Women in Business ’13: JoAnne Murray

JoAnne Murray didn’t begin her career thinking she’d be president of an insurance agency. Far from it: Murray, who studied to be a CPA, started out at Tarrytown’s Allan Block Agency as secretary to the president—Allan Block himself. “He saw something in me,” Murray says, noting that Block encouraged her to get her license and join the sales force.

Murray soon realized that she enjoyed the marketing side of the business the most. “[Block] was brilliant in marketing—way ahead of his time,” she says. “Many things that people are doing today, he was doing in the ‘80s.” After Block’s death in 1981, Murray took over marketing and sales operations for the company. Ten years later, she purchased the business.

In those 22 years since the purchase, Murray grew the company from 11 to 23 employees and tripled its revenue. She’s especially proud of the low turnover rate; the average time an employee spends with the agency is 15 years. “I just had one person retire after being here for 37 years,” she says. The secret to keeping her employees satisfied? “There’s a family atmosphere here—you’ll often hear a lot of laughing throughout the day. There’s also a lot of flexibility; for example, people with young children can work from home if they need to.”

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Murray’s worked with the Sleepy Hollow Tarrytown Chamber of Commerce, of which she is a past president and a board member, to set up an ambassador program to reach out to other local businesses. But she’s also willing to help out anyone who asks. “Someone just came to me recently and said, ‘Can I sit with you for an hour?’” she says. “She was someone from the community who was doing some marketing. She asked, ‘Can you help give me some ideas?’ I never say no.” 

Murray believes that this kind of community involvement—along with encouraging her employees to get involved with local causes—translates to overall success for her business. “When you can be involved in your community,” she says, “you really brand your company.”  

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