“You have a forced entry in zone 1 which is the front door and … a confirmed fire in progress.”
Those are words no one wants to hear. Unfortunately for Tania Stilson that was exactly what she heard from her alarm company late one Saturday evening in January 2004.
Despite being in the middle of celebrating her friend’s 40th birthday, Tania quickly got a lift down to her office. When she arrived the street was already blocked off with fire trucks everywhere. Shivering in the -40C winter weather, Tania saw that it was actually her neighbour’s business that was in flames. Fire crews were in her office space fighting the fire from that side. Smoke was billowing out everywhere and the firefighters were doing all they could to contain the fire.
Once she was identified as the business owner, Tania was asked if there was anything she wanted to take out of the building. She grabbed a few paper files and wanted to take the company’s network computer but was told to not touch anything electrical. Luckily she had backed up everything important off-site – there was no cloud back in 2004!
The next stop that night was the police station where Tania met her landlord. He offered to move the company – a travel agency – to a new rental space he had available. Given the cold weather and it being a busy time for business, Tania recalls, “I knew our team would do what needed to happen so our business could continue. We told my landlord and the insurance adjuster that we would stay on site.”
The next morning a Sunday the disaster crew came in and took everything – the carpet, all the furniture, the computers and even the ceiling tiles! By Monday morning the travel agency was functioning with new desks and computers (that the insurance broker went out and purchased). The only thing they lacked was a functioning washroom. The media stopped by and asked Tania what her business needed. Tania’s response? More travel business!
The community responded and gave the travel agency its busiest month in 14 years.
Tania remembers, “Our community was fantastic! Sure it wasn’t easy but we got it done. We smelled like smoke for months and I was affectionately called Campfire Suzy at Rotary. We had business interruption insurance but we didn’t need to use it. Up until then I always grumbled when I signed our policy premium cheques for the year but it taught me the importance of having the right coverage. Our neighbours who had all the fire damage had great coverage as well. They did tap into their business interruption insurance and kept all their staff for the 8 months it took to rebuild. I never complained about writing an insurance premium cheque again!”
10 years later Tania would begin working in the insurance industry with A-WIN Insurance opening her branch’s doors in August 2014.
What drew you to insurance? In all my roles I’ve always be attracted to businesses that help people in a time of need. Insurance does that. The business model itself is also very attractive.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job? Trying to do all the things I want to in a record amount of time. I was once told that if I ever was pregnant I would be trying to get the job done in 5 months.
What has been your proudest moment at A-WIN? I feel like we are just getting started but I do think to go from a start up in August 2014 to a team of 15 currently with many others on the horizon looking to join our team has to be my proudest so far.
What sets your branch at A-WIN apart from your competitors? Firstly it’s our people. Our drive to build the largest general insurance company in Southern Alberta is contagious. Clients know that we are working in every way to gain their trust and then their long-term relationship with us. Secondly, it’s the fact that we are not all from the insurance industry. Perhaps this sounds odd but the skills we have of being involved with a number of different companies over the years provides us with fresh eyes and maybe different business strategies. With our experienced brokers and our innovative leadership team, it is an unstoppable combination.
What’s an insurance risk or common claim unique to your community? Wind … LOL
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family: First generation Canadian my parents immigrated to Canada before having children to give them better opportunities. I never forget that. I’ve been an entrepreneur since my first business at age 19. I’ve done other things occasionally but building business and being an entrepreneur is my love. I’m married to an incredible man since 2004 and have two step-children who I met at 5 & 7 who are now 21 &23.
What’s your favourite thing about living and working in Lethbridge? Our community is a great place to live give and build a business.
RVing or tenting? Tenting in the back country.
Did you have any crazy jobs before becoming a broker? Define crazy? I’ve been working since I was 14 so I’ve been exposed to many things. I used to host a travel group each year of 130+ people some thought that was crazy but it was great fun.
If you could have an all-expenses-paid vacation where would you go and why? Italy. I was there in 2000 with my sister but would love to go with my husband.
Who would you like to be for a day? My dog – it’s a good life!
Top three life moments: Marrying my husband, joining Rotary and letting go of my life plan and trusting a new business partner to take me on a journey.
With branches already in Lethbridge, Blairmore, Picture Butte and more to come, Branch Partner Tania Stilson and her staff are always working hard on their clients’ behalf. This is just one of many reasons they were voted as the “The Best of the Best” in the top three categories by readers of the Lethbridge Herald in both 2015 and 2017.
A long-time Lethbridge resident, Tania has been in the insurance industry and part of A-WIN Insurance since August 2014. Aside from working hard to make her brokerage the best in Southern Alberta, Tania has been an active Rotarian for 18 years and is involved with Alberta Addicts Who Educate and Advocate Responsibility (AAWEAR). She also enjoys playing the tuba and experiencing the wonderful nature in and around Lethbridge.
You can contact Tania at 403-394-1123 or at [email protected].