Josh Stirpe – How I Lead

I’ve found a lot of success in engaging my team by focusing on creating an environment that promotes ownership and innovation. Here are few things I do regularly to do this:

Everyone plays a part

  • After announcing any sort of change or new objective, I bring the team together to talk about the change and ask for their advice about what we can do to succeed. I’ve seen better results from involving the full team in owning and influencing decisions and being a part of discussions and debate.
  • We perform better when employees are inspired to contribute to the team’s success as much as their own. We encourage our teams to really own their work. We ask them to hold one another accountable, innovate, and always incrementally improve the operation, as a team. We’ve found this ownership mindset empowers employees to lead and as a result, they actively work together to solve challenges.

Building my leadership skills

  • I enjoy reading business disruptor case studies to help me understand and articulate the ever-changing landscape. I’m a firm believer in using tangible examples or stories to help the team to think differently. I use LinkedIn and Twitter to subscribe to thought leaders and also look to sources outside of the business world, such as in the media, sports and academia focused on teamwork and culture.
  • It takes time to build a mutual trust between a leader and his/her team. I need to truly understand what motivates and challenges them, while also proving to them that I’m here to share their success and empower them to do more. I try to give myself more time by blocking “free space” on my calendar for reflection, organization, and meeting with employees.
  • However, I know finding “free space” is easier said than done. And that as leaders, we can sometimes feel like we have to be at meetings so we can offer our input. But, I’ve tried a different view – if I have to be at a meeting, I haven’t done a good job enabling my organization. One way I’ve been able to find more time is by regularly extending meeting invites to my team members and having them handle instead. This is a win-win because it empowers my team, giving them more exposure to the organization. They now have a deeper understanding and it gives me more time to observe, reflect and innovate.

My team often hears me say that my best day is when they leave me. I take pride in their success. I also enjoy seeing firsthand when teams become aware of how being a part of a high-functioning team is at least as (if not more) fulfilling than only being a high-performing individual. When this happens, a team starts to lead more than the managers.

 This blog is part of the #HowILead series, which explores practices that leaders have found effective in engaging their employees. We encourage you to read and comment about your own experiences below or as a separate blog post. What has worked (or maybe didn’t work) for you may work for someone else! Share away!

Tags:  #HowILead


Josh Stirpe – Profile in Leadership

Profile in Leadership: Josh Stirpe, Manager, Sales Center

We recently spent some time with Josh Stirpe, manager of the Licensed Sales Center. Read on to learn how his team plans to build on its 2016 success to keep the momentum going in 2017!

Can you provide a brief description of what you/your team does?

The Safeco Licensed Sales Center (LSC) quotes and writes business on behalf of the customers of Safeco’s agents through internal and external partnerships.

You may have heard of the Gold Cross Sell program, in which the Gold service team identifies cross-sell opportunities while servicing clients. The Gold Cross Sell program is the largest source of new business within LSC, accounting for roughly 50 percent of the team’s production.

The LSC also assists with Safeco Managed Book Transfers, Agency Campaigns and the Safeco Group Savings Plan, along with a variety of other lead sources. Agency Campaigns is a growth area and probably the least known capability of the LSC. The LSC partners with Safeco’s Independent Agents, enabling the agents to send leads directly to the LSC for sales assistance.

2016 was another successful year for the LSC, with a record number of policies for the year and an all-time monthly record in August. What’s the secret to your team’s success?

I often tell the team the most important part of what we do is to maintain and continually improve the LSC culture. It starts with the recruitment process and is central to every decision within the organization. I believe the key to the LSC’s success is the ownership the entire team takes in maintaining and improving culture. Everyone within the organization is encouraged to lead and own improvement in the customer and employee experience, which ultimately drives results.

The Licensed Sales Center wouldn’t be successful without strong partnerships across USCM and the Gold Cross Sell program was the largest contributor to the team’s success in 2016. The Licensed Sales leadership team visited every Gold location after breaking the record in August to personally thank the Gold team for their contribution to the team’s results.

The secret to the team’s success has been blending strong partnerships with a continuous improvement culture, which by definition is always a work in progress.

How is your team preparing for a strong 2017?

The Licensed Sales Center launched LMS in 2016 and has been working to leverage Continuous Improvement tools to drive results. A key focus for the organization this year is to promote “incremental innovation” at huddles to drive service and sales improvement aligned with the Voice of the Customer. The team will launch a revised Closed Loop Feedback process at the end of the first quarter to give better insight into how the customer views the team’s work. We hope that will drive improvement ideas and a strong finish to 2017.

How does your team partner with other groups within Safeco Distribution and USCM?

