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BY AGENTS, FOR AGENTS – The Rough Notes Company Inc.

BY AGENTS, FOR AGENTS - The Rough Notes Company Inc.


Individuals, ardour and future focus assist HawkSoft win raves from shopper administration system clients

By Dave Willis, CPIA

The genesis of HawkSoft dates again to the 1980s when Sean Hawkins, son of HawkSoft President and Chief Government Officer Paul Hawkins, was in elementary faculty. Paul recollects, “Sean’s instructor referred to as me and stated, ‘Mr. Hawkins, we’ve obtained an issue together with your son.’ I responded, ‘Oh no, what did he do?’’’ Allaying Paul’s fears, the instructor defined that Sean was doing his work the wrong way up and together with his left hand. He thought Sean was bored and advisable that Paul purchase him a pc.

It wasn’t a tough promote; Paul was considering shopping for a pc anyway. However the instructor added a situation, and that basically jump-started HawkSoft. “He stated to not purchase any software program or video games, however as an alternative get a sure e-book on programming,” Paul says. “That one piece of recommendation paved the best way for Sean and me to develop up collectively underneath the umbrella of programming. The connection we had—and should today—could be very totally different from that of many different fathers and sons. We grew to be greatest pals.”

“Many administration techniques obtained their begin as accounting or finance packages after which later added policyholder workflow options. … Our story is backwards. We have been constructed by insurance coverage brokers to optimize every day workflows that mattered to their employees.”
—Rushang Shah
Director of Advertising

Dangerous Brie

With some programming expertise beneath their belts—and earlier than ideas of insurance coverage software program entered their minds—Paul went to work for a corporation that imported cheese from all over the world. “They might convey Brie in from France; it had a reasonably brief shelf life again then as a result of it was not pasteurized,” Paul recollects. “We might lose entire palettes of Brie as a result of it wasn’t used within the correct order.”

The issue was that the corporate had no stock software program. “Sean and I—principally Sean—wrote stock software program and took it to my boss,” Paul recollects. “He was astounded.” The corporate had simply fielded quotes from distributors of such software program and located all the proposals to be too costly. The software program Sean and Paul created did greater than what the distributors have been providing and what the boss was trying to purchase.

“The boss gave me a large examine, which I took house to Sean,” Paul says. “I stated, ‘See what we did?’ Sean’s eyes obtained big. He was in eighth grade and he stated, ‘Dad, sometime you and I shall be companions in our personal enterprise, and we’ll name it HawkSoft.”

Earlier than lengthy, Paul turned an insurance coverage agent and he and Sean began writing software program for his captive company. A couple of years later, Paul moved to the unbiased aspect of the enterprise and located robust want there. “We wrote software program for the massive nonstandard auto company I labored for,” Paul notes. “Then another businesses requested about this system, and we discovered ourselves within the software program enterprise. We signed our first clients in October 1995—and we’re proud to say these earliest businesses are nonetheless with us 24 years later!”

The journey

Canby, Oregon-based HawkSoft has grown from the father-son duo to 100 workforce members serving the wants of hundreds of unbiased company professionals working in businesses ranging in measurement from single-person outlets to a gaggle with 600 customers.

“We obtained our begin blanketing the western hall of the USA—from Washington to California,” explains Rushang Shah, HawkSoft director of selling. “We’ve all the time excelled in private strains, however within the final 20 years we’ve expanded to the business aspect and now have a nationwide footprint. The Northeast is our strongest progress space. Our system scales from pure private strains businesses to companies doing solely business enterprise.”

“For probably the most half, our progress has been natural, with glad clients sharing their expertise with friends.”
—Paul Hawkins
President and Chief Government Officer

The software program performs the complete vary of company features, from quoting and score to buyer relationship administration to monetary reporting and extra. The options, whereas necessary, usually are not the large differentiator. “Early on we determined we would have liked to supply excessive customer support,” Paul notes. “Identical to their policyholders, crucial factor businesses need is for somebody to be there once they need assistance. Administration methods may be very complicated, and if company employees can’t get help shortly, they get annoyed.”

