Success is never a solitary endeavor. From our first breath, we are enmeshed in a tapestry of connections, constantly shaped by those we encounter. Some touch us briefly, while others etch indelible marks, guiding and sometimes dramatically altering the course of our lives.

By highlighting Alice Young as this week’s spotlight public adjuster, I aim to underscore the vital role that the often-overlooked contributors play in our successes. It’s crucial to take a moment and appreciate these special individuals who help pave our paths.

I noticed that your website gives credit to your mother, Rae Young. Tell me the history of Brown O’Haver and the role Rae played in it.

My dad worked for NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business) as a sales manager until 1988. My mom was a stay at home mom. Our family had five children with a 12-year age gap from the oldest to youngest. NFIB was changing, and my parents decided to pursue public insurance, adjusting with the mentorship of the Liggett Family.

My parents moved the family from Utah to Arizona and started the public adjusting business. My parents wanted the company to appear bigger than just the both of them. So, they named it Brown O’Haver. Brown after my dad’s maternal grandmother and O’Haver after my mom’s maternal grandmother.

Until 1988, my mom had been the main caregiver. But when they moved to Arizona, it became a partnership and all hands on deck situation to make the company work. My mom became a licensed public insurance adjuster. To our knowledge, Rae was the second female public adjuster ever licensed, with Muriel Liggett, her mentor, being the first.

Her working full time as a public adjuster changed our home life. Our family lost having a parent at home, cooking all our meals, sewing, and doing other domestic duties. My mom became the contents adjuster. She was on-site, doing inventories, meeting adjusters, and helping clients. Taco Bell became our family’s new favorite dinner. She was 100% invested in the business, caring for our family. Like a lot of working women, she worked hard in the business while still supporting her children every day. Rae deserves the credit and recognition for the success of Brown O’Haver.

How did Rae help mentor you?

My dad, David, taught me most through telling. He told me stories. I overheard him talking to adjusters and clients. He talked about articles and case law. He asked me questions to stump me.

My mom taught me by doing. I watched my mom. Through her actions, I saw what to do and how to be an adjuster. My mom did the dirty work. She took inventories in burned out houses in the heat of the Summer in Arizona.

My top three times that I learned from my mom:

1. Before computers and having the ability to search for prices on personal property, my mom used catalogs. There were many evenings when I would see my mom sitting on the floor with retail catalogs all around her. I remember thinking how easy it would be for her to price items from memory or just make a guess. But she didn’t do that. She had the ethics and drive to make sure she was pricing items correctly.

2. One summer, my mom did a fire inventory. The adjuster was giving my mom a hard time about a refrigerator’s contents. My mom told the adjuster that they would do a joint scope of it together. This loss was in Phoenix, Arizona, during the summer. It was over 100 degrees. The fridge had not had electricity for days. She pulled out rotten meat to prove her clients’ loss. My mom had the smell of rotten chicken on her hands for over a month. She tried everything to clean it. I smelled it on her hands everywhere we went. The amount of money that a public adjuster would make off of the contents documented from a refrigerator is minuscule, but she did it because of her work ethic and dedication to her client.

3. In 2000, the Los Alamos fires struck in New Mexico. My parents decided that it was a good opportunity. My dad stayed home and manned the business while my mom moved to Los Alamos to work the claims. I was 19 and the youngest kid, so she didn’t have to worry about kids at home. My mom lived in a trailer for a couple of years and helped so many people. I saw my mom do what she had to do to make sure the business was successful. She stepped up and was tireless. Rae taught me through her actions to be willing to do whatever it takes.

You are currently the lone woman who is an officer of NAPIA. How do you deal with the additional duties of being a mother and still maintain the focus of the leader of a successful public adjusting business?

My husband, John Whitson, is my number one secret to success. He supports me and is my number one fan. While John is our firm CFO, he is also the primary caregiver for our two youngest children. (Jeffrey, my stepson, is 25 years old and currently working for Brown O’Haver). Knowing that I have someone at home who can get the kids to school and activities on time gives me the freedom to do the things that are necessary for me to be able to grow and manage this business.

Can you give me an example of how John has been your “behind the scenes” teammate helping with your business and family?

The 2013 tornado in Moore was an incredibly stressful time for our family. It also became a pivotal time in our business. We solidified our profession and company in the city of Moore, where we lived and where the business is located. We had a very large influx of claims, and I was working incredibly long hours. At the time, my two daughters were two (Marjorie) and seven months (Lilia). Before the tornado, I would pump, and John would give her that milk until I was home at night. After the tornado, I would sometimes work 16-hour days. Lilia decided she was not happy about this arrangement and began to refuse any milk by bottle. In order for me to be able to service our clients, John came up with the idea that he would bring Lilia to wherever I was so I could feed her. He would bring her to inspections, the office, job sites, and meetings so that I could take a small break to feed her. This saved hours of driving and time it would take if I went to her. It ensured her health and allowed us to maintain a mother-daughter bond. Without this, I would have been stressed at work worried about my baby. I could not have done my job without his support.

John’s work over the company’s financial operations frees me to focus on employee development, claims, and client management.

I cannot see you and Rae without thinking—“These women know contents claims.” Tell me how that aspect of loss has become a centerpiece of adjustment with you.

