Grace Peabody from Peabody Insurance // Photo By // Jessica Hatter Photography
Hair & Makeup // By Lisa Hawley // Owner of Lisa Lynn Beauty
Today family businesses have a competitive edge that could hardly be anticipated. As millennials continue to take up over one third of the workforce, many of these individuals are looking for more out of a career than a paycheck. In this new arena, family businesses have an edge in building a sustainable footprint because of the personal connection between the family and the community they serve.
A textbook example of this is Peabody Insurance Agency, a company with a history of serving the community since 1919. In the last year Peabody Insurance has grown the team to include two new family hires, Grace and Brandon, and has completely remodeled its office.
“In order to thrive in today’s competitive environment, I believe it’s important for businesses to give the next generation a voice in how we should work and serve our customers,” explains Jim Peabody, partner of Peabody Insurance in Fenton. “Our team has developed a culture of collaboration, where insurance knowledge is fused with new ideas, processes and tools.”
Peabody Insurance is now one of the most capable independent agencies in the state, with the development of an interactive safety app, DocuSign, virtual meetings and a client portal. “Many of our features have the goal of saving our clients time and money. Customers have the ability to choose how they want to do business with us,” Jo Schofield, account executive, explains, “and our customers enjoy supporting local businesses because they know those dollars are going right back into their hometown.”
Jim believes that many of Peabody Insurance’s capabilities can be attributed to his daughter, Grace Peabody, and his nephew, Brandon Peabody. “Grace has worked at the agency since she was a kid,” Jim says. “We had her pulling weeds, washing windows and stuffing envelopes from an early age. Both Grace and Brandon have seen the way we put our customers first and how our employees are part of our family.”
“Each family business is unique in its makeup, its culture…each has its own vision, goals and perception of success.” —Fredda Herz-Brown
“Some of the people I work with have known me since I was a baby!” Grace says. Grace recently moved back to Fenton after working for a Fortune 500 company in Chicago and earning her MBA from the University of Notre Dame earlier this year.
Brandon most recently worked for Al Serra Auto Plaza in Grand Blanc, another family-owned business. “Working at the Al Serra Corporation was a valuable experience,” he says. They are a world-class organization. I learned a lot from the Serra family, and their values are helping me to grow the Peabody Insurance family business.”
Dave Lucas, agency partner and childhood friend of Jim Peabody, has worked with Jim in the insurance industry most of his life. “I have made a career out of serving local businesses. We have to bring new people into the industry, and who would take the needs of our clients more seriously than someone who shares the same name as our company?” Lucas says. “Besides, Grace and Brandon are hardworking and fun people to work with!”
The evolution of Peabody Insurance Agency hasn’t always been straightforward. Growth in any business can be messy, but family businesses can get messier than most. However, this also means that a business run by a family team tends to be more resilient and more likely to succeed. There are aspects of a family business that other businesses just can’t replicate; studies report that this is because family business leaders think into “the next generation, not the next quarter” (from “Leadership Lessons from Great Family Businesses” by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, Sonny Iqbal and Jörg Ritter).
While in the MBA program at Notre Dame, Grace went through the recruitment process with several companies. “In the end I knew I wanted to come back to Peabody Insurance. Big-name companies and sexy job titles sound better on paper than they do in real life,” Grace says. “For me, I like the challenge of working at a family company; it requires creative problem solving, and everyone is passionately involved. I think the traditional corporate ladder structure is a little outdated.”
Brandon says, “Part of the reason I was excited to come to work for Peabody Insurance is because of the family values they are committed to upholding. These values put clients first and hold us, as a staff, to provide the highest quality of products, service and standards of integrity for our clients.”
Family Matters: Q&A with Grace and Brandon Peabody
WHAT IS THE COOLEST THING ABOUT WORKING IN A FAMILY BUSINESS?
Grace: We are always focused on the business and our clients but we have a lot of fun too! By nature we enjoy our time together. I am working with my family; we laugh a lot, especially with Dave [Lucas]!
Brandon: We are working for a different purpose. It is not just about me; it’s about working for this generation and the next. We are not just selling insurance; we are communicating our family and our values.
WHAT IS THE STRANGEST THING ABOUT WORKING IN A FAMILY BUSINESS?
G: Going into meetings together and saying our last name. Peabody, Peabody, Peabody at Peabody Insurance. It is a little redundant!
B: People imagine that working for a family business is easier. But in reality it is harder because we never leave work at the office.
DO YOU EVER GET INTO FIGHTS?
G: I wouldn’t say we get into fights but we definitely disagree more passionately than I would if I was working at a different company.
B: Not yet, but we get into emotionally charged conversations. And, I have to be careful because I know the buttons to push to get a reaction.
DO YOU SUGARCOAT YOUR OPINIONS?
G: I don’t sugarcoat but I try to be tactful.
B: Yes, to a certain point you are always sugarcoating. But even with family you have to mind your manners.
GRACE, IF YOU GET MARRIED, WILL YOU CHANGE YOUR NAME?
G: I’ll let you know!
BRANDON, WOULD YOU WANT YOUR DAUGHTER TO CHANGE HER NAME?
B: Well, she is only five, but if I have anything to do with it, my daughter will never date or get married!
HOW DO OTHER PEOPLE AT YOUR OFFICE FEEL ABOUT WORKING WITH SO MANY PEABODIES?
G: That’s funny you should ask; we were just talking about that the other day. I think our team and our clients feel good about it because we have a perpetuation plan, a plan for the future of our business.
B: I think most people in our office feel that it’s not any different than working with anyone else. Plus, most have more experience than me; I need their expertise!
MICHIGAN OR MICHIGAN STATE?
G: Go Green. Our family is six for six at Michigan State!
B: Go Blue. My wife received her Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan.