How She Got Her Start with Jerri Hemsworth—Melissa Phillipp-Himes

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How she got her start with-Jerri Hemsworth

Jerri Hemsworth, CEO of Newman Grace Marketing, interviews Melissa Phillip-Himes, President of Phillipp & Associates Insurance Services. Melissa shares her story of how she came to be part of the insurance industry and what she has learned in starting her own boutique insurance company. What is a boutique insurance company? What are some of the obstacles she has faced in this industry? Why did she leave the RC car world and does she plan on making a return to it? Listen to how Melissa got her start.


More About Melissa Phillipp-Himes
About Jerri Hemsworth
About Echelon Business Development Network  


How She Got Her Start 

How She Got Her Start is a podcast devoted to the stories of women business owners and women executives. Listening to their stories, their challenges and their successes is meant to inspire other women while they maneuver the world of business. Whether they are attorneys, accountants, marketing and public relation execs, or IT specialists, every woman has a unique journey with shared threads of commonality. Hearing how we are a community of common goals and dreams hopefully inspires those on the journey with us and those coming after us.

Listening to other women business owners and executives allows a listener to tap into a wealth of knowledge, experiences, and support. Actively seeking out and engaging with our community, one can accelerate their own growth. One may also overcome obstacles, and find inspiration and guidance along the way. 

Women business owners and executives can bring diverse perspectives and insights to the table. By listening to How She Got Her Start, one can gain a broader understanding of different industries, markets, and client segments. This diversity can inspire fresh ideas, creativity, and innovation in one’s own business approach.


Click here to read the transcript

Announcer 0:00
And now from the Echelon Studios in Los Angeles, California it’s the How She Got Her Start podcast. So let’s all get started with your host Jerri hemsworth.

Jerri Hemsworth 0:15
Hi, it’s Jerri Hemsworth and welcome to How She Got Her Start. This is a podcast that I have developed because of the inspiration that we can all glean from many women business owners and executives and today is no exception. I have Melissa Phillip-Himes here with me from Phillips and Associate insurance. How’re you doing?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 0:42
I’m really good. Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Jerri Hemsworth 0:44
It’s a Friday, we were just talking about how we tend to be trashed on the weekends.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 0:50
Well, this weekend will be no exception.

Jerri Hemsworth 0:52
Yeah. We over schedule, we completely overschedule. So tell us about Phillip and Associates.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 1:01
First, thank you for having me. Oh, sincerely, I this is I’ve been looking forward to this podcast. So we’re a boutique Insurance agency. And our design is to be very customer centric. So what I mean by that is, we plan around the needs of our customers. And designing insurance policies deals with transferring risk. So identifying what risk needs to be transferred comes first, right? And then making sense of all of that to our customers, we’ve learned to be able to talk to our customers where they can understand where the real risk lies, and why there might be spending more money in certain areas than others. And then, of course, we focus on continuing those conversations. Because as we know, Jerri, life happens and things change,

Jerri Hemsworth 2:01
like fires and like,

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 2:02
Oh, my goodness, yes. So you know, when I say that we’re customer centric. That’s what I mean, it’s not, you know, something we say in marketing, or it just because it sounds like we care, that that’s our job. That’s just why people come to us. And so we seek out business owners and individuals who are vested in wanting protection, and they understand why they need it, and they’re willing to pay for it. That’s how we spend our day. And what type of lines do you offer? On the commercial side, which we’re about 65 ish percent of our day is spent on the commercial side. Our lines are professional liability insurance. And whether you’re a lawyer or you’re a consultant, you’re in marketing advertising. The decisions that we make, and the errors perhaps that that we make, can come back, and people can lose their business. Yeah, certainly, that would be more of a catastrophic type error, or an omission. But really, the the genius behind buying the insurance for as a professional service provider, we have to continue our business. We have other clients that that are going to need our services, we certainly are making money to support family. So having insurance is literally a one 800 helped me. They hire the lawyer, the hire the experts, they guide you through the process. Absolutely. You’re a part of the claims process. But what a relief that I can continue on my business, knowing that I have a group of professionals that are there to help guide me through a claim. Yes, you know, and it’s a very disruptive time in people’s lives. And so we take matching our customers with insurance companies seriously. And we want to make sure that the insurance companies for a professional service provider are vested in their business. And so we partner with carriers who are looking for a lawyer, a marketing ad person, an HR consultant, because we know they’re going to do the best job and understand the business model with absolute clarity so they can get to work immediately.

