Martin J. Welch is the CEO of Hawaii Employers’ Mutual Insurance Company (HEMIC). Marty is a thought leader, influencer, visionary, and successful executive. Marty provides the leadership and energy that has inspired today’s HEMIC. Martin J. Welch joins other leading CEOs and Founders taking part in our Leader Roundtable Interview Series. The DotCom Magazine editorial team has recently awarded HEMIC with our Impact Company of 2019 award. We are delighted to have Marty join us for our Leader Roundtable Interview and our popular “speed round” as well.
Marty, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day for this interview about your company, leadership, and entrepreneurship.
1. What is the “elevator pitch” for HEMIC?
HEMIC is the largest writer of workers’ compensation insurance in the State of Hawaii, serving nearly 7000 businesses and over 75,000 employees, and has positioned itself strategically to further expand and diversify its operations to meet a broader range of employer needs.
2. What is the key to your company’s success?
First of all, we are a purpose driven company, committed to specific core values that guide our actions every day, serving Hawaii’s business owners and their employees for the betterment of our economy and community. Secondly, we are a mutual insurance company which enables us to focus primarily on the needs of our policyholders, who are both our customers and our owners. Lastly, we know that past success cannot guarantee our future. We must continually innovate, reinvent and meet the rapidly changing demands of our marketplace. Business success is a race with no finish line.
3. Many of our readers are just starting to build a company. What advice can you give entrepreneurs just starting out with a new venture?
Put in the time to validate your idea or business model against the real needs of your intended market. Just because you have come up with a great new idea doesn’t mean that there is a viable market for it. For example, there are a number of new and innovative InsureTech ideas and businesses entering the insurance market space, but many of them are merely solutions in search of a problem. Start with a clearly identifiable customer and his/her unmet needs.
4. For other entrepreneurs seeking to build a business as successful as yours, what advice can you give them when times get a little challenging?
Stay focused on your overriding objectives – your big rocks, as I like to call them. You will have setbacks and slow-downs that you did not plan for. That is OK. But it is not OK to allow them to consume you and veer you off course. Deal with them decisively and get back to achieving your objectives. Tenacity wins.
5. How important is the commitment to client satisfaction at HEMIC, and how do you make sure your customers will become raving fans of your company?
Insurance is a commodity, if you do not differentiate yourself. We cannot maintain our market position if we do not make service delivery a top priority. At HEMIC, we talk less about selling policies and adjusting claims than we do about helping employers run safer, more productive businesses and helping their injured workers get back to work, and back to life. These are not just words to us. They are commitments.
6. In today’s fast-changing business environment, how do you stay abreast of things?
I think, as a business leader, I first had to recognize that I cannot possibly stay abreast of everything. In order for my organization to stay current, it is my primary responsibility to hire talented people – experts in their discipline – and empower them to stay abreast of what is relevant. Then, together, we identify trends and opportunities that our organization can capitalize on. This economic, market and environmental awareness must be part of our DNA or we will not keep up.
7. What is your “Why”? Why do you get up in the morning, and how do you keep yourself at peak performance to lead HEMIC?
I have always enjoyed building. It is the prospect of building a continuously improving organization that motivates me. Leading, coaching and inspiring are my organizational building tools.
8. Can you recommend a book that has had an influence in your career? How did it influence you?
Geoff Colvin wrote a book 10 or so years ago called “Talent is Overrated.” Colvin spoke to what truly separates world-class performers from everyone else. More so than any innate talent they may have within them, it is their unmatched work ethic, their ability to focus on problems and opportunities, and to work deliberately, and relentlessly to solve, or capitalize on, them. This has reminded me to face challenges rather than steer clear of them.
9. When communicating with your staff, can you tell us the most important thing you do so that they are able to carry out the objectives that you set forth at HEMIC?
I have one word that my staff hears pretty regularly – Intentional. Someone told me early in my career that good leaders are intentional — they intend for certain things to happen, and then they go about ensuring that they do. Setting objectives is easy. Achieving them takes intentional effort, commitment, passion.
10. Can you explain what leadership means to you?
My view of leadership is more about what leadership is not. It is not having all of the right answers and giving appropriate orders to carry out a plan. Leadership is about asking the right questions, and coaching and empowering talented people to achieve things they maybe never dreamed they could. Nothing is more satisfying to me than helping people succeed.
We would like to have some fun and do a “speed round” with you! We will ask you ten more questions that we want you to answer in just one to three words only.
Here you go!
1. In three words or less, what makes a successful CEO?
Vision, empathy, courage.
2. Describe your business in one word?
3. Describe your customers in one word?
Backbone (of our economy).
4. What one attribute do you look for when hiring an employee?
5. What is the one word you want your customers to say about your company?
6. In three words or less, describe your passion?
Coaching, mentoring, achieving.
7. In three words or less, describe what it takes to be successful?
Hard work, others.
8. In three words or less, describe your first year in business at HEMIC?
9. In three words or less, describe how running a successful company has changed you?
Determination, Satisfaction, Humility
10. What is the one word that you believe has the most power in the English language?
Kuleana (Sorry, that is not a word from the English language – it is Hawaiian. Kuleana means responsibility, but like many Hawaiian words, it has multiple meanings, including a right. Think about that. We teach our children that, along with rights, come responsibilities. In the Hawaiian culture, that is presumed. That is powerful).
Marty Welch, thank you so much for sitting down with us for our DotCom Magazine Leader Roundtable Interview Series. We very much appreciate the time you spent helping our readers learn more about what it takes to be a leader. We wish you, your family, and of course HEMIC, nothing but the best.