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Leading With Significance

Season 3 Episode 22

Leading With Significance with Joey Havens

Season 3 Episode 22


Intro/Outro: Welcome to the Insurance Leadership Podcast, the podcast designed to bring you perspectives and principles from leaders in the life and health insurance industry we trust you'll enjoy today's episode.

Ryan Eaton: Good morning and welcome to another episode of the Insurance Leadership podcast. I'm Ryan Eaton, your host, and honored to have you listening in with us. Today we have Joey Havenss, who is the author of a new book called Leading with Significance. The book is phenomenal when it comes to building culture in your organization, talking about addressing problem issues, maybe departments or financials or culture that may start to slack in different areas.

He's gonna be talking to us about flexibility in an organization to make sure you don't have too much rigidness to where that you have burnout. And so we're here with him today and it is going to be a fantastic interview. So let's get started. Well, Joey, we sure do appreciate you being on the show today.

Joey Havens: Man, it's my pleasure. Thank you, Ryan. 

Ryan Eaton: Well, it's an honor to have you and I'd tell you, I saw on LinkedIn a few weeks ago, I saw your book Leading with Significance, and I saw you holding it up with a picture of it. I was like, man, that sounds just like a great title. I was like, I gotta get this guy on the show and, and get to meet him a little bit.

And you know, it was kind of one of those things. We're looking for the first quarter of 2023. We're trying to help companies develop culture. We're trying to help 'em make sure they got a good game plan for 2023. And we're kinda asking different people, different thoughts. And after I called you and got you here, you gave me a copy of your book. Read it. Absolutely fantastic. 

Joey Havens: Awesome. Thank you man. 

Ryan Eaton: Great points. But today, to get started, I'd love it if you'd spend a few minutes maybe telling everyone a little bit about you, your family, kinda a little bit about Horne too, kind of your role with the organization, if you don't mind. 

Joey Havens: Okay, I'll be glad to.

Well, I'm blessed to be married to Kathy Cole. She's from Natchez, Mississippi, and we have four children together. Three daughters and one son, and we've got eight grandkids. And number eight came Monday of this week at eight o'clock. Pm 

Ryan Eaton: Oh! Congrats. That's awesome. 

Joey Havens: So we've been in Baton Rouge celebrating that with them till you had grandkids.

You can't realize just how special they are. I'm an Ole Miss Fanatic. Big Ole Miss fan. I love, my biggest passion is crappy fishing, especially in the spring. I love wading and love all the outdoor... deer hunting. You know, I love being outdoors. I've been at Horne 38 years and it's like a blink of an eye.

You know, we've grown from a small Mississippi CPA firm to a full-fledged professional services firm with a national footprint, offices in Puerto Rico also. And we offer a wide array of services that, I mean, people wouldn't even think about. They think about, Horne as an accounting firm, not a professional services firm, but we help build culture.

We help do leadership pipelines, exit planning, secession planning, those kind of things. Strategic planning. Which is kind of where clients' needs have gone. But we also do accounting and taxes. But we're, we're very much into this.

Ryan Eaton: How many employees are y'all up to now?

Joey Havens: You know, you're going to make me lie right off the bat, but I, I'm gonna guess its around Around 2200. 

Ryan Eaton: 2200. Wow. Wow. Started here in Mississippi?

Joey Havens: Started in Laurel, Mississippi.

Ryan Eaton: Laurel, Mississippi. That's fantastic. Well, tell us, Joey, what got you to write this book? What led you to write it? How long has it been in your mind? All that good stuff.

Joey Havens: You know, it's been in my mind for a while.

I guess there's three big reasons why I wrote it right now. The first is honestly, God wouldn't gimme any peace. I kept trying to kick it down the road. I'm going to retire and have a little less schedule in 24. I said, you know, we'll do it then, I couldn't get any peace about it.

The second reason is, you know, the book is really designed to pull back the curtain on all the culture theory, all the, you know, surveys. And really show the raw emotions if you're going to be intentional about creating a people first culture. You know, kinda what that journey might look like and what you can expect and to share some of those, I call 'em magnetic thoughts or magnetic insights. That would help others on their journey. Cause everybody's journey would be unique.