The LSC partners with groups across Safeco Distribution, Strategic Partnerships, the DRC and many other groups during the course of writing business. As noted earlier, the Gold team is the largest source of our leads and we work closely with them to add additional policies that meet our customers’ needs. The team is also involved in numerous initiatives to share best practices across USCM.

What are you most passionate about in your work?

As I reflect on my career, all the “successful” years blend together. What stands out for me are the people I’ve had the pleasure of influencing and developing. Developing people and being a small part of someone’s personal and professional success is what drives me to do what I do. I’m most passionate about creating an environment and culture that encourages growth and development.

How do you support our Common Purpose as a leader?

For me, it’s about creating an environment where everyone on the team can succeed every day. By being able to be our best, we can deliver the best experience to our customers and agents.

One of my favorite things is making time to coach – communicating our vision clearly, providing feedback, and helping to find solutions. Ultimately, setting the team up for long-term success to be able to continuously improve and empower them to identify and create new ways to work.


Josh Stirpe – LSC Continues on the Road to Continuous Improvement

Congratulations to the Licensed Sales team for your ongoing hard work and dedication to complete our recent LMS transformation. By putting the customer at the center of all we do, we will be better equipped to adapt to changes that come our way, use every opportunity to apply learning, and continuously improve the way we support our agents and customers.

I’m pleased to share that even though early in our LMS transformation, we’ve already accomplished impressive results:

  • In the Diagnostic Phase, we gathered information during Value Stream Mapping exercises to increase our understanding of pain points and inefficiencies
    • The Value Stream Maps (posted in each of our sites) show our opportunities to improve the agent and employee experience, increase production, and gain efficiencies
  • These results led to hard work in the Design phase including the development of:
    • Standard work for the open and close of a call, call documentation, and Quote Not Provided
    • Newly refreshed huddle boards with a balance on metrics, behaviors, voice of the customer, and voice of the employee that will help improve setting of customer expectations and the overall customer experience
      Leader Standard Work focused on value add activities
      A Root Cause Problem Solving (RCPS) plan that will drive consistency and deepen our continuous improvement mindset

Currently, we are seeing these new behaviors in action. We are executing on our RCPS plan and are conducting RCPS sessions along with Process Walks to identify improvement opportunities and ensure effectiveness of our standards. Looking ahead, we will continue to embed LMS practices into our daily work, which will provide learning’s to help us sustain and deepen continuous improvement now, and in the future.

I’m proud of our team and grateful for everyone’s contributions during this journey. Thank you to each of you. Together, we will continue to drive business results and achieve our aspiration of being #1 in the independent agency channel!




Josh Stirpe – ACO Leadership Team Hits the Road!


Mike, Suzanne, Josh Stirpe, Julie, and I just got back from two weeks on the road visiting the Agency & Customer Operations (ACO) teams in Seattle, Liberty Lake, Golden, Fairfield, Indianapolis, and Suwanee.

While there, we were able to meet with local leadership teams, visit with employees in Town Hall sessions, share 2016 business goals and strategies, and address employee questions.

It’s always motivating to be at our sites. I’m continually inspired to see you in action and watch you service our agents and customers in partnership with your co-workers in the field and home office.

We received a lot of thoughtful questions during the Town Hall sessions. You were excited about the planned investments being made to improve the customer experience such as telephony and virtual hold. There was also significant interest in how Licensed Sales contributes to Safeco growth.

An area that was raised for attention was systems stability. To identify opportunities and address concerns, a cross-functional RCPS team has been put in place with representation from IT, Agency Field Operations, Agency Business & Technology Solutions, and ACO. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on progress. We appreciate your feedback and will continue to look at ways to address questions ongoing, have two-way dialogue, and provide updates on our business goals and performance.

We can’t accomplish anything without strong teams, strong employees, and strong partnerships with our agents and each other. Last year was a great year for ACO and we are excited to keep the momentum going in 2016 and beyond!

Thank you to each and every one of you for delivering exceptional service, risk, and sales solutions that empower agents and give our customers #peaceofmind. You are the reason we are leaders in the independent agency channel.

ACO Roadshow

Josh Stirpe – Another Year, Another Record Broken by the Licensed Sales Center

Another Year, Another Record Broken by the Licensed Sales Center

Whether it’s a new high for temperatures or for home runs, records are often broken in the summer. And for our Licensed Sales Center (LSC) in Liberty Lake and Golden, this is especially true. For the second year in a row, the LSC shattered its all-time single-month record for policies written—with 8,159—resulting in $5.9 million in written premium in June. The previous record was last July’s 7,474 policies written.

