Strong leadership and teamwork are at the heart of every successful business. A good leader enjoys working as part of a team and sets the mindset for the entire company, commonly referred to as its corporate culture.
Take the CEO of Continental Underwriters, Inc., C. Preston Herrington III, for example. He learned the value of decisive leadership and teamwork during five years in the U.S. Navy, three of which he served as a Navy SEAL. “The lessons I learned about the power of people aligning toward a common goal have guided me through every endeavor since. Training to become a SEAL was both the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I had to dig deep and learn a lot about myself, and this is where I discovered firsthand the importance of teamwork,” he recalls.
“During my SEAL Training Class, it became clear to me that each member of the team had to deliver on their specific role as well as collaborate and work together as a team,” he adds. “This mindset was critical to ensuring success in our missions.”
After leaving military service, Preston cut his teeth working for several large insurance companies, which exposed him to underwriting, risk assessment, and technical insurance coverages. He then joined a family insurance brokerage business, which focused on forest products insurance.
Harking back to his SEAL training, working as a team became a foundational tool for him, leading the creation of Continental Underwriters in 2013. “My combined experience in the Navy, insurance company and brokerage side of the business led to the formation of an organization focused on attracting and retaining high-quality people,” he says, “with a goal of trading with the right people, under the right circumstances, with the right partners consistently.”
Giving Everyone a Seat at the Table
In starting Continental Underwriters, Preston sought to create an environment where different perspectives, experiences, and voices are valued. He wanted a company culture of inclusion, where thinking out of the box would be encouraged and welcomed, the type of setting that allows positivity to thrive and evolve. “When you do the right thing with the right people, good things will happen,” he says. “Continental Underwrites has what they call a ‘WE Proposition.’ It was developed over six months through a series of workshops, with each team member participating in the process. Our ‘WE’ Proposition is the visual manifestation of the different voices, backgrounds, and perspectives that went into the exercise – each voice with a common vision of defining our organization’s culture. In other words, every member of the team has a seat at the table.”
Continental Underwriters hold their clients and carrier partners to the same expectations, and each must be “hungry, humble and smart.”
“That means genuinely caring about what you do, paying close attention to detail, and never letting the quality of the work be sacrificed for convenience or cost. As an organization, and more importantly, as the people who make up our organization, we are always here to help,” Preston says. “We have your best interests in mind, so if our services are no longer a good fit for your business, we will be honest about that and let you know. This process takes courage – the courage to have difficult conversations. But it makes us all, and the industry we serve, better in the long run.”
Preston is honored to be a part of the hardwood industry because of the people, the product, and the positive environmental impact of the industry. “Our space is the embodiment of a sustainable resource industry. Our product sequesters carbon, and we are constantly replanting and replenishing our raw material. We also use 100% of our raw material. At a minimum, we are a carbon-neutral industry, and I think a case could be made we are carbon negative.”
Career Fuels Strategic Partnerships
Looking back on a 20-plus year industry career, Preston says he thinks less about how he got here and more about why he’s stayed. “As thought leaders in our field, we understand nuances and anticipate emerging trends as we provide strategic counsel to help our clients and their businesses flourish. Our focused perspective allows us to bring value to our clients in ways that general insurance agencies simply can’t,” he adds. “I love this industry and the people it has allowed me to work alongside: family-oriented businesses, entrepreneurs, and extraordinarily hard workers who genuinely care about what they do.”
Preston is proud that Continental Underwriters is part of NHLA. “Our membership allows our company representatives to be involved in the industry and meet with the leaders of hardwood companies. The yearly Conventions are productive, fun, and educational,” he says. “Honestly, if you are part of the Hardwood Industry or serve the Hardwood Industry, it would be irresponsible not to be a member. The benefits far outweigh the costs. The quality of the membership experience, educational programs, and networking opportunities are exceptional.”
At the end of the day, every person and every business needs insurance as a protective measure. “Choosing your provider and the right coverage is a big decision, so again, I’ll underscore an important lesson from early in my career: When you team up with the right people to do the right thing under the right circumstances, success will always follow.”
Continental Underwriters offers many articles on their website that are of interest.