By: Gideon Galloway, CEO of King Price Insurance
Building a business when you’ve been ‘at war’ since day one
Let’s be brutally honest. When you launch an innovative business into an established market that’s both conservative and dominant, you’ve got to fight for your share. And that’s what King Price has been doing since the day we opened our book. At one time, our 120 staff members literally wore camo and helmets in the office. We laughed a lot and camaraderie was high – but there were tough decisions to make. We were at war and I learned to be a wartime CEO.
At the time, I read and re-read ‘The Hard Thing about Hard Things’ by Ben Horowitz and I still refer back to it. Horowitz talks about the peacetime CEO and the wartime CEO. In his words: ‘The peacetime CEO focuses on the big picture and empowers people to make detailed decisions. The wartime CEO cares about a speck of dust on a gnat’s ass if it interferes with the prime directive.’ You have no idea how many gnats we’ve annihilated in order to win market share and consumer trust and claw our way onto the list of top insurers in South Africa.
Eight years ago, as a simple guy from Pretoria, balancing family commitments with serial entrepreneurship, nurturing a dream of doing insurance the fair and logical way while struggling to find start-up investment, and trying to learn as much as I could by reading, Horowitz’ first rule of entrepreneurship really resonated: There are no rules. Say what? My mind was blown.
Yes – you need a plan. (And a back-up plan or two.) Yes – you need a budget. Yes – you need goals and a strategy for reaching them. But how you get there?
It depends entirely on how quickly you react to changing circumstances and unexpected challenges. Agility is everything and this is something we’ve entrenched across our business.
It’s always gained us valuable ground as we win over clients from the other players. As COVID-19 affects business across the world in 2020, our ability to adapt and thrive is setting us apart.
Horowitz also says to take care of the people, the products and the profits, in that order – advice that sits well with this wartime CEO. I’m proud that King Price is known for our people- first culture, our award-winning client care, and the recognition we’ve won for our innovative products.
To end with, I’ll add three quick things that are critical for both wartime and peacetime CEOs. Firstly, surround yourself with outstanding people and let them do what they do best, because you can’t do everything.
Secondly, hard work matters! When times are hard, face the hard decisions head on. Roll up your sleeves and fight. Little by little, you’ll gain ground. And you’ll inspire a lot of people in the process too. Thirdly, give back. Wherever, however, you can.
And not only because, in the words of a song that I listen to on repeat, you get what you give!