S4 EP29: Leveraging your network to create everything from nothing – with Lauri Putt Needleman, SVP People & Talent, Pie Insurance

“In that early stage, you really have to leverage your network and those around you who have done it before. Because they’re only advisors, they can only go so far. It’s kind of wild in that first year of having nothing and creating everything. You have to trust your instincts”, says Lauri.

She shares her journey from growing up in a family of entrepreneurs through to joining Pie Insurance at its launch. Lauri gives insight in to her discussions with Co-Founder John Swigart and the vision for building the team in those early days.

“The idea of making something much more accessible affordable and easier to understand for small business owners was a mission that I could rally around. But I shared with John, ‘Why don’t you call me in six months to a year?’

He said no for two reasons. He said he wanted to surround himself with a team that he trusted. The second reason was he and Dax (Co-Founders) were committed to getting the culture and the hiring right from the outset and they were willing to make the investment to do so.”

Year one was spent establishing the core HR functions of the insurance business and recruiting from their networks. With 2 employees on day 1 in 2017, the business now has over 400 pie-oneers and has expanded from Workers’ Comp to offer Commercial Auto Insurance, General Liability and Business Owners Insurance.

“We wanted to make sure the individuals we were bringing in, understood the business, understood what it was like to join an early stage start up because it’s not for everyone.”

Lauri highlights how being a remote-first business impacts culture.

“It’s definitely a dichotomy a lot of companies face. On the one hand, being purely remote gives you access to much of the talent across the US. But it also has the challenge of building a culture.”

“You have to have a fantastic on-boarding program. How you set up your new team members for success on day one, those first six months is everything. But it’s important to have some live collaboration. We don’t believe it should be 100% remote all the time.”

Lauri discusses the investment in tech to facilitate communication as well as the complexities of supporting team members based across different States.

She gives her advice to candidates coming to interview and shares her thoughts on best practice for fellow people leaders across the insurance industry.

“You have to have a very thorough and tight talent process. You have to execute it similarly across the business. We do competency-based interviewing. We prep all of our interview panels before we interview and then we debrief together as a group. That ensures that everyone is on the same page going into and leaving the process.”

To drive their insurance careers forward, Lauri encourages people to be integrative thinkers.

“Something that’s helped me be successful in my career is being an integrative thinker. It’s not looking at a problem as ‘I’ve got path A or B’ as the solution. It’s considering all of the perspectives and all of the needs and ‘how do I solve for that that greater needs set’.

Lauri shares the importance of working with an Executive Search firm that understands the business culture and calibrates with their recruitment needs.

She concludes by sharing the value of mentoring and leveraging your insurance network.

“I don’t have all the answers and I’m not supposed to. I have points of view and perspectives but I hold them loosely. I try to take in other perspectives that will refine my views on things. If your early in your career, don’t ever give up on your network and cultivating it.

Connect with Lauri Putt Needleman on LinkedIn or find out more about Pie Insurance

The Insurance Coffee House Podcast is hosted by Nick Hoadley, CEO of Insurance Search.

Insurance Search is a global Executive Search Consultancy, supporting Insurance and Insurtech businesses with Critical Hires, Executive Search and Market Intelligence Services.

To discuss identifying & attracting the very best insurance talent to your team or being a guest on the Insurance Coffee House Podcast, reach out to Nick via nick.hoadley@insurance-search.com

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