When Tiffany Lehman founded Insurance Source of Naples in 2009, she was just 29 years old. Today, at 41, she’s grown her company to more than 4,500 clients. As she’s steered her business on its path to success, she’s held tight to her most important guiding principle: her integrity. “The second you start to flounder on that, you’ve lost everything,” Lehman says. She brings a finely calibrated moral compass to everything she does—her business, her family, her friends. “It’s very simple to do the right thing,” she says. “It’s how I’m comfortable sleeping at night.”
In 2017, Lehman’s professional mettle was put to the test after Hurricane Irma struck Southwest Florida. She spent weeks working around the clock to file her clients’ claims. In the early days after the storm, when people had lost power and access to email, Lehman and her team filled out claims reports by hand. They found themselves stepping outside their role as an insurance company and served as social workers, therapists and friends. For older clients who didn’t have anyone to lean on, Lehman and her staff walked them through the process: Here’s what you need to do to get a tarp on your roof.
Lehman’s role during that time was to keep her own emotions in check. She had to be available when her clients needed her, which meant sacrificing sleep and putting her own home repairs on hold. “My professional grit kicked into overdrive,” she says.
That grit is key to being a successful entrepreneur. The men and women who thrive with their own businesses have both drive and tenacity, essential qualities for weathering life’s storms (both metaphorical and real). Similarly, the best entrepreneurs hold tight to their goals. “In the business world, it’s easy to get swayed and pulled in a lot of directions,” Lehman says. “Make sure you stay focused.” These goals may change over time, but the important thing is to keep setting them.
LEHMAN’S ENTREPRENEUR ADVICE
For entrepreneurs looking to grow their business, Lehman has this piece of advice: Your team is your company. It’s important to hire people who share your values. For Lehman, that means team members who are community-based, hard-working and compassionate, and who place a high value on ethics. What she doesn’t necessarily look for is a background in the insurance industry. It’s nice if they have it, she said, but it’s not critical. “Anyone can be trained on the business side of things. The challenge is to hire good people.” And she means “good” in all senses of the word— good workers, good for the company and good to be around. “You have to work with them all day,” she says. “You want to surround yourself with inspirational people.”