Jerri Hemsworth 4:45
That’s really that’s interesting because I for me, when I think about insurance for my business, marketing and advertising, I don’t think about the carrier’s being specialists, you know, in that way. But obviously from what you’re saying they are.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 5:03
oh, sure. So when I buy my agencies, errors and omissions insurance, we’ve transferred over to professional liability insurance, but a lot of us still use the errors and omissions insurance. You know, the title on the declaration page is insurance agents and brokers professional liability insurance. When I provide a insurance policy, providing professional liability insurance to a lawyer, the declaration title is lawyers professional liability insurance. Same thing with accountants, same thing with architects. So there are carriers who have developed insurance policies, specifically around certain industries.

Jerri Hemsworth 5:45
I did not know that.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 5:46
So if you fall within one of those industries, it’s important to understand that your carrier knows your business, they don’t have to get caught up in how you do what you do, in order to develop a defense, they’re already going to have an idea of what you should be doing. And so it’s, it’s an immediate connection with a lawyer or a claims adjuster that they know my business, there’s a confidence that comes from that. And that’s really what we’re trying to provide, at the time of a claim as insurance brokers, we sit in the middle, you know, so I’m talking to a client who has a risk transfer need. And my job is to go match that risk transfer with the best insurance providers that I have available to me. So that’s one of our focal points.

Jerri Hemsworth 6:39
And when you say boutique, that truly is the ability for you to customize.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 6:44

Jerri Hemsworth 6:44
Instead of sitting in a tower and a big company, and where you can only sell that company’s products, this probably allows you to just really have that database.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 6:55
It does. The relationships that insurance professionals have with their insurance carriers. And I’ll extend that to also mean a wholesale insurance agency, because there are times that insurance placements can’t go direct to an insurance company, we actually need to broker that out. And we very much focus on our relationships. Because I need to show up when my client needs me. And that’s a claim time. You know, I mean, don’t get me wrong. We’re there at renewal. We’re there during, you know, a transformation of a business as you’re taking on another office. But we’re all there doing that.

Jerri Hemsworth 7:42

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 7:42
You know, I mean, that’s, that’s kind of the heartbeat of the agency. Is that service? Sure, day to day service. Right. But at claim time, you know, that’s when people are gonna say, hey, you know, thanks for having my back.

Jerri Hemsworth 7:55
Oh, boy. Yeah. Yeah, I can’t I mean, knock on wood. I’ve not had to file too many claims in my history. But when I have it, it, you need somebody holding your hand? Because you really just like you said, you don’t know, as the policy holder, you’re not quite sure what, what what goes next, where do I go? What do we do? And that’s your I know, there’s a plane flying over. I don’t know if listener can hear that. That is got to be one of the most important parts for me, as a policyholder to have somebody like you said that has my back.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 8:36
I think the best compliment that I’ve had from a customer has been at claim time. And they said, you know, I’m really confident in our planning. And I’m grateful for the conversations and the time you took with me because I now know what to expect. So, I work for that. Yeah, you know, every, every moment that I’m thinking about a client’s needs, I’m really working on making the claim experience less fearful. And replacing that with confidence.

Jerri Hemsworth 9:20
That’s wonderful. Now, do you do personal lines as well?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 9:23
Well, yes, we do. Bank in California personal lines, insurance has become newsworthy. I always said I’m always the uncool kid at the table, right? No one really wants to hear from their insurance person and but we do have some really good stories. We really do have some good stories. But never in my 33 year career. Have I been in a market this uncertain. It was it’s been described as chaos. otic tumultuous all you can, whatever word you want to place, I’m telling you for 33 years, being in the industry, never anything like this has happened. And some carriers are handling it differently than others. We’re fortunate to be, I believe in good partnerships with a few carriers that we have. But let’s face it, all you have to do is drive down a freeway system in Northern or Southern California. And you can look off into the distance and you’re gonna see a mountain, you know, where you’re gonna see a ridge line. So many of us are in designated fire zones. Yeah, and the availability of insurance must be matched with the solvency of the insurer. So we’re very aware that an insurance contract is meaningless if the carrier doesn’t have the money to pay. So they’re working on solving those issues. They’re working on rate or for our audience, I’ll say premium. They’re working on getting their premium pricing corrected to reflect the exposures. But there’s more work that needs to be done. And it needs to be done at the insurance commissioners level, the roles on ratemaking need to change. And I believe with time that could happen. So what we’re really looking at is, is time it’s not going to be a quick correction. Certainly there are no insurance companies looking to come back into Cal,

