Lennon and McCartney. Jagger and Richards. Montana and Rice. Batman and Robin. Martin and Lewis … some of the great pairs of all time. More of course, could make the list; but this is a pretty strong start.
What does it take to make the list? Well, clearly, you need “staying power” – a long run at what you teamed up to do and an exceptional record in your chosen career. The duo would also need to have the ability to rise above internal conflicts, both petty and monumental, in order to achieve success. Those are three key ingredients, for sure.
Now, let’s take an introspective look at the indoor tanning industry. Throughout my tenure in the tan biz, I’ve had the pleasure to interact with some prolific duos (see the September “Industry Spotlight” on PC Tan’s Haynes and Manke). This month, I caught up with another two – very different in that they are mother and daughter: Randy Tipton and Jenny Bortman of Universal Insurance Programs … come on down!
JB – I couldn’t agree more with that statement! It’s rare to see a mother-daughter team that’s both best friends and partners. I see mom more than I see my husband or kids. Some mornings, we see each other at 5:00AM as we start our day at the gym, regroup at the office after I drop off the kids; and then some nights, she comes over for dinner with the family. Our business is an extension of our family, so in order to keep that work/life balance, we sometimes bring family life into the office and other times, we bring work into our home life. Mom has been in insurance for over 40 years – seeing her grow within the industry was empowering to me. At a very young age, I knew that I would eventually work at the agency. What I wasn’t expecting was to become her partner so soon. As the “boss’s daughter,” I knew I’d have to work harder and smarter to prove to everyone that I was beyond capable of the position. That work ethic has allowed me to grow and thrive at the agency. Randy continues to mentor me and all the folks at Universal, so that we can continue to be the leader in our industries.
RT – Almost on a daily basis, people comment on how unusual our relationship is. They find it almost impossible that we spend so much time together and that still isn’t enough time. It’s a dream to have Jenny as my partner. I’ve dedicated my career to protecting the livelihood of my clients, and am very proud of what I’ve accomplished. While Jenny did grow up within the agency, after she graduated from college, I suggested she do something with her degree instead of joining the family business so quickly. I think this was a great move for her, because she learned the corporate lifestyle, received some amazing training and had an even greater appreciation when she came back in 2007. Jenny and I are very like-minded, so we have similar goals. Universal Insurance celebrated its 25th anniversary, and I expect to keep this agency thriving for many years to come.
IST: As with all business relationships, some decisions can be difficult to agree on. How do you resolve differences?
JB – A weakness of mine that I continue to work on is dealing with confrontation. I love when everything goes smoothly and people are happy. So, whether it’s with Mom or anyone for that matter, it can be difficult for me to voice my opinion. Over the years though, I’ve gotten much better at communicating when something goes awry. What has really helped me is to be proactive and realize that being assertive is not being aggressive. If I see something’s headed in the wrong direction, I try to mitigate a disagreement or concern, instead of internalizing and letting the situation brew.
RT – Everyone is human and while I get along with most people all the time, no one can always be on the same page. Even when Jenny and I disagree, we respect each other’s opinions and listen to one another. Because of this level of respect, we can agree to disagree and move on. Even though I’ve been in the business longer than Jenny, I continue to learn from her. That is the beauty of what we do as a team. She is all about communicating over the phone versus emails, which I think helps us avoid a lot of conflict and gain better relationships by preventing miscommunication with each other, our staff and our clients.
IST: What are the biggest changes that you have seen in the tanning industry over the years?
JB – Whether it’s indoor tanning or insurance, change is one of the keys to success. In ten years, the changes at the agency have been monumental. When I came back to the agency as an account executive, I noticed that we were mailing everything – proposals, certificates, policies, applications. You name it; it was getting mailed, sometimes faxed. You should have seen our postage and paper bills, not to mention our file room! Insurance is very process orientated, so becoming paperless put all of our files, forms and other documents right at our fingertips. I can’t even imagine what the next ten years will bring to our company, but we are ready to embrace the change.
RT – Those who have been in the industry for 25 years, like our agency, have seen a lot of changes – more sophistication, refined equipment, and now, there are a variety of services offered in salons. While there has been some consolidation on all fronts, from product makers to salons, we have seen some of our clients grow from one store to dozens of stores. Back in the day, the tradeshows were very extravagant, so it was hard to imagine that type of expenditure continuing; but they certainly were fun times! We love the family aspect of the industry. Many of our clients are “lifers” – they got into the business about 20 years ago and they still love the industry.
JB – Over the past year, we’ve seen the number of claims on the rise – and many are preventable. We continue to urge operators to keep up on their training and certification. It is also important to know that not all insurance policies are created equally, so owners need to make sure they have the proper coverage in place.
RT – I agree with Jenny on the need for training and proper coverage, and want to stress the importance of equipment upkeep along with building maintenance. Don’t wait for an issue to come up that could necessitate a claim.
IST: After looking at these changes and challenges, how do you view the future of indoor tanning?
Collectively, we agree that the industry has stabilized. There might not be explosive growth like there was in the 1990s, but the folks in the industry are committed to their businesses. Similar to our clients, we too have diversified and now have programs in the salon and spa channels. We do suggest that prior to pursuing ancillary services or a different business model, you reach out to your specialized agent, as the new service might be excluded in your current policy. It’s always safer to check first, versus bringing it in and then asking for help. We love to share our knowledge of the industry, and appreciate this opportunity to share it.
A 26-year industry veteran, Joe has taught certified salon operator training for the last 15 years, as well as advocating indoor tanning in many capacities. Joe is a sought-after speaker and presenter at both national & regional trade events, also interacting with the FDA, state & local regulatory agencies. During his most recent tenure with the ITA, he served as director of membership.
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