Ring the bell, look to the future

Next week – if the schedule does not change – I will stand on the platform above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and ring the bell that signifies the start of another trading day. This will celebrate Hagerty’s first day as a publicly traded company under the ticker symbol HGTY.

I just had to reread this paragraph several times to believe it!

When my mom and dad founded Hagerty 37 years ago in the basement of our home on the Old Mission Peninsula, they never imagined this moment. At the time, they combined their love of wooden boats with their entrepreneurial spirit. They owned and loved wooden boats, but couldn’t find the right insurance coverage because most insurers (for some crazy reason) considered wooden boats full of gasoline to be a bit risky.

So Frank and Louise filled that gap in the market and started the business that eventually became Hagerty.

At first it was mostly a family affair. My father was the accomplished salesperson: very charismatic, very motivated. The word “no” was not part of his vocabulary. He designed the insurance product and pricing and led the sales. Mom ran the operation, set up the accounting, hired people, and made it all work. She eventually became our first CEO.

We had so much fun getting Hagerty out of his start-up phase. We have worked tirelessly. My sister Tammy joined next. She learned the sales and underwriting side of my father’s business. She also took charge of the complaints. She even became a judge at the Lake Tahoe Wooden Boat Concours d’Elegance to further her knowledge and connect with clients.

A few years later – once we moved into the classic car space – my sister Kim and I returned to Traverse City to take the business to the next level. Kim – who recently passed, may God rest her soul – was passionate about building our corporate culture and upholding the law. His legal career was invaluable at the time. She became the next CEO. I hit the road and built the brand, eventually launching our movement to become a membership organization.

We’ve come a long way since the days when I knew everyone’s name and history. A wonderful part of being a small business is how close you become to the people you work with day in and day out. I miss that time.

But I also like the business that Hagerty has grown into over the past decades. Today, at a glance, Hagerty is a multinational company with over 1,600 employees in North America, the UK and Germany, of which around 800 are here in our Traverse City operations. We insure two million vehicles and work in partnership with nine of America’s 10 largest auto insurers, including the largest of all: State Farm.

We have been very intentional about our growth as a company, but also as a workplace. The two go hand in hand. Here are some of the key decisions that I think made the difference:

We have remained local but we have also invested in other communities. I’ve been asked countless times since the news of the stock exchange announcement broke, “Has Hagerty been sold and is Hagerty leaving Traverse City?” The answer to both questions is a firm no. The Hagerty family will retain the majority of the shares. I will continue as CEO. Traverse City will retain its headquarters here. Traverse City has been incredibly good to us. This is our home – period. But we have also invested in other communities where concentrations of our employees live and work. It has been very enriching.

We have widened our niche. It didn’t take long for us to realize that classic cars were a much bigger niche than wooden boats. What size? About 43 million vehicles. And we have also realized that we can do more than just insurance. People are passionate about cars, so we have invested heavily in other automotive services and products aimed at helping all car enthusiasts enjoy their passion. Think magazines, cool YouTube programs, auto events, data tools to help buyers and sellers, a membership club, and more. Our goal is simple: we want to save driving and car culture for future generations.

We invest in our people. We decided a long time ago that in order to grow our business, we had to help our people grow with us. “Improving every day” is one of our values ​​as a company, which is why for many years we have been organizing more than 50 Hagerty U courses per year on dozens of subjects, from vehicle knowledge (important in a field like ours) with commercial skills. and self-improvement. We recently improved this by providing access to the LinkedIn Learning online course series in areas such as technology, business, and creative skills. It’s all part of what we call our growth mindset, which encourages lifelong learning and the intentional building of strong habits. We believe it makes us a better company and a better place to work.

We are obsessed with our members. Our goal is incredibly excellent customer service. We call it “Hagerty Hospitality”, the idea being that we treat customers, partners and suppliers like guests in our homes. Recently, we hosted our first nationwide auto event in Greenwich, Connecticut. I was so proud of everything we did to show the thousands of attendees a good time. Our teams have come together to sell tickets, park cars and welcome people who have set foot on the performance area. When I saw a senior vice president – who is responsible for important revenue growth opportunities – clear the tables of a hotel suite, I knew we had won the day. It reminded me of the days in the basement of mom and dad’s house, the good old days when everyone did everything. But it also strengthened my confidence in Hagerty’s future. We can do it – because we are doing it the right way.

If you are a business owner or entrepreneur, I hope this has been helpful to you. A reporter recently told me that Hagerty is Traverse City’s number one publicly traded company. I don’t know if that’s true, but I know this: if we can do it, others can do it – and it can be done right here in the Grand Traverse area. Find that niche and go for it.

Good luck my friends. Forward and up!

McKeel Hagerty is CEO of the Hagerty Group.