And the third thing is, I mean, look what's going on today. I mean, how more timely could a book like this be? 4 million people a month leaving jobs, people really disconnected from the work. Companies struggling with turnover accelerating. Companies are really missing the mark. They're really not addressing what the people are really looking for. And so that's kind of the core of the book. Those are the three reasons. 

Ryan Eaton: Well, you know, in the book, I got so many points out of it, and those are what I really wanna spend time today asking questions about

Joey Havens: Sure.

Ryan Eaton: Can you tell us, you know, I think it was, if I remember correctly, it was about 10 years ago. You kind of had the concept of, hey, we need to adjust some things, and you got the leaders together and y'all kind of came up with the wise firm and could you mind kinda helping kinda share the thought process or mentality. I guess when you said, Hey, we need to make some adjustments here. This is what it looks like and kind of hit kind of where that came from. 

Joey Havens: Sure. We were... It was 2011. We were in a transition of our managing partner. Dr. Hugh Parker was retiring and we were looking for the next managing partner, and I was up for that position. And, and we were working on, you know, what would be our, our vision for that and what do, where do we need to go and what do we need to be doing, but.

In that process, we realized we were just stuck. We were stuck in what we called good culture. Yeah. I mean just, it was just like, you know, having your pick up stuck and you're out there trying to get to the deer stand. We were wanting to grow faster. Our turnover was accelerating. Our client experience wasn't consistent.

It wasn't wild, like it really needed to be. And so we said, you know what? We're not gonna be stuck anymore. We're gonna get unstuck. And so, w looked at what does the future look like? And I think that's one of the keys for firms today too. Organizations of every kind. You gotta, we're in an exponential world, so you've gotta anticipate and so we saw... looking forward to talent war, all the baby boomers retiring, right? The talent war was gonna get bigger and bigger. And so we firmly believe that if we built a stronger culture. It would be a distinctive competitive advantage for us going forward. 

Ryan Eaton: Mm-hmm. I like that. So one of the things you even mentioned right then, this was kind of one of my points I wanted to hit on, you talked about good, right?

Everything was good, you know? I've heard it said before that good is the enemy of great. And we look at kind of good companies where, hey, your financials are fine. You're not, you're not losing money. You know, your, your culture. People in the office, they're happy to be there. They're not coming to work with passion, but they're, it's, it's a job, right?

They're, they're coming in or you have lower turnover. It's kind of good. But then you mentioned kind of that. Hey, in those type good environments or if you have a company underneath kind of the holding company that's kind of performing below par, even that those type things can start to smell like rotten hamburgers.

And you gave kind of a story and I'd love for, if you don't mind kind of hitting that today as well. But you know, if you're a leader of a company or you're trying to look at this and you see kind of an area as performing below everything else, how do you kind of get to that point to address it? And then what is the, what do kinda those steps look like to address it with maybe that leader of that department or the manager of that department?

How do you kind of take action kind of when you smell something kind of starting to smell rotten? 

Joey Havens: Yeah. One thing about culture is it takes a leadership team, you know, no one individual can lead it. It's gotta be a vision. Your leadership team buys into and really makes a commitment to. And you know, when you think about culture, you ask people, what does culture mean?

They say, you got a hundred different answers. I like to say it's the soul of your organization. It's really who you are. You know, it's your, your values and your beliefs, but it's also your actions and your behaviors andthe difference between those and your values is your trust gap. And the smaller your trust gap is, the stronger organization you got.

So when you think about your soul of your organization, you're gonna protect it, right? And anybody asks you about your organization, first thing outta your mouth is, yes, we have good culture. You might even say, we have great culture. But everybody says they have good culture.

And so to, to kick the book off and really help us. Say, all right, everybody has good culture. So what? When I was 15 years old, I had saved $300 for my first car. Now that tells you how far that goes back. It also tells you what kind of car will be able to buy. But my daddy drove me to Memphis, Tennessee.

We went, we had been circling ads. We found this 1965 Ford Falcon, straight shift on the steering wheel. I think Daddy had to loan me 15 bucks to close the deal. But man, that was my pride and joy and took it to ffa, cleaned it up, painted it, it, you know, it was amazing. It was my independence.

It was, it was the soul of my being a team. So we have a picnic out at a lake and I'm carrying groceries and stuff out there, and, you know, then on Monday morning, I get in my car and it's like, Hmm, man, my car doesn't smell that good. As I get home, I clean it up Tuesday, Wednesday, it's just as bad.

