The Business of People

Glen Nelson of The Mahoney Group discusses … ▶ Human capital ▶ the entrepreneurial sales team ▶ intergenerational growth ▶ going strong for 100 years and counting

THERE'S GREAT RETURN when using your employees as a primary strategic principle, according to The Mahoney Group's Glen Nelson. "Our philosophy remains committed to creating a culture that allows our employees to create wealth," he says.

At the brink of it’s centennial, The Mahoney Group has transitioned itself into a major insurance competitor in the western United States with offices across six states in 13 cities. Privately held with roots that began in rural Arizona, the seasoned insurance company attributes its longevity, growth, and profitability to one key strategy: human capital. Putting the human aspect first is what the company bases its continued success on, reversing the contemporary business model of capital first, and employees second. CEO and chairman Glen Nelson shares with Profile his insights on working for a nearly century-old company and cultivating its people-driven culture.

How would you describe human capital?
Human capital, simply put, is people. The Mahoney Group focuses on its employees as a primary strategic principle. Our philosophy remains committed to creating a culture that allows our employees to create wealth. We seek out the right individuals, nurture natural talent, and provide appropriate resources. Then our people go out and execute their mission to create financial success. We focus on our employees, and they focus on our clients.

How does the sales team’s entrepreneurial spirit contribute to success?
The answer to this has many facets, but ultimately coincides with the strategic principle of human capital. We are an employee business that happens to sell insurance. By that, I mean that our employees must have an innate sense of salesmanship. We do not have motivational sales meetings and team-building exercises as part of our strategy. Instead, we focus on individual mentoring, meaningful guidance, and a viral sales environment. Our people are expected to manage themselves and to create their own business plans within an environment of freedom and accountability. These are key tenets of our successful sales company.

Can you explain the intergenerational nature of your company?
Our intergenerational model may seem old school, but it has been tried and tested, and remains a cornerstone of our success. As we are a privately owned ESOP company, each employee is an owner. When our seasoned people retire, they sell their share of the company to the next generation of dedicated professionals who are invested and committed to The Mahoney Group. One generation hires and trains the next who in turn buyout the previous generation. It is a passing down, so to speak, to the next generation of performers. Every person on board with our company has an investment and an interest in seeing growth and prosperity. To have a century-old company, you have to perpetuate from within on a self-sustaining basis. We accomplish this without any operational debt; thus allowing our intergenerational model to move forward on a constant basis.
Our friends at Central Mutual Insurance Company have a family-owned business that has been passed on intergenerationally for over 150 years. They represent a standard of stability and quality in the industry. Our organizations work well together because of our long-term philosophical approach.

How has your company maintained its significant organic growth?
Simply answered, it is because we foster self motivation and performance. Every producer is an individual who is in charge of their own business plan. We adhere to a strict set of standards of excellence, and provide the resources, support and mentoring for each individual to excel through self-governance. Our organization’s fluidity and flexibility come from the individual creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of our people. It is their responsibility to understand the unique needs of our clients and to provide that service or product. For example, if a client chooses a paperless relationship, that is how we do it. If another client still chooses to meet in a coffee shop and do business with a handshake, we do it. This is how we have been able to adapt and stay ahead of a changing business environment over the years.

Does the company need diversification?
Years ago as a rural agency we were involved in many types of businesses including insurance, real estate, banking, and communications. Now, we specialize only in insurance. Within the insurance industry we are tremendously diverse, taking advantage of the unique skills, methods and relationships held by our people. This gives us a great foundation that is tall and broad. We now own insurance company assets, insurance agency operations, as well as claims and loss control facilities. Our objective is to provide the best services and products within the insurance industry. Our business is people and insurance, and that is what we do. Our mission is to do just that for another 100 years.