Friday, March 8th is International Women’s Day. Kelley Burnett has a message for small businesses this International Women’s Day: a work-life balance is attainable if it rests on the pillars of flexibility, teamwork and trust.
“If we are settled in our personal lives and we don’t have stress, then we are able to be a better employee,” the Edina mom says of her all-women insurance company Kelley Burnett & Associates. She became an agent/business owner after leaving her job as director of sales for American Family Insurance’s corporate division.
“I was traveling all the time. My husband was also traveling,” Burnett explains. “My kids were becoming school age and they needed a parent at home. Now, I’m home and I get to put them to bed every night. When I spun off to be my own agent, I knew it was important to provide that flexibility for people.”
Burnett says flexibility is often misunderstood as working less. Its true definition is structuring the traditional 40-hour work week in a way that works for the employee. Burnett’s seven-person office can work from home if they are sick or have an ill child or pet. That flexibility was appealing to Heather Lane, who was a stay-at-home mom for 10 years before going back to work in 2017. Lane worked for Burnett for over a year.
“In some jobs, when a mom calls in because they have to take their child to the doctor, they sense that it’s going to be a problem,” Lane says. “There was no guilt [at Kelly Burnett & Associates] ... because everyone else is supportive.” That support relies on Burnett’s pillar of teamwork.
“We all have to step up when someone’s gone,” Burnett says. “There’s no resentment because we all come from a place of understanding of what it’s like to be in that situation.”
Understanding creates a network of trust. Burnett stresses the work environment should be a place for all people to be supported, encouraged and cared for. She provides lunch, ergonomic chairs, standing desks, 15 days of paid time off and nine paid holidays.
“We believe time off is good. You need to recharge the batteries. That makes you a better person and contributor,” Burnett says. That notion was foreign to Colleen Crowley, who worked at a different agency for 37 years before transferring to Burnett’s office.
“If I did take time off it was a problem because we didn’t have this size team,” Crowley explains of her old job. “I had a lot of time to take off, but I always felt bad because my work wasn’t getting done. People have your backs here.”
Crowley also says a key component to having each other’s back lies in the fact that agents do not compete with one another. “Before, it was all individual goals. Now it’s, ‘Hey, what can we do together?’” Crowley says. Burnett says that while the office is all women, that was not intentional.
“We’ve interviewed several men,” Burnett says. “When you hire, it’s getting the right people to fit. It’s just worked that way that it’s women.”
What is intentional, is working toward a common goal of work-life balance, she says.
“If you’re an employer that is understanding and tries to create balance in the workplace then in turn you’re going to get better employees who are more dedicated.”
Burnett & Associates
7301 Ohms Lane, Suite 300