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All In The Family

The Thunder Bay floods were a turning point for how Winmar responds to catastrophes across the country

Winmar is a franchise operation, but this doesn’t mean we run our company as a group of separate entities. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Winmar is like a family, where brothers and sisters help each other out, working together as required, with parents available to provide assistance and oversee the household. We run our company similar to a corporate-owned entity, but with individually owned and operated franchises that share the family feeling, living and working within their communities.

Paul Wormith, CEO, and John White, president, founded Winmar in 1977. They combined their mothers’ names—Winifred and Margaret—to come up with Winmar. At that time, there were nine locations in southwestern Ontario. By 2008, the company had grown to 46 franchised locations across Canada. But we are not stopping there. The goal is to have more than 100 locations within the next three years.

Having a collective with a common goal means, in the event of a catastrophe, every franchise is ready and willing to respond. We saw this in full effect after the flooding in High River, Alta. and Toronto, and the windstorm that tracked from Niagara through the Georgian Bay, Pembroke and Ottawa, Ont. regions. We were able to send franchisees from Ontario and BC to assist those in Alberta, and further pool our resources outside of the area to assist in Toronto.

When it comes to handling catastrophes, we learned a lot of valuable lessons after the event in Thunder Bay in 2012. At that time, we had 13 offices respond within 27 hours. This time around, we arrived in High River before it was even decided whether there would be coverage or not. Knowing it takes three days or more to get to High River, we wanted to ensure we were on the ground when we were needed. In the event of a catastrophe, resources are put together, needs are determined and everything—both personnel and equipment—is sent to ensure the job is done quickly and accurately.

In our major centres, we have the ability to set up an office within an office. This means, in the event of a catastrophe, one location can easily move into another office and continue to remain autonomous. We used this during the catastrophe of Toronto, setting up the training centre in Winmar Oakville as an operation centre. We had trialed this before, but had never been able to use it to its fullest extent. This time we could, and to great success. We handled almost triple the number of claims during the Toronto flooding than we have ever handled before.

Another benefit to being under the Winmar banner is the training and annual conference—which brings everyone together to share best practices—offered by the corporate office. Most recently, this included training in a second rating system software: Symbility. We wanted to give our customers the option of another estimating software. We also provide broker and management training, and are accredited with the Registered Insurance Brokers of Ontario for various courses. This is just one way we attempt to live up to our motto of “Coming Through for You.”

— As told to Laura Kupcis 

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Copyright 2014 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the January 2014 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine

 

Transcontinental Media G.P.