Brian Macias, President – Embrace Pet Insurance – Part 2
Each week, we interview proven leaders from our network, to learn from their experiences, and share their Talent Attraction and Candidate Experience stories with you.
- Our mission is to promote the accomplishments of our guests
- Highlight the companies where they work and the services, and products that they offer
- Share success stories from their experiences and, most importantly
- Provide strategies for job seekers and advice to talent seeking to accelerate their careers.
- thoughts about “shopping” for your first boss – get experience, build your network, and find the “right” boss for you
- the difference in being interesting vs interested – What would Ted Lasso do??
- how to approach selling yourself in an interview WHILE evaluating if it’s the best fit for you
Summary transcript of our interview below:
RON – Brian, good to have you back. Thanks for rejoining me. I couldn’t agree more with you on the subjects of culture and core values, so I really appreciate your perspective there. And I think we could do a whole other conversation on that topic. It’s one that’s near and dear to my heart, so I appreciate that a lot. And I can see that’s why you guys have built such a great environment over at Embrace. So thank you.
BRIAN – Well, thanks for indulging me on it. I could go on forever about it, too. So thanks, Ron.
RON – No, I appreciate that. So can we talk about talent a little bit? One of my kind of constituents I like to focus on is entry level people are still in college thinking about their move out into the workforce. As a person who’s obviously been through the evolution you’ve been through and who probably hires lots of people, can you talk to me about or talk to my audience about what you would suggest to them and how to best prepare themselves coming out of college? And that includes not only how to go through an interview process or how to approach companies to get interviews, but even what are you seeing as kind of the best areas to focus in from a career perspective?
BRIAN – Yeah, that’s a great question. And I think there’s a lot of people graduating from school who struggle with this. I like to boil it down to really the simplicity of this is that your value is derived from two main things. It’s your network and your experience. And both of those are very small. They’re lacking when you get out of college, right. Maybe some of us are lucky. Maybe you have a good network for your parents or through other things.
Most of us, when we graduate, don’t have a huge network and we clearly don’t have any experience. And I think the first step is just knowing that and accepting that kids struggle with that. They get out of school and they’re like, “why can’t I get this job with this title or this thing?” And often their answer is I’m going to go back to school. That is almost always the wrong answer, unless you’re trying to be a doctor or a lawyer or something that actually requires that further education. But I think it’s a big reason that we have a lot of the student debt that we have today, and we have a lot of people who feel really unsatisfied with their experience so far.
But if they really take and say, okay, my value is in my network and in my skill set, then you should look to grow both of those, right?
RON – Yes.
BRIAN – So step one is when you’re getting out of college, your first job is less about how attractive that role is or what the title is that comes with it. It has everything to do with who you’ll be working for. And with whom you’ll be working. So the most important thing in career satisfaction and in your growth as a person is your direct leader, your direct boss. So don’t shop for that first job. Shop for that first boss, that person who is going to be your sponsor, who’s going to take you under their wing, who is going to help to mentor you, who’s going to take an interest in you both personally and professionally.
Someone who wants to see you grow and excel and eventually grow into who you want to be. And I think that is the most important thing that people should be shopping for. And honestly, Ron, not just in your first job out of school. I just think always, you know, if you’re looking for a career, the number one thing that drives satisfaction and whether or not people stay or leave at a job is their immediate leader.
And so I think that’s what people need to be thinking about when they get out of school is that what is my best opportunity to grow my network and to grow my experience and your immediate leader has everything to do with those things.
RON – One of the things you said earlier, it’s going to be more of a statement than a question, but that I’ve found recently, even though I’ve been doing this for 25 years. But I found recently that hits home the most is the concept of being curious. You mentioned being reliable. You mentioned obviously following through and delivering on the work that you’ve been given. But the being curious thing has just been kind of one of those things. I keep coming back to a lot more lately as I’m working with especially younger talent on making that transition. I’m going to put you on the spot a little bit. But do you have any tips or suggestions around how to build that capability or characteristic, or do you think it’s just one of those things you have or don’t have?
BRIAN – I think the answer I can talk out of both sides of my mouth on this one. I think that there are some things that we have a natural proclivity to the nature versus nurture kind of argument. And I think there are things that we can work on it and get better at. I think one is just about setting an intention. So first of all, you bring up a phenomenal point. I think another way to phrase it is like interesting versus interested.
I think people think that to be valuable, they have to be interesting. But the truth is it’s the exact opposite. You have to be interested.
And that means just being, to your point, genuinely curious and inquisitive about how things work or who people are. And I think that we know that to be one of the number one skills in success for people. Have you watched Ted Lasso?
RON – I love that show. We’re watching it. Yeah. Can’t miss an episode.
