about this channel and their place in it. I want to encourage our channel to be the rising tide that lifts all ships. When we develop and grow and do better at our jobs as brokers, it pushes us all to strive for greatness.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever been asked to insure?
A hovercraft. It was back in 2013 and to date, I’ve never been asked to insure anything cooler than that.
What was your first job? What’s something that you learned or took away from it?
My first job was at Tim Hortons, working the drive-thru. I think my biggest takeaways were speed, time management and communication. The name of the game in the drive-thru is to get as many cars through as fast as you can. With practice, I got better at being quick and organized, which helped me to become more agile. And of course, you’re working with people all day long, so you can’t help but practice your communication skills.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve ever received, career-related or otherwise, was to ere on the side of kindness. You will never look back on your actions and think: “Oh gee, I wish I hadn’t been that kind.”
What’s your favourite song to sing along with during your drive home from work?
“I Like It” by Cardi B. I can’t help myself when it comes on – I have to crank it and sing along at the top of my lungs!
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t working in insurance, I’d be …
an event planner! I’m a Pinterest-addicted craft-fiend, and I decorate way over the top. I’ve done a Star Wars-themed party, a garden tea party, a Paris-themed bridal party, an Alice in Wonderland party and more. I love to research ideas and inspiration, and plan decorations, party favours and menus. I spend days crafting things and then love to pull it all together for the big day.
What are some of the reasons why you like working with Gore Mutual?
I like that Gore Mutual is a socially conscious business. I think they take to heart the need to operate in good faith in this industry and to put the best interests of the public above your own sometimes. I think it is a difficult time in the marketplace today as some prominent insurers in Canada find themselves in unprofitable positions. Employing “go-away” tactics or imposing hoops for only select customers to jump through are measures that some insurers are taking to deter what they deem to be undesirable business. Such actions are, at best, unkind and unfair to customers, and at worst, they are unethical. I know that insurers must have profitable, sustainable products and sophisticated underwriting strategies to help them achieve that. I believe that it is how we go about conducting our business that distinguishes us. I see Gore Mutual acting with genuine intent and care for their broker partners and their customers. I’m proud to be a Gore Mutual broker.
Will Staebler Insurance be doing anything special to celebrate the holidays?
We have some exciting charitable initiatives going on over the holidays. For example, throughout November and December, our staff has been donating non-perishable food items, toiletries, and clothing items and putting together Christmas stockings and hampers that are being delivered to families in need throughout the Waterloo Region.
Will you be making any New Year’s resolutions for 2020? If so, what are they?
I won’t really be making resolutions – I always try to set modest expectations for myself personally! But we certainly have corporate objectives that we’ll be planning for 2020. We want to continue to build our focus on the training and development of young brokers and talent that is new to the industry. We have growth targets for all of our departments, and we want to work hard to meet or exceed those. This year, we also began a software development project and in 2020 we will continue to work on that.
You were one of the speakers at our Fast Forward Idea Accelerator in September. How did it feel to be a part of the event?
The Fast Forward Idea Accelerators are always fantastic events! I was so flattered and humbled to have been included. It was a great experience and I would love an opportunity to do it again. I felt like I could have talked for hours about technology and its impact on the customer experience. It is certainly a big conversation topic in our office and in brokerages across the province.
We love that you wore a pair of snazzy Gore Mutual custom Vans sneakers on stage during the event!
Those shoes are awesome! They’re comfortable, easy to slip into, and the Gore Mutual colours certainly draw attention.
Check out the Staebler Insurance website here.