Clark & Associates president remembers challenges, successes after 25 years in insurance brokerage business |

Clark & Associates president remembers challenges, successes after 25 years in insurance brokerage business

Valerie Clark

Clark & Associates is a woman-owned health and life insurance brokerage headquartered in Reno. We opened our doors in July 1992 with the simple goal of helping the businesses of northern Nevada provide their valued employees with creative and cost-effective employee benefit insurance plans. We now begin the celebration of our 25th anniversary in business with an entrepreneurial empowerment campaign. As an active, committed and community-minded business, we remain an insurance industry and healthcare leader, and an advocate for ambitious local business owners.

Twenty-five years as a woman-owned business means 25 years of tough challenges, the passing of two major health insurance reform laws in 1996 and 2010 and a painful recession in 2008. All of these events affected our clients in a variety of ways. Not only were they times of financial chaos, they were times that required us to obtain and understand a vast amount of knowledge and of legislative changes, and in turn convey and coach our clients through the tough messages that we were delivering. We were recipients of the changes ourselves, and feeling the pain, as well. We endured some very dark and scary hours over those years. We managed to keep our heads up, maintain our sense of humor, our team atmosphere, our ethics and our devotion to our clients and industry. We are a team that has stuck together through highs and lows to emerge bigger, better and stronger than ever before. It is something that I often reflect back on with a sense of disbelief and awe, still not fully understanding how we did it!

With a mission to help Nevada entrepreneurs achieve their dreams, our campaign, entitled “Empowering Entrepreneurs,” showcases two of our long-term clients through anecdotal videos, print and radio advertisements. Owners of Great Basin Brewing Company, Nevada’s oldest brewery; and Adventure Pet, an outdoor dog excursion business; are perfect examples of our passion and commitment to helping our clients grow their businesses.

Our job is to take care of the behind-the-scenes work so business owners can get back to what they enjoy and do best. We like the idea of “empowerment,” because entrepreneurs are often forced to deal with internal insurance and HR issues unrelated to the true passion of their businesses. We want to provide relief so entrepreneurs can do what they do best. We do this with the support of our affiliate companies Altus Insurance Group, which provides full-service business insurance for property, liability and workers compensation insurance; and Solutions At Work, a full service human resource consulting and technology company. Together we work with businesses of all sizes assessing their comprehensive needs and issues, and ultimately providing customized solutions and the tools necessary to help them achieve their goals. My involvement in the creation of these companies has given me a great sense of satisfaction and pride, and I feel that the underlying passion to help business succeed is ultimately what drives our success.

The fact that we are women owned, and that all of our employees (with the exception of our two part-time receptionists) are women, is an interesting twist as well.

The insurance industry is traditionally a male-oriented industry. After arriving in Reno almost 25 years ago, I did not know a single person other than my family. I was in a new career, having left my nine-year nursing career behind in hopes of finding something more satisfying. I also did not play golf. As a result, the successes that were achieved, were due solely to hard work and a passion for what I was doing. I became involved in numerous boards and committees, which I have enjoyed immensely, and encourage my team to get involved as well. I still do not feel like I am part of “the good ‘ole boy network,” however I am validated daily by the wonderful clients that we have and the new ones that are joining our family every day. Northern Nevada has been a great place for a nurse from California to bring her dreams and then grow them into something that she never thought possible. I am looking forward to the next 25 years with great anticipation.

Valerie J Clark, is the president of Clark & Associates of Nevada.