One time, early in the life of my company, I sat down with the CEO of one of my customers and asked her to help me connect with other senior leaders in the insurance industry. During my visit, I brought a list of folks I would like to meet. She reviewed the list for a minute or so then started to laugh.
“Is there something wrong?” I said.
“Nope… John, I know over 80% of these people; I’ve worked with many of them before. We all cut our teeth in insurance together so to speak.”
That’s when I first realized insurance was a different world!
This is part two in my series of advice for “newbies” to the #insurtech industry. (In part one, I discussed the risk management lens, capital conservation, and the importance of patience. You can find it here.)
4. IT’S A SMALL WORLD.
I subscribe to the concept of “six degrees of separation.” The world is small, and I have seen countless examples of this notion in my travels. The insurance industry, however, is entirely different. It employs about 2.6 million people. P&C insurers represent about 650,000 workers of this total according to iii.org, but you would never know it. In my ten years in the industry, I have found the experience to be more like two to three degrees of separation. A visit to an insurance trade show feels like a family reunion. Many senior IT executives at insurance companies are former partners at management consulting firms or systems integrators. People move around a lot, and several business leaders are alumni from some top insurance companies. Insurance is more like a cottage industry.
For a new company, this represents both opportunities and dangers. Word-of-mouth marketing in the industry is an efficient approach. Be sure to meet and connect with the right influencers and “mavens” in the industry early on. Tell them your story. Get your customers to be your best champions. Build relationships with the right partners, and it will open doors. Equally, bad news travels quickly. If your company is undergoing challenges with adoption, implementation, capital, anything, you should assume it is already known out there. Manage appropriately.
5. LOVE YOUR CUSTOMERS (NO MATTER WHAT). LIVE BY IT OR DIE.
Once of our mantras at my insurtech company was “we love our customers, not our product.” It helped us build a customer-centric culture that was resilient to the inevitable challenges that arise. Shit happens, and what is most important is how your company responds to these setbacks. The best thing you can do is focus on making it right by the customer no matter what. I used to call myself our “chief apology officer.” I’d start every meeting with a client asking them what we could do better. Your customers will love you, hate you, and sadly, some will take advantage of you. Love them anyway. They are extremely loyal, especially to solutions at the heart of their business. It affords them the license to expect your best. It also means long-term success comes from deepening the customer relationship and offering them more and better solutions. To make these relationships successful, you must build them on trust. Listen to your customers’ challenges and try your best to help them solve them. If you are the CEO of the company, spend at least 20% of your time each week visiting your customers and having intimate conversations with them.
6. ASK FOR HELP.
There are plenty of warm-hearted people in the insurance industry eager to help you succeed. Find them and get to know them. I wrote a homage to the people who helped our company become successful. There were countless people there to teach me the industry, connect me to the small community, and help me overcome obstacles. Don’t be shy about asking for help. Each week make a list of things that keep you up at night, and call everyone you know in the industry and share the list. You’ll be surprised how many are more than willing to help; your competitors excluded of course. (Although, I was not shy about calling my rivals sometimes.)
These lessons are intended to help entrepreneurs new to insurance avoid “unoriginal” mistakes as they develop their insurtech ventures. If they work for you, drop me a line or comment below. I want to hear from you!
Please continue to part III, where I share advice on sales, customer differentiation, getting to the right CXO, and innovation.
Download a copy of the e-book version of this popular blog series here. (It includes five bonus lessons.)
About the Author
John Belizaire is CEO of Soluna, a serial entrepreneur, advisor, and investor. He is also the editor of CEOPLAYBOOK.IO — a medium publication (thoughts expressed here are solely those of the author.) Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter. To get the popular newsletter, Mental Candy sign up here.