For all those Next-Gen leaders searching for a sponsor, look no further than Diane Keil-Hipp. Diane is undoubtedly one of the most impressive individuals in the IA Channel from her upbringing as a farmer’s daughter to now as the Chief Operations Officer at Knight Insurance Group all while pursuing her Ph.D. she has many wisdoms to share across the industry and to our next generation of leaders.
Her drive and strong work-ethic is rooted in growing up on a produce farm working alongside of her 30 cousins. Her summers were spent working 60-hour work weeks on the family farm. It was fun to work with all of her cousins, but she certainly looked forward to returning to school in the fall. As you can imagine, a farm comes with high-risks, and it really shaped who she became with her strong work ethic, and internal focus of control. She learned at a very young age that you control what you can, and you manage to the best of your ability everything else. Little did she know at that time, she was groomed to be the perfect insurance professional.
The Knight Insurance Group strongly believes in their values and how values can drive culture. In fact, Diane explained to us that it’s what drives all of us. If we believe in something deeply, then we demonstrate it in everything that we do. If it’s not a passion, we will be inconsistent. The behaviors, values, and culture are consistent at Knight Insurance Group, and has resulted in positive momentum inside the agency and outside in the community. I love how they have established 9 behaviors their associates act upon, all of which, when demonstrated consistently, regards the positive results for their agency. It was evident when speaking with Diane, she truly lives these values, as she was able to reference each value without looking at anything to recall what they were. This guide shapes everything the agency does including, the interview process as well as reviews for their associates. As a result, the entire team takes pride for striving to do their best every day, which takes shape in educating themselves, growing relationships, while earning trust, and taking a vested interest in their community. The associates at Knight Insurance Group bring these values to life through intentional action with their 5 key stakeholders: Clients, Community, Carriers, Employees and Owners.
With community being one of their stakeholders, they have an activities committee, independent of the leadership team, that drives the organization to stay focused on their community. The employees at Knight Insurance Group feel deeply blessed and in return they give their time, talent, and treasures to various organizations within their community. Two organizations the agency spends a lot of time with is Lott Industries, an organization that provides employment opportunities to the physically disabled; and Veterans Matter, which provides housing to homeless veterans. The Knight Activity Committee organizes countless efforts to raise money for both organizations through raffles, bingo and other creative ways to establish funds and awareness for these meaningful charities.
Diane has spent decades helping various organization across the region and one that took centerstage is in their building’s backyard, literally. Knight Insurance Group is situated in the Toledo Warehouse District, a formerly impoverished neighborhood that has the largest collection of turn of the century buildings. Diane and Knight Insurance Group worked for over a decade to revitalize the area to benefit businesses, residents, and visitors by fostering growth and encouraging the preservation and appreciation of the neighborhood’s diversity and history. This organization will always have a special place in Diane’s heart, however, after serving for 15 years as the organization’s president, she felt it was time to pass the torch onto new leadership that will find similar passion to carry on the legacy and place their own influence on the beloved area.
Diane still is involved with Catholic Charities, which helps all people, regardless of their faith or background. They offer many services to the community but what empowers the people that turn to Catholic Charities for help, is offering them a hand-up and not a handout. This restores individuals and families in need to be able to lift themselves up with the support of the organization.
What consumes most of Diane’s time, is her work pursuing her Ph.D. at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), which I’m confident will be invaluable to better understanding the IA System. Diane is in her second year of course work and is exploring: Why long-standing organizations fail. She’s exploring many factors that will help answer this question, but what really fascinated me is the development of a model that will help agencies step through various questions to safeguard their business model to stand the test-of-time.
Diane has dedicated over 10 years of volunteer service to the OIA and her proudest moments serving with the OIA also happens to be her proudest moments in her career; helping shape the next generation of leaders in our industry. She has many opportunities through the OIA, her volunteer opportunities, and her time speaking and learning at BGSU to engage with young adults and she finds these conversations incredibly rewarding. She often finds herself helping to battle the stereotypes on our industry. She shares insights that many tend to not think about including, it’s about as close to a recession proof industry as you can get and of course the benefits of reoccurring revenue; both are attractive attributes of the industry, especially given the current marketplace.
Furthermore, she highly recommends seeking out sponsors, as opposed to mentors. The difference? A sponsor works so much differently than a mentorship, in that a sponsor becomes an advocate for you. Keeps you in the forefront for new opportunities and paves the way for you in a space where you may have never had an opportunity to shine.
I can’t help but think what a wonderful sponsor Diane has been for all women in our industry. So, I had to ask – “what has it been like for you, as a female, in a predominantly male industry? How do you break through” Diane’s response – fierce! “I never had the expectations or thoughts of being treated poorly because I knew I was adding value and contributing innovate thoughts. If you want to be credible, then you need to do the work to be credible, no matter what your gender is.”
So, I close this Mission Matters article in the same place as where I opened it. Diane, if you’re available for a sponsorship relationship, I know many that are interested, myself included!