"I learned I have to be smarter about who I’m bringing on, how they fit into the agency long term, and how they will benefit the culture," says Kim Mathews, independent agency owner. "Are they the people who are willing to reach new highs of self-growth?"
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What's changed over the last five years?
Last time we talked, I was heavily involved in a lot of different networking and community organizations. I think I had shiny object syndrome in the beginning, which is easy to do when you're young and new and trying to build a business, but it's been really good for me to come back to center and focus on my agency processes and being available for my clients.
I've also been traveling a lot more. I'm not married and don't have kids, so being able to get away and explore new places is an important part of my life balance. One thing on my horizon is that I will be moving to Colorado later this year. My agency will be based in Indiana, but I will be managing it virtually and starting a new market.
I think COVID-19 was a really reflective time for a lot of people, and it brought up for me that I'm ready for a change.
Five years ago you said your motivator was being a good leader and support system for employees. How has that played out?
I really take a lot of pride in pouring into other people and trying to help them succeed, because I feel like I've benefited from having mentors in the industry when I first got started. However, looking over the years, I have learned that being a good leader means that you're always growing and striving for what's next.
Since we talked, I fired three people. It was hard. I learned I have to be smarter about who I'm bringing on, how they fit into the agency long term, and how they will benefit the culture. Are they the people who are willing to reach new highs of self-growth? The employees I have now are amazing and bring great perspectives.
Last time you said the industry's biggest challenge was the cheap, one-size-fits-all mentality—is that still a challenge?
I see a lot of consumers that have that thought process, but I also think we've done a good job selling our value to clients and prospects. I've had clients say, “We're going to GEICO because it's cheaper." And then something goes wrong with a claim and they end up coming back to us because they realize that the relationship is important.
However, I do think the biggest challenge in the industry now is making space for young and diverse insurance professionals and ensuring they feel comfortable entering and thriving in a traditionally white male dominated environment. It's our responsibility as the next generation of insurance professionals to make sure we are welcoming people of color, members of the LGBT+ community, young people and women. With diversity comes new ideas and new ways of doing things.
Advice for Gen Z?
Don't be afraid to speak up. When I was first getting started, I was concerned with blending in and not feeling like an outsider. It took a couple years to realize that I know what I'm talking about—I can challenge this, or I can throw out this idea. People are going to respect you more for just getting in there and trying to make things better.
AnneMarie McPherson is IA news editor.