Being responsible for managing Westcourt General’s entire Western Australian Authorised Representative segment, Kasey Cuff has come a long way since her introduction to the industry 12 years ago.
Although Cuff’s profile speaks wonders of her professional ability, it can be hard finding guidance when you’re the one at the top. The NIBA Mentoring Program coupled Cuff with former JLT Asia Pacific CEO and current Lockton Companies Executive Manager Warren Merritt.
With management being the hot topic on Cuff’s agenda and the crux of Merritt’s forte, this particular pairing fitted the groove nicely.
I was introduced to the world of insurance through a family friend who was looking for a junior to train up. That was just over 12 years ago. This friend was actually an authorised representative for Westcourt and she taught me all the ropes.
I worked with her for six years and then moved on toanother broking account executive job. Jeff Hollands at Westcourt approached me to see if I was interested in the state manager role, which is where I am now.
I saw the program as a great opportunity to have access to wisdom in the industry. I liked the idea that I could ask my mentor questions relating solely to the industry, as well as being able to confidentially ask for ideas, evaluation and feedback to help develop the skills that I would need to further my career.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I was going into the program, although I had read the feedback from previous participants, which was all very positive. I was really eager to discover what the program could offer that was outside of my usual role.
My target was to develop success within my business practices. I wanted to learn about business plans and how they help, because every business is very different. My role, at the moment, is one of leadership.
I wanted to know about the different areas that I could develop to help in my leadership role and get feedback from Warren about areas that I needed to improve.
Warren and I tried to meet up weekly, but due to the very hectic schedules between the both of us, there were also a couple of weekend meetings. The majority of our meetings were face-to-face.
Our initial discussion focused on what I wanted to get out of the program. We then identified three main learning targets. Obviously, there were a lot of different areas I wanted to work on, but we worked those down to the main three and that’s what we concentrated on.
Each week we discussed different topics. We would start off with things that had happened since we last met, things at work or things that I thought of that I wanted his opinion on,
ideas on how he would have handled some of the issues that I’d been dealing with since our last meeting. Warren offered feedback on these different issues. We’d relate them to my learning targets, thinking about how I could incorporate his ideas, opinions and feedback into my day-to-day work.
Two of my main goals were leadership development and the role of a business plan. I help other business owners to understand what’s involved in a business plan and how to actually implement different procedures to work toward that business plan.
One of the things we discussed were the components of a successful business plan and how to implement them to achieve a company goal. Part of my role is working with our authorised brokers, to assist them in growing their businesses.
I was able to use the techniques that Warren showed me to implement in my day-to-day work, continuing toward my personal goals as well as our company’s vision.
It was a great experience. I learnt a lot of very important information that will help me grow personally and also professionally. It was also really eye-opening for me and I now know what my strengths and weaknesses are.
The mentors, not just Warren, but all of the mentors involved, have so much knowledge and we are honored that they give up their time to pass this information on to younger people. I would strongly recommend the program to any young person.
I highly respect Warren and I really enjoyed the time that I spent with him. He’s a very knowledgeable perso with a very distinguished career in our industry.
I’m grateful to leaders like Warren who guide younger professionals to become the future leaders of our industry. Without them, we don’t have the direction.
I recall seeing something from NIBA, seeking people who would be interested in mentoring. I responded saying I would be happy to get involved and it basically went from there. It’s great to give something back and be involved for the benefit of the oncoming generation.
I’ve been responsible for working with younger colleagues, assisting them with their career and their learning before, and recently I’ve been looking to do things outside the work environment for community.
The only question that I had going into the program was about the willingness of the mentee and how disciplined they would be. Kasey was extremely good. She is working very hard and is passionately involved in her business.
We set the ground rules; we were in it for a learning experience and a giving process, and we both decided to commit to it and try to get as much out of it as possible.We stayed very much within the program’s recommended framework and set up objectives from the beginning.
I asked what Kasey wanted out of it and what it was that she was looking for input on. We came down to three key areas for helping Kasey develop her business acumen and develop her role within Westside.
We’d meet at the same time every week, 7:30am on Monday morning or thereabouts. If we had travel commitments, we’d shift it to a Saturday. We dedicated an hour to every session.
We ran the meetings in two parts. Firstly, we would go back through the objectives, discussing the current situation.
Then we would build a path between those two, discussing practical applications to use either in terms of managing people, setting strategy, or looking at operating models that could give better outcomes than what she was experiencing. It was really about objectives and solutions.
Once we understood the objectives, we then looked at how it could be reached.
After our meetings, I would drop her a note outlining all the things we talked about. I identified a number of books that she might want to read to gain a better knowledge of the issue. I’d take the notes from our meeting and we’d follow up on them when we next caught up. We’d revisit the notes and then build up again as to what it was that we wanted to achieve.
I wanted to help her work within a strategic framework, as strategy was key to a lot of the things she wanted to achieve. I wanted to help her write a strategic plan, which would then lead to the implementation of a number of changes with her business.
The dichotomy was that her model was very different to a broker employer model. The things that she was facing in terms of the management of people were very different. Under Kasey’s model, the AR is really setting the direction of business growth.
She was looking at the best way to harness that energy and bring it back for the benefit of Westside.
The learning was twofold. I was getting a better understanding of the AR model, because I’ve never used an AR model before. Identifying problems, setting strategy, implementing plans – it was just business as usual, except with the added opportunity to share that with someone like Kasey who was very keen to grab it.
I brought the mentor program structure back to Lockton and said, ‘we should be adopting the same framework as NIBA’. It is really great for our younger people.