MENTOR: SUSAN COMBS
Susan L Combs is the CEO of Combs & Company, a full service insurance brokerage firm with an expertise in the “weird & unusual.”
Leveraging a knack for solving difficult circumstances, Combs & Co. has become a go-to resource for those companies that don’t fit an insurance carriers’ typical profile, such as entertainment, food, and international companies setting up their first U.S. operations.
Susan also serves on the Advisory Board of Directors for Allay, Inc and Oscar Health, both insurance technology companies based in San Francisco and NYC respectively. She is the youngest National President (2014-2015) in the over 80-year history of Women in Insurance & Financial Services (WIFS), and served on the National Board for 7 years.
In addition, Susan works diligently to stay current with the myriad of changes in the insurance industry. Currently, Susan is one of just seven brokers in New York City metro area to have the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) designation. Her expertise in this complex area of health insurance has established Susan as a highly sought after expert witness, advisor, and speaker on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by law firms, reinsurance companies, and organizations around the country. Most recently, Susan was the first female to receive the Broker of the Year (BOY) Award by BenefitsPro Magazine in 2017 and in 2018 she was the recipient of Women in Insurance & Financial Services’ highest honor, Woman of the Year!
Even though Susan lives in NYC, she’s just a “Missouri girl in a New York world.” She grew up in King City, MO, a town of less than 1,000 people, with her mom, dad and two older brothers. She left the northwest corner of Missouri in 2001 to seek her success in NYC. Susan’s late father was a retired Major General AND county judge, while her mother owned a Merle Norman Cosmetics Studio and travel agency. (So, entrepreneurship is in her blood.) Susan’s interests are as diverse as her upbringing. She is a HUGE Kansas City Chiefs and Royals (2015 World Champs) fan, and is always cheering for her alma mater, the Mizzou Tigers! She lives in Queens with her amazing husband, Sean, and their two furry kids, Pepper and Roxy. Susan loves playing football, hockey, is an avid CrossFitter and she’s a whiz in the kitchen and even owns a Mexican restaurant with her husband in her Missouri hometown!
"Personally 2018 was rough. Really rough. Losing my father the end of August defined the year. Not having the greatest year in business in over 13 years since I opened my doors, not my niece celebrating her 1st birthday, not recognizing over 30 women in our industry in my monthly article series and not even being in the best shape of my life. All these things that should have defined 2018 as my best year on record. But my dad wasn’t here at the end to celebrate, so as the holidays rolled around and the “firsts” that everyone talks about when you lose someone close start happening, it tarnishes the year even further. But you know what, I have no regrets.
I really feel like you can “have it all” in this industry if you play your cards right in the beginning and I am grateful that I am nothing but tenacious. If I could give one piece of advice to those getting started in this industry it would be: “Learn to do without”.
When I started in this industry in NYC, I had a $2000/month draw, my health insurance that was deducted was $396, my rent was $1200, my cell phone was about $50 and my monthly subway pass was $63. That gave me $291/month to live off of. That went real quick in the land of $15 sandwiches. I took a job as a personal trainer to help supplement my income and just to make the ends meet since I believed in my future. I knew this was a career and not a job.
I networked my ass off, went to morning meetings at 7am and after work events that got me home after 9pm just to get my name out. I was willing to work weekends.
So many of my friends in the industry have similar stories. We are not unique or special, we just believed in ourselves and had the drive.
So what’s my prize?
I got to spend the time with my family and my father when he was dying. This will define 2018 and maybe even the decade for me for eternity and I am grateful, because you see, if I hadn’t taken the time to do things right in the beginning and build my team and contacts on a shoestring budget, I wouldn’t be soaring in our industry now.
So for the newbies out there, take heart. Because the foundation you are laying now in this industry can pay you richest you never thought you would gain.