50,000 Customers and Climbing

Ginette Mailhot worked full-time at La Turquoise while simultaneously chipping away at a full-time bilingual MBA from McGill HEC University. “I had no personal life for 16 months,” she says, adding that she proudly received her degree in May 2014. (Photo: Maxime Côté)

Under Ginette Mailhot’s leadership, La Turquoise has become one of the 10 largest damage-insurance brokerages in Québec

Since its founding in 1963, insurance broker La Turquoise has grown to serve approximately 50,000 customers in eight locations. President and CEO Ginette Mailhot wants this number to continue to climb, and she believes her ideas regarding web presence and employee compensation will help take her business to the next level. Here’s a look, in numbers, at La Turquoise’s history and Mailhot’s plan moving forward.

90% of the market

For individuals, the damage-insurance industry makes it possible to replace possessions in case of theft, fire, or other disasters (except floods). But it’s also important to small- and medium-size enterprises, which make up 90 percent of all the job-creating companies in Canada, according to the Chambre de l’Assurance de Dommages, which oversees the training and ethical behaviour of damage-insurance adjusters, brokers, and agents. La Turquoise’s damage insurance allows such enterprises, in the event of a disaster, to keep paying their employees, replace their equipment, and rebuild their facilities.

1963

La Turquoise’s origins date back to this year, when Gaston Lambert and Omer Frenette established Lambert et Frenette Enr. in Québec. The insurance company evolved over the next three decades, with Lambert buying out Frenette to form Les Assurances G. Lambert Inc. and carrying out a series of acquisitions, beginning in 1982. In 2000, Lambert’s firm merged with Solimax to create Inovesco, and the company later renamed itself La Turquoise. It now has eight locations throughout Québec and Ontario.

26 years old

In 1990, at age 26, Mailhot, who was on maternity leave, began helping her father at La Turquoise’s predecessor. “He was a farm broker, and paperwork wasn’t top of his interests, so I went to support him and fell in love with the work,” says Mailhot, who subsequently got her license and worked her way up from broker to manager to shareholder to president. “It’s all about passion. I always wanted to learn more and be better than I was yesterday. I’m 50 now, and I still have objectives, dreams I want to make come true.”

2 provinces

La Turquoise has offices in Québec and Ontario, and Mailhot says they might as well be two different countries, explaining that customers in the former buy with their heart while those in the latter buy more with their minds. “Because of that, we have to attract them, approach them, and serve them in different ways,” Mailhot says. “But when we do that well, the customer appreciates our service and refers us to others. We help them grow, and they help us back.”

How are you growing?

“We’ve achieved organic growth … and that part is particularly important to me for sound management.”

50,000 customers

Competition, especially in Québec, is high, forcing La Turquoise to think differently to retain its 50,000-strong customer base, lest it be swallowed by bigger companies. One way the business has done so is by focusing more on its web strategy. “Instead of investing in advertising in newspapers or magazines, we looked at how we could manage our Internet presence better to support the needs of our customers,” Mailhot says. “Who should we target? How should we compose our message to reach our target audience? How would we position ourselves strategically on Facebook and LinkedIn?”

150 employees

Mailhot has a win-win philosophy when it comes to compensation: her 150 workers are paid based on the growth they bring to the business, and this has helped catalyze its expansion. Mailhot also believes deeply in the development of employees, so she offers them regular training and generous tuition-reimbursement plans.

Mailhot’s key talent-management philosophy, though, is based on PPLP, an abbreviation of the French phrase la performance par le plaisir, which means “let’s perform having fun.” “If I’m developing myself and accomplishing something, it doesn’t feel like work, and I thought that might be possible for my employees as well, so I bought a lot of books by Jean-Luc Tremblay and brought him to our annual meeting,” Mailhot says. “Since then, we’ve managed with his PPLP concept.”

ISO 9002

La Turquoise was the first Canadian insurance brokerage to obtain company-wide ISO 9002 and, later, ISO 9001:2000 certification. The standards for each, developed and published by the International Organization for Standardization, define, establish, and maintain a quality-assurance system for the manufacturing and service industries. The certifications are important, according to Mailhot, because they ensure the company delivers a harmonized service to customers. “If a customer talks to broker A or broker B at La Turquoise, he or she gets the same quality of service,” she says.