Strong Core Beliefs in a Rapidly Changing Industry More Important than Ever
There’s nothing like a life-changing event to crystallize what’s truly important. It happened to me in September 2017 when I was diagnosed with West Nile virus. Just a few months before, I was to become CEO of the company where I had worked for nearly 40 years. I lost the ability to walk and to even speak.
Since then, I’ve learned several lessons, but two things stand out.
First, it’s essential for people to have a strong core philosophy about what’s important in life. Things like appreciating the value of family and friends, having a purpose of helping others and leaving a legacy really mean something. Major adversity brings out true character, and having a set of bedrock principles to live by will help you see through the toughest of times.
Second, these core beliefs are essential for business organizations.
After being admitted to the world-renowned Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Englewood, Colo., I knew immediately the hospital was special. I also knew that Craig has been ranked as one of the top rehabilitation hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report for 27 consecutive years. Still, I was amazed at how every single person — from the doctors to the custodians — was so positive, focused and helpful.
I wanted to learn more about Craig because I’m interested in business cultures. I began research while on a ventilator. I couldn’t speak, so I wrote my questions on a white board: “How long have you worked at Craig?” “How did you come to work here?” “Craig seems to have a unique culture. Tell me about the culture and why it is so special.”
It only took a few conversations with staff to know I was on to something. Not only were they willing to share their answers, they went into deep detail about their professional journeys. They told me why they chose to work at Craig and what made it a special place.
Virtually everyone said it was the best organization they’d ever worked for, and that they intended to remain at Craig until retirement. Craig has extraordinary technology and medical equipment, of course. But the value its people place on caring and service is its real secret sauce.
That serves as a daily reminder for me now that I’m back at work and serving as CEO in a rapidly-changing industry. Yes, we know there’s an evolving consumer landscape served by new and formidable competitors. Yes, we know that technology is transforming our industry — and we’re investing in a lot of it.
At the end of the day, though, I’m reminded of my experience at Craig that demonstrates that a commitment to genuine caring and great service has a lasting effect.
Like Craig, insurance carriers and their agents and mutual partners serve people when they’re most vulnerable. Walking the walk of service-first core values every day, with one patient — or customer — at a time, is what builds trusted relationships in trying times.
Those trusted relationships are a crucial part of leaving a meaningful legacy in this industry.
Menary is president and CEO of Grinnell Mutual, a property-casualty company located in Grinnell, Iowa. He began his career with the company in 1980 and became CEO in March 2018.