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Mary Phelps and Tracey Scharf Visit Markel
Prior to leaving on her 2003 Euro-Tour, Mary Phelps flew to Richmond, VA, together with her personal assistent Tracey Scharf for a two-day training seminar at the Markel Headquarters. Mary documented this trip and tells her story:
"Since announcing our move to Markel Insurance Corporation in April, we have hit the ground running, having one of the most successful months ever in equine insurance premiums, in our very first month working for the company. I have been to the Richmond Virginia Headquarters a few times, but Tracey Scharf, our office (and life) manager, joined me on our latest trip, where we spent 2 full days training and working with the management team responsible for our success.
This was a particularly special occasion for Tracey, as her 3 year old son was recently diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, throwing her life into a whirlwind of doctors, medications, and a frantic search for a day care who would take him. With Hayden in the capable hands of Tracey’s Mom, she had the chance to get away for a couple of days getting the first full nights’ sleep in her own comfortable hotel room provided by Markel."
Our immediate success has been a team effort, here at our home base in Florida, and with the support network at Markel Headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. In the past two months we have accomplished an amazing amount of work, and it has been fun doing so. That is because the “Markel Style” is about “hard work and a zealous pursuit of excellence while keeping a sense of humor. I have always been a pretty independent type, marching to my own drummer, shunning corporate commitments. However, accepting this position with Markel has given me a true sense of what a corporation done right, can achieve. There is a feeling of camaraderie, and family at Markel. One senses this atmosphere immediately when entering the building. Markel is the only equine insurance company which has been around for 40 years.
Getting Down to Business
We met the folks in charge of Horse Mortality, and Farm Owner and Liability, housed on the 4th floor of one of 4 buildings owned by Markel and its associate companies. The marketing department, headed up by Linda Crook-Lee, whose twin and younger sister as well as a cousin and her mother all have worked for the company a collective 50 years.
Reviewing Equine Mortality and Medical/Surgical Coverages
Kelly "Do it with a smile" at MarkelDawn Denzler-Trace is the Mortality Operations Manager, who oversees the Mortality Team consisting of 9 mortality underwriters. (Dawn has been with Markel for 18 years!) Monday morning we reviewed mortality coverages. Linda Crooks and Dawn were joined by Mary Ann Kean, Director of Mortality Underwriting. Also present was Kellie Chambers, our assigned liaison at Markel for managing our clients. Mary Ann Kean has been in love with horses her entire life. As Director of Mortality Underwriting she has been employed by Markel for 15 years. With her Virginia roots in the hunter jumper and foxhunting world, she is also has been a licensed steward for USAE for 10 years. In addition, her presence at many of the major APHA, NRHA and AQHA functions is in support of Markel's successful involvement as the official insurance company of each of these associations.
The latest technologies are constantly being addressed and updated, with the support to make it work. With the assistance of the team at Markel, we now provide easy access to all applications, as well as an informative insurance tour on HorsesDaily.com, which explains mortality coverage, and allows us to respond with a personal quote in a timely manner. We will soon be able to bind coverage on-line through HorsesDaily.com, and continue to be able to facilitate the application process for our clients by having all applications in a PDF file, easily attached to an e-mail. As we got to meet many of the fine people in this department, we were welcomed with friendly smiles. Office cubicles are spacious and comfortable, and an array of photos, of family, horses and friends decorates each space. With everyone we meet, there is instant recognition. Rudy Mitchell, who works with the Mortality Team inputting new business, recognized me right away, before we were even introduced. I asked how he knew me and he replied “I’ve been seeing your name all day long on paperwork, keep it coming!”
As an agent who is on the road and on the scene, covering over 30 events in both the United States as a photographer and journalist, the support we get at Markel is the strategy that makes the Markel Equine Insurance Specialist program work. With Tracey managing our home office in Florida, and our corporate team in Virgina, there is always a a real person behind every aspect of taking care of our clients.