Jerri Hemsworth 11:48
Is there anybody knocking on the door and anxious to come back.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 11:51
No, no. So it’s it’s a challenging time, certainly. But it’s an interesting time, because I’m usually the one having to break the news. This is why your rates are changing, or the carrier’s not renewing or something’s going on. Now. It’s like Oh, my goodness, Melissa, I can’t believe this one announced they pulled out that one announced they’re no longer writing. There, the consumer base is aware of the marketplace. That’s a first for us. That’s how prolific this insurance matter is for property in California. So yes, we write home renters, personal auto umbrellas, watercraft, you know, lifestyle, shoe insurance policy. Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. But we just don’t have any answers to why am I you know, window, when will I not be paying as much for my insurance? Or when? When can I go get it? Like I used to be able to get it

Jerri Hemsworth 12:58
right? Maybe never.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 13:00
Oh, gosh, the thought of that just hit me. I sincerely hope that California does come back from this, what I’m going to call it as a market capacity crisis. We don’t have market availability right now. Florida, has been dealing with property insurance issues for many years. And I’ve been it wasn’t lost on me. I’ve been talking to some colleagues and I said, you know, for years I’ve been going oh, those poor folks in Florida. Oh, my goodness, they’ve lost another insurer. You know, and but now in California, it’s happened to us. And I’m like, Oh, this is what those poor flittering us been going through all this time. Yeah. Yeah. We didn’t have to ask yourself, can I afford to buy a house? Or can I? Can I buy this house? What happens if I can’t buy insurance or I can’t afford insurance? Yeah, unheard of. Unheard of.

Jerri Hemsworth 14:05
Gosh, I want to switch gears a little bit. And you mentioned you’ve been in this industry of 33 years. Where were you born?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 14:15
I am a San Fernando Valley, born and raised.

Jerri Hemsworth 14:19
You know, you’re not the first person to sit in the studio and say that where were you? Where were you born and raised?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 14:26
Well, actually, I was born in Burbank at St. Joseph. Nice. Okay. And I was raised in the heart of the valley. So I think we started out in an apartment in Van Nuys, and moved into a house still in Van Nuys, and then we moved over to what’s now North Hills when I was seven. So, from the age of seven, I was raised in North Hills. And as an adult, I’ve lived in Encino and Chatsworth and I I kept coming back to Chatsworth, where I reside now with my, my husband, and where we operate our business.

Jerri Hemsworth 15:06

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 15:07
And so Chatsworth is just this really cool little community, you know, in the very northwestern part of the valley. Yeah. Yeah. And we still have horse country there. And it’s us this quaint little town, and we really dig it. So that’s where we are.

Jerri Hemsworth 15:24
What did your parents do?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 15:26
Well, my dad was a butcher. Oh, so he Yeah, he was a butcher. And he was a butcher that had twin girls, at a very young age. He was 26 years old. 27. Sorry, when we were born, and he just knew he needed to do something different, but wasn’t really sure. So he met an insurance agent who shopped at the butcher shop, in Studio City where my dad was cutting meat. And he liked this individual. And one day, the insurance agent said to my dad, you know, you’re really good with people. You should come be an insurance agent. And my dad spent a lot of time thinking about it, because you know, you’re getting paid an hourly wage, you got a very young family. Then you go into an insurance environment where you don’t get paid unless you sell something. Yeah, yeah. But ultimately, he he made that transformation and in 1974, became a licensed insurance agent. Okay. And that’s what he did until

Jerri Hemsworth 16:46
So he went to school, or was he trained on the job?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 16:49
No, he was trained on the job. He actually went to work for Farmers Insurance, okay. And was a very successful agent there went on to become a district manager for the company. So he was then in a position to go recruit agents to come work for farmers and manage a district, develop the talent, so to speak, you know, and woke up one day and said, I don’t I don’t think I want to do this anymore. Stepped away. Yeah, yeah. We had a race, a radio controlled racetrack and hobby center. Really in Northridge when it was the rage.

Jerri Hemsworth 17:31
What was a call that was RC.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 17:33
It was called Speed Racer. Oh, my goodness. Yeah. And we were located on Londelius, right off of Tampa. So kind of across from where Costco is now in that area. And we were in a big industrial unit. And we had a dirt racetrack we had oval on the outside and off road on the inside. And my sister and I ran the races.

Jerri Hemsworth 17:57
It was an all RC cars?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 17:58
it was all RC cars. Yeah, it was great. Melanie and I, like I said we ran the races and I became a racer myself.

Jerri Hemsworth 18:07
Really. RC cars?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 18:10
I was very fortunate to have the one of the best RC racers on our management team. My dad had hired him to run the business. So he he built my engines for me and wrenched on my car and I was racing i I’ve tried I was actually in Chicago at a race. So we would travel around California would promote Speed Racer for my dad and I would also raise and I was a funny little thing when you’re talking about how did you get to insurance?