BRIAN – Okay. So have you seen all of season one already? So when he is in the bar and playing darts, he talks about curiosity, and he talks about it being such a strength in that it really is to the detriment of somebody who’s not curious because they’re going to miss everything. You’re going to miss the opportunities. You’re going to miss the opportunity to help other people grow. You’re going to miss where your competitors are leaving the door open for you to come in like you’re just not going to be asking the questions that are going to lead to the things that you want. I love that scene, by the way. I love everything about that show. Similarly, lately I’ve been thinking, “what would Ted Lasso do?”
RON – Yeah. Lots of people are.
BRIAN – Yeah. He’s just such a genuinely good character. He’s a good leader. He’s a curious human being. He’s very externally focused on other people. He’s internally motivated. And I think those are just two key traits in leaders and in people who succeed is that are you internally motivated. Meaning that you have your own motivation, your own code, your own core values that drive you on a day to day basis, your own ethos. Right. As opposed to relying upon external incentives or rewards or these kinds of things. And then Where’s your focus is, it on you?
So back to being curious or interesting versus interested. Is it about what I’m getting, what’s good for me? or is about what I could be doing for others, for all the stakeholders in your life, your family, your team members, your customers, your ownership? The community that you live and all of these things. And I just think like Ted Lasso, he’s the man. I like that.
RON – Yeah, that was pretty awesome to pull that one out of that whole season. That’s a really good way to put a box around what we just talked about. So thank you for that. I’m going to go back and watch that scene again for sure. So last part, as it relates to kind of the other end of the spectrum for those that are been out in the workforce and are thinking about making a move, what have you seen from a hiring manager that you appreciate the most from how people put their either profiles together or interview the best? What have you seen that you like and is attractive to you?
BRIAN – Yeah, from a profile perspective or a CV or a resume. I’ve never been big into it because I just think they might show one skill, which is your ability to self promote, or maybe they show how concise you can write or these kinds of things. They might show your grammar and your syntax, but there’s plenty of people with poor syntax and or grammar in some cases that are very successful in a lot of different things. So you’ve got to have some level of experience obviously, if you’re talking to me, but at some point, it’s really about how do you engage and how do you interact and how do you drive in your interview process.
So my thing is I like people who actually take control of the interview process and own it and drive it. I liken it to a good sales process. And it’s funny because I think everybody to some extent should be well versed in sales. I mean, it’s just really the ability to understand somebody else, what they need, what’s important to them, and then deliver that to them. And there’s a lot of ways to do that, but you got to run a good sales process to your point.
You’ve got to be curious. You’ve got to ask the right questions. You need to control the conversation. The best way to do that is by asking questions. And so I love when people come in and they really lay it out. They’re like, this is either going to the only way that this is going to work is if it’s a win win, right? If I like you and you like me and we both feel confident that I’m the right fit for this and it’s the right opportunity mutually, then I’m interested in talking more to you.
So when people come in and in general, Ron, I think I just like that when people engage me at an equal level. I don’t like when someone comes in and gives me too much deference. That feels uncomfortable to me and I don’t like it. And I also don’t like the opposite of when someone comes in and they take themselves so seriously. It’s like, let’s just get together and have a conversation and get to figure out whether this is a good fit or not a good fit. So going back to I like when someone comes in and they say that they stated like a foreshadow in a sales process.
Like, “hey, Ron, I’m excited to sit down with you here today. I heard a lot of great things. I’m interested in asking some questions, learning more about the opportunity, and seeing if there might be a fit between the two of us.” I want someone to say that to me. I like when they say that, and then I want them to pivot right away to a question, “hey, what’s gone well so far that I’m sitting in front of you right now. How did you get to the point where I’m talking to you now?”
RON – Back to being curious, right back to being interested for sure.
BRIAN – “Tell me what the day to day is, what’s it like to work with you and not on your good day? What’s it like to work with you on your bad day?”
I want people actually weighing and qualifying and doing discovery around the opportunity, not because they’re trying to impress me, because they’re really seeking to see is it the right opportunity for them. I think that’s what candidates miss. And sometimes that’s what just poor salespeople miss is that they’re so excited and are desperate to get a yes, that they’re failing to qualify, whether they even want that opportunity or whether it’s even the right one for them. So I guess the long and short of your question is I think what I like to see out of candidates in the process is that they’re doing really good discovery and qualification to what the mutual fit is or isn’t.
RON – Got you. Okay. Very helpful. One more for you then. I’ll promise I’ll let you go. Tell me about the insurance space. Like, why are there so many new niche companies that are making so much money and going public? Is it the application of technology and marketing that’s creating all these new businesses? Are there new businesses really, or am I just never paid attention before? And these have always been there? It just seems like everywhere you turn, there’s an insurance company for this or for that, and they’re all over the place.
BRIAN – Yeah. I mean, listen, we’re in the next revolution. I think it’d be like the second industrial revolution is where we’re at right now. You have an agricultural revolution, you had an industrial revolution, and now we’re in the second industrial revolution. You might call it a knowledge or a digital kind of place that we’re at right now in terms of a revolution. And that’s been taking place over the last 20 years with the Internet and the growth of digital technologies. And to a large extent, insurance is still ripe for disruption. There. I think any time that you’ve got really entrenched incumbents who are really big, who are really good at a lot of things.
