More than 350 business owners and decision makers attended the annual “Milestones In Leadership Summit” in Southern California earlier this month.
The event, created by Ronald J. Hoefer, owner and CEO of Milestone Risk Management & Insurance Services in Orange County, Calif., was started in 2002 with the goal of integrating the conference with the Milestone’s brand to facilitate the firm’s efforts in lead generation, lead conversation and client retention.
Since the first conference, the event has grown into quite a production, which is something that pleases Hoefer, who studied theater through high school and college.
“I’m a marketing and theatrical guy stuck in insurance,” Hoefer quipped.
The daylong event at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa cost an estimated “quarter-million-dollars” to put on, which Hoefer acknowledged is a hefty output for a small agency.
The event featured motivational speaker Cameron Herold, who is best known as a driving force behind 1-800-GOT-JUNK?’s growth into a $100-plus revenue operation. Herold focused on ways to build vision and brand.
“He really was throwing out some disruptor kind of questions, and ideas and challenges,” Hoefer said.
Among the traditional workplace practices Herold challenged one in which companies throw a lunch for employees when they leave, but most don’t celebrate new hires on their first day. Switching the practice around would show employees their worth to the company from day No. 1 – and it helps attach them to the company for which they work, according to Herold’s reasoning.
The conference isn’t structured like traditional conferences. There are no breakout sessions or workshops. There is one main speaker, like Herold, who typically goes on twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon, with breaks in between for attendees.
“It really is experiential,” Hoefer said.
Topics of the day covered included:
- How great leaders have a sense of who they really are;
- How leaders “paint the picture” to earn trust;
- The Importance of always creating operational alignment while still having fun;
- The leader’s role in continuous improvement through innovation.
While the subjects vary from year-to-year, building better and more motivated leaders is one of the underlying themes of the conference each year, Hoefer said.
“I created this because I thought leadership was lacking the world,” he said.
The conference serves middle-market, entrepreneurial-driven businesses, many of which are Milestone clients or potential clients.
“All of our attendees are entrepreneurial companies that have everything at risk,” Hoefer said.
Most of Milestone’s business is word of mouth, and the conference helps the firm build relationships and get Milestone clients to recommend the firm, according to Hoefer, who considers the conference a part of the firm’s brand.
“What I wanted to create was an amazing brand,” he said. “Our brand stands for education and enlightenment.”
He added: “All of our business is by referral.”
For example, Hoefer has a client he first wrote business for when he was 22, and he still writes business for that client at age 62.
“I now write insurance for the son, who owns the business,” he said.
Milestone writes property/casualty, benefits and personal lines. Hoefer doesn’t believe in employing brokers, but has a small force of consultative account executives, safety and claims professionals, human resources professionals and others ingrained the philosophy of the business, like President Steve Stonehouse.
“Our business model is really simple,” he said. “We don’t write a lot of accounts, we write big accounts and we keep them forever.”
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