Connecting business strategy to community

1021 Editorialcontent Leadership Insight

Jack Salzwedel

American Family is an insurance company, so measuring and planning for risk is what we do. We predict for the unexpected and plan for the effect it will have on markets, individuals, and communities.

We know bad things can happen, and insurance companies exist to help individuals and families recover from accidents, catastrophes, and other losses. But the best insurance companies do more than that. They help customers avoid loss where possible. Proactive protection is a cornerstone of our company’s strategy, and we take that responsibility seriously. It’s one of the reasons AmFam is
a leader in the homeowners insurance space.

We are also considered a leader because of the work we’re doing to make our communities better. One of my favorite parts of our first-ever culture statement reads, “We are a catalyst for change. So, people will say: ‘This is a better community because American Family is part of it.’” This symbiotic relationship between where we live and work has been integral to our transformational growth in the past 10 years — and will remain a key element of our strategy going forward.

Our larger community

What does community mean? Our investments have programmatic and structural purposes. Our naming of American Family Field and American Family Children’s Hospital, our sponsorship of Summerfest, and partnership with the University of Wisconsin are investments in programs that lift the visibility of our brand and support positive community outcomes. The work we do with organizations like the United Way, Boys & Girls Clubs, Madison Metropolitan School District, and others demonstrates our commitment to addressing equity gaps and acting on issues important to employees and customers.

We’ve structured our organization to better manage this work as follows:

  • The American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation coordinates the philanthropic efforts of our company.
  • The Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation serves as the philanthropic partner of the American Family Insurance Championship, our PGA TOUR Champions event.
  • The American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact invests in entrepreneurs who seek to produce a positive social impact and strong financial results.
  • And our DreamBank connects people in our community with small business services, events, and programming to bring ideas — and dreams — to life.

Our company community

Beyond local communities, we also recognize our company — and its employees — are a community. Our responsibility to them is just as important. So, we increased our minimum wage to $20/hour, began a student loan repayment program, provided employee scholarships, expanded leave options, and added flexible work such as remote and hybrid options. We also support employee volunteerism, and our Dreams Foundation provides matching dollars for employee charitable contributions.

We’ve made diversity and inclusion a business imperative and a vital part of our culture. We know investments to diversify our workforce are good for our communities, but we have even more compelling evidence that shows diversity promotes innovation and leads to better business results. Simply put: Diverse teams outperform nondiverse teams!

The results we’ve seen in our company and communities are intertwined. We approach both with equal amounts of care and responsibility. By looking for ways to improve our investments, we improve our communities and our business.

Jack Salzwedel is chair and CEO of American Family Insurance.

Click here to sign up for the free IB Ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.