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Three Lessons (So Far)

April 7, 2020

Chief Executive Magazine

For Ross Buchmueller, CEO of PURE Insurance, the timing of coronavirus was particularly tough. We asked him for his take on rising to the challenge—and what he’s learned so far.

FOR MORE THAN A DECADE, my partners and I have been rapidly building our business, growing the top-line by greater than 20% each year since our start in 2006. In February, we closed on a deal to become a member company of a prestigious global insurer. With such a great partner backing us, we were keen to accelerate our growth plans and realize our full potential. Needless to say, this is not how we envisioned our post-closing game plan.

We’ve had to re-calibrate our plans and put the health and safety of our employees and membership in the forefront of our first quarter plans. We are still very early in this difficult journey, but here are a few observations and suggestions that have been helpful for me:

Over-Communicate. We have always felt that good communication has been a key to our strong culture and employee engagement. We have had to radically enhance our communications to ease anxiety and ensure employees remain feeling safe and connected. Our Chief Human Resources Officer now issues a morning welcome e-mail every day filled with practical tips for working from home and other insights to strengthen personal and professional connections. I have moved my monthly town halls to weekly, which has also forced me to delve into different issues to help the team understand more elements of our strategy. We even started a webinar series for our trading partners and it has become a highly popular daily 15 minute exploration of issues. We will be a better communications company when the crisis clears.

Overcoming Proximity Bias. We have 10 offices around the country; and in the office where I sit, there are typically a few hundred people, representing virtually all functions of our business. If I ever had wanted to understand any issue in any department, I could walk down the hall or down the stairs and get input from people I trusted. As we are all now working remotely, there is no convenience advantage to a video call with someone from New York as compared with a colleague from

Atlanta, Chicago or California. I’m getting more balanced input from a wider variety of perspectives from across the country. In addition to deepening relationships with those who I typically didn’t see every day, I feel that I am getting a better balance of advice and insight. If you feel that you rely on the thoughts of those who are near you, this new environment may present an opportunity to broaden your feedback loop.

Cleaning Out Our Garage. Every area of our company has a list of projects that they would like to tackle, only if the pace of their daily responsibilities would slow down. Well, for some, the pace has certainly slowed. They are actively creating the training program they always wanted to install. Or, they are getting ahead of a technology project, especially those that allow for even greater digital service when our face-to-face services are restricted. They are designing an improved workflow for the kind of necessary, but lower impact, work that never gets to the top of their priority list. We all have things that we wanted to get done, and today may be the best day to tackle those projects. When the time comes to be full speed ahead on all commercial activities, we will be ready to go. In the meanwhile, I feel that PURE is a better company than we were a month ago.