Introducing Aaron Steffey, tech entrepreneur and co-founder of Propeller Bonds, a company revolutionizing how agents and brokers distribute and process surety and fidelity bonds.
With a degree from Ole Miss and an MBA from Villanova, Aaron’s insurance background has driven him to improve the industry’s efficiency. Propeller Bonds now works with almost 2,500 agencies throughout the US.
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We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Aaron Steffey: I live in Philadelphia, PA, with my wife and three kids (Quinn, Callan, and Liam). I grew up surrounded by insurance as my parents ran a small insurance agency.
I completed my undergraduate studies at Ole Miss and launched Propeller with my cousin Chris Kolger shortly after finishing my MBA at Villanova.
Propeller Bonds acts as an MGA/MGU and is revolutionizing the way agents and brokers distribute and process surety and fidelity bonds. We work with nearly 2,500 agencies throughout the United States.
If you were in an elevator with Warren Buffet, how would you describe your company, your services or products? What makes your company different from others? What is your company’s biggest strength?
Aaron Steffey: We built a system using proprietary technology to help automate the process of buying and issuing surety and fidelity bonds. We do this as an MGA, and we white-label our product for thousands of agents and brokers and give it away for free.
It’s an efficiency play and helps agents and brokers be much more efficient with day-to-day bond requests. Surety was one of the most archaic lines of insurance business until we showed up.
It’s also one of the most profitable lines of business as well. Our biggest strengths are our team, our tech, and our distribution.
In the past year, what is the greatest business achievement you’d like to celebrate with your team? Please share the details of that success.
Aaron Steffey: We recently closed on our seed funding at the end of 2022. Due to the current economic conditions, it says a lot about our company and our team that we were able to raise money (and be oversubscribed) in this environment.
Quiet quitting, The Great Resignation, are an ongoing trend causing many businesses to struggle keeping talent engaged and motivated. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. In your experience, what keeps employees happy? And how are adapting to the current shift we see?
Aaron Steffey: Treating employees as adults and giving them autonomy is a great start. We also recently allowed every staff member at our company to have stock options, which is very helpful.
People want to believe in what they do and feel some level of ownership over their work and the outcome, which we’ve tried to create at Propeller Bonds.
What advice do you wish you received when you started your business journey and what do you intend on improving in the next quarter?
Aaron Steffey: Taking time out of the day-to-day grind to work on the business as opposed to in the business. Right now, I’m trying to intentionally spend more time on the business from a macro level.
Online business keeps on surging higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for the year to come and how are you capitalizing on the tidal wave?
Aaron Steffey: Our business was born out of COVID so we have continuously conducted business online. One thing we’re doing now is working on tech enhancements to provide an even more embedded, seamless experience for customers and meeting the customer where they are in their purchasing journey. This seems to be the hot topic in insurtech at the moment.
Here is a two fold question: What is the book that influenced you the most and how? Please share some life lessons you learned. Now what book have you gifted the most and why?
Aaron Steffey: This is the same book. It’s my favorite and most gifted. It’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.
The title sounds a bit deceitful, but the premise is how to approach people, be a good listener, be authentic, and win friends and allies as you network. It’s a bit about human psychology in business, and I recommend everyone give it a read.
Christopher Hitchens, an American journalist, is quoted as saying that “everyone has a book in them” Have you written a book? If so, please share with us details about it. If you haven’t, what book would you like to write and how would you like it to benefit the readers?
Aaron Steffey: I have not, but if I could, I’d write a book about making the transition to tech entrepreneur. It always seemed so insurmountable and I’m sure it does to so many, but there are many people who could easily take their industry knowledge and leverage it to be a part of a tech company in that same industry. I’d love to share my story about that.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as THE real challenge right now?
Aaron Steffey: For us, the real challenge is to continue to grow as fast as we are without sacrificing the customer experience. That is hard to do. You must be developing technology to help the process, hiring to help the process, and putting new systems in place. All while growing 300%. It’s definitely not easy.
In your experience, what tends to be the most underestimated part of running a company? Can you share an example?
Aaron Steffey: It’s cliché, but having the courage or perseverance to keep getting back up on the days you were knocked down cannot be overstated enough.
There are so many days where things don’t go right, and it’d be easy to throw in the towel. I find the most successful people aren’t always the smartest or most talented, sometimes it’s just the people that have the grit and determination to keep going.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Aaron Steffey: The ability to enjoy organization. I do it out of necessity, but I absolutely despise it.
What does “success” in the year to come mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Aaron Steffey: This year success to me looks like accomplishing all of our growth goals at Propeller while simultaneously having plenty of time to spend with my kids. And to have fun doing it!
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Aaron Steffey for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Aaron Steffey or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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