First came Charley. Then Frances. After that, it was Ivan, Jeanne, Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma.
In the span of 13 months between August 2004 and September 2005, eight major hurricanes ravaged Florida and the U.S. Gulf Coast. And right in the midst of all of it were Don Cronin and his staff at United Property & Casualty Insurance Co.
“We had never dealt with a hurricane,” says Cronin, president and CEO of the St. Petersburg-based company, which generated $155 million in gross written premiums in 2009 and more than $88 million in revenue. “The company was founded in 1999, and the first hurricane we dealt with was in August 2004. The departments all had to come together. It wasn’t just on the claims side. It was finance, marketing, underwriting, all the different areas basically reaching out to help each other. Whether it was answering the phone, stuffing envelopes, delivering checks to people who had lost their properties, they did it all, and without any complaints. And we just went from one storm to the next. It was seven days a week.”
As the Atlantic and Caribbean delivered blow after blow, leaving untold dollars in ruined property and untold numbers of ruined lives behind, Cronin saw a ray of hope in how his own company bonded together, embracing a culture of teamwork in an effort to serve affected customers and communities.
“Insurance is a piece of paper with a lot of promises on it,” he says. “There aren’t a lot of opportunities to fulfill those promises. But eight times when we needed to, we filled those promises in a very short period.”
Through the challenging times, Cronin says he learned a lot about how a company can band together to serve a greater cause than the bottom line. And it reinforced to him the importance of creating and sustaining a culture of teamwork and collaboration.
It’s a culture rooted in communication from the top of the company, communication between departments and locations, and a willingness from all parties to listen as much as they talk.