So finally I detail it completely out. The next week I do the same thing. I start riding to school with my windows down. You know, it's getting better. It's getting better. I put some air fresheners around. Just kept telling myself that it was going away. But every time one of my buddies would get in the car with me, they'd say, whoa, man, what's that smell?

What died in here? And that's the way it is about culture. But fortunately, about a week later, I had a flat tire and I, the wheel is down in a wheel well. I pulled that spare out and there was a little brown tab sticking out up under there, and I pulled that out and, Two pounds of rotting hamburger meat.

And lemme tell you, that'll destroy your car. That's right. It takes a lot of, Hey, it's getting better. And that's what's going on in organizations. Yeah. It's the soul of organization. We protect it. We say it's good and it takes a lot of courage and vulnerability to say, Hey, we can be better.

Ryan Eaton: That's right.

That's right. Well, I think too, you've mentioned kinda you put the air fresheners, you rolled the windows down. Right.

Joey Havens: I did the Band-Aids.

Ryan Eaton: That's right. And we all feel like we kind of put band-aids on such, oh, it's gonna get better. Oh, this, we did this, this should correct it, et cetera. And instead of really just truly addressing the, the issue and that was another point along these lines that you had and kinda my next question for you is, you know, we tend to address emergencies as you said, but we allow deteriorating cultures to kind of just kind of go by the wayside. And when do you see kind of companies finally saying, Hey, we need to bring this to a head. When do you say, when do you kind of see, how do you address that in those type situations? Instead of just letting something go, if maybe you don't have your leadership on board, maybe not everyone's there, but you are the leader and you say, Hey, we gotta do something about this.

How do you take care of that? 

Joey Havens: I think, you have to take a step back and say, you know, this is a symptom. This is the third star that's walked in this week, that we've paid more money, or we changed their flexibility schedule. But this is a symptom. It's happening more often. Our turnover's creeping up.What's going on here?

Or, our client services is not where it needs to be. Why are our people not really creating a client experience that's incredible. So it's a matter of stepping away and, and it might take a leader to lay out a vision, but it takes a leadership team to say that's who we want to be.

Ryan Eaton: Hmm. It takes a leader to lay out a vision and takes a leadership team to say, this is who we're gonna be. Oh, I like that. Good point there. So another thing you said in your book, and you talked about putting people first, and to me, I even told you when you got here this morning, that was one of those ones that kinda slapped me in the face, and you replied back to that.

That can start an argument, but you say that. Putting people first is more important than putting the client first. And it's because if you put the people first, it creates a culture that creates a wow factor with your client. And I love that. And I saw that and took a step back and I read it again in your book and you said that it's short term results when you put the client first, but culture, that's long-term results.

Joey Havens: Right.

Ryan Eaton: Hit on that for us for a minute and kinda what, where y'all got to that because I mean... Put the client first. We've heard it for a hundred years and y'all kind of twisted that and I like the twist to it. So hit on that for a minute, if you don't mind.

Joey Havens: Yeah, that's a fantastic question. As I told you when we were talking about it earlier, that'll create what could be fighting and in 2011 at Horne, I mean if you walk down the hall, all you could hear is get "client service right."

I'm sure you know client service, client service, client service. We're here about client service. And you know, truthfully, both of them are extremely. I mean, you're out of business if you don't have that, and you gotta have them both. And so they, they interrelate so much, but we forget that.

Why people work, determines how they work. Okay. So if somebody's connected, they see a purpose here. They have a sense of belonging. They see they're building something bigger than themselves. They got a common purpose. They're going to go about caring for that client because they feel cared for in a different way and, and in a much better, stronger way and more consistently. So it's really, they have to know your team. Your people have to know that you care about 'em, before they're gonna care about your clients.

Ryan Eaton: That's right. No, that's good. And you know, we've said here before that, you know, the achievements, right?

The things we accomplished. Those are great, but it's the impact at the end of the day that we really have on others. Is what really matters. And that's what I got out of your book and I was highly impressed with the leadership team at Horne. So many people getting on board too. I think it speaks a lot for your organization and the people that you've had leading over the last 10 to 15 years. It's, obviously the growth y'all seen, it's been phenomenal. What would you say is the biggest difference between amagnetic culture and a good culture. So what's the main difference? And I'd probably even follow it up to say, you know, what are other factors that you see there kind of as, not necessarily subpar, but maybe not the main factors?

