Jeannette Lanza is a front-and-center example of the value of experience in the entrepreneurial process. Her strong suit is relationship-building. In 2012, after more than two decades of working within the industry, Lanza acquired Braintree-based H.J. Knight International. She has grown its revenue by 350 percent since taking over, and more than tripled its staff size. The once-tiny agency is now licensed in 33 states, servicing both domestic and international risks alike.
Starting out with a book of mainly property and casualty business, Lanza expanded the commercial lines annual premiums beyond $35 million and continues to develop new underwriting partners and strategic business alliances, according to her nominator.
Lanza and her husband spent many years working for large brokerage firms, later transitioning to a small regional agency as an equity partner to start and run its risk management business. “There are so many benefits to having an [independent] agency,” she said, among them control of one’s destiny, the ability to build a growth culture, and the flexibility to adapt to client and employee needs. She views insurance “not a commodity but a form of risk management designed to protect and grow your business and when used in the right form can be a very beneficial and cost effective tool.”
Larger agencies’ internal policies and the emphasis on shareholder profits couldn’t compare. “As the mother of two young twins, I need to think of their future, the quality of life we want to provide for them, and how to create a strong and positive atmosphere,” she said.
In some ways it’s easier to succeed independently as a woman business leader outside of a larger corporate culture that is still very male-dominated. Eight of the agency’s 12-person staff are female. “We recruit the best talent regardless of gender, but I am pleased to be able to provide employment for other women in the industry,” she said.
Lanza garnered the designation of Woman of the Year for 2013-2014 from the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW), which recognized her for her leadership, commitment to the profession and community involvement. As a member of NAPW’s Quincy and Boston chapters, she has mentored women business owners and prospective owners in the Boston chapter.
The acquisition of Taft Hartley business – multi-employer pension plans from GBG Consulting Services, a human resources management, outsourcing and employee benefits consulting firm, in 2012. The acquisition provided an opportunity to expand H.J. Knight’s employee benefits division and supplement its existing employee benefits business and add another client group. The buy also resulted in the hiring of two new staffers, each with more than 30 years’ experience.