If you want to know how to disrupt and supercharge your company–especially if it’s been around for 127 years–just ask Alan Colberg. That’s what he did at Assurant, the New York insurance company that’s been doing business since 1892.
When he became CEO four years ago, he did some obvious things like exiting slow growing businesses and focusing on the winners. But the key to his success, he says, was building a culture where Assurant’s employees felt part of disruption process.
“What I do matters. But what really matters,” says Colberg, “is what the 9,000 people on the front line do when they engage with consumers. The more they understand what we’re trying to do, the more they feel that they’re part of a company they can believe in and trust.”
His strategy was to connect with employees by doing some seemingly simple things, but they ended up having a big impact on employee morale. Colberg created, for example, an email chain he called “Ask Alan” where he says “any employee could write to me on anything and I would respond personally”. And he did. He also created a rule he called “never eat lunch alone.”
“I don’t care what your job is,” Colberg says. “Go out and talk to somebody you don’t normally talk to”. Colberg believes that when you spend time with people you don’t work with directly, you will learn something new. And together, those conversations can lead to new ideas that could transform the company.
Assurant’s earnings are surging and revenues in 2018 jumped 25 percent to $8 billion. Investors approve of those results. Assurant shares are up more than 40 percent so far in 2019 despite market volatility and sell offs.
Colberg offers this advice to CEOs trying to disrupt their business operations. “I would urge speed,” he says. “It’s almost better to be partially right and then improve as opposed to wait to get to a really good answer.”
Watch the video above for more from my interview with Colberg.