Jodi Sharman, a finalist at the 2020 Advisr awards, has just sold Melbourne-based JLS Insurance Consulting – a brokerage she founded in 2004 – to Gallagher, where her whole team has relocated. She also raises funds for mental health alongside Guy Sebastian.
How did you achieve this Gallagher buy-out at age 42?
I started working when I was 10 years old at my dad’s service station, on the weekends and in school holidays with him. My parents were, at a young age, really saying we had to work to succeed in life.
Then I started at McDonald’s at the age of 14. After having that training, and knowing how strict they were and stringent with things, if I see McDonald’s on a CV and they lasted over a year I would happily employ them – it gives me comfort that they would probably do well in our office.
I worked there until I finished year 12. I decided uni wasn’t for me and went to a job agency which said I could do a business office administration traineeship at an insurance broking firm. I took that job at 18 and I worked there five years, completing my tier one and my ANZIIF three-year qualification.
I absolutely loved insurance broking pretty much straight away from the get go – reading policy wordings and going out and helping clients. I was put on a group scheme, travelling around Victoria meeting all the lawn bowls clubs and getting to know clients and getting their insurance programs right. I found it fun.
At 23, Marsh approached me – they had this brand new model that was coming to light which was called an authorised representative model.
I met with the management team and signed very quickly when I heard how the structure was going to work, that I could create a portfolio that I would own and one day be able to sell but be able to use the branding and the buying power. That’s where my career took off at Marsh and where I’ve been for the last 18-and-a-half years.
Now you’re with Gallagher, congratulations! So the whole team is moving to the East Melbourne branch?
We all moved on Monday. It’s been an absolutely fantastic transition, I’m still on a high from it all.
When I met (Gallagher Australia CEO) Sarah Lyons, she was so passionate about the company and the vision and where they were going. I could just see our team was going to fit right in with exactly where Gallagher was heading. I just started pinching myself, I can’t believe it’s happened.
I’ve got long standing staff which I consider to be family and they’ve had system training and everyone’s smiling and just saying they cannot believe how easy the move has been.
Coming here, they’re all looked after. They all had jobs, because that was definitely on the top of my list – I go, my book goes, my staff go. They’ve been there and helped grow this book. Without them, I’m not who I am today, and neither is this business. A very big part was looking after them.
As a small business, there’s a lot of things that you have to do and all of that’s been taken away. I have been a very hands-on boss the last 18 years – I do all my own PAYG my tax and all those things.
I reckon I will gain 10 hours a week to be able to look after clients and write new business and just be a broker.
Will it be the same clients going forward?
My client base has all moved, all been notified that we’re now here at Gallagher and it’s business as usual. We’ve got five meetings today, renewals.
I’m looking forward to learning what Gallagher does for its clients and how we can implement that for ours. We’re going to collaborate together and see how we run the programs and what we can do better, if anything.
I have a lot of scheme business, four franchise groups we have looked after for a long time – one for 18 years – that has come across. We also have a big client base in the employment service sector. We look after two associations that put a lot of job seekers out and have government contracts. So we’re appointed to the associations, and then all of their members follow underneath. All of that’s come across to Gallagher as well.
Nearly all of our business is referral. We just picked up another franchise group with 160 members two months ago; that person had left one of the other groups that we look after. I’m very big with networking and being in their offices and seeing people – being present.
I’ve already worked with the workers’ comp team here and we’ve already got four meetings in the diary. So for me, I think it’s now just getting back in front of clients, and then we’ll take it to that next level with introducing the Gallagher way to them.
How are you finding the insurance market?
We’ve found the market okay, we’ve got our insurers that we’re working with and are learning the Gallagher platforms. There’s going to be some new insurers that we’re dealing with which will be good for our clients because we’ll be able to test those markets.
We don’t just renew an account and not talk to them for a year. We have quarterly catch ups with the top 20 clients and tend to work with clients a good six to 12 months out, work really hard for them to educate them and show them the outcomes of doing sprinkler system type stuff.
We’ve had a couple of risks in the last few years where they didn’t quite understand the impact and they’ve seen the premiums going up $100,000 every year and excesses going up. This year, they did the risk recommendation which cost $80,000, and as a result the premium reduced by $250,000.
Tell us about working with Guy Sebastian to raise funds for mental health
Unfortunately, my dad took his life three years ago. I do a lot of not-for-profit charity work in my spare time. My husband recently launched our business called Happy Days Donuts and Coffee. We have a ‘51 Chevy, which is a car that I inherited from my dad, and we’ve built a van that matches it. We have fun, music playing, and we make it just a fun experience for people.
We just got back from touring with Guy Sebastian and raising money with him – the insurance industry has been fabulous. We’ve had clients hiring us, insurers, other brokers – Edgewise hired us recently. It’s gone absolutely crazy.
Everything we do, 15% of it goes back to mental health. The Sebastian Foundation raised a million dollars recently and $20,000 of that was us and our insurance brokers, and now we’re working with schools to put in free mental health programs.
Everybody’s affected by mental health. It impacted our family massively obviously with losing my dad, and we just want to remind people that there are places to go and if they’re not okay, that they can ask. I’m a very big advocate of doing that.
We need a couple more vans and are we’re looking at doing a pink one with a pink Cadillac towing it, and we’re going to call it Miss Happy Days. We might do Prosecco and cocktails out of that one.