The Great Pivot

Last month, some of my peers who are leaders and entrepreneurs and I, met with the University of Connecticut Men’s Hockey Team. Their head coach, Mike Cavanaugh, provides multiple opportunities throughout the year for his student-athletes to meet with business leaders as part of their mentor program. We focused on three themes.
  1. The Great Pivot – college into professional world
  2. Building Greatness – hockey program vision
  3. Leadership – big part of their culture
The guys asked great questions and, like all mentoring relationships, I learned as much from these young adults as I hope we were able to impart on them. Some takeaways…
  • Confirmed for me that student-athletes can make great hires. Being part of a team culture at this age is so beneficial – day in and out – demonstrating the skills and behaviors teams/businesses need to be successful.
  • The “Great Pivot” is filled with uncertainly and a great time for “mentors” to provide guidance and support as young adults figure out their path.
  • Great teams always have their purpose, values and standards front and center. Coach Cavanaugh’s Values align with Smith Brothers – respect, trust, humility, fun and impact – all at the core of building greatness.
  • To be a high achieving individual, team and/or company – it’s all about the “reps” – doing, learning, growing – while others are merely thinking about it.

#Go Huskies!

Be Sure!


The Holidays

Each New Year’s Eve, my family and I share about the year now behind us – gratitude, greatest achievement, biggest lesson, best experience, funniest moment – and we share our outlooks on the new year – goals, hopes, dreams.

Professionally, I do the same. While, I meet weekly with my team to move forward our ROCKS and priorities (determined based on our strategy of Profitable Growth, Client Experience and Great Place to Work), I enjoy reflecting on what we accomplished, didn’t accomplish, learned from or chose to drop/push out. 2017 was another fun, quick and productive year at Smith Brothers. I share with you a few highlights that demonstrate our Helping Others Culture.

We worked with several local charities, contributing tens of thousands of dollars as well as thousands of hours to help kids and families – Kids For Kids CT, My Sisters Place Diaper Drive, Freedom Project’s Education Grant, Backpack Drive YMCA of Southington, The Purple Project, The American Heart Association, and Holiday Bear’s annual holiday giving for kids in need and many more.

Our Services and Products helped thousands of our clients or their employees recover from loss or injury helping them get through difficult times with financial and supporting services – the core of our products and services are there to help people in a time of need – how inspiring and rewarding for us. We recognized milestone birthdays and anniversaries of our team members, supported each other in personal loss, and gave each other high fives and hugs.

20 new people joined our team (combination of new positions and open headcount). Our Company is now over 180 team members across multiple states. Two new companies and their 22 people joined the Smith Brothers Team – KLN (Hartford based Medical Malpractice Insurance) and Widerman & Company (New Jersey based Insurance Brokerage). Earned several industry awards for our commitment to service, quality and overall expertise, including an award from a nationally recognized industry based quality program called PAR for our high level of quality control and service. Seven of our team members retired after rewarding careers helping others in our industry. Quality succession planning and implementation is key for any business and we are working hard to make sure our team members can retire when they chose and our clients and other team members move forward from a place of strength.

We grew through risks, experimenting with innovation and technology, and in our commitment to continuous improvement. We focused on learning and development and team member wellbeing – EDP’s (Employee Development Plans), soft skills training, walking, yoga, meditation/mind clear with our goal to help people manage stress and create capacity at work and at home. I am proud of our team and what we accomplished this year. I believe it is the connection to our Helping Others purpose that creates our ability to deliver a great Client Experience, earn Profitable Growth and be a Great Place To Work. From our Smith Brothers Family to yours – best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year!

Be Sure!


Teen Driving – My Excitement and Worry

As a Personal Lines Insurance Advisor and a parent of two new teen drivers, I have mixed emotions watching my kids transition into this new ‘life stage’. I am excited about the possibility of ending my taxi driver days and, at the same time, concerned for their safety.

According to a September 2017 article in the The Daily Record – “car crashes kill more teenagers per year than suicides and drugs combined. In 75 percent of teen car crashes, no drugs or alcohol are involved.” Distracted driving is not limited to cell phone use – it also includes eating, talking to others in your vehicle and fiddling with your car’s gadgets. While driving 55 mph, taking your eyes off the road for 5 seconds is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

As my teens began driving, here are the 3 things I did with my teens:
1. We created a driving contract between me and my teen to establish safer driving behaviors.

2. We set expectations and consequences. Topics included; phone usage, speed, passengers, driving impaired and buckling up.