Jerri Hemsworth 18:46

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 18:46
The was very competitive. There were only a few racetracks at that time. And my dad had one of the largest indoor racetracks so we were doing pretty good there for a while. Well, one of the competitors came to me. And he said, You know, I’m going to be running a tournament and I’d like you to come run it for me. And I and it was a it was a three day weekend, okay. And I said, you know, went back to my dad, and I said, I have this opportunity and wants me to go you know, run run his tournament for him.

Jerri Hemsworth 19:23
How old are you?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 19:24
My I was, gosh, 18 maybe

Jerri Hemsworth 19:27
Okay, teenager.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 19:29
So he said, yeah, just don’t make it permanent. So I did, I went and did that and had a great time. The tournament was very successful.

Jerri Hemsworth 19:40
How many how many competitors were there?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 19:43
Oh, my gosh, there were hunt over hundreds, hundreds and you do you know, the fun thing about that time was the radio control car was really at its height. And so, everybody loved being there. And it was super competitive. But also, people were very supportive. So if your car breaks and you don’t have the part, one of your competitors is paying early. Yeah. And so you made some really good friends along the way, too. It was wonderful. And I’m very competitive. So I, I enjoyed being top qualifier. And I enjoyed winning and like I said it

Jerri Hemsworth 20:27
Was your sister also competitive or no?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 20:29
Well, she is, but she had no interest in driving a radio controlled race car. So she, she and I ran the races together for my dad. Friday nights and Saturday nights and some Sundays. But after the racing was over, she went home and I was wrenching, you know, on my car and tweaking.

Jerri Hemsworth 20:51

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 20:55
So the the unfortunate thing about that business was my dad didn’t quite understand the hobby part. Can’t make a living charging. For racing, we just can’t. Right. So we’re the business was very reliant on people buying cars and parts. Well, there’s a big mail order component to the business that he just didn’t quite understand. Yeah, sure. So sure, we quickly learned that we could not be successful, just as a racetrack and the hobby center was just not busy enough. So that business was closed. Okay. My dad then came back to the insurance business, okay, went back to what he knew, but back to what he knew, but instead of going to work for a direct rider carrier, like a Farmers. He went independent. Interested in that’s where I got introduced to insurance.

Jerri Hemsworth 21:47
Okay, so you worked with your dad for a while?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 21:50
I did work with my dad for a while we we built his agency, which was White Oak Insurance Services. Also in Chatsworth. Yeah. And, you know, I was young, and I wanted to build a business. And my dad and I didn’t agree on the direction. And we fought over it. And it did start to affect our personal relationship. And you know, my dad and I are very close. My dad passed away in 2005. And so it’s been a while now, but he was really one of my best friends. And I didn’t like our relationship.

Jerri Hemsworth 22:40
He didn’t like the way being so close day in day out and, and having differences of direction.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 22:47
Yeah, yeah. Because what happens is it divides you.

Jerri Hemsworth 22:51

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 22:52
And I decided, I think it’s time for me to leave. So

Jerri Hemsworth 23:00
About how old were you when that happened?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 23:04
I was in my early 30s, when that happened. So we’d been together a while, we had been together for a while. And I credit my dad for, for really teaching me the foundation of customer service. He, his customers loved him, loved him. And he was big on problem solving. And that was one of the areas we disagreed on, because I work at the front end to avoid a problem. And he was very focused on all the problems here. Let’s solve it now. And so even working together, we had a very different style and approach. Interesting. So at the end of the day, though, his clients loved him. And that’s magic. Yeah, you know, you can’t just go get a bunch of people together, who, who liked this person for the same reason, you know, he was very successful. And but being young, being stubborn and competitive, I decided I was going to leave the agency.

Jerri Hemsworth 24:06
now what? But wait, how many? How many people were working at White Oak? At that

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 24:11
At that time there was 15 of us. Wow, that’s pretty good size. It was for the time a very, very good size company. Yeah.

Jerri Hemsworth 24:19
And then you left and went where?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 24:22
I went to work for a very large agency in Santa Monica, who has then since been acquired, because there’s been a lot of mergers and acquisitions in my business. So yes, it was an ad person firm. And I went inside instead of being in sales, I went inside and I was working in the marketing department.

Jerri Hemsworth 24:41

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 24:41
And I had a great experience. However, being in that new big corporate environment coming from Mom and Pop really Yes, small business. I quickly learned that that’s not where my my passion is. It was a is a dynamic group very successful hard chargers, you know, professionals, I learned a lot, but didn’t have a life. And that’s where I started thinking about life balance.

