Petplan CMO says the many 4-legged loves of her life inspired the pet insurance brand
Get to Know: Petplan Insurance CMO Natasha Ashton
Launched in 2006 by Natasha and Chris Ashton, Petplan Insurance offers veterinary care insurance plans for pet owners. Serving as the company’s co-CEO and its chief marketing officer, Natasha Ashton is the driving force behind the Petplan brand.
“For the first time in five years, we’re launching new products and it’s incredibly exciting,” says Natasha, “We turned the industry on its tail when we launched Petplan 10 years ago with policies that were unmatched in the comprehensive coverage they offered. It seems fitting with our 10th anniversary coming up that we do that again.”
Five years ago, Petplan made it into Inc. Magazine’s list of the 500 fastest-growing privately held companies in the US, and in 2013, the veterinary care insurance company was named a Top 50 “Most Promising Company” by Forbes.
Prior to founding Petplan, Natasha’s professional background included time at a Greek manufacturing company, leading an IT technology recruitment firm and launching a small import business in the UK. She earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts from Oxford University, in addition to an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Whether at home or in their Philadelphia-based office, Natasha and her husband, Chris, are joined by their son, Benjamin, the family’s English Toy Spaniel, Montgomery (“Monty” for short), and their Weimaraner, Hermes.
What mobile device can you not live without?
Which apps do you use most often for work?
The Trello app really allows me to keep track of our marketing projects, especially considering the volume of content our marketing team produces.
It helps me stay involved in our marketing efforts while still handling the CEO aspects of my job like board meetings and contracts.
What social media network or website do you frequent most when you’re not working?
I love Pinterest. It’s so visually engaging and I’m such a fan of beautiful design that I really get inspired there.
What’s the first thing you check on your phone in the morning?
Petplan’s sales report that’s emailed to me at 4:00 a.m., followed by the Weather Channel app. Exciting, right?
Take me through your typical workday.
Every day is different and full of surprises, but that’s what keeps it fun. I do structure my morning routine, though.
I get up at 4:00 a.m., check email and respond to anything urgent. Then I meditate and hit the gym, get ready for the day, and send my son off to school. Once I arrive at the office at 8:00 a.m. though, anything can happen!
What has been the most exciting work development during the past year?
We’ve partnered with a new underwriter, which is giving us the opportunity to develop new products.
What does your office look like?
Messy! Something that always makes me smile are these Petplan-branded cat and dog pens. My mum found the pens and put them in my stocking one year with a note that we should “Petplan them.” We tracked down the creator and worked with him to brand them, and now they’re one of our most popular items (especially at trade shows!).
I love that the idea came from my mum and it helps keep her spirit alive. I also have lots of baubles on my desk that my husband, Chris, is forever buying me.
How many miles have you traveled in the last 12 months?
Probably close to 30,000 miles. We travel to London a lot, and one of the most interesting places we’ve visited there is Lloyd’s in the financial district. It’s such an interesting place, especially if you’re in the insurance industry — it’s where it all began!
What work challenge keeps you up at night?
I worry a lot about if I’m doing right by our stakeholders, our board members, employees and the pets we protect. I always want to be sure I’m making our team happy.
Can you tell us about a campaign or work project you’d like to do over?
Not really. Everything we’ve done has brought us to where we are today. Even the failures, and there have been a few, have taught us how to succeed. I think those are the learning opportunities that help you grow.
We’re going through great changes this year, and the entire time we’ve been learning, growing and improving.
Tell me about the people who have been most influential in your career.
My parents for their tireless support and giving me every opportunity to succeed; my husband Chris for being my better part and standing by me; my nine-year-old son Ben who I try to set an example for every day; and, our Chairman, Vernon Hill, for always believing in Chris and me.
And of course, the many four-legged loves in my life who inspired me to start a pet insurance company.
What traits does a person need to succeed in your position?
Flexibility, strong vision to lead and inspire others, great communication skills, a sense of humor and solid organization skills… something I’m still working on!
Can you tell us something about yourself that your team would be surprised to know?
I once totaled my car trying to avoid hitting a baby bunny. The car didn’t make it, but I’m happy to share that the bunny did.
Why did you go into marketing?
I absolutely love to create things and I wholeheartedly believe that brand aesthetic is a competitive advantage. Combine that with my love of data and I found myself in Marketing.
What other career would you like to try, and why?
I think a restaurant manager where my love of cooking, good food and marketing could all come together. I think Stephen Starr has one of the best jobs out there!
What’s the last business book you read, and what did you think of it?
“The Essential Worldwide Laws of Life” by Sir John Templeton. It’s brilliant. It’s all about how to lead a great life by building and being a better person.
I love that it’s broken up into sections, making it easy to squeeze a little reading into my morning routine.
Outside of your company’s efforts, what ad campaign or video caught your eye recently?
Values.com “Pass It On” billboard campaign. The billboards are so creative and inspire optimism — something I appreciate as an entrepreneur.