Paul Hawkins and HawkSoft customer Brent Thurman speak with Scott Howell and The Insurance Guys at the 2023 HUG National Conference in Austin, TX
At the recent HawkSoft User Group National Conference in Austin, we were inspired by keynote speaker Eric Termuende’s recommendation for every business or brand to plant their flag by finding their “cilantro component,” or the dividing factors that will help you find the people who love what you stand for, while weeding out those who aren’t a good fit for your product or culture.
We’d like to share a few things we consider HawkSoft’s “cilantro components,” which HawkSoft leadership had a chance to discuss recently on an episode of the Insurance Guys podcast with hosts and independent insurance agents Scott Howell and Bradley Flowers.
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Those who know HawkSoft know we are proud to be an independent, privately owned company. When asked about it on the podcast, Paul Hawkins (co-founder and CEO) said, “We’re proud to be a family-owned business in an industry that’s family-centric and protects American families and businesses.”
Bradley noted what a different approach this is in the insurance industry: “A tech company that’s privately owned these days is hard to come by. When you deal with HawkSoft you come away feeling different. I think they have the best interest of the independent agency in mind.” Scott agreed, adding, “Paul Hawkins is one of the most respected people I know of in the insurance industry. I think there’s a tremendous amount of respect for him in that he’s kept his company a privately owned company.”
“A tech company that’s privately owned these days is hard to come by. When you deal with HawkSoft you come away feeling different. I think they have the best interest of the independent agency in mind.”
Bradley observed that many tech companies these days are formed with an exit plan already in mind, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but does impact the goals and business decisions of the company. “Some people are playing to win the game in a finite amount of time,” he said, “and some people are playing to play the game forever. That choice will affect your customer experience and end product over time.”
Rushang Shah, VP of Marketing at HawkSoft, agreed with his assessment. “Having worked for companies on both sides of the coin,” he said, “I can tell you there’s no right or wrong answer there, but the decisions you make because of your long-term goals will dramatically impact the way you operate. We’ve asked ourselves over the last 10 years whether we want to have an exit plan and be able to hit the gas on product development, or stay independent and choose slow growth. In the end we chose to give up that hockey stick growth so we could stay true to ourselves and where we wanted HawkSoft to go.”
Bradley also warned that agencies should keep a company’s long-term vision and goals in mind when choosing a technology provider. “You have to know who you’re dealing with,” Bradley said. “I saw a company get acquired recently and a lot of the customers who were upset about it went to a competitor, not realizing they had the exact same exit plan.” In the end, it’s up to the agency to decide which type of business plan best fits their agency; some may be looking for rapid growth and development in their technology partners, while others prefer a more stable, measured approach.
Another area where HawkSoft strives to set itself apart is in its culture and service to customers. “There’s nobody that comes close to HawkSoft’s customer experience,” Scott said. “Best customer service in the industry as far as any insurance tech that I know of, in my opinion.” He added that “when I was choosing a system, what I liked about HawkSoft was the family-oriented culture.”
Paul was happy to hear this, pointing out, “our number one goal is to make our agencies successful. With other companies, you often have a hard time even talking to anyone. We want to talk to our customers. We doubled down on customer service before we even started a marketing team, because they did the marketing for us.”
He added that HawkSoft refers to their customers and vendors as the “HawkSoft family” to keep forefront in their mind that they should treat everyone they interact with as family. Rushang agreed that HawkSoft User Group events are often referred to as feeling like family reunions, by employees and customers alike. “The sheer amount of love we feel from friends and ideas we get from customers at those events carries us through the next 12 months,” he said. “It shapes our product roadmap. We know the secret is listening to what people have to say. They have a seat at our table.”
“We know the secret is listening to what people have to say. They have a seat at our table.”
Bradley agreed that it’s important for users to pay attention to how a company deals with and incorporates user feedback, and to find those that strike a balance between listening to users and retaining their own vision. “You don’t want to partner with a company that doesn’t give a crap about user feedback,” he said, “but you also don’t want a company that takes every single piece of feedback, because you can end up with a franken-system that changes every day.”
Paul also mentioned that employees are the key to having satisfied customers, mentioning principles from Leaders Eat Last, a Simon Sinek book that HawkSoft managers have been reading recently. “My goal is to make my customers and employees successful and help them be all they can be,” he said. “If I have happy employees, I have happy customers.”
An integrated technology stack
Lastly, HawkSoft plants its flag as a system that acts as a hub to connect all the tools an independent agency uses to manager their business. “The industry has evolved in that you need to be able to build products on top of your management system,” said Rushang. “We don’t want to be a walled garden. That’s why we have an API marketplace so you can build your tech stack on the cloud. We allow agencies to differentiate their systems.”
He then asked why Scott and Bradley are independent agents. “It’s because of choice,” he pointed out. “You aren’t locked into one modus operandi or one product to sell. You’re independent because you can offer the value of choice and personal relationships. HawkSoft wants to run our company the same way. We want to give your agency choice in how to run your business.”
HawkSoft’s VP of Sales, Paul Moyes, also touched on this topic on another episode of the podcast. “We made the conscious decision many years ago to be a really good management system,” he said, “and partner with others for everything else. You don’t want to be everything for everyone—it doesn’t work out. An all-in-one system sounds nice, but then you don’t have the focus to make each part the best it can be.”
"You’re independent because you can offer the value of choice and personal relationships. HawkSoft wants to run our company the same way. We want to give your agency choice in how to run your business."
Scott noted that “our agency has been at the tip of the spear with HawkSoft, trying out new integrations. Now we have really smart 2-way integrations with AgencyZoom, Neon, and DONNA. I want to applaud you for that. This makes HawkSoft seem like it’s so much more than just a management system.”
Bradley brought up the point that integrations have to be managed carefully by the agency, not simply added for the sake of technology. “Multiple entry could be the death of the independent agent,” he warned. “I see agents add tools because they’re shiny objects, but you’re playing technology whack-a-mole where you’re solving one problem but creating another. You need to think about how it works with the other technology in your ecosystem.”
Paul Moyes added that this is one reason why a completely “open API” approach (where a management system allows integration with all other systems) can end up hurting agencies. “We want HawkSoft to act as the hub,” he said, “and then we partner with others in the industry, and vet them to make sure they actually add value.”
Planting our flag
Here at HawkSoft, we’ve planted our flag around things that are important to us, from private ownership to incredible service and culture to a product that can be customized and integrated however an agency sees fit. We know our product might not be for everyone, but these factors help others understand what matters to us and decide if their values align with ours.
Thanks to the Insurance Guys for having an insightful discussion with us, and don’t forget to listen to the episode to catch the full conversation!
Listen to HawkSoft leadership on The Insurance Guys podcast
Listen to the full podcast episode of HawkSoft's Paul Hawkins and Rushang Shah on The Insurance Guys podcast with Bradley Flowers and Scott Howell.