Andrea Shandro and Jennifer Kirby – Partners of Vital Partners Inc

We also have a process for everything. Our objective is to provide the same customer experience to each of our clients.

Andrea Shandro and Jennifer Kirby are Co-Founders and Principals of Vital Partners Inc., a firm that finds solutions for businesses looking for employee benefits.

Andrea works with clients to develop and design tailored benefits and insurance solutions. She is dedicated to providing clients with candid, up-front advice, as well as excellent service. By listening and really getting to know her clients, she helps put in place group benefits solutions, group savings programs, and individual insurance that meets their needs and fits their budget.

Jennifer has a passion for making sense of complex insurance products. Through her collaborative approach, she assists clients to achieve clarity and peace of mind. Jennifer works specifically with individuals and entrepreneurial companies and has a proven track record for helping clients design innovative and cost-effective insurance and employee benefits programs.

Where did the idea for Vital Partners come from?

We saw the opportunity for a high-touch service model that met the needs of the entrepreneurial companies we work with. We know that in a world of increasing automation and self-service, this is not exactly on trend, but we knew that businesses needed additional support to understand their group benefits, and how they impact their employees and workplace.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

We usually get to the office before 7:00 (which involves sneaking out of the house before our kids wake up!). The early start allows us a block of time to chip away at projects and longer tasks that get interrupted once emails and phone calls start coming in.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We often ask our clients what they need or what they are looking for. When we are planning a seminar for clients or trying to add value, we ask! The best ways to support our clients and deepen our relationships with them is to find out what they need.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

We are really jazzed by the idea of local economy. As a service company, we fit very neatly into this category, but we love seeing local food, production, and ownership.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Tracking everything. In a sales role, the only thing you can control is your own activity, so making sure you’re hitting goals, sale by sale and call by call to clients or prospective clients, is critical to ensuring success. Tracking keeps you focused on the activities that make a difference to the bottom line of your organization.

We also have a process for everything. Our objective is to provide the same customer experience to each of our clients.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

There is dignity in all work, so those starter jobs helped us get through post-secondary education, learn discipline, and think about what / how you could do things differently.
Nevertheless, for Andrea, a summer tree planting was all she needed to find out that she wanted a job working with people.
Jen’s least favourite job was working for a cigarette company as a summer job.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

We recently had the opportunity to “start again” when the company that we were working with sold and we had to rebrand. What we did differently is invest in infrastructure that we would need as a much bigger company so that we wouldn’t have to redo or patch systems as our organization expanded.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Communicate regularly with your team. At Vital Partners, we meet as a team once a week. We talk about our successes and learning opportunities for the week, in addition to cases that we’re working on, technology updates, and projects that need to be done.

We also conduct a daily “huddle” – a 5-minute stand-up meeting to chat about our activities for the day, anything tricky that we’re dealing with, and make sure that we have completed our priority tasks from the previous day.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Referrals – we really do love our clients. We have a half-day service commitment and we are passionate about making customer service a number one priority. Because of that commitment, clients, industry partners, and our networks provide a lot of referrals.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Both of us seem to delve into negative self-talk quite a bit. We talk ourselves out of thinking that we can land a big case or that we have the knowledge to service those cases when in reality, we are experts in our field with a great deal of experience, and our clients’ best interest in mind. Recently a coach advised that we should walk into every meeting telling ourselves that “we’re the best” – he advised that we would only be able to keep one thought in our heads at once, so it would banish the self-doubt that plagues so many of us and keeps us from reaching our potential. It really does work.

As partners in the business, we each have our weaknesses or less favourite things. By acknowledging those weaknesses and allowing other members of our team to fill in gaps in our skill sets or preferences, we are stronger as an organization.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

One idea we thought of was to discover (or invent) a technology that recycles or reuses carpet headed for the landfill and repurposes it or transforms it into something that could be marketable.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

We recently spent $100 on a lunch for our team. We went to the Italian restaurant next door. In addition to getting to know each other a little better, we discussed challenges, ideas and an update on how we’re progressing towards our goals.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

We use Microsoft’s CRM software and SharePoint for our files. We love that it allows us to work remotely, share documents and files and maintain client records.

We love using Canva for in-house design of our blog series headers and other templates. It makes design super easy!

Recently, we started using Typeform to conduct surveys on behalf of our corporate clients. The interface is very engaging and it makes answering a quick survey a breeze.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The E-Myth. This book drove the early development of our sales processes and how we could make our business flow and customer experience consistent.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Manager Tools, a podcast by Michael Auzenne and Mark Horstman.

REAP Calgary, an association of local businesses coming together to help support the local economy and support buying local.

Arlene’s Dickenson. Her books “Persuasion” and “All In” are favourites.


Vital Partners on Twitter: @vital_partners
Vital Partners on LinkedIn:
Andrea on LinkedIn:
Andrea on Twitter: @ashandro
Jenn on LinkedIn:
Jenn on Twitter:@jkirbyVPI