April 20, 2023

Our Story: Building a Winning Culture

Hi Marley was founded with two goals: to transform the insurance industry and create the best workplace culture team members have ever experienced. The founders were adamant about ensuring leadership led by example through behaving in alignment with a shared purpose and set of values.

To start shaping their approach to create a positive culture and organization, the leadership team read The Advantage by Patrick M. Lencioni. The book talks about how companies gain a competitive advantage not through the amount of money they have or the strategy, but through good organizational health.

Lencioni explains that culture is defined by answering two essential questions: why do we exist? And how do we behave?

The founders ruminated over the question, “Why do we exist?”

Mitesh talked about his recent property claim to fix wind damage on his roof. He discussed his frustration and how he knew there had to be a better way. John Miller mentioned how Steve Messina, the former Senior Vice President of Insurance Operations at Bankers, had once said that customers are frustrated because they often “walk away from buying insurance with nothing to show for it.” John wanted customers to feel like they were paying for something; he wanted insurance to be simple, for customers to have everything in one place. This sentiment evolved to being “a trusted contact in everyone’s pocket.”

“Protection is a rung on Maslow’s Hierarchy,” said Mike Greene. “Yet, protection and love are not words that come to mind when people think of insurance today. I believed insurance could do better to protect people, their time, their livelihood and ultimately proactively protect life. Our mission needed to be big, it needed to be powerful, it needed to be something we all believed in and could get behind.”

To answer, “why do we exist?” the founders determined the singular purpose is: to protect people simply. And the way Hi Marley does that is through its mission to empower insurance companies to communicate simply, build trust and ultimately protect what people love.

The second question, “how do we behave?” defined the company values.

“We took a stab at generic values at first that, frankly, didn’t come naturally to us,” said Mike Greene. “Like transparency. Of course, we want to be transparent and strive to be transparent, but our communication could have been better. We wanted to choose values that we exemplified. We had to ask ourselves, who are we? How do we behave?”

“Mitesh, Mike and I have worked together since 2007. We never talked about it at our first company, but we happen to be three guys who shared many common core values; I don’t know if we realized that at first,” said John Miler. “Mike drove the foundation-building for how we behave as a company. While we already behaved a certain way and shared common values, writing it down and making an agreement made a tremendous difference.”

Ultimately, they came up with inherent values that define the company and make Hi Marley stand out.

The first value they landed on was “Be Humble,” which is about being open-minded, empathetic and willing to learn from anyone, anywhere.

“Being humble is something that probably came from our parents, but the co-founding team lives this value pretty well,” said Mike Greene. “We also thought that if we exemplify this value, we’ll learn faster, others will learn faster, and we will build trust.”

The founders also thought about working in the insurance industry and being an entrepreneur and how both require calculated risks. This led to the concept of “Max Courage,” which means employees are encouraged to dream big, try new ideas and take measured risks.

The third value, “Ubuntu,” was a term used by Nelson Mandela that means, “I am because we are,” it’s more than teamwork. It’s the belief that true success is being part of a purpose much bigger than any single individual or company. This feeling and belief is something the founders want employees to bring with them to work every day, to help them feel inspired, gain a true sense of ownership over their work and pride in collaboration and helping others realize their true potential.

“If learning was a drug, we OD’d over the past five years,” said John Miller. “The amount of learning has been incredible. One of the things I have done a complete 180 on was the importance of culture. We spent a lot of time on culture early on, and it took me a while to come around. I didn’t see at the time that early moves around this were so instrumental. If I start another company or advise someone on starting a company, that’s one thing I would say to do upfront because it makes an incredible difference.”

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