Jerri Hemsworth 25:13

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 25:14
So I’m on the golf course with my dad one day. And he says, So how you doing? I said, you know, I’m doing good, you know, I’m not happy. So I’m thinking about making a change. And I’ll never forget, I looked back over to the golf cart. He’s sitting in the driver’s seat. I’m waiting to hit. He’s smoking a cigar. And he looked at me, he has the side glance, Jerri, that will just break your heart. It was fantastic. He just kind of sigh glanced over, he goes, “Well, you know, I think you should come back and do what you do best.” He says people like you. And you’re good at selling insurance. Now, when I heard that from my dad, I knew he was right. But the daughter in me felt so validated because there was a time. You gotta remember back in 1974, women didn’t own business. There were, but it was not a few very few women owned businesses.

Jerri Hemsworth 26:19
Yeah, you had to have a cosigner for a loan, or possibly even a credit card at that point. Yes.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 26:24
So this was the environment that my dad was living in.

Jerri Hemsworth 26:29

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 26:30
So for him to recognize that his his daughter was really good at what he was doing was just the best validation and so on, and I had decided that I would give it a second shot. And I had a contract adjustment that was very favorable. So I had learned a thing or two being away, and came back.

Jerri Hemsworth 26:52
But by the way, before, before we make this permanent, yes, take a get take a gander at my contract.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 26:59
So we came to a quick resolution, I rejoined the firm, and 2000. And want to say late 2000, didn’t know mid 2003. The timelines are kind of important. My dad was sick at the time and in treatment, but we thought we had more time. We turns out, we didn’t. So I had to transition late in 2003, and help my my mom, sell the business. And that happened in 2004. And in 2005, I joined another firm. I left the firm that my dad had sold. And I took my my clients with me and I joined a firm. And that firm was 50 people. So I thought, well, let’s try 50 person firm and see how…

Jerri Hemsworth 27:51
a little midsize number.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 27:53
Well without going into any great detail three years later. I started Phillip and Associates Insurance Services, April of 2008.

Jerri Hemsworth 28:05

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 28:06
And my now husband Les joined me at that time, and so did a third agent.

Jerri Hemsworth 28:13
So he was in insurance also.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 28:14
He was he was working with a friend out of Burbank at that time, and he had just gotten into insurance a few years earlier. So we collectively, you know, put our clients together and started Philip and Associates and April of 2008. Much to the surprise of my colleague friends who were saying, Why are you starting a business in this economic climate.

Jerri Hemsworth 28:38
2008. Yeah.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 28:40
I said, because I know how to do it. I’ve been doing it so long. And so

Jerri Hemsworth 28:45
but did it seemed like a natural step? Yes. It did. Almost like not even questioning it. Absolutely. Just like okay, this is what I’m gonna do.


There’s no, this is this is, you know, work. Well. And let me just ask also, were you having the lifestyle that you wanted when you were working for the 50 person firm after you know, the death of your father and you sold the firm with your mom? Would did you have the lifestyle? Or were you back to like, I have no life again.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 29:17
The pressure was there. But I was more of an adult at that time. So I was able to insert a little bit more balanced, but certainly the pressure was there. The agency coincidentally, right as I showed up, sold Oh, to somebody else who was who was in the firm. Okay, so I went to join a firm under an owner who sold as soon as I got there. So the dynamics that I was promised, immediately changed. So I gave it three years Jerry and I really wanted to try and give it a chance. But it just didn’t fit Hmm. So starting the the the agency was was very eye opening, because you work. And I’m saying this to everybody who’s listening who’s thinking about opening a business, you work twice as hard for yourself than you will anybody else.

Amen. And so there was really no life, you know, you’re you’re working to build and create new relationships as an agency owner or business owner and attract people to come work for you and figure all those pieces out. And you know that that takes a while. You got to learn how to buy software programs and balance your you know, your budget, what budget I didn’t think about keeping

Jerri Hemsworth 30:44
in other types of insurance, you didn’t quite know you had to pay.,

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 30:51
look back on it now, I think, well, I know it was the right decision. But I think the timing for me was right, because I had been a part of an agency where I literally was helping my dad run his firm, I was exposed to large business, and saw how they planned and what their mentality was. And I felt that it was right for me, because I knew what I wanted to do with my agency. So that’s what I what I always draw back on, it’s, you know, nothing is going to be perfect. But I had my future vision already set out. So I wasn’t discovering myself at that time. And I think that for me was a big difference.