Better Leads = More Binds

The LSC Licensed Sales Territory Representatives (LTRs) are receiving higher-quality leads thanks to a collaborative effort between internal and agent partners, resulting in more quotes and conversions. LSC Director Josh Stirpe also attributes the uptick in new policies to the LTRs’ incremental improvements in all core performance indicators.

“We’ve really optimized the process and increased the conversion ratio on the leads that are coming to us. We’re being more selective with the leads that we take in. LTRs are focusing more on the value sales approach versus the price sales approach,” said Stirpe.

Another contributing factor to the surge in sales has to do with the LTRs taking extra time to articulate the value of insurance to customers.

As Stirpe explained, “Our reps work very hard to help customers understand what insurance is all about and how it covers gaps in their lives. LTRs know their customers’ needs and educate them on what the ideal coverage is for their situation.”

T-shirts for Everyone

To celebrate surpassing 8,000 new policies in a single month, all the LTRs received specially made T-shirts, a tradition Stirpe and everyone at the LSC hope to repeat next summer.

“Our goal for next summer is 8,500 new policies,” said Stirpe. “If we continue to do what we’re doing, I’m confident we’ll be celebrating next year at this time as well.”


Josh Stirpe – This ‘game-changing’ tool helps shift client conversations from product to value

Is this how your exchange goes with a new client? While this conversation gets the customer what they’re looking for at that moment, they may not realize all you can do for them once you’re aware of the assets they have to protect — and just how much they can save when you package it together.

A tool to change the conversation

Safeco’s motorcycle low-touch tool makes it easy to change your client conversations from a product conversation to one about value. When you’re quoting an auto policy, Quote & Issue™ can automatically pre-fill a motorcycle quote with data from your customer’s Safeco® Auto policy.

According to Josh Stirpe, Director, Safeco’s Licensed Sales Center (LSC), motorcycle low touch has been a game changer for the LSC’s team of licensed risk advisors who sell Safeco policies on behalf of agents.

“Motorcycle low touch helps quickly move the conversation to ‘household risk’ versus the traditional product-by-product approach, says Stirpe. “These conversations are a differentiator for independent agents in today’s marketplace.”

Examples of success

Mike Carney, a Licensed Territory Representative with the LSC recently had a client call for an auto quote. “He was impressed that low touch automatically served up his motorcycle information,” says Carney. “I used that to move the conversation beyond the auto policy and then tie it all together with an umbrella policy as well. Low touch helped me take what would have been a single policy and turn it into three.”

Luke Sahlberg, also an LSC Licensed Territory Representative, uses the motorcycle low-touch tool every time it pops up. “Most clients don’t have their VIN handy so the more information we have available to us, the more power we have to close policies.” he says. “I can think of about a dozen times where this tool helped me turn a single policy into a cross-sell or a two-policy package into a three-policy package.”

How it works

When you’re completing an auto quote in Quote & Issue, Safeco looks for additional information about the registered household. If a motorcycle is found, you’ll see a banner that invites you to complete a pre-filled motorcycle quote. It completes the rider and location information as well as the VIN, make, model and year.

So when you see the low-touch banner, your conversation can go something like this:


Josh Stirpe – Licensed Sales Center Shatters Record for Policies Sold – Again!

Licensed Sales Center Shatters Record for Policies Sold – Again!

The Licensed Sales Center (LSC) doesn’t just set new monthly sales records—they shatter them. They did it last August and they did it again this past April.  Amazingly, LSC sites in Spokane and Denver combined to sell 7,074 policies in April, besting their previous mark by over 700 policies.

More With Less
Thanks to a front-line screening process, Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) in Service Operations are now filtering their leads before passing them along to the LSC. This way, the Licensed Sales Territory Representatives (LTRs) receive higher quality leads that they are more likely to quote and convert.

“Pre-screening the leads means we’re spending more time selling versus talking to customers we really can’t help,” said Josh Stirpe, who founded the LSC in 2003 and serves as its Director. “This smaller lead universe has actually translated into more sales and an increased conversion ratio.”

Firing On All Cylinders
Another contributing factor to the surge in sales has to do with coaching. With the busy summer season looming, the LSC added new hires to handle the increased call-flow. During their onboarding, the new hires were partnered with more-senior LTRs in a mentorship program that accentuated the fundamentals of the business.

As Stirpe explains, the seasoned LTRs “played the role of teacher, and whenever you do that, you focus on your own skill set even more. So now we’re firing on all cylinders from top to bottom.”

Next up? The LSC team has set its sights on the record for policies sold in any month: 7,212, set in June 2011. “We’re really gearing up to break the all-time record this summer,” said Stirpe. “And when we do, there’s going to be a huge celebration.”

Here’s to LSC breaking records and taking names!