The Insurance Dudes

Dax Cornelius on Insurance, Connectivity, and Digital Transformations PART 1

January 15, 2024 The Insurance Dudes: Craig Pretzinger & Jason Feltman Season 3 Episode 664
The Insurance Dudes
Dax Cornelius on Insurance, Connectivity, and Digital Transformations PART 1
Show Notes Transcript

Join the Idudes as they interview the remarkable Dax Cornelius, who shares his journey from being a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot to founding Bastion Agency USA which is nothing short of a compelling narrative that is filled with lessons about connectivity and relevance in this digital age! The conversation delves into the transformative impact of the pandemic on individuals and organizations, stressing the need for alignment in the ever-evolving digital landscape. Dax sheds light on the specific challenges faced by insurance agencies, navigating trends like usage-based insurance, on-demand insurance, and the integration of IoT. Crucially, he emphasizes the pivotal role of risk assessment, conversion, and effective communication in reshaping the insurance sector.

Drawing parallels between military principles and business operations, the discussion highlights the importance of clarity, empowerment, and mindset in fostering high-performing teams. Dax advocates for acknowledging imperfections, cultivating a growth mindset, and leveraging technology to enhance the overall customer journey. 
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Craig Pretzinger & Jason Feltman
The Insurance Dudes

Dax Cornelius:

I'm about 10 minutes from walking into one of the biggest pitches I've had of my life. And right as I walk in, I'm kind of kind of breathing heavy, kind of like Darth Vader, I'm kind of getting amped up. And literally right before I walk into the door to the building to impress this whole board of directors, a bee flies in my mouth, and gagging and I'm sticking my fingers and trying to pull this bee out of my mouth and he stings the back of my tongue. And I like pull the bee out. And I'm like, Oh my gosh, I just got stung by a bee. And I've got about 45 minutes of talking to do. Tongue starting to swell, and I'm like, Alright. I've been in worse scenarios. I can figure this out. I'm going to just a piece of ice asked to go the bathroom. Put that I said then go in and do my thing. And that's what I did. You did it. I did it. Yeah, I know. Yeah. Yeah, it was it was crazy. But yeah, I DAX Cornelius and I'm an insurance do today. Insurance dudes

Craig Pretzinger:

are on a mission to escape be handcuffed by our agents.

Jason Feltman:

How? by uncovering the secrets to creating a predictable, consistent and profitable agency Sales Machine.

Craig Pretzinger:

Hi, I'm Craig Pretzinger.

Jason Feltman:

I am Jason Feldman. We are agents. We are insurance. Oh, that's a good story.

Craig Pretzinger:

That is good. I like it. What was the pitch about? Yeah,

Dax Cornelius:

it was about digital marketing and fully integrated solutions of this brand that's trying to create connectivity and relevance with a target audience. So that's what I

Craig Pretzinger:

bow. Wow. How did the pitch go? Very

Dax Cornelius:

well. Yeah. We'll see. We'll see. We'll see. In a couple of weeks. I'll let you guys know. So this

Craig Pretzinger:

just recently happened.

Dax Cornelius:

Not too long ago.

Craig Pretzinger:

It's your tongue still swollen right now? Yeah, it is. 10 minutes ago, so. Wow. That is that's just great.

Jason Feltman:

Yeah, that is wild. But what?

Craig Pretzinger:

What the like message was like, why did the bee interfere?

Dax Cornelius:

Dude, I was saying the same thing. I'm like, What? What message? Am I missing here? Is it right up talking so much? Or is it less is more? I don't know. I don't know.

Craig Pretzinger:

How to handle how to handle beast. Under Pressure.

Jason Feltman:

Did you talk different? Ah,

Dax Cornelius:

yeah, I could I could feel my tongue hitting the top of my mouth. A lot more than normal. So I probably maybe talked with a little bit of a lisp.

Craig Pretzinger:

Okay, well, we could we could move on after this. But But what was like, Did you explain to everybody? Yeah, no, they do. Okay, so I

Dax Cornelius:

did which, which? I don't know,

Craig Pretzinger:

I good.

Dax Cornelius:

I think I tried to use it for as much as I could to hazard me that. Right.

Craig Pretzinger:

You still did it?

Dax Cornelius:

You did it. Yeah. That if that's any indication of the amount of dedication and commitment I'm going to have to you in this new role? Whatever.

Craig Pretzinger:

Yeah, and you're definitely the most rememberable though, even if they don't know your name, you're the guy. Yeah. They're like we I think we just go with the guy.