Jerri Hemsworth 31:40
Yeah, I think when you when you have been there, done that, and you’ve gained these building blocks along the way, you’ve you’ve watched other people, how they run their business, what you like, what you don’t like you’ve seen pitfalls, you’ve seen your successes, you kind of sculpt your own vision. And and I think that’s, that’s what helps me keep going. Because I know I’m doing the right thing. And even when times get hard, or low, you know, okay, I know, I’m still doing the right thing. So you were once working with your father. And I give you kudos to that. Because I don’t know that I could have ever worked with my father. Even though my father was not a serial entrepreneur. I learned a lot of things from him, going to his office and watching him sell whatever it was that decade that he was into selling. I would never have been able to work with my father. And now I also work with my husband, and you work with your husband? How would you compare and contrast the two situations or what have you? What did you learn from working with your dad that you bring to your work relationship with your husband Les?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 33:06
I’m not a very patient person. Neither was my dad. Okay. My husband, thankfully, yeah, it’s a very patient person. Which I think for me, is critical. Les has the ability to put pause on for me, that doesn’t make me feel like I’m being oppressed, or invalidated,

Jerri Hemsworth 33:44
or held back?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 33:45
or held back criticized. And those were the words that I use to relate to my my dad’s way, if you will. We were always, in a sense, at odds, my dad and I. And it wasn’t until I returned to his business having been out that he started to listen to me. And it took me leaving for him to see what I did bring to the table. Now don’t get me wrong, folks are listening. Dads are always gonna be dads, right?


It wasn’t like it wasn’t magical. But there were important things that I wanted to do that He then gave me the reins to explore because I never promised it was going to work. Let me try this. You know, Hey, Dad, let’s do that. Les, lets me do what you know. He lets that be we have very defined roles

Jerri Hemsworth 34:54
I was going to ask you to do you have different lanes.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 34:56
We do.

Jerri Hemsworth 34:56
You stay in each other’s in your own lane.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 34:58
Absolutely. He’ll help probably say I don’t

Jerri Hemsworth 35:03
Pardon me, but your blinkers not stay in your lane.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 35:06
And I wouldn’t hurt you. I really wouldn’t. But yeah, we absolutely do have to find roles, which is another reason why I think it works better with my husband, his personality. And we absolutely have defined roles. And, you know, look, let’s face it living together and working together. It’s a challenge.

Jerri Hemsworth 35:26

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 35:27
I think we’re pretty good at leaving business during business hours. Now, there’s not to say that if there’s something important going on, we’re not discussing it on Sunday morning over coffee. But for most of the time, we’re pretty good at recognizing this is our time as a married couple. Let’s not insert business.

Jerri Hemsworth 35:49

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 35:50

Jerri Hemsworth 35:51
It’s critical. It’s critical. And I mean, you know, you’ve been in the industry 33 years, you’ve been in business with Les since 2008.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 36:01

Jerri Hemsworth 36:03
And you learn at, at what like you said, when when you first start your firm, your everything, you are working all hours, and he’s probably doing the same thing. And so you’re really stepping on each other constantly, until you realize, I’m going to tear your eyeballs out if you don’t get out of my way. And you went, Oh, wait, hey, hang on. That’s my husband, you know. So you, you learn, okay, we need lanes, and it’s the best way to to survive and not still not every firm survives, whereas it’s a husband and wife.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 36:43
Yes, absolutely. And because my my mom worked for my dad.

Jerri Hemsworth 36:48
Oh, okay.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 36:49
But there’s a different statement. My mom worked for my dad. Yes. Less than I worked together. Yes. Yes. And the other thing I will say is, you know, you gotta remember to say, Hey, babe, that’s a great job you just did. Or I know, that was a tough call. And you did a really good job. Yeah, you know, thank you. Yes, because we forget as spouses to support one another vocally.

Jerri Hemsworth 37:15
That is so true. That is so true. Even even in things that aren’t business, I find. I in particular, can easily take, take Brian for granted the little things that he does on a day to day basis, in business and out of business. And I know as as we get older, and me being 50 something and being 60 something really becomes more important.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 37:43

Jerri Hemsworth 37:44
So it’s, it’s that’s part of the balance that we were talking about, you know, and when you’ve been married for a long time, been in business a long time. Mutual respect, getting back to “okay, what, what makes us feel nice, what makes us feel good about being in business together?” And yeah, celebrating the little tiny things, which, in day to day business, it can be just a leaving a voicemail for our client or handling. You know, Brian went out and did a videotape session with a client. And I was so grateful that he did that. And in recognizing that, it is it is super important.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 38:29
I think so it also makes me feel good.

Jerri Hemsworth 38:34
Yeah. Yeah.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 38:36
Because the more positive affirmation I think we put out there. It lightens our load a little bit, too.