Joey Havens: I think that most cultures, rightfully so, there's a focus on people. Okay. It's just high intentional. Is it, is it a focus that's by design? Are we saying, you know, people are number one, we're making strategic decisions about people first. In a good culture you have a lot more inconsistent behaviors.

You have inconsistent experiences. You can even have, you know, you said you had 12 offices. So two of your offices could be toxic. Yeah. You know, you could have leadership there, great organization, good culture. People want to come to work. But, they don't want to go to work here.

And so we all, I mean, organizations are like that. They're human. You're gonna, you're gonna have some of that. But the defining moment for a distinctive factor begins in a magnetic culture is when the leadership team leans into believing in the good, in people. And you gotta be vulnerable to do that. You gotta lean into, they want to be successful. 

Ryan Eaton: I like that. You mentioned vision as well in the book, and I say the leaning in to your people and setting a vision for 'em, and you setting a vision for the leadership team. You know, back in 2011, kind of when the whole partnership, the managing partner was kind of changing, you mentioned something in there that I appreciated your vulnerability in the book, kind of how you hit it.

That said, look, I had such a big vision for the company and I love too, from the Christian aspect, the solid rock versus the sinking sand. You know, we wanted to be a company built on the rock. We wanna make sure we, our principles would last the course of time, not just be here and look pretty for a little bit.

And when you, when you hit on that, you said that it almost scared me. The vision was so big. And then you go on to say that, Hey, if it scares you, you're probably on the right track. And that hit home for me because, you know, sometimes I think we try to play in our comfort zone to where, hey, maybe not set the goal so big or maybe not so dramatic so we can, Hey, let's just take it, let's take it a bite at a time type deal.

What did you mean and how did it feel to you having a vision that was so big? And when you say that keeps you on the right track, if it's that big, you're probably headed the right direction. Break that down for us a little bit, if you don't mind. 

Joey Havens: Well, I guess it from initially rolling it out, it was, you know, based on the Parable of the Bible, the wise man and the foolish man.

Ryan Eaton: I love that.

Joey Havens: And so we did the contrast of the wise firm and the foolish firm, and we talked about the behaviors in each one. And as I was in my last practice session to speak to the partnership. Not the firm, but the partners, the owners of the business, about that. I actually talked to my coach and I said, you know, I had gotten this scared.

I said, I'm going to take the wise firm out of here. And he stood up and he said, Joey, that's the best part of this and you are gonna leave it in. And so I was the one that tried to throw away.

Ryan Eaton: He slapped your hand and said, no, you're not. 

Joey Havens: Yes, exactly. He got me, he got me lying back up. But you know there's all kind of fears that happen even with all the partners, 100% embracing the vision, they said yes. That's who we want to be. We're tired of looking like that. You got all that momentum. We were a very successful firm. Yeah. If you ask about, Hey, is culture good at Horne? They'd say, yes. Is is Horne growing? Yes. But we weren't growing exponentially and our clients weren't having the kind of experience that we felt like the need.

But you've faced with that. If it isn't broke, Why are you, 

Ryan Eaton: I know. Don't mess with it 

Joey Havens: Don't mess with it. We're pretty darn successful. 

Ryan Eaton: Right? 

Joey Havens: So that, that was a big piece of it. You mentioned the other piece that I think gets, grabs us all the time. When you really start moving a culture, when you start moving an organization, there's a lot of people that have to be outta their comfort zone.

And we, we actually told our firm, we had had a meeting of the entire firm. We said, look, we're going to make culture number one. People's gonna be number one at Horne, even if we're smaller before we begin to grow again. Thankfully that never happened. God blessed us from day one. We had amazing growth the first two years and that really gave us the momentum to continue to dive deep, and to, being intentional about it. 

