Women of Influence: Heather CourneyaBy Kate McCaffery | August 18 2014 09:00AM
Helping others understand their options
Her father may have tricked her into the business, but her resulting appreciation for the industry and continuing education, coupled with honesty and a desire to be involved, makes Heather Courneya a person of influence – not just to the client base she’s built over the years, but to the global insurance industry’s elite advisors as well.
Widows are the demographic she serves best (her practice grows entirely by referral), and her excellence in business ultimately lead to her affiliation with the Million Dollar Round Table.
Today, Courneya is chair of the MDRT's main platform. As part of her duties, she is screening almost 800 videos of speakers to choose 25 speakers with the committee for the meeting in New Orleans in June of 2015.
“One person can’t do everything,” she says of the need to keep a supportive group of people close in building a business. “Find someone you can trust and be good to them, so they can be good to you,” she says. “It’s always a team effort.”
Courneya joined her father’s practice, established in 1973, as a file clerk in 1982.
“First he asked me to be a file clerk. He told me he would like to pay me more, but couldn’t until I got my general insurance license,” she says. From there, she says he wanted her to look after his clients, but she needed to get her chartered life underwriter (CLU) designation, to be able to speak with them intelligently. “I got my CLU, and he told me my CHFC was only three more courses, and I should get that. So I got that. Again, he said he would like to pay me more, but that I would need to get my own clients, so I started doing that. After 15 years or so, he was taking more time off than he was working, and so the story goes.”
Courneya ultimate bought the practice from her father outright, in 2007.
Although it sounds like a natural transition, she says that purchase was probably one of the more difficult things to navigate that she’s encountered during the course of her career.
“It was a difficult transition, mainly because we had nothing in writing – my idea of what was happening was completely different from what my father was expecting. It was a very turbulent time. We’re fine, and everything is good today, but I was coming into my own. It was a difficult process.”
Getting through that to build a thriving business, while also raising a child “who is connected to his heart,” are two of her favourite achievements.
When asked what makes her influential, Courneya is unhesitating: Knowledge, continuing education, and involvement are what makes the woman and her business what they are today. In addition to attendance at the MDRT, “the reason I feel so strongly about what we do.” Volunteering with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, helps her to stay grounded, as well.
Tricked into the business or not, Courneya is one who clearly gets satisfaction from her calling: “It seems I have a natural ability to help people understand their options.” With that, she says, “I have the knowledge to speak about issues, and I do it with honesty. You can’t fake that.”