Company Culture, an Anecdote About Empowerment

Big Red Car here.  Second post for the day but the day is gray and it is screaming for a bit of jazz, so here goes.

Here is a tale from The Boss about the empowerment of team members as a part of the creation of a strong Company Culture.

Insurance — health, dental, vision, life

Without any prodding, for years and years, The Boss provided insurance for all of his employees — health, dental, vision and life.

Wow, The Boss did it without even having to be threatened by the government and a couple of decades before the advent of Obamacare.  [OK, Big Red Car, tone it down, Old Sport.  Big Red Car saw The Great Gatsby the other night and has obnoxiously taken to calling everyone “Old Sport”, Old Sport.  Hopefully, this will run its course quickly.]

Formed and empowered a committee

In the course of providing this benefit, The Boss had a company committee appointed to review the insurance quotes and to recommend a provider.

This, of course, was a huge consideration because each provider had different networks, different deductibles and different policies.  Oh, yes, and different costs.  Way different costs.  The better the plan, the higher the cost.  The individual employees had a different view on which was the most attractive proposition.  Sometimes their views were quite insightful as they were the users of the plan.

The Boss empowered the committee to solicit bids, receive the bids, review the bids, analyze the bids and recommend the policy that the company would provide.

The committee thrashed it out and the Chief Financial Officer analyzed the costs to ensure an apples to apples process.

Hey, this was a lot of work.

In every instance, The Boss accepted the recommendation of the Insurance Committee.

In this manner, the team had their fingerprints on the final decision and injected their own considerations as to locale, network, deductibles and costs.  They owned the issue.

Trust builds

As the Insurance Committee did its job diligently and did not just approach the subject like a candy store, The Boss began to invest a fixed amount of investment from the company into the insurance program.  Typically, this was an increasing amount each successive year — reality was driving prices higher annually.  [Reality is a mean bitch and sometimes does not play well with others.  STFU, Big Red Car.]

This fixed investment was typically about 85% of the total cost of the plan selected.  The Insurance Committee knew this amount before they began their deliberations and thus their decisions meant they had some “skin in the game”.  They had to pay the other 15%.

Some years, they were able to absorb 100% of the cost because they had so shrewdly purchased the insurance program using competition and other buying techniques.

The Insurance Committee also had the CFO negotiate on price directly with the providers and these negotiations were often fruitful in that initial pricing was reduced through these negotiations.

The team owns it

The Insurance Committee owned the benefit and were very clever and skillful in making this important decision.  They were smart people like accountants and understood the issue as only users can.

The Chief Financial Officer was a resource for the team.

The CEO was almost just a rubber stamp because the Insurance Committee did a great job and skillfully summarized the bidding, their analysis and their recommendation in a decision memorandum which the CEO never failed to approve.  [The Boss does NOT like being considered a “rubber stamp” but, hey, that’s the truth.  Haha.  Hey, Big Red Car, tone it down a bit.]

The CEO also saved a lot of time and did not have to spend any meaningful amount of time on what can sometimes be a very time consuming and frustrating issue.  He also had the luxury of saying to any potential complainers — “Go see the Insurance Committee, it was their recommendation.”  There were really no significant amount of complainers.

This exercise in empowerment turned out to be great for all involved and motivated The Boss to be willing to spend a bit more because of the professional manner in which this was administered.


This was a big win for everyone.

The Insurance Committee did a great job.

The Insurance Committee owned the issue and communicated their recommendation to the rest of the company.

The CEO was able to both empower and delegate a time consuming issue to folks who had a real front line interest in its resolution.

Win.  Win.  Win.

This is how empowerment can drive a strong Company Culture.

But, hey, what the Hell do I know anyway?  I’m just a Big Red Car.