Dax Cornelius:

Yeah, some of the best personal professional relationships I've had. have started with some crazy story, you know, and yeah, and as his life you know, so

Craig Pretzinger:

Dad, tell us your story. What's your backstory? How'd you how'd you end up landing on the world famous insurance students podcast?

Dax Cornelius:

Oh my gosh, you guys hate that. That's another story of a glass of wine. But I'll give you the short version. I'm an immigrant to the US got to fly fighters F six teens in the US Air Force for 10 years was in Bosnia Iraq, and then ended up finding myself running a marketing company. And when you look at like whether it's F 15 is for air to air superiority that's my PR company and my AWACS intelligence is my board and my a 10s are my digital company and I've got all these different leaders in these different assets are Mark comms to deliver a fully integrated campaign on time on budget on target. Granted, maybe lives aren't at stake, but I don't know I beg to differ. I think families are at stake brands are at stake. People are counting on their jobs and and it's crazy to have come full circle from a military background to my entrepreneurial career to now running Bastion agency USA. I think it took all that to get me prepared to be able to lead this company and and help brand and find more connectivity and relevance for their target audience. So it's it's definitely a very unorthodox to say the least journey that I've arrived here as an insurance dude on your podcast, but I'm happy to be here, man. And I have a beautiful wife and two girls and life was good better than I deserve.

Jason Feltman:

Nice, loving, I, it's funny that you bring up, you know, lives and stuff being at stake. I think only a true entrepreneur, business owner would feel that passionately about that. Because, I mean, I've talked to people about that all the time. And it's like, it's like, you know, if you're not a business owner, you're just like, oh, you know, you show up to work, whatever. But it's like, Dude, I describe it as like, it's a living, breathing baby that you're raising. And if it doesn't grow, everybody's affected. Like, it's, it's a very huge responsibility, we have to grow our business, I was just talking to my manager a couple days ago. And it's like, if we're not constantly growing, we're dying. And that's, and that's how, like, that's how, you know, industries. That's how businesses get left behind is because everything's moving forward with inflation, everything else is there is movement, even when you're not moving. So it's

Dax Cornelius:

staying the same as going backwards. And as you guys well know, and in this digital space and era, I mean, things are happening so fast. Yeah. From from brands, to consumers, from data to it is all happening so fast that I think if if people don't make that shift, both mentally, physically, spiritually, they're gonna get left behind, whether it be in their personal lives, or in the business, no doubt about it. 100%

Jason Feltman:

I'd love to go there. So let's talk about insurance agencies in the digital world.

Dax Cornelius:

Yeah, yeah. You know, look, here's one thing I found the, in the industry, you know, when we, when we talk about bash, and transform and what we do, yes, we are there to bridge the gap between the heads of leadership of massive insurance organizations or, frankly, services, businesses, whether it's insurances or, or health care, or what have you. But we're there to bridge the gap between what's in the heads of those leadership, and what's in the hearts of those workforce. Because what we found in a lot of our studies, and when you look at elite teams, whether you're talking about f1, McLaren pit lane, or whether you're talking how surgeons work with their, with their staff inside of a surgery, or whether you're talking inside of an insurance company, there's a lot going on, and there's a lot of moving parts. And oftentimes, you find that the heads or the C suite of an organization, are absolutely clueless to what's really going on with their workforce. And what's really happening with the end user and the consumer. And for Bastion transform, you know, inside of Bastion agency as a whole, we spent a lot of time working with brands to provide that connectivity and relevance to their target audience. We said it was incumbent upon us, we felt it was our responsibility, because we had the luxury, and the honor to walk through so many hallways of so many different brands, we saw a lot of dysfunction, you know, in some of our clients, between the heads of their organizations in their workforce. And we said you know what, we've got a lot of experience in our organization. You know, we've got a lot of mix of McKenzie type, business savvy people all the way to your, your small, smartest social strategists. And we said maybe we need to pair the two. So we created Bastion transform that that really goes inside of a business or an Insurance Group and says, Hey, how do we align the heads in the hearts of leadership in their workforce. So that's what what we've done. And frankly, as we all know, in the insurance space, with the with the digital transformations that are happening right now, it's no longer an option, kind of kind of like you said, Jason, they're either going to transform, or they're going to get left behind. And when you look at a a era that we're in, where whether you're talking, not that too many baby boomers are doing that but your gen Z's or your Gen Y's. They can take a smartphone having never seen an insurance company before. swipe through it, do some pretty intelligent comparisons comparisons. Make an informative decision and press enter and go ahead and lock into an insurance company having never seen them before or known them before with on a lunch break. And that is an unprecedented time because you've got a truncated consumer journey, whereby awareness of an insurance company to consideration of earnings surance company preference action actually hitting Yes, I'm going to be I'm going to be that client. And then loyalty to that that insurance company, all of that has been truncated. And you know, it's that whether you're talking about brand archetype or whether you're talking about customer journey mapping, it allows insurance companies to quickly adapt to customers expectations, the challenges that insurance companies face prior with old legacy systems, data management, cybersecurity, all of those issues and becoming somewhat of a commodity to where we are today in the digital era. If they're leveraging some of the tech, if they're leveraging some of those capabilities, if they're aligning their leadership to their to their workforce, they've got a chance in this modern digital era to be a thriving insurance company.