Via most of HawkSoft’s existence, Paul says, progress got here from delivering exceptional service after which letting clients do the advertising. “We didn’t have a advertising division for the primary 20 years of our existence,” he recollects. “If we had clients in a specific state, we’d attend the state affiliation commerce present, principally to help these clients. For probably the most half, our progress has  been natural, with glad clients sharing their expertise with friends.”

As soon as they’re in, businesses keep as a result of the product meets their wants. “One key metric we proudly shout from the rooftops is our retention,” Rushang says. “Businesses stick with HawkSoft on common for 18 years, and most who depart don’t achieve this as a result of they’re switching to a different system; extra typically it’s as a result of they bought the company.”

Requested why they keep, many purchasers cite consumer expertise. “Workflows are very intuitive,” Rushang explains. “This goes again to our roots. Many administration methods received their begin as accounting or finance packages after which later added policyholder workflow options.

“Our story is backwards,” he continues. “We have been constructed by insurance coverage brokers to optimize day by day workflows that mattered to their employees. To interact a regular workflow might take two or three steps in our system, however the identical workflow might take 10 steps in one other system. This can be a big a part of why clients stick to us.”

Paul recollects a current case the place an agent did depart. “He was very vocal about us not doing an excellent job for brokers, and he left beneath a cloud,” he says. “He was gone for a couple of months earlier than he got here again, fairly apologetic. A few of his employees had give up. Others threatened to give up if he didn’t return to HawkSoft. He stated workflows within the different system have been much less intuitive and took longer. Coverage downloads have been mapped incorrectly. Worst of all, he stated, there was a basic sense of malaise within the workplace.”

“We will do as little or as a lot as an company wants. … Our job is to let brokers do what they do greatest; we deal with what most individuals actually don’t care to do.”
—Crystal Erlitz, CISR Elite
HawkSoft Managed Accounting Providers


It’s greater than product that retains clients round. “I used to be simply on the IAOA (Insurance coverage Company House owners Alliance) annual assembly,” Paul says, “and we’ve a whole lot of clients there. Like at different conferences, they might come as much as me and say issues like, ‘I really like your individuals’ or ‘You could have such nice individuals’ or ‘Your individuals don’t speak right down to me; they need to assist.’ We work with customers like they’re household. They’re that necessary to us, and that makes a distinction.”

It goes again to one thing an early employer drilled into Paul. “My mentor, the man who owned the company the place I labored once I began doing this and who later turned my gross sales supervisor, advised me, ‘Crucial factor you are able to do is encompass your self with good individuals.’ I can say that’s one thing I’ve carried out.”

Rushang hears comparable feedback. “We have been doing a video interview with an company principal and she or he stated, placing apart the product capabilities and the customer support, the one factor she appreciates greater than something is that everybody in HawkSoft is so accessible, from Paul on the CEO degree throughout the group. She stated it’s like how everybody in a household is accessible, including that it’s very troublesome to seek out this type of accessibility elsewhere on this market.”

The notion of household bounced round Paul’s thoughts sufficient lately that he created an unofficial firm tagline—or perhaps it’s only a Paulism. “I used to be chatting with a gaggle of brokers and I described HawkSoft as ‘a family-owned enterprise in a household business that protects households,’” he says.


Perception within the family-centric unbiased company system additionally underpins HawkSoft’s success. “This is among the best industries anyplace,” Paul asserts. “Individuals are caring and family-oriented, and if somebody isn’t—if they don’t seem to be trustworthy, high-integrity individuals—the business will eliminate them shortly. I really like the company channel and need nothing greater than for it to succeed.”

Altering business wants drive Paul and his group. “Watch TV and also you see one business after one other all pounding worth and commoditizing the private strains insurance coverage product,” Paul observes. “That is main a number of unbiased businesses to focus extra on business strains. And it’s inflicting unbiased businesses to market greater than ever earlier than.”

Many businesses don’t know find out how to market successfully. “We’re serving to them,” Paul says. “With the ability to assist them perceive advertising, how you can contact clients, giving them the instruments to take action, after which serving to them to make modifications extra simply—once they need to and the way—these are the issues that hold me up at night time. We have to present instruments that assist unbiased brokers compete.”

Ardour has led Paul to business engagement. In 2017 the corporate gained the inaugural Andy Fogarty AUGIE Business Impression Award for its work to encourage businesses utilizing HawkSoft to grow to be extra conscious of present and potential service obtain alternatives. (See the January 2018 Tough Notes story.)