3. Most importantly, we have open communication and ongoing dialog with our kids – not always easy to do and we do it anyway!

Happy Driving!!!

Attention To Detail

My name is Kyle Wolff. I am a husband, father, a former special operations officer for the US Government, a first time blogger and a Risk Advisor with Smith Brothers Insurance.

My teammate, Brian Terry, was killed in action December 14, 2010. He died from a single gunshot wound to the abdomen delivered by combatant gunfire. As part of the “after action review” or AAR, I decided two things:
1) My tactics, in any profession, would be predicated on an ‘attention to detail’ mindset
2) Working for the government was not the long-term play for my family

Using the experience and skills learned in special operations, I’ve developed a proprietary and proven method to protect businesses and the risks business owners face. It’s a transparent and diagnostic process aimed to help a business owner understand their exposures and how to properly avoid, retain, transfer, or mitigate them.

Using this very specific formula, I am able to ensure my clients are protected, or at the very least, make active decisions not to implement a risk management strategy.

I’m super passionate about analyzing risk, teaching about risk and supporting my clients.
So, instead of studying and analyzing topographic maps and kill zones, I focus on contractual risk transfer and analyzing policy forms for business owners all over the country….

One thing has remained constant – Attention To Detail – it is the secret sauce!

Cyber Threats & Exposures

Cyber attack exposure to businesses continues to grow and become more unpredictable and uncertain. Authorities and shareholders are holding management and executives accountable, yet managing this risk is ever more challenging. The Cyber exposure is not an IT level issue. We suggest from the Board to executives to management – your company manage this risk through loss prevention – incident preparation – crisis management and risk transfer through emerging insurance cover. Please contact Scott Garcia to help you with all aspects of Cyber and associated Crime risks – Scott’s phone number is 860-430-3330 or email him at Our website address is

A quick read on the current state of cyber attacks on U.S. businesses below

Be Sure!


Creating the Wave

Welcome to our blog, Square Talk and our updated website!

When I first joined Smith Brothers I was caught in a torrent. I was excited for our future and aware we would be riding big, fun waves. With the help of several more mindful and balanced people, I began to see the need to find my flow as SBI is about building year over year growth and to be sustainable relevant – forever. Since joining Smith Brothers, I’ve become more mindful, patient and present. I’ve practiced yoga, dabble in mediation and become aware of the growth opportunities I have as a leader.

Learning and development is an important part of our culture and I am grateful for the opportunities to develop so I can be the best version of myself – for my family, my teammates and our clients.

We work towards sustainable relevance through three strategic priorities – being a Great Place To Work, providing an exceptional Client Experience, and creating Profitable Growth. We seek these three simultaneously as success in one, or two, only delays the inevitable decline.

Like all things in this world, it takes many different people, skills, perspectives, and a bit (okay, a lot) of love to make change happen. Marriage is change. Raising children is change. Developing a team is change.

People say change is hard. I say, it’s only hard if you tell yourself it is. Are you a positive contributor to change or are you letting it happen to you? I’ll leave you with two quotes on change that speak to me.

“Change is the only constant in life.”
– Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
– Ghandi

What Drives Winning

Last month I attended the What Drives Winning Conference in Boston, MA. Led by writer Brett Ledbetter, it was a series of conversations with championship coaches discussing how the character in people is the secret sauce that drives everything and, when you focus on developing the people you lead into stronger human beings, you create better results.

If you are leading a sports team or a workplace – it’s the same.

  • Start with knowing your purpose and defining core values, then hire and retain people in your organization that embody those values.
    • These values should guide hiring decisions – be able to succinctly describe what’s really important to you – if you can’t, you will have difficulty finding team members that will take your business in the right direction.
  • Brad Stevens, Head Basketball Coach for the Boston Celtics, has a pyramid of success that sets the tone for his team – Character is the base, Prepare and Perform in the center, Result at the peak.
  • At Smith Brothers, we too have a pyramid – our Team Members at the base, our Values and Be Sure Service Standards in the center and our result of Helping Others at the peak.
  • Both pyramids exhibit the alignment for why and how we work.
  • Developing the people you lead into stronger human beings creates better results.
    • We all want players who are coachable. Being coachable means you aspire to get better and you buy into a growth mindset – it is a sign of self-respect and respect for your team.
  • During the conference, Coach Stevens said, “Good players want to be coached. Great players want to be coached even more”.
  • Tim Corbin, Head Baseball Coach at Vanderbilt University spoke passionately about the standards they have established and, for which, team members play within – those who don’t play within the standards ultimately choose to play elsewhere. Team members who do so, do so out of self-respect, respect for their team and other players.
  • Learning and developing is preparing to perform – always wanting to get better and make the team/organization better.
  • All the coaches agreed – “Team achievement is where legacy comes from”. At Smith Brothers we strive every day to be sustainably relevant – an organization that will forever be known as the leading source of risk management resources for families and businesses to be sure they are protected and for Helping Others in our communities.

