Featuring Veronica from Ceneta Insurance Services
I am a commercial insurance broker. Simply put, Commercial Insurance means business insurance – it’s basically anything except your general house & car insurance which is readily available online via many different providers.
Insurance is complicated. If you are running a business, you are better off using a broker, as they can help you assess your risks and know which insurance products are most suitable for your situation. There are thousands of insurers & products out there, and a broker can advise which is best for you. You won’t pay any extra by using a broker – they are paid by commissions from the insurers they place their business with.
My target market is anyone with a business, but I specialize in Landlord insurance, particularly for the short stay market (ie: those with properties on Airbnb)
Why and when did you start your own business?
I have had all sorts of businesses in a wide range of industries over the years. My insurance brokerage came about because of my deep involvement with Airbnb and the short stay accommodation industry.
I started hosting a room in my own home on Airbnb, then acquired 5 investment apartments in inner Melbourne. It soon became very clear to me that insurance was a problem – most insurance products such as House & Contents and Landlord policies do not allow short stays, meaning that most people doing this are not covered, and probably unaware that they are at risk. This is a problem worldwide.
I set out to change that. I commenced a research project to figure out exactly what was needed, then with the help of a well-credentialed commercial broker, we approached Lloyds of London who have been helping us design appropriate covers. This work is ongoing and we now have a suite of products that suit this need.
I am a well-known member of the Melbourne hosting community, and Airbnb often ask me to speak at their events on the subject of responsible hosting. Insurance is a very important part of that so I often speak on this subject.
As a result of all of this, I became an Authorised Representative for Ceneta Insurance. So that’s the story of my professional journey.
What does being a business owner mean to you?
I am good at recognising opportunities, and I have hatched a number of businesses as a result of identifying an unmet need in the market.
Being a business owner gives me a chance to create something new and potentially fill a need for a product or service. I have a deep need to be great at everything I do, and being a business owner gives me an outlet for that.
What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?
I have had a number of mentors over the years who have had a profound effect on my thinking. At a grass-roots level, our family owned a shoe shop when I was young. That had a deep & lasting influence on me and gave me an early appreciation for a solid work ethic and practical business skills.
Later, I was fortunate to work in a small consulting firm with 2 guys who taught me the value of getting to the point and being thorough. I learnt a lot about working with men and earned their respect. They were happy times and we are still in touch.
What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
I held 2 Board appointments that I’m pretty proud of:
In the ‘90’s I was on the Board of the Master Plumber’s Association – the first and only woman ever appointed in its 140 year history. I even had a plumber’s licence (steel roofing, which was my business)
I was also on the Board of CBUS, the largest industry superannuation fund in the country. Again, the only woman ever appointed to that Board. I was in the exalted company of people like Bernie Fraser, Ralph Willis and Mavis Robertson.
I am also incredibly proud to be breaking new ground with the work I am doing in my insurance consultancy.
What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?
Know your business numbers (financials).
What has been the most effective marketing initiatives or programs you have used to promote your business?
Depends which business we are talking about, and I have had many. Broadly speaking I would say that being an early adopter of technology has always been a key to my success. I love tech systems and programs, and I’m always on the hunt for new tools that will help me run my businesses.
But the Number One top tip I have is Referrals. Nothing beats building a network of word-of-mouth champions. For years I have been attending the Westgate Referral Network and it has been a constant source of inspiration and business opportunities. I encourage everyone to get involved. http://westgatenetwork.org.au/
What is one thing have you learned as a small business owner that has served you well over the years?
Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.
Not every idea is worth pursuing, and sometimes we hang on to an idea or activity simply because we don’t want to be a “quitter”. There can be virtue in calling quits to an activity that’s not working. Find something else to focus on that will bring you the rewards you seek.
Are there any resources or tools you’d like to share with other small business owners that have helped you run your business?
Make sure you can work from anywhere by embracing mobile technology.
Use a smartphone
Always carry a mobile internet dongle with you
Invest in a notebook-style laptop that is light & powerful
Only stay at accommodation that offers free wifi
Do you have any new projects coming up?
Working on developing a business insurance product to suit Airbnb property managers.
What do you do for fun/relaxation?
Love to travel, to explore architecture, art & food culture the world over. I like my creature comforts so I’m not into roughing it. I prefer immersing myself in cities.
I love all things creative so I like painting, decorating, building & renovating, sewing and anything that allows me to flex my interior design credentials.
I ride a motor scooter and love vintage motor bikes & fast cars.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Imagination, the ability to reality-check yourself, and follow-through. I know very few successful entrepreneurs and believe it is very much a misused term.
What fear have you faced in business? Have you overcome it? How do you manage fear?
I had a luxury business at a time when people were tightening their belts during the grim days of the GFC in 2008 – 2009. We managed to survive it, and 2010 and 2011 actually saw the pendulum swing the other way and the business boomed.
The only way to manage fear is to know that this too shall pass, and take active steps to improve the situation. For instance, cut costs where you can, tighten staffing, get your own hands dirty if that’s what it takes. A sure way to crash & burn is to put your head in the sand.
What are your top 5 goals you want to achieve by the end of 2017?
1. Grow my social media following
2. Finalise development of full suite of short stay Landlord insurances
3. Become the go-to for local area business insurance needs
4. Deepen my connections with the Airbnb community globally
5. Striking a really good balance between having fun and doing satisfying work
What makes you happy?
Spending time with my amazing family, watching my kids achieve, and hanging out with my business buddies, many of whom have joined my close circle of friends.
Have you had to make any sacrifices whilst running your business? If so, what are they?
Many people talk of sacrificing time with family to run their businesses. I have taken the opposite approach, involving my children in all my business activities as they were growing up. This has led to them becoming creative, entrepreneurial adults and has been an enormous help in their own professional development.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most and why?
Airbnb, for how they have reinvented the way people travel and redefined our economic models
Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?
In 10 years, a business with a flourishing book of insurance business and a leader in the field of sharing economy insurance
In 20 years, I will have sold it and be living the life on the rewards of my hard work!
What book has inspired you the most? (OR What is your favourite book?)
I love the publication Collective Hub which is a monthly magazine packed with inspiration for creatives and business developers
Barbarians at the Gate for the breath-taking excess of the “greed is good” era of corporate takeovers
Anything by Oscar Wilde & Charles Dickens, because I love the beautiful use of the English language.
How do you measure your success in business?
There are a number of important measures:
- The bottom line is the financial measure of business success.
- Saleability of a business is crucial – it needs to have value as a saleable asset so don’t build an egocentric business that can’t survive without one key person (you)!
- I measure satisfaction as well, and the number of calls & emails I get from people who have heard me speak or met me at some event is an indicator of how well-known I have become. I guess you could call that marketing reach success
- 4. The ability of the business to operate without me (ie: when I’m on holidays, does everything stop?)
Do you have kiddies if so how many? And what is their favourite activity to do with you.
I have 3 children aged 30, 28 and 26. We all love to cook and are equally obsessed with food. We also enjoy travelling together on family holidays.
What is your favourite inspirational quote?
This too shall pass.
What are your top 5 business tips?
- People do business with people they know and like, so take time to build relationships
- You need to know when to stop selling
- Follow up, follow through and close the deal
- Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em (credit Kenny Rogers!)
- Above all else, be ethical in business
Why did you become a WBS Member?
So that I could get to know business people in my local area.
Connect with Ceneta Insurance Services
Womens Business Society Team
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