Our clients are vital to us. They are our partners in risk management and organizational change. We sat down for an interview with Gabe Meiss, the key account manager here at Ledgestone. You could call him the point person for our clients whenever they have a question or need guidance on their risk management journey. Our discussion with Gabe started with his journey to Ledgestone and his role and walks through what a key account manager does, how growth has changed his work, and we even get into some of the most common mistakes that companies make when it comes to risk management. Some of these oversights could end up costing a company big bucks! This conversation was very informative, and we hope you get as much out of it as we did.
How did you end up at Ledgestone and the role of key account manager?
G: Throughout college I was roommates and close friends with Austin Endress (Our CEO). During his transition from corporate work into insurance with Ledgestone, he asked me if I had any interest in joining him. And while I did, I knew I didn’t want to be in a sales role and so initially I came onboard with more of a service/backend role in mind. That was 2016, and at that time I was doing mostly customer service on policies in home and auto, personal lines, some smaller commercial accounts—basically anything we had. I was the service manager for a while, but I didn’t enjoy that as much as working with our accounts, getting to know the company and our contacts there, and the ins and outs of their business. So, after a lot of learning the insurance industry and building up my experience I transitioned into my current role as key account manager.
Key account manager, what does that mean? What does a day in your world look like?
G: So overall, being a key account manager means that I am serving our existing clients and keeping them happy. Now that involves a lot of different things day to day. Sometimes it is creating certificates of insurance, other times I am helping them by answering any questions they may have about their policy, getting endorsements done, talking them through ways that we can cover their risk, working through their renewals with them. The list goes on and on but basically, I am working to develop a relationship with the client, managing their policy and assisting them in any way I have the capability to.
Got it! Could you boil down your primary mission as a key account manager? The big picture if you will.
G: My main goal is to make sure that what the producers promise to our clients, we are delivering on. Knowledge, responsiveness, top notch and streamlined service. I try to make sure that none of those things slip through the cracks. Our promise is that Ledgestone is the best and it's my goal to make sure that is the experience our clients have.
You have been in the role for a few years now. As Ledgestone has grown and evolved, do you feel like your role has as well?
G: It definitely has. The role developed a lot in the initial years as we were figuring things out, but it is still changing now. Recently, I would say the change I am noticing is the type of clients I am working with and the capabilities I have to help serve them. My role has come to the foreground a lot more, and I get to be the point person for a lot of accounts instead of being in the background making things run smoothly.
Can you expand a bit more on what you mean by the capabilities you have to help them?
Yes, absolutely. As an organization we have been developing several different divisions if you will to benefit our clients. Two areas that really stand out are safety, and risk management knowledge. Having an in-house safety team in ExergyPro and just having additional knowledge and experience in risk management allows me to provide better results for our clients. We make sure there are no holes in their coverages and help them avoid exposures they may have not been aware of.
Let’s talk about that a bit more. Ledgestone has grown a lot in the last couple years, and we have started to focus on solving the underlying problems business owners are facing instead of just selling them coverages while saving “15% or more”. Has that changed the conversations you have with your contacts?
G: Yes and no. Don’t get me wrong—the way that we approach our clients has changed. Whether it's the Exergy Pro team changing their safety culture or Kevin Dill consulting on Leadership and Organizational Health there really is so much more going on than insurance. That being said, within my role I still am kind of the point person for the insurance questions.
We started with insurance, and I make sure that our expertise in that area is benefiting our clients to the best of our ability as well. Safety, in particular, interacts with my role a lot as we work through things like workers comp or helping with what happens when an employee unfortunately does get injured but overall, my primary focus is the insurance needs of our clients and making sure that it is up to our standard and mitigating their risk in the most effective way possible. I refer them to the experts we have on those other topics for the most part.
Ok, that makes sense! With all these other programs we have been developing have you noticed any of the clients you work with start to ask questions about other business problems they have beyond insurance?
G: It depends on the client. I think a lot of times the producers are the ones who field those questions from clients. However, on a handful of occasions I have had clients on accounts where I am the point person asking questions that start to go beyond insurance, like how they should approach handling a problematic employee and considering their options. It’s exciting to see that start to happen more and I’m sure it will continue as our focus on those areas grows.
Very cool. Let’s get back to your bread and butter for a minute: the insurance side of things. What are some of the most common mistakes or holes in risk mitigation that you see?
G: There are several. I would go back to the workers comp topic for starters. Many companies do not have a specific program or policy in place for when an injury does happen. We work with a lot of contractors, and many don’t have the necessary protocols in place to avoid ambiguity when that risk is realized.
A second one we run into a lot is an inadequate response to the rising cyber threats that small businesses are facing. They don’t have the controls to prevent breaches, and often don’t have a policy in place if a data breach is exposed.
A third common issue is that businesses simply underreport their assets. Knowing exactly what is going on with a company’s fleet, inventory and other assets is a foundational piece of information for our coverages and in order to properly mitigate and address risk we must have an accurate picture of those things.
Yea I was reading a report recently that stated 75% of medium businesses are underinsured for their risk. Maybe that means not having all their assets reported or missing certain risks entirely, but does that line up with your experience?
G: It is hard to put a number on it, and maybe it is 75%, but many businesses are underinsured. One other area I just thought of is their employment practices liability. We have run into quite a few clients who hadn’t thought about the exposure that arises simply from employing people, and what could happen if an employee harasses someone or introduces liability through their actions. Even if they are just accused you could be facing court fees and lawsuits that could cost you.
What kind of repercussions are we talking about here?
G: It depends, but I believe that the average employee lawsuit is between $100,000 and $200,000. Not sure on the exact number there. Even if you don’t settle a lawsuit or simply defend yourself from untrue allegations, you will still have court fees and the cost of defending yourself that policies could cover for you if they were in place.
Oof! Yea that could be a traumatic cost for a lot of businesses. What I am hearing here is that while a lot of companies know they need insurance it often comes down to not just having insurance, but having the right insurance?
G: 100%. A lot of times the conversations we have with our clients revolve around risks that maybe they haven’t considered and consequently don’t really have a policy in place for. Our job is to bring the risks and exposures to their attention so that they can at least make an educated decision about what they want to cover or what risks they want to live with.
Yea, I think that transparency is important. That provides a great segue for me to branch to the relationship part of your job. We love to say around here that Ledgestone puts people first. How do you live within that identity as a key account manager?
G: It impacts me every day both with the people internally in our organization as well as the individuals I work with externally. Internally I need to have a lot of trust and good communication with the producers and the service team to get the information that we need and drive results for our clients. Being able to ask for help and trust people to come through for you is crucial and an awesome thing to be a part of. Those relationships and the people I am surrounded by make it easier to be productive and are really what gets me excited to come to work.
Externally, relationships drive everything we do with our clients. From emails to phone calls, it is about hearing their needs and communicating effectively to develop that trust. Those trust and relationships really drive everything we do.
Agreed. Without trust we really can't help each other or our clients. We sometimes talk about defining ourselves in terms of who we are, what we do, and why we do it. What would your answer be?
G: Well, I am a key account manager, and I am responsible for making sure our clients feel valued and that their risk management programs are exceptional. I do it because businesses are currently lacking valuable services that I feel we are uniquely qualified to provide, and we want to be a partner in driving their organization’s success.
Well, I think that sums it up nicely. Appreciate you taking the time to sit down with me!
G: No problem!