Jerri Hemsworth 38:42
Yeah. Yeah.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 38:43
So my husband is really, he’s a really good guy. And he means well, and people like him. And, again, sometimes I’m close to it. And I don’t see it or recognize it. So I’m working on being better.

Jerri Hemsworth 39:00

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 39:01
At vocalizing the appreciation to me admiration, you know,

Jerri Hemsworth 39:06
yeah. Because I think my life would be lost without Brian.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 39:12
Oh, mine certainly won’t be lost without less. Yeah. I mean, for example, one of his lanes is he’s in charge of all the books. I don’t do numbers. I do money calculations. But I don’t do numbers. Yeah. And every tax season comes around. I’m like, Thank God. Thank you. Thank you. Where do I sign?

Jerri Hemsworth 39:36
Yeah Just tell me where? Yes. I’ll reveal them later. Wink wink, nod nod.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 39:42
So there are things that less brings to the table that are on insurance related, that are critical to the business. Yeah, I’d have to pay somebody to do that for me Sure. That I need to be reminding him how valuable he is. Yeah, so do Shout out to you, babe.

Jerri Hemsworth 40:00
Yeah, way to go less way to go. What do you to do when you’re not working?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 40:07
Well, we less as a reader, okay? I’m not such a reader. So Les loves to read and I’ll drink coffee. Okay. And we were together. So that’s kind of a Sunday morning for us. And I start with Sunday mornings because they’re just my favorite.

Jerri Hemsworth 40:30
Yeah. aren’t that great. No rush to get up and do anything.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 40:35
Yeah, it’s just great. We love to eat. We like to go out to eat. So we enjoy a good meal. Together. We walk our Husky puppy, puppy sometimes because we have to. Otherwise puppy demand we pay the price. So we’ve developed nice friendships around the neighborhood. And that’s always nice. We love to travel. So we like cruising. We have family out of state on both sides. So we’ll visit with family. And when we can, Les will be on a fishing trip.

Jerri Hemsworth 41:21
Oh, what kind of fishing does he do?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 41:22
Oh he’s a fly fisherman. Okay, yeah, he is a float tuber for those of you who? Yes. And he’s he’s a really good you know, he’s been fly fishing for most of his life. I when I get to go, like to float around, and just feel like I’ll catch a fish or two, you know, and that’s great for me. Yeah. There’s just nothing more peaceful. And the phone’s not raining. Right?

Jerri Hemsworth 41:49

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 41:49
So when we can do that, and he’ll go do that with buddies you know, or sometimes we can do it together. I I practice at the game of golf.

Jerri Hemsworth 41:58
I’ve heard that about you.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 42:00
And I’m really practice because I’m if I get out once a month, I’m lucky. Wow, that’s actually once I’m that’s pretty good. That’s actually me. I’m very competitive.

Jerri Hemsworth 42:11
I’m if I’m once every five to 10 years. I’m lucky.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 42:15
I was at one point working. I had an 18 handicap which for those of you are listening is bogey golf, which is not great golf. But for me it is


As a man amateur player. So now I you know, sometimes I don’t even keep score. It’s been so long. Yeah. And I’m just like, I don’t think I want to be my day.

Jerri Hemsworth 42:34
Yeah. Enjoy the surroundings. I don’t want to break clubs. Yeah, to get pissed off. It’s still fun when everybody’s pissed off. I’m hitting birds and and I mean, real birds not the birdies

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 42:48
Actually seen that happen once. Oh, yeah.

Jerri Hemsworth 42:51
Oh, dear.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 42:52
Yeah. So when I can I get out and play around a golf with some friends that I’ve been playing golf with for 20 plus years. So I enjoy doing that less does not golf. So and that’s okay.

Jerri Hemsworth 43:08
I get it.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 43:09
And you know, other than work.

Jerri Hemsworth 43:13
Yeah. But you know, it’s interesting because you brought up fishing, you brought up cruising. Even on golf courses. There’s a lot of water. It sounds like you’re drawn to water.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 43:25
I am drawn to water. I love water. There’s nothing more tranquil. and refreshing. And being around water and again, it could be a lake it could be an ocean does your waterfall it could be my bathtub. If I’m if I’m around water, yeah, just it’s

Jerri Hemsworth 43:51
It’s happy.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 43:52
It’s my happy place. Yeah,

Jerri Hemsworth 43:54
Ever get a hankering to race RC cars anymore?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 43:59
It’s funny you say that? I do. There. There’s a couple of dads in our neighborhood that have built a dirt track for their kids to launch their radio controlled cars off of they’ve got the Yeah. And I’ll see them racing around the neighborhood and I want to go snatch that radio out of their hands and start driving around.