Craig Pretzinger:

So there's a lot there. A lot on TAC. So we have we have the C suite disconnected with the workforce in the vast majority of all industries. Yeah, here. No difference in the insurance world. Right. Yeah. I mean, I can't speak to whether or not that's true at the carrier that I represent, because I'm not sure. And I wouldn't want to comment on that, of course, however, that that can be the case maybe with many other carriers. So if that's the case, how do we create this? How do we create that alignment? Right? How do we move it back to an alignment? Because what we also see is in the efforts of, especially in captive in the captive world, yeah, in the efforts of them to promote growth, they also limit the ability of the agent to do things because of the very technology that's out there that they're getting beaten by. So how does that get handled? How do you handle that disconnect? If the if the C suite thinks we need to do it this way, but this way is blockbuster? And over here is Netflix. But we can't use it. Yeah, the answer there?

Dax Cornelius:

Yeah. It's a great question. So what we you know, we wanted to figure that out, too, right. But we wanted to figure out with authenticity, and prove it to ourselves. And we embellish and transform, we put out a massive survey. And it was for all employees of all types of all shapes and sizes and services. And what came in it was all about, what do you think about your leadership? What do you think about your role? Are you what's your communication with your leadership? Do you feel you have value in your organization, as an insurance company, all these different aspects, all these different questions, and what came back guys was staggering. And it boiled down to basically three sections, it was clarity that they lacked, as far as the workforce between what they think they're doing and what the leadership thinks they're doing. It was empowerment, their ability to actually do what their leadership is saying they want them to do. And lastly, mindset. And when you break those three things down, which is, you know, whether it's Bastion transform that's going to do that for an organization, or the organization is going to hire in house people to do it, or outside consultants to do it. They can either do it, or they can play the origin ignore it. But it's not going away in a digital era, specially when you've had your workforce that has spent two years with a homework assignment, in confinement, really trying to understand what's, what's in their head and what's in their heart. What's most important to them, when they're spending arguably, more hours at work than they are with their own family? What are they willing to sacrifice? And what are they not willing any longer to sacrifice? So we broke it down into when we looked at all the questions and all the answers and all the feedback, it really boiled down to an organization if they've got clear clarity, everyone is very clear on what the focus is of the business and what they're doing. Secondly, empowerment to the employees. And lastly, mindset. They thrived in I'll break that down if you want me to the clarity, yes, clarity. Not to sound trite, but it's the it's the need to feel engaged. Clarity breeds confidence, commitment, momentum, clarity of purpose, clarity of strategy, clarity of roles and responsibility. Here's the deal of the lack of clarity within organizations and whether you're talking to insurance companies, or otherwise I'm talking most service oriented type businesses. Lack of clarity was the major driver to frustration and dissatisfaction and the barrier to productivity in a workforce in an insurance company. And that's key number one, right? And it makes sense whether you're thinking about in your own In life with your own partner or, or better half, or marriage or your own business, if everyone's clear on what they're doing. And you know, we get it, the bigger you get, sometimes the more confusing things get. But the bigger you get, the more clear you have to be and more focused in keeping things clear. The next one on empowerment was really that was the birth of job satisfaction, it was the ability to get things done to completion, employees that can complete a task are much happier employees than employees that there's never any one thing that they can get done in any given day or week or month. So as much as that sounds simple, it was actually the most costly barrier to growth, with complex processes. And as we know, in the insurance industry, as we've gotten into AI and data analytics, and blockchain tech and UX and UI, and everything that we're doing in that space has become more and more complex, especially with with a lot of the security and cybersecurity issues. And so it was really incumbent that an organization when it came to empowerment, had a good team design that was focused on outcomes and outputs. And it let the leadership let the people within an insurance organization use their brain. So instead of telling them exactly what to do, it was more about explaining the problem, and letting the workforce solve it, and saying, we're going to come back in two weeks team, and we're looking for your solutions, not telling them how to make those solutions. And really, that imparted if you provided empowerment. Ultimately what it did an organization was it encouraged trust. And as we all