They’re really good at the insurance business. They understand the pricing, the modeling, they might understand great claims. There’s a lot that they do well. They wouldn’t be entrenched if they didn’t do it well. But they’re so big that they’re not nimble in a lot of cases. And so there are a lot of things in the insurance industry that I think at this point, 20 years into this revolution are still taken for granted. So I was on a call the other day and we were speaking to one of the largest auto insurance carriers, and one of their marketing people asked a question about the mobile optimization of our website.
And it was a really basic question. It was really simply, is your site mobile optimized? Right. And the funny thing is, our VP of marketing, he went to a next level answer, but didn’t necessarily just say, yes, our website is mobile optimized. I think it’s because he’s newer to the insurance world and didn’t realize that, hey, anywhere else, that’s the ante to play, right? You have a mobile optimized website or even a mobile first website. And so that question from a large insurance carrier isn’t as complex as you might think, and they aren’t setting you up.
They’re really just simply asking like, hey, are you guys cool enough that you have your site mobile optimized? And so I think that’s why you see what you’re seeing, Ron, is that this revolution one, some of it’s just low hanging fruit and just moving to more modular technology using more API first approaches, consolidating data in one single place, being able to take unstructured data and understand it better. All these things that large insurance incumbents just aren’t good at and or just have such legacy technology that to move to that is a large task for them.
So if you and I were starting a brand new insurance company, we are actually in a better position than a lot of these guys who have been around for 100 years or 75 years, whatever it might be, because we don’t have the legacy technology to worry about. We would start API first. We would start in a modular infrastructure. We would be able to use top notch data services so we can append data quickly. We could build models to make decisions. And that’s what you’re seeing from these insurers, right? So whether it be a Hippo or a Lemonade or whoever it might be, they’re using the most sophisticated but simple API first modular technologies.
They’re tapping into the mountains of data that exists everywhere. So I think Hippo is a great example of someone who does this, is that you go in and they’re probably spending a couple of bucks on every quote that they do just pulling in data services. So that from the consumer perspective, the quote process is so easy, you can quote your home in a couple of minutes compared to what another entrenched carrier might want or need from you just because of how manual their process might be and how old their technology is.
And you’re also seeing that on the claim site and the underwriting side of the house. So when you have this more slick and modular infrastructure, it’s easier, again, to pull data and make underwriting decisions on that data in real time in terms of one just at the top of the funnel. Do you even want to quote this risk, or do you want to send them to a competitor? Or when you quote this risk to get real time and get the right rate in because you’re pulling enough data points. So I think really it just comes down to the Achilles heel of these entrenched folks is that they have all this legacy technology on which they’re dependent. It’s expensive, it’s time consuming, and it’s just difficult to migrate over to new technology. And there’s a lot of inherent risk in it. Your whole business is tied up in your tech stack, right?
RON – Sure.
BRIAN – Whereas if you start from scratch, you build the tech stack, right? You build it very inexpensively in most cases. And that’s a huge advantage to entry into the market to allow these folks. And then the last thing is this I know I’m going on. This is the last thing. Listen, everyone’s laden cash right now, right? They’re just like, where can I put my money in the next big thing? And so, yeah, you see a lot of these guys going public, some of them with valuations that are relevant and reasonable and rightfully so. But some of them with valuations that are just insane.
They’re just because the market is where it is right now. The underlying economics aren’t there. And so you and I have a mutual friend, I believe your friends with Christian Giardini as well and he would always say, listen, it’s still always going to be about underlying economics. At the end of the day, the long term investment is still about running a profitable, disciplined company and a lot of these guys are not able to do that. So it’s kind of all show no go in some of the cases, but you will see you’ll see more consolidation because they do have things that are valuable and resources that others like to have.
So that’s my long answer got you.
RON – And it’s definitely all show all go over at embrace pet insurance, from what I understand, right.
BRIAN – Well, we don’t do everything right, but we try to do most of it. I think Interestingly enough, Ron, we are a more entrenched pet insurer. Even as nascent as the industry is, we’ve been around for 15 years and so we do have legacy technology and a big piece of our focus in the last two years has been migrating to a more extensible infrastructure and moving our tech stack to API first modular based technologies, micro products on the front end with our UX and UI.
And there is more risk for us because we’re having to move our entire business over to these things. Whereas someone brand new. It could be a Figo or a Lemonade or whoever else. They just come in with the right stuff out of the gate and to some extent, God bless them. That’s a lot easier. There’s no doubt about it. And what we’re doing is maybe a little bit harder.
RON – It’s a lot to unpack. Brian, I really appreciate your time today and I can’t wait to share this and thanks a lot.
BRIAN – Yeah. Ron, thank you so much.
March 8, 2022