So many times, when people have a loss, they are at first only worried about the structure, building, or home. But there is so much money at stake regarding their lost and damaged contents. The probability of the contents claim recovery being reduced from what it should be is very high during the first few weeks following a loss. After the structure loss is handled, many people then grieve the loss of their personal belongings. By focusing on personal property loss from the beginning of a claim, we reduce stress and anxiety for the client later. For many people, they cannot properly grieve until they have had a chance to see their belongings listed on paper. We take a lot of pride helping people through this grieving process, and much of it has to do with contents loss.

You had great mentors with lots of experience. For newer public adjusters or those coming over from other related fields, how would you suggest they learn “the art of public adjusting?”

I currently have six licensed adjusters in our Oklahoma office. All six, including myself, were trained in a similar manner. First, they were hired as inventory specialists or claims assistants. As they are training, they must come to our “weekly claims review.” Our claims review is at 6:30 a.m. every week. We discuss each claim’s progress, best practices for claims handling, and then the current adjustment trends in the industry. I learned a lot about adjusting around the dinner table listening to my parents talking through the claims they were handling. These weekly meetings are like that. Eventually, adjusters can learn by carefully listening through others’ claims steps and discussion of the best processes.  

I highly suggest having mentors that you can talk to and trust. Look outside of social media and people who are trying to sell you something. Think about what feels right from the people you surround yourself with and learn from. Vet possible mentors to determine if they live a life of high ethics versus just saying they do. One of the best ways to be able to tell good ethics with a public adjuster is to see how much work they do for a client after the initial offer. Public adjusters who are not fully working all aspects of the claim following the solicitation and getting the claim resolved are not the mentors new public adjusters should follow. If they are not doing much more work after that first offer, you need to look elsewhere for a mentor. I suggest that new public adjusters read “From Good Hands to Boxing Gloves.” I am a CPPA and SPPA and suggest that adjusters take these additional courses from The Institutes to learn more. People with these credentials are also the type of people others should be learning from versus people without credentials saying whatever on social media. I suggest that new public adjusters subscribe to Claims Magazine and the Consumer Claims Journal.

What do you wish you would have done differently running your business in the past than what you do today?

My dad always told me that when I made mistakes, “Everybody does that….. once.”

I have made plenty of mistakes growing this business, adjusting claims, and leading people. But I learn from every mistake. Taking action, making mistakes, owning those mistakes, and correcting them is how I have made this business successful. Over time, the mistakes are fewer. But when they happen, I always grow and learn from them.

What are your deepest worries and fears about the future of the adjusting profession?

I have a genuine fear and concern for homeowners because of the lack of experience in company adjusters. The future of being able to adjust, negotiate, and settle claims with insurance company adjusters who are not trained, not experienced, and not invested in their job is not one I look forward to. The turnover is very high with insurance company adjusters. I fear that many insurance company adjusters no longer believe that they are in “the honorable profession” like it used to be. It makes it much more difficult to help policyholders as a public adjuster when the person from the insurance company is not highly trained and motivated to properly adjust a claim.  

What are your highest hopes and dreams for your profession?

My stepson Jeffrey is working in the business. I would love to see him carry the torch and carry on our legacy. In the meantime, I hope that Brown O’Haver will be considered with the highest regard. I want to be a resource to our community and continue giving back to the community through our quarterly volunteer events.

Across my desk on the wall, I look at a scripture as I work: “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.” I hope that I can be an example of that in the work that I do.

What other knowledge or lessons would you like to share with your public adjusting colleagues?

When I was at the most recent NAPIA convention, I said a few words about my dad, who had just recently passed away. My dad’s dad died when he was 17 years old. My dad would often tell me, “I just wish he was here so I could know if I made him proud.” My dad told me every time we talked how proud he was of me. At his funeral, there were several people I did not know who shook my hand and told me a story about me that my dad had shared with them. I will never have to wonder if I made him proud. He told me.

To my colleagues and friends, do the same. Tell your family, tell your employees, tell your friends if they make you proud. It will be the greatest gift you will ever give another.

A personal lifetime hero of mine is Dr. Martin Luther King. I noted the importance he gave by recognizing team members in Thoughts About the Practice of Property Insurance Law Following the Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawaii. I made the following comment:

Teamwork is the key to success when presenting a property insurance case in the courtroom or while racing a sailboat to Hawaii. I appreciate teamwork a lot more after completing the recent Transpacific Yacht Race on Merlin to Hawaii….

The truth is that teams can be much stronger and more effective than individuals at just about anything we do. Yet, when it comes time for rewards and accolades, we often overlook the individual thoughts, efforts, and actions of individuals who comprise the team.

I learned a lot from Alice Young while researching and then interviewing her. For those new to public adjusting and those more experienced but needing a refresher course on what it takes to be a great public adjuster, I would seek her out and maybe just sit around a dinner table and carefully listen. When she speaks, she will be sharing a lot of wisdom and lessons personally learned and from others who were among the best in the business.

Thought For The Day   

Whoever renders service to many puts himself in line for greatness – great wealth, great return, great satisfaction, great reputation, and great joy.

—Jim Rohn