know, again, whether you're talking in an operating room, whether you're talking flying an F 16, in combat, whether you're talking getting stung by a bee before you go into having trust in what you can do, and trust in your teammates, that's going to be the common thread to all high performance teams. It is whether you're talking to SEAL team, whether you're talking, it doesn't matter, any space, any place anytime, anywhere, elite, high performance teams, that is the number one most compelling thread is trust. So empowerment within this workforce was key. And then lastly was mindset. As we know, in times of massive change, or as we've all gone through the pandemic, AI that's in our future, changes undefeated, the constant is getting uncomfortable, or excuse me getting comfortable with change. And so that requires a different mindset in your workforce. And, you know, it kind of it kind of goes along that I think it was Roosevelt, who said something, people don't care what you know, until they know how much you care. And yeah, there was definitely what we saw on our survey across the US. There was definitely a disparity between what the workforce felt about their leadership as far as the care of their clarity, their empowerment and their mindset. And lastly, on that mindset, you know, it was acknowledgement, understanding what happened, why it happened, leadership not being afraid to say we've messed up, or we don't know the answer, or here's the works in the business. We acknowledge them, no one's perfect. And I need you guys to help us figure this out. That was key authenticity, of acknowledgement of everything wasn't perfect. And then the power of a growth mindset is kind of a neurological association that when there's change, there's opportunity. It's not a threat, when it gets tough, when there's pressure, it's an opportunity, it's not a threat. Those things are good, whether we're studying, to read to exercise our brain, whether we're working out in the gym to exercise our muscles, pain, thresholds, pressure, is if you can get your workforce to believe that's a good thing, not a bad thing. They come into work with a much better mindset. And then lastly, I think it was standards and rituals, which we found which was making the implicit, explicit, there are so many times in a larger organization or an insurance organization where employees come in, they're told what to do. But there's not quite rules and regulations on exactly what to do with certain criteria or certain rules and regulation. There's a lot of gray area. And as much as you gotta let them do it, they do need some some borders. They do need some lanes like bowling out. So that was key as far as behaviors to stay in. zone and do your channel and complete it to to to its completeness. So, you know, most importantly, I think when you take those three learnings when you ask, Craig, how do you do that? That's how grap, Bastian transformed does it in order to help large brands or large organizations in and frankly, you don't have to be large, I'm talking even 234 person organizations, the insurance students podcast, you guys go through the same things and communicating with each other. So the most important thing for productive team was to invest in that mindset, to invest in that clarity and to invest in that empowerment.

Jason Feltman:

I love that. There's so much there. And I think what I love that really stood out was the whole changes undefeated, because it's so true. And it goes back to what we originally talked about. And it's an It's inevitable. And not only is it inevitable, it's exponentially growing, like this last year with AI was the craziest, like for anybody that's

Craig Pretzinger:

six months early, huh? Dude, every

Jason Feltman:

Yeah, it's like every day, like, every day.

Dax Cornelius:

Well, what ain't guys think about it for all the insurance dudes out there. Think about this, for an analogy, think about when we're talking insurance, and we're talking about the future of insurance, we're still going to have to provide insurance, it's same thing. Think about what Uber did to taxis are still driving people around. But it's a much different experience. Think about what Netflix did to Blockbuster. We're still watching movies, still the same product, but the user experience is different. Right? Think about Amazon with retail or CPG. Like, same stuff, but a different their variants, right, a different experience in that. I think when whether we're talking to an insurance industry or brokers within an insurance industry or underwriters, you know, beneficiary like that user experience is the part that I think is much as things changes as much as they remain the same. It's still the same product, we just have to leverage tech, and networks and narratives. And when I say narratives, I mean compelling stories, relevance, connectivity, why do we want to be with this insurance company over another? Or why do I support that rent? Do they get me Do they understand me my demographics, my multicultural facets? What I believe in that part has to has to still be humanized. But we can leverage a lot of the tech, the AI, the blockchains, the all of the cloud, all of that in order to just make it that much more user friendly experience for for the end user for the for the BDP if you Yeah,

Jason Feltman:

I love that.

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