Susan L. Combs is pretty remarkable. She began her entrepreneurial journey in 2005, forming her own company at age 26. She was encouraged by a mentor who believed that her tenacious spirit and “fixer” personality would shake things up in the insurance industry. Combs & Company, LLC, is a full service insurance brokerage firm that has an expertise on the “weird and unusual.” Leveraging a knack for addressing and solving difficult circumstances, Combs has become a go-to resource for those companies that don’t fit an insurance carrier’s typical profile, especially entertainment, food, and international companies setting up their first U.S. operation.
Additionally, Combs mentors members of Women in Insurance & Financial Services (WIFS), an organization where she has served on the National Board since 2008 and currently sits as the youngest National President of the 79-year history of the organization.
The Distracted Executive: What would you say is your biggest distraction when you are working these days and what are you doing to address it?
Susan Combs: In addition to the business I own, I’m also the National President of Women in Insurance & Financial Services, so the biggest distraction I have right now is the multiple pulls on my time in multiple directions. One of the biggest things I do to address it is color block my calendar to show the following topics: Mentoring, Networking, WIFS and Combs & Co – this way at a glance I can see if I need to shift items on my week to focus efforts in a different area.
TDE: What has become your greatest challenge around managing time? What is your very best practice for being as efficient as you are?
SC: My biggest distraction was getting derailed by phone calls. When I would be working on something for a client and another would call, it would take my focus away and also keep me in the office longer. About 3 years ago I started taking only scheduled calls, and this has helped tremendously! Not only has it given me more time in my day, but I no longer have the word “phonetag” in my vocabulary and it has elevated my rock star status ☺.
TDE: Prioritizing. Everything seems important or urgent these days. How do you efficiently navigate your to-do list without hindering your success?
SC: I treat everything the same. No matter if it’s work, board, personal or networking, however it comes in, I try to get the ball out of my court as quick as possible so then it is on the other person to do their part.
TDE: You manage people and work with some people who are all over the place. How do you deal with someone who is very distracted and not giving you what you need in a timely manner?
SC: I actually don’t deal with those people ☺. If they are scattered and don’t focus, I get my staff to deal with them the best way possible.
TDE: How are you impacted by interruptions during the day? What is your #1 tip for dealing with them?
SC: I think the sheer volume of email and just client issues in general are the things that impact me the most. One of the things I have started doing - since, many times, my staff members are on emails - is that when I get back into the office, I go through emails backwards. I know that this means that someone that emailed most recently will get a response sooner than one that did say an hour ago, but I found that it cut down on confusion and double work. When I would start at the oldest and work my way to the newest I found myself responding to things that my staff had already handled. By reversing the process, it cuts down on double work and makes the office more efficient.
TDE: As an entrepreneur and rock star business owner, what is the greatest challenge in your business today and what are you doing to address it?
SC: The 24/7 mentality that you should always be responding. As with anything, you have to train your clients. My clients know that I won’t respond on weekends unless they put “Urgent” in the subject line. They also know how to utilize my staff and trust that they will handle things as I would.
Thank you Susan for your candor and expertise!
If you want to get in touch with Susan, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org visit her company website here.