I hope you get a chance to check out a future What Drives Winning conference or Brett Ledbetter’s book, What Drives Winning, Building Character Gets Results – as the principles and learnings clearly transcend sports. Let me know what you think!

Be Sure!


Joe B. Smith

President & CEO, Smith Brothers Insurance 

Auto Risks Facing Business

I wanted to pass along a link Travelers shared with us that looks to highlight the top six auto risks businesses face today. Whether commercial (or personal) – there are negative trends emerging. Most startling – auto fatalities are on the rise – even with more advanced technology and safety options available. As you will see in the graphic, Travelers identifies the following six top auto risks business face today as:

  1. Escalating Medical Costs
  2. Distractions (more on this below)
  3. Personal Autos At Work
  4. More Attorney Involvement
  5. Inexperienced Drivers
  6. Data Proliferation

Businesses retain many risks when their employees go on the road. At Smith Brothers, we can help you learn more about the risks and what they mean to you and your team.

As for distracted driving, while not a substitute for overall safety, there are several apps on the market today that may be an option for commercial and personal use.

  • Hum – a plug-in diagnostic and monitoring tool that includes Wi-Fi and emergency assistance. It provides trip reports and your safety score – because sometimes we aren’t as aware of our behavior as we should be.
  • Canary – a phone app that lets you know when there is texting, tweeting, or internet use behind the wheel. You can also set alerts for when the driver speeds, leaves a particular geo-fence and where, exactly the Canary’s are.
  • Glympse – loads information onto your cars in dash display where the data you need is more easily read.
  • Cellcontrol – this Bluetooth device automatically prevents the drivers from using their phones once the car is in motion.
  • Twist – automatically informs your pre-determined contacts of you’re running late. Like a little trip concierge!

Be Sure!


Smith Brothers Insurance, LLC specifically disclaims any responsibility or liability relating to the use of the suggested products and recommendations and shall under no circumstances whatsoever, be liable for any special, incidental or consequential damages which may arise from such use.

Core Values Are Constant

At Smith Brothers, our core values form the foundation of how we go about our work, how we conduct ourselves and interact with each other. In our ever-changing and over-stimulated world, core values are constant. They are not descriptions of the work we do. Instead they are the practices we strive to use every day in everything we do (or should do). I constantly turn to them to guide my decisions as CEO especially when the world gets chaotic.


These are Smith Brothers Core Values. I am dedicating the June 2017 edition of News & Views to TRUST.

Every interaction we have with someone builds or depletes trust. We use an analogy from another CEO who uses Trust Battery to easily communicate with team members on whether one is charging it or depleting it. The ability to give our trust to someone/something or to be trustworthy ourselves is the core of effectiveness and building solid relationships – in life and in business. “Trust” is used so much in slogans or tag lines – it often is left to sound hollow and doesn’t get the drill down it deserves based on how crucial being great at “trust” is in relationships. When I talk about trust within Smith Brothers, I like to give some concrete behavior examples we can relate to in our daily interactions.

  • Do you do your job with a high degree of quality/competence – can team members count on you? Are you technically an expert in what you do?
  • Do you communicate effectively – sharing what you know and what you don’t know?
  • Do you show you care about the other person? Showing you listen and understand their needs?
  • Are you good at conflict resolution – do you work towards win/win outcomes instead of being a zero-sum gamer?
  • Do you follow through – do what you say you are going to do? Do you keep your promises? Are you responsive?
  • Do you default to good? Meaning – do you withhold judgment until you have information about a situation instead of jumping to the worst conclusion about someone/something.

If you can honestly answer yes to these questions, you are probably building a foundation of trust with your team members. You are charging the Trust Battery. If you couldn’t answer yes – let these questions serve as a guide to understanding how to build your brand of trust in an organization and become more effective and influential than you ever thought you could. With self-awareness comes possibilities. An environment filled with trust is not only more efficient – it is also filled with joy and fulfillment. Spend some time this week thinking about how you live the core value of TRUST – think of every interaction as “did I charge the trust battery with that interaction or did I deplete it”- it will be well worth your time!

Be Sure!