Balance a healthy, but present paranoia: never stop thinking that there are points to improve on. Always look for ways to innovate, and provide solutions that go beyond the client’s expectations.
Encourage diversity and inclusion: the insurance industry is one that continues to struggle with diversity and inclusion. Lockton has taken incredible strides to make changes, because they won’t happen on their own. Having diverse talent that looks like your clients is an important distinction to help great companies move forward.
As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kyle Anthony, President of Lockton Ohio. He brings over 20 years of leadership, sales, client management, analytics and underwriting experience in the human capital, employee benefits, total rewards and risk management fields on both the carrier and consultant side. He prides himself on leading his team that leverages innovation, culture and expertise to consistently push boundaries, think bigger, and explore further than the competition in the market. His career started as a consultant with Behnke & Company where he helped grow the boutique firm into a formidable agency in the Midwest. In 2010, Anthony joined a top three global insurance broker to expand their business. Most recently, he served as a director of private equity, national accounts and affinity programs for one of the nation’s largest independent brokerage firms. He is a thought leader in his field and a regular panel member, speaker and contributor on a range of industry topics, and has been featured in national and industry publications such as Crain’s Cleveland Business, Business Insurance and Insurance Daily News.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Absolutely, we’ve had our share of challenges along the way! As the President of Lockton Ohio, it was my responsibility to establish and grow our presence in a new market — I think of it of as our own startup or “business within a business” with the incredible support of an established brand at Lockton.
If starting up a new business isn’t enough of a challenge — take into consideration that we launched in March 2020, the first month the world turned upside down! COVID’s impact on the business of our clients and personal lives of our clients and team a series of stumbling blocks during our first year in business that led to some setbacks. Frankly, opportunities we anticipated bringing on board early in our journey did not materialize, and in some cases — the reason why some business elected not to hire our team felt like a punch in the stomach. But here we stood, a small but mighty team in a new office and new market. We knew there wasn’t any turning back, so we needed to get creative and make it work.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
At Lockton, we live by the phrase, “Uncommonly Independent”. To me that means we are uniquely positioned to leverage innovation, culture, and expertise to push the boundaries, think bigger and explore further than the competition. Lockton teams develop and execute solutions that focus on what matters most: results.
I think most great organizations would answer this in the same fashion — our people. Our unique differentiator is the quality and dedication of our team. I’m truly in awe of our entire organization’s passion and commitment to driving outcomes on behalf of our clients.
I have been part of other great organizations that prioritized culture, but it wasn’t until Lockton, that I really saw an organization whose DNA believed that we are all here to add value to our clients. When you come across an organization whose people have a complete and absolute commitment, the outcome is so much greater. Whatever our job or title is, we all understand how it feels to drain your battery spending your time trying to encourage your internal team to see the business the same way that you do. Organizations that are struggling to align everybody to what is really important run the risk of taking their best talent away from really making a difference for their client. When you have a high percentage of people aligned towards the same commitment, you remove that frustration and distraction which makes it a better outcome on behalf of our clients.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
My number one tip is to really stop and evaluate your team. Pay close attention to their talents and skillsets and work tirelessly to find ways to engage those talents and skillsets into the role they fill.
Our industry struggles with trying to attract and retain creative thinkers — but if we don’t work as leaders to engage our team’s strength — our existing talent will inevitably burn out.
Regardless of industry — I’ve seen most organizations fail to thrive because they push the top 10% of their human capital investment to pull the weight for under performers. Bottom line: I believe there needs to be an absolute commitment towards unleashing likeminded people who have a great, unique skillset and getting out of their way so they can drive results.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
One of my clients that I worked for early in my career was a very successful, self-made business owner with a passion for his business and the community. Early on in my engagement with him, I was transitioned onto his account, and needless to say, it wasn’t seamless. He ended up firing our firm shortly after I was brought on board.
Looking back, it made me understand that I didn’t have the knowledge to handle a program of this company’s complexity. About a year later, he gave me another chance to work for his company and rehired me.
What he taught me along the way was to understand how to act as a strategic partner to add value to my clients. It gave me perspective that everything I do should start with the lens of what is important to the client. Best lesson he gave me? SHUT UP! Talk less, listen more. He was the first person to tell me that anybody can talk a big game, but the one who actually listens to what the client is saying and can be relied on to make it happen — is the most valuable.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
A good company sets business objectives, articulates the objective, and achieves it. I think a great organization has the ability to align their entire workforce around their north star and really move their people to have a passion for it. In summary? Good organizations achieve goals, great organizations change people’s lives.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- You are never always right: understanding that leadership is about providing people a platform where it is safe and comfortable to innovate, improve and challenge is what great leaders are able to do in order to bring a company from good to great.
- When things go wrong, it is the leader’s responsibility. When things go right, celebrate your team. Leaders are the first to get recognition for success, but leaders of great organizations understand they are the face of the frontline. It really does take an entire team to produce great performance.