“Additionally, I sit on a vendor council with 9 rivals to see what we will do to assist the unbiased company channel,” Paul notes. “Sure, we’re rivals, however we’re additionally on the identical staff. If we don’t promote the unbiased company channel and assist it thrive, we’re all out of labor.”

“ROI for me is the power to get what I want so I can transfer on to different necessary issues.”
—Robert James

Managed providers

Rushang sees extra businesses under-standing what he calls “the existential have to concentrate on their core experience—constructing group relationships, educating individuals about danger administration, and creating a singular model—and leaving back-office operations to outdoors specialists.” The agency took this under consideration because it lately launched HawkSoft Managed Accounting Providers.

Based mostly in a brand new workplace in New Bern, North Carolina, “HawkSoft Managed Accounting Providers offers out-

sourced belief and working accounting, financial institution and fee reconciliation, and payroll providers for insurance coverage businesses,” explains Crystal Erlitz, CISR Elite, supervisor of the brand new unit.  “We will do as little or as a lot as an company wants. Some simply want financial institution reconciliation. Others use the full-service package deal. Our job is to let brokers do what they do greatest; we deal with what most individuals actually don’t care to do.”

PNI, an unbiased company in Kirkland, Washington, makes use of the service. The 25-year-old property and casualty agency writes about 70% private strains and 30% business. It’s a nine-person store doing enterprise within the Pacific Northwest and different western states.

“Our focus is on offering no matter is greatest for the shopper’s curiosity,” explains company President Robert James. The company has used HawkSoft for 2 yearsand final yr signed on for the Managed Accounting Providers. As a part of a 17-member aggregator, the company beforehand used a shared accounting skilled who final yr introduced her intention to retire. “Together with her exit we would have liked to determine a greater answer,” James recollects. “Alongside got here HawkSoft and Crystal.”

Preliminary discussions targeted on communication commitments—an essential issue given the cross-country relationship the company was considering with Crystal. “I needed to determine her work mannequin and communication mannequin and the commitments behind that,” he explains. “Her give attention to particulars and her specialization with the HawkSoft system made it a pure choice.”

He received what he bargained for and extra. “Accessibility is extraordinarily necessary,” James notes. “I can’t inform you what number of occasions I texted Crystal at three or 4 within the morning Pacific time and received a reply immediately for one thing that in all probability ought to have waited. ROI for me is the power to get what I want so I can transfer on to different necessary issues.”

Crystal says the success of the mannequin comes from her staff’s information of bookkeeping, insurance coverage, and administration methods. (They’ve experience with a variety of widespread company administration methods.) “We all know HawkSoft in addition to anybody within the agent’s workplace,” she explains. “We all know belief accounting, which is an unimaginable asset, and in addition working accounting. We will run payroll, reconcile financial institution accounts, reconcile commissions—we’re a one-stop store. Plus, we function with the philosophy, ‘What’s pressing to my buyer is pressing to me.’”

Rising toolbox

Managed providers are simply part of HawkSoft’s future. Because it helps brokers concentrate on core competencies, the agency is shifting aggressively to the cloud and is constructing a Associate API platform that lets outdoors events combine with the administration system. “We provide a market the place brokers select from an inventory of integrations,” Rushang explains. “We invite distributors to be concerned and develop their enterprise.”

It’s all a part of being able to serve the subsequent era of brokers. “Tomorrow’s staff are accustomed to subscriptions,” he feedback. “Brokers who be a part of the insurance coverage enterprise within the subsequent 10 years will come from a world the place you subscribe to a service to deal with virtually any facet of life.

“We need to break down limitations for people who find themselves excited and related to their group—assist them grow to be brokers and never have to fret about all of the back-office particulars,” he provides. “We provide the software program and may deal with back-office duties by means of managed providers. This lets brokers construct relationships, become involved of their communities, clarify insurance coverage, and be obtainable to their neighbors in the course of the wet days of life.”

Paul additionally sees engagement with insureds as necessary. “Not solely will our API and different choices let brokers do extra; additionally they will let clients interact. For years we’ve all the time keyed in on brokers. Now it’s extra necessary than ever to key in on insureds as a approach to assist brokers do their job higher.”

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