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You don’t hear many kids say, “When I grow up, I want to work in insurance.” Admittedly, even I didn’t think insurance was very “cool” at a young age.

Executive Summary

The clearer the culture, the stronger the company, writes Bob O’Leary, CEO of Philadelphia Insurance, who notes that the “just show up” and give 100 percent philosophy of the founder is still sustained today as the company recruits disciplined, entrepreneurial, trustworthy employees committed to a high sense of urgency. The passions of employees line up with the insurer’s two biggest business segments—nonprofit and human services insurance and fitness and wellness insurance—and PHLY rewards commitments to both with time off.

How can the insurance industry stack up against companies like Google and Apple, which sell an image and their culture as much as their compensation and benefits?

I say, why can’t we?

You don’t have to replicate a company’s “cool” culture. Finding the right culture to help achieve your company’s goals is essential. When people connect with a culture, they enjoy their work and working environment. When they enjoy coming to work and the people they work with, everyone is motivated and a company is more productive.

Corporate culture, sometimes called company or organizational culture, encompasses many things. There are so many explanations and definitions for it. It’s not what leadership dictates, a relaxed dress code, free food, trendy office spaces or an inspirational poster on a wall. Culture can be implied, if not expressly defined. The clearer the culture, the stronger the company. Similar to building and sustaining success, building and sustaining a corporate culture is a continuous journey. Culture must be maintained, developed or sometimes reinvented—whatever is best for each company to survive and support its employees and business.

With the new wave of professionals in the insurance industry, company culture is as important as ever. Twenty-five percent of professionals in the insurance industry are set to retire within the next five years. Millennials are now the largest demographic in the labor market. We know from research that this generation values a strong company culture, one that helps them make a difference in the world. Our industry offers stable and rewarding professional opportunities that benefit society daily, through the promises we keep and services we provide.

PHLY employees volunteering at a park cleanup.

For me, corporate culture is shaped by people—people who embrace an approach to how they conduct themselves as professionals. The founder of Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY), Jim Maguire, wrote a book about his life and career building the company, called “Just Show Up Every Day.” It’s his simple philosophy that helped him build a small, independent agency into an innovative, national insurance carrier. Give 100 percent every day and the rest will take care of itself. As a life-long New England Patriots fan, I think Bill Belichick could have borrowed his “do your job” mantra from Jim.

The reason I’ve stayed at Philadelphia Insurance for almost 40 years is my belief in the culture. The PHLY culture has evolved over our 55-year history but continues to be based on fundamental values: always do what’s right and deliver on commitments.

The culture at Philadelphia Insurance is disciplined, entrepreneurial, trustworthy and committed to a high sense of urgency. People with these characteristics love working in our environment. We recruit, train and retain people with these qualities, which drives our success. We call it the “PHLY Spirit.” It’s a culture where people are highly motivated to succeed by doing the little things, always giving 100 percent and working together.

Keeping people who are the right fit for this culture is part of our formula. Three-quarters of our senior management have been with PHLY 10 years or more; half have worked at PHLY for over 20 years. Stability in leadership is a significant strength in maintaining our culture, but it’s not just leadership that drives our culture.

Healthy food truck at PHLY Health and Wellness fair.

All employees play a role in shaping and sustaining it. Two of our largest business segments are nonprofit and human services insurance and fitness and wellness insurance. They also happen to be two of the biggest passions of our employees. TEAMPHLY gives back to the communities where we live and work through volunteering and fundraising. The company provides paid time off for employees to volunteer, and last year employees volunteered for nearly 26,000 combined hours. Maintaining a healthy mind and body is something we also support through an employee wellness program. The Good Life program provides dietary, fitness and mental health guidance to all employees. All PHLY employees can take advantage of an extra 15 minutes when they exercise during their lunch break. They’re also eligible to receive cash rewards for completing various events like community walks, 5Ks, marathons and triathlons.

Whether running a 5K or volunteering with co-workers, employees are building relationships with each other through their interests that also connect to our core business markets. This interaction between employees helps us keep the feeling of a small family company.

Like any father, I’m very proud of my three sons. My oldest has enjoyed an 11-year career in insurance. One of my twins works in the reinsurance space. His twin brother, a history teacher, recently had a baby girl—my first grandchild. One day, someone will ask her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I hope when that day comes she’ll say what’s in her heart—and maybe she’ll be thinking about her uncles’ and grandfather’s cool jobs.

Topics Leadership Market