In March, the claims software company Valley Oak Systems was sold to Aon, ending a 13-year chapter for its CEO Randy Wheeler, who started Valley Oak in 1994.
Asked about the most important lesson of the past 13 years, Wheeler says it boils down to listening to clients.
"In going after carriers my advice is to truly listen to what people are telling you and consult with them to understand what their needs are. Understand the carriers' structure and the challenges they present, and the hot buttons that carriers have."
The advice sounds like something straight out of a sales manual. Yet it's amazing how often the advice is ignored, he says.
Too often, he says, technology companies surrounding the insurance industry are more interested in selling the latest version of a software application than making sure the original application meets the needs of potential clients.
Carriers come in all shapes and sizes, and their managerial structures differ even though the carriers all have the same goal: to make whole companies that have suffered a loss. They all have "vastly different DNA," he says.
Publicly held stock companies, mutual insurance companies, self-insured companies and companies that spread risks through a pooling mechanism are all very different, he says. Each requires a different approach.
"You'll get twisted into a pretzel if you go in thinking they are all the same," he says. The only way to solve the issue is to spend hours and hours talking to the carriers themselves, and make sure you listen. "Understand that they come in different shapes."
Wheeler also says that for technology companies like Valley Oak, hiring the right people is of paramount concern.
"The one key thing with technology companies is hire great people and put focus on that," says Wheeler. "I still interview everybody that joins the company. It's the questions that I ask folks. Hiring good people should be the only challenge."
Valley Oak's employees, Wheeler included, are expected to remain with the company, an independent subsidiary of Aon.
October 15, 2007
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