Markel Equine Insurance Specialist Training
John Seger, Director of Agent Development, put together a “Grass Roots Strategy” over a year ago, selecting and nurturing a small but dedicated and involved group of Insurance Agents active in the sport horse community. As a former Vice President of American Bankers Insurance Group who moved on prior to the company’s withdrawal from the equine mortality marketplace, Seger understands the need for knowledgeable agents in the equine world who are out at the shows, working, showing, volunteering and getting involved.
Markel has supported this strategy both in spirit and financially. It is not easy to get a property and casualty license, and it requires continuing education courses to keep it. It’s a good thing though, and it’s important to keep learning. What better way to continue to learn your job, than to work with smart, happy fun and sincere people. I have been a licensed agent for 15 years, and have learned more about the equine mortality and liability business in the last two months, than in all the time I have been in this business, those grueling continuing education courses included!
Farm Owner and Liability
While Tracey went on the tour of the company meeting many of the people we work with, I sat down with Chris Heavrin Markel’s Property and Casualty Underwriter, and Vice President Don Faison, to review the somewhat complex process of filling out Farm Owner and Liability applications. For those who choose a career in the equestrian world, liability is a part of the cost of doing business. Insurance is really risk management, and there are serious risks and consequences. A trained equine insurance agent not only helps you to protect your interests, but when it’s done right it is the best form of cost effective risk management you can find.
As an employee for the company, I work with the full support of this department behind me, making sure applications and coverages are thoroughly addressed. Once again, having the experience within the industry is critical to properly servicing one’s clients. Liability can be a complex issue, and coverages can be compromised if not fully disclosed and examined. What is critical is that should there be a claim, which in liability often means dealing with a lawsuit; the client has access to the finest legal protection and defense they can get, in a timely manner.
Tracey’s Birthday Surprise
In the mortality department at Markel, employees pull a name out of a hat, and are then responsible for the birthday celebration of whomever it is they get. Linda Crooks assigned herself to Tracey who’s birthday was the day following our visit. While Tracey was working the phones with Kellie, a huge ice cream cake arrived in the conference room, and about 40 employees gathered to surprise her, sing Happy Birthday, and share some cake.
What a great way to meet even more people who are part of the team behind our efforts. We are already making plans to come to Richmond for the company Christmas party, and look forward to a visit at our home office in Florida from some of the key people working with us. While we focused on two full days of a full agenda, we had fun working together and accomplished all we set out to get done.
Thank You to Our New Corporate Family
As Tracey and I headed back to the airport to return to Florida, it was with a deeper knowledge and understanding as a part of our new “family” at Markel, we were already looking forward to our next meeting. We worked hard, but we had fun, also an important part of the Markel style. We want to take this opportunity to thank all of those who made us feel so welcome, and so much a part of the team for the time and energy they continue to provide.
We are in touch daily, through the magic of the internet, but to visit our corporate headquarters, have deepened our role and commitment to the success of the opportunity we have before us. It is an honor to be a part the only company which has provided an uninterrupted protection for horses and horse related risks in the United States as well as internationally for 40 years, and we are dedicated to living up to that honor.
The Markel Style
Many companies have a mission statement, some have a vision or creed. We live the "Markel Style". Authored by our Chairman, Alan Kirshner, through the years the Markel Style has served to provide a constant rudder to employees and management alike. Markel has a Commitment to Success. We believe in hard work and a zealous pursuit of excellence while keeping a sense of humor. Our creed is honesty and fairness in all our dealings.
The Markel way is to seek to be a market leader in each of our pursuits. We seek to know our customers' needs and to provide our customers with quality products and service. Our pledge to our shareholders is that we will build the financial value of our company. We respect our relationship with our suppliers and have a commitment to our communities.
We are encouraged to look for a better way to do things…to challenge management. We have the ability to make decisions or alter a course quickly. The Markel approach is one of spontaneity and flexibility. This requires a respect for authority but a disdain of bureaucracy.
At Markel we hold the individual's right to self-determination in the highest light, providing an atmosphere in which people can reach their personal potential. Being results-oriented, we are willing to put aside individual concerns in the spirit of teamwork to achieve success.
Above all, we enjoy what we are doing. There is excitement at Markel, one that comes from innovating, creating, striving for a better way, sharing success with others…winning.