- Constantly network: even if there aren’t open positions, never stop searching for new talent. Find a way to bring them on board, learn from them, and allow them to contribute.
- Balance a healthy, but present paranoia: never stop thinking that there are points to improve on. Always look for ways to innovate, and provide solutions that go beyond the client’s expectations.
- Encourage diversity and inclusion: the insurance industry is one that continues to struggle with diversity and inclusion. Lockton has taken incredible strides to make changes, because they won’t happen on their own. Having diverse talent that looks like your clients is an important distinction to help great companies move forward.
What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Yes, and I have personally faced this as well. One piece of advice I would ask of the leader is if they have a peer group or leadership team that they can rely on to be open and candid, while challenging the status quo. Good organizations can be successful by following passion and energy, but then it becomes cyclical. Great organizations are led by a team of people who are comfortable challenging the status quo. My advice here is to take a hard look at your team, and bring in people that can challenge the path you are on, and build dialogue around what is necessary to continue to succeed in the future.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
As a risk management partner in the midst of this current economic environment, what we are seeing is very different than what we’ve seen over the past ten years. Previously, health insurance was increasing at 6% each year, and businesses considered it a very high priority to manage expenses and find ways to slow the growth rate down. But in these current COVID times, larger clients saw medical utilization dropped because fewer employees were going to the doctor. Therefore, many clients of ours are receiving a decrease or flat renewal. Organizations that focus on employee benefits and human capital, those services are not as in demand right now. So in this climate, our team had to come up with ways to create demand. We listened to our clients and mapped out employers’ biggest areas of frustration and concern. By focusing on these areas that hadn’t previously been identified, we developed solutions. We were able to press pause, and hit a reset button, to keep our sales engine going.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Managing human capital is the most underestimated. As we look across a diverse workforce, there has never been a time where we have seen the needs of the workforce more distinct and diverse. Traditionally, employers were successful at rolling out a “one-size-fits-all” proposition, but then struggled to find ways to connect the right resources with the human capital. I believe the hardest thing to do is to ensure that employment value proposition is aligned with the workforce to meet objectives. Lately, we are seeing that employees are feeling more stretched than ever before.
Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Like many others, not only am I a business leader, but I am also a customer of many other businesses. Therefore, I am able to wear both hats. As a leader, we need to always keep in mind how it feels to be a customer, which helps me to establish that “wow” factor. There are many companies out there that have notorious and unbelievable customer service. On the flip side, there are also companies out there whose customer service falls short. Something that is very evident in our industry is the number of different parties that are involved in managing an individual’s health insurance. When that individual runs into an issue, they experience frustration, confusion and are scared, because they have to work through something that they don’t do every day. At Lockton, we emphasize that our customer always knows where we stand in the process of resolving or handling an issue. If we can’t get answers as fast as we’d like, we always make sure to keep the customer informed along the way so they can understand a clear and actionable timeline. As a customer, these are my basic expectations for customer service so as a leader, these are the basic requirements to provide customers with that “wow” factor
What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
Yes, I do. Reputational risk on social media is as important of a priority for our organization as reputational risk outside of social media. We are providing a very important service for companies and individuals and ensuring they not only have sound, strategic advice, but a great customer experience. When it comes to the social media world, I believe we have to find ways to go to where our customers are, but also communicate where our employees are consuming information. We do know that our customers and employees are consuming information through social media so finding a way to be where they are is going to continue to be critically important to us.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
I think a new leader or CEO can oftentimes be overwhelmed with the potential of “what if”. You need to have clarity around what the north star is, and the length of time it will take to get there. Ask yourself: what objectives do you need to achieve along the way and what milestones do you have to check in on to make sure you are strategically aligned with where you want to be going? It is so important to develop a loose framework for a ten year plan. That plan will help you dedicate time towards critical priorities. All in all, develop your ultimate objective, and make sure your team is committed to it. Not being able to say no is not true leadership. By the way, I have personally made these mistakes dozens of times. It’s very difficult to have the discipline to say this is who we are, this is how we are going to get it done and this is how we will stay true to that vision.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Personally, my passion is to help improve how the United States’ healthcare system operates. If I could start a movement, it would be one that is designed to make the experience of healthcare much easier to understand, transparent, and I would focus on providing a higher level of clarity for the various members of the system. To start, I would bring together employers, insurers, patients, healthcare providers and regulation. The movement would be one that the phenomenal outcomes and quality of life we have access to can continue for generations to come. If we don’t have the opportunity to tackle some of the tough issues we are facing today, inevitably, we will end up with government sponsored healthcare. Regardless of anyone’s political beliefs, I think we can all agree that government sponsored healthcare (which will have its own shortcomings to it) is likely not the solution that Americans expect where they have freedom of choice, in control of their own treatment plans, and ultimately can continue to innovate. That is my passion movement: one designed to really help improve the healthcare system and insure it’s long-term sustainability.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Listen to our Podcast, “One Step Ahead”: https://www.locktonohio.com/news-insights.html
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!