Valerie Corekin | Crain's Baltimore

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Valerie Corekin


Hunt Valley, Maryland-based PSA Insurance & Financial Services, one of the Mid-Atlantic’s leading independent insurance brokerage and risk management firms, has been helping clients protect assets since 1928. Valerie Corekin was recently appointed to the board of directors of the Cybersecurity Association of Maryland, Inc., a nonprofit formed in 2015 to facilitate sales and job growth for the state of Maryland.

The Mistake:

If I look back on my career, the one mistake I acknowledge I made was not believing in myself and my capabilities at a younger age. I knew for 20 years that I wanted to transition into a role where I could help a larger group of people, and the best way to do that was in a sales or risk consulting position. Before I was in sales, I couldn’t help people on a direct basis.

At an early point in my career, when participating in joint client meetings with colleagues, I realized that I could be of greater assistance to the customer if I could take a lead role and fix their problems. But realizing this and acting on it took longer than it would have if I had more self-confidence in what I could do. I made a series of decisions that kept me pigeonholed in non-sales roles; it didn’t allow me to impact or help the customer the way a direct sales relationship allows in my industry.

Women aren’t frequently directed into sales, and I was too unsure of myself to go into a sales role until later in my career. I listened to all of the negative noise and I didn’t listen to myself.

I relocated from the West Coast to the East Coast in 2004, and when I moved I was approached by an organization that said, “We’d love to see you in a sales capacity.” I told them that I just moved here and I didn’t have any contacts. I wondered how I could achieve the company’s goals. I just thought, I can’t do this.

I think this is true of a lot of people — you end up doubting yourself, not taking on a challenge when it’s presented. I was just lucky that the opportunity presented itself a few years later, and I took the scary first step and changed what I was doing.

I listened to all of the negative noise and I didn’t listen to myself.

The Lesson:

You need to know yourself and know what you’re good at, then strive to align yourself with what you want to do. If you’re always fighting your natural instinct you can’t ever achieve what you want to achieve.

Self-doubt and listening to all of the negative noise put up artificial barriers. It wasn’t until I brought those barriers down that I was able to help other organizations. Once I realized that there wasn’t anything to be scared about and I gained some self-confidence, then I was able to go out and start helping clients solve their problems, and that for me is very rewarding.

You can’t change the past, you have to look toward the future — all you can do is influence today and influence the future. If you let self-doubt leave you stuck in the past, you’ll never be able to achieve what you want to achieve. You have to own your past, your past is who makes you today. If you want to do something you have to take control to move forward in the direction you want to go.

PSA Insurance & Financial Services is on Twitter at @PSAFinancial and The Cybersecurity Association of Maryland, Inc. is at @buymdcyber.

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