Ryan Eaton: Oh, I love it. Well, one of the other points, and I got several questions on this one and I wanted to actually read a little bit from your book. I kind of cut out a little piece here, and it's on a term that I think so many people are having to talk about, even if they don't want to talk about it right now and that's flexibility. And so you said here, and I just, this is a cutout from it, but you said "Our profession, CPAs, accountants consultants, had a well-earned reputation of having very little leeway in where, how and when people worked. What mattered were the hours. They were a sign of commitment and promotion criteria. But over time, a lack of flexibility was causing serious problems with retention. The causes were the cultural killers commonly known as control and a lack of trust. You then go on to say that Horne eliminated policies and procedures removing flexibility and really spent time on looking at results and outcomes.

So to me, when I'm thinking about this, I'm thinking, the leaders right now, managers listening to this is like, oh my gosh, this is where he is about to talk about working from home. You know? And, and people may want to kick on that, but you had a great way of being able to say that, Hey, we allow some people to be able to work from home at different times, butt heir working from home ability would never, will be less than what they were doing at the office from a productivity standpoint. That hey, this can maybe be a part of your flexibility, but it's gotta be able to equal here. Cause we're not going home to play, we're going home to work if that's what we're doing.

And y'all put metrics together, right? And you put different things to be able to help measure. Kind of just make sure it was working for everyone. What was that initial thought process for you guys? Looking at the metrics, looking at the numbers, looking at the outcomes to make sure they measured up.

And what was that like internally when I'm sure there had to been a little bit of, this is a bad idea whenever it first came out. 

Joey Havens: Oh, yeah. And, you know, I can go back across the street and get in a fight about something about that right now. But flexibility's hard and the reason it's so hard is because the flexibility you need in your culture, one that really attracts and holds people, it has to be unique to the individual and the role they assume at the company. You know, we have some client facing roles that's very hard to do. Some of the flexibility we have, you know, you got hourly people, you got federal regulations that affect flexibility. And so it, there's a lot of pieces to it, but overall, you gotta trust people.

And then we just identified it as the number one problem. We said, look, we don't know how to solve this. And we rolled it out to the entire firm and had a discussion. Process? What does that look like to y'all? And they came up with what we called a philosophy, fearless, unrivaled, flexibility.

And it was built around communication, trust, and commitment. And we knew we had the behavior under there and we communicated It's a privilege. So it's a privilege, privilege. It's not a right. So as long as you're progressing in your career as long as you're, you're taking care of clients, you're, you're fulfilling your role. And lots of bruises, lots of mistakes. You know, I go through a lot of those in the book. You know, we had to, but if you don't get middle management on,

Ryan Eaton: That's right. 

Joey Havens: It'll never work. 

Ryan Eaton: Now I agree with you a hundred and, you mentioned something's good because

Positions and services you provide are, they can all be different, right? I even look at, and from the insurance industry and our perspective, it's a lot easier to let salespeople work from home because the metrics are so easy to measure, right? Like, hey, your sales are down, your quotes are down, you're coming back, right?

Your sales are up, your quotes are up, your new business is up, your blocks up. Hey, you do whatever you need to do, right? Because, because you're looking at the overall outcome. But then you look at, at areas in the insurance industry, it's like, hey, Your customer service team having the calls recorded, et cetera, depending on someone's ability to be able to have phone systems and record it, it might look different, right?

They may not be able to work from home because of how this is set up, and so it does depend on that, but you talk about the flexibility and if you can prevent the rigid atmosphere. Right. If you can fit the rigid environment and you can make it more flexible, it will actually lower turnover. It will, you know, burnout is kind of a big thing you mentioned.

Tell us kind of, I know you saw burnout, that was kind of the leading thing you saw, and you mentioned even the, the thing I just read, you talked about, you know, hours worked or kind of like the badge of honor. And that is, I'm sure in a lot of businesses that's kind of the same way. And I know even personally, sometimes if I will work at five o'clock in the morning, I'll maybe get my emails done from the night before if I was at a kid's game or something.

But then I may go have a meeting or coffee with someone at eight o'clock. And you know, sometimes I feel like when I come back in, if I'm not there at 8:01, you know, I'm late and you're kind of getting judged a little bit. Right. and it's like, oh, he's just a boss, thinks he can come... you know that you see that type stuff.

And so tell me from that standpoint, what did you see? What were other issues with kind of overworking and over demanding that you saw were causing, besides burnout, What did you see in your organization? 

