February 23, 2021
How Giving Back Pays Dividends
by Ann Dieleman
When leaders view their industry counterparts as collaborators, employees start to see opportunities as unlimited.
In business, change is constant. After spending years (or even decades) building your company, common sense tells you that future success relies on change as new organizations enter the market. For an industry to grow, expand and move forward, companies that have already achieved success should look for ways to give back to the industry that helped them flourish.
When leaders view their industry counterparts as collaborators, this attitude has a way of infiltrating the entire organization. Employees within a company can begin to take on a mentality where success and opportunities are unlimited, affecting everything from teamwork to innovation. Over time, employees feel even more confident about sharing ideas, making mistakes and taking chances.
Not investing in your counterparts only squelches the potential of innovation in your industry. Besides, industry dedication can inspire others in your company to do the same — creating a work environment of collaboration, self-development and creative thought. It’s like reinvesting in your business.
Take Doug Conant. The former CEO of Campbell Soup did many things to improve the business, but one of his most significant moves was weaving “abundance” into its DNA. While this abundance took the form of corporate social responsibility by focusing on sustainability in the agricultural supply chain, the notion that people want to work for aspirational organizations is universal.
Giving back to the business community provides a similar effect. People become more engaged, creating a better workplace and positioning their businesses to succeed in the marketplace. Even in the more competitive “niches” of the insurance industry, there is room for more than a handful of players.
Investing in the Community Is an Investment in Yourself
Engaging with industry colleagues builds connections that create more promising opportunities for success for everyone involved. This is certainly true in insurance and financial services.
“The rising tide of a strong marketplace with continuing growth lifts all boats,” said Scott Berlin, senior vice president at New York Life and a member of the board at PIMA, a trade association that brings companies throughout the insurance and financial services ecosystem together to learn from each other and improve the industry.
Instead of competing for a larger share of the same pie, Berlin said companies are better off working together to grow the size of that pie. These partnerships also provide insights into shared industry challenges, offering an opportunity to develop new approaches. These actions don’t just ensure a healthier marketplace — they also deliver new perspectives to all participants.
“Working together within one’s business community provides the opportunity to grow personally as a leader,” Berlin said. “Sometimes, the best lessons are learned when not doing your day job.”
Aside from obtaining growth or insights, sharing expertise can differentiate an individual as an industry thought leader while also inspiring others — cementing your reputation as a leader. This does more than give you added clout. It provides an opportunity to enact real change, helping your industry raise awareness and better serve consumers.
All it takes is for you to raise your hand and share the wins, challenges and insights you’ve gained through years of experience. This level of collaboration can help the entire industry grow.
“In the insurance industry, we have an opportunity to better position ourselves with consumers,” Berlin explains. “We sell valuable products and services, yet we’re hindered by a general lack of awareness. Working together, we can better educate consumers on potential solutions to their needs and highlight the benefits and guarantees we provide.”
One way to start is with “co-opetition.” Partnering with a competitor ends up benefiting both parties and providing stronger value to consumers. For example, Australian-based financial services company Suncorp often partners with innovative, tech-focused startups to offer on-demand services to its customers.
One easy way to practice coopetition is through peer groups. PIMA members, for instance, can join peer advisory forums, interest groups and a private online community. We’ve also formed an agency CEO forum that enables CEOs to meet with competitors throughout the year, to learn from one another and share insights on ways to improve the industry. It can be difficult to start conversations with people we perceive as competitors, but peer groups make it simple. And don’t be afraid to include new entrants or people outside the industry in your peer groups — inspiration can come from anywhere.
New York Life, for example, has its own venture capital arm that has tapped into startups that address the challenges experienced by many life insurance companies. The startups receive the invaluable backing of an established organization, and New York Life gains important insight into the future of life insurance.
To elevate the industry as a whole, be open to collaborating with industry peers while creating opportunities for mutually beneficial connections. You have the power, the capacity and the resources to support collective industry success.
Are you interested in sharing your perspectives with industry peers? Learn more about the PIMA community at www.pimainsights.org.