Jerri Hemsworth 44:21
Let me show you something funny. Yeah.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 44:25
You know, so, you know the funny thing about it is it just it brings you back to a happy time.

Jerri Hemsworth 44:30

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 44:31
You know, because when I think about it, even though the business struggled at the end and needed to be closed. I never felt that. You know, because I was young enough and not involved in the day to day business so to speak. That it was just a fun place to be.

Jerri Hemsworth 44:49
I bet, i bet.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 44:51
It’s one of my happy happy moments.

Jerri Hemsworth 44:54
I RC cars RCS played a lot in my growing up but they were airplanes And so my brothers, were always building RC airplanes gliders. And, and I know RC cars were big with neighbors and things like that. But then when Brian and I were newly married, we went out somebody, I don’t remember why we were out there. And it was a bunch of people racing RC cars. And we went, Oh, this is fun. Let’s go get us an RC car. So we invested about 400 bucks at the time, which was pretty high zoom. And a lot. Yes. And I think we we played with it. Gosh, maybe six months. And then it went up in the shelf in the garage and, you know, collected dust for another 15 years. But boy, it was fun. It was really fun. And I can see how tinkering and tweaking the car to race. I mean, we were not racers like you. But oh my gosh, I could, it could just see you at a track.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 46:05
I have some magazines that I have saved just a few where I’m photographed or there’s an article about me. And so I peeked it like 18 guys. But I’ll have to tell you being 18 and being able to just travel around, you know, Southern California, even back out to Illinois for a race. These are great experiences. And I was pretty much the only girl you know, out there at the time, I bet. And because my dad owned a racetrack, you know, I was kind of just accepted, you know, so I was cool. No, yeah. And I was beating them. So that’s why I kept showing up big Anna and I will admit this, Scott. Yeah, he was who worked with for my dad, and was my friend. He was one of the best in the business. So I had a huge advantage. And you know what? I loved every minute of it.

Jerri Hemsworth 47:09
Did they when they saw you? Did they give Oh, yes. Shit. Here comes Yes, they do.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 47:13
Yeah. Yeah. In fact, there was a kid named Sidewinder. That was his nickname. Good kid. But he was losing to me, and he didn’t like it. And that was when we were in Illinois. And Sidewinder took me out. Oh, no. And all I could hear was Scott, my buddy and my wrench if you would screaming. And all I’m focused on us. Yeah, sir. I don’t make the lap up. Okay. That was like, I was like, whatever, you know, I’ll show this kid. But then he took me out at the finish line, and I couldn’t do anything about that. So, you know, that was the only negative experience other than that one instance, where he just became I think so overwhelmed with competitiveness. Everybody was really good. You know, and like I said, my, my greatest joy was being top qualifier, senior name being the first card up there. You know, that’s,

Jerri Hemsworth 48:14
did you have a nickname?

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 48:16
I did not that I’m aware of

Jerri Hemsworth 48:19
that they told you.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 48:24
I just wanted, you know, I didn’t. I just I just wanted to race. I was really, really into it. And sure, you know, again, coming back to my competitive spirit. Sure. It was something I was starting to excel at. So it was it was about to start.

Jerri Hemsworth 48:46
Any RC modelers out there. Scale arsema? Well, it’s interesting because the publisher that Brian and I met that we publish scale, RC modeler, scale ship modelers. We published a lot of those narrow niche market publications.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 49:03

Jerri Hemsworth 49:03
And so yeah, it was a that was an interesting world. So I may have seen you in one of those pictures back the.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 49:13
Oh, smallworld.

Jerri Hemsworth 49:16
Melissa, thank you so much for being with me today. This has been great.

Melissa Phillipp-Himes 49:20
Well, it’s been my pleasure, Jerri. Thank you so much.

Jerri Hemsworth 49:22
Thanks so much.

Announcer 49:25
You’ve been listening to the How She Got Her Start podcast brought to you by Echelon Business Development. More than just networking, way more.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


Melissa works with closely held businesses, families, and individuals for all lines of Property and Casualty and Professional Liability insurances. Her professional goals are to be an effective intermediary, a strong advocate, and thoughtful advisor to those she serves. Melissa has been committed to these professional goals for well over 30 years.

As CEO and Creative Director at Newman Grace, Jerri leads one of Los Angeles’ most respected marketing firm and brand communication firms. Newman Grace has been providing marketing, brand and advertising consulting, graphic design, and social media services to growing companies since 1996. Newman Grace serves the professional services, manufacturing, sports, publishing and non-profit markets. Jerri is an adjunct professor in the School of Media, Culture and Design at Woodbury University. She is also a co-founder of Echelon Business Development Network. Learn more about Jerri here at Newman Grace.