Joey Havens: Well, I think in our organization, we just saw that our ability to attract talent and then once the talent was there, their inability to manage their life their personal life and their career. You know, you've got mothers that need to pick kids up at 3:30 and it just goes on and on. And it's not a mother thing, by the way. It is a people thing. And you mentioned feeling guilty or somebody judging you. We identified that we called it actually vampires.

You know, guilt vampires, and sometimes we create the guilt vampire. Right? Probably nobody thought a word about Ryan coming in 8:05. Right. But we created and then you do have those in the organization that don't believe in flexibility, and they will, they'll say those cute little remarks.

And those remarks, that affects culture, that drives down culture right there because they think it's cute, they think it's funny, but what you're really saying is, I don't buy in to that. But what we found over time is that people would actually get more done, be much more productive. Even work, if you measuring it by hours, they might work more hours, but because they were managing it meeting their deadlines and communicating with their team. It was like they weren't, were not working as much 

Ryan Eaton: and they felt ownership, I'm sure too. You know, it's they empowered 

Joey Havens: you're being. if I really extend trust to you. 

Ryan Eaton: That's right. 

Joey Havens: You're already connected to me on a little different level. That's right. And you're wanting to succeed. 

Ryan Eaton: That's right. A hundred percent. 

Joey Havens: But yes, look, people are gonna fail. There are people that are not good at it. 

Ryan Eaton: That's right. That's right. You have to be willing to address that. Right. 

Joey Havens: You gotta be willing to have hard conversations. 

Ryan Eaton: Well, that kinda leads me to my last question on the flexibility, and we got this one and one more question, but I love the term you used. They gotta be willing to flex up and flex down, what does that mean? 

Joey Havens: Yeah. When you're really talking about flexibility that we allow people to kind of manage their week differently.

You know, somebody might wanna play golf on Wednesday afternoon, so most Wednesday afternoons are not in the office. But big clients says, I'm only gonna be in town on Wednesday at two o'clock, and that's your client. You gotta flex in that. That's what that's about. Let's say we have, we get a huge project and it's all hands on deck and you've been working two days in the office and three out, and this is one of those where the team's gonna be in a big room.

We're gonna really work with the client themselves and work, you know. You flex in, you're in the office all five days that way. 

Ryan Eaton: That's right. No, that's good. It's so important for you to be able to, because you're still a team, right? You still gotta end goal, you're still a team and the client, you know, you gotta take care of the client as well.

And if that's what works for them coming in at this time, you gotta flex in.

Alright, so again, I want, I'm hitting on your book at the very end, but when you talk about leading with significance in your book, what was the best piece of advice someone's ever given you that kind of helped you lead not only your business, but your life with significance?

Joey Havens: That one's pretty easy. Cause of my parents, they always impressed on me, my brother and my sister, that if we put God first .

Ryan Eaton: Amen

Joey Havens: And look for his purpose. That we'll be able to get through all of life's ups and downs. And the other thing they taught us is, you know, be grateful. Just be grateful in it.

You know, I think about it. I try to write down something I'm grateful for every morning, two or three things. When you do that, it's hard to be stressed. It's hard to be angry. It just gives your body and your soul energy just being grateful, being thankful, and I'm, I'm thankful for this opportunity.

Ryan Eaton: Man, I am too. Well, I appreciate you being here today, Joey. Why don't you tell everyone where do they find your book? Where can they get it? I know you told me the hard backs coming out in May, all the back orders right now, but where can they go to get updates on books and everything else?

Joey Havens: Thank you. Thank you. Yes. I cannot even believe the delay with printers, but it will be May of 23 before I will have actually hard back copies. But you'll be able to go to Amazon as well as some retail stores. But until then, to keep up to date with that, you can go to And there's a little list there, and if you sign up for that, you'll get the updates on where the book is and where you can get it

Ryan Eaton: Man, that's fantastic. Well, I, again, this was great. I've seen your building right across the street for years and have several friends over there, but then to be able to get you over here today for this, this was this was great for us. And, and from a culture standpoint and leading with significance, we couldn't have had anyone better speak on that. 

So, and I can tell you I have absolutely loved this book, probably the best book that I've read when it comes to creating culture in your organization. So get it for your team, get it for you. Build your people up with it's, you will not be disappointed with what Joey wrote. So, but thank you everyone for tuning in to Insurance Leadership Podcast today. Hope you enjoyed it.

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