Matt Aaron grew up in a family of four boys with parents whose patience was deep and wide.
Today, as the father of two teen boys himself, he finds it fascinating that while their smartphones expose them to everything the internet and social media has to offer, he reflects on his blessings.
“They still haven’t gotten into some of the things I got into at their age,” said Aaron.
He attributes it all to his wife, Kiki.
“I could go on forever about how much Kiki means and never fully-articulate how special a person she is to me and our boys,” said Aaron. “As I said, blessed.”
After spending over 20 years in the television industry with Paramount Pictures and CBS Corporation, Aaron got into mobile app development in 2008. At the time, there were only 15,000 apps in the App Store.
Aaron’s early apps took TV game shows his Dad produced and mounted them for play on mobile and online.
Fast forward to 2012, he recounts his ah-ha moment that catalyzed his entrance into insurance.
Aaron was jogging on the sidewalk of a busy road in Charlotte, North Carolina, with his 10-year-old son. Suddenly an out-of-control minivan skidded perpendicular to the road at 40 mph only a foot away.
“If the minivan had jumped the curb, ITC would not be doing this profile,” said Aaron.
The minivan hit an oak tree a few yards away and caused a big accident.
“As we assisted those in the minivan I thought to myself, ‘If I were in that accident I would have to call my agent,’” said Aaron. “Just one problem. I had no idea the name of my agent, nor the name of his agency.”
In that moment, Aaron knew his agent needed a way to stay connected with him on his smartphone. The Insurance Agent App was born.
“That moment crystalized how fragmented the independent agent channel is,” said Aaron, “and what we’re doing by creating the service platform that connects policyholders with their agent and their insurance companies is huge.”
The independent agent channel writes over 60 percent of the $650 billion Property & Casualty business in the US.
“And yet there is no service platform that connects all three stakeholders,” said Aaron. “The reason is because connecting all three outside of the exclusive or direct to consumer channels is not easy to do.”
There are not many industries that are as complex as the insurance vertical, but he believes complexity creates opportunity.
“Everyone has ideas about doing something important – something beneficial,” said Aaron. “But for any number of reasons most never act. Our defining moment was when we had the courage to act when the outcome is anything but certain.”
This is the way Matt Aaron works.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Creating the first service platform that connects policyholders with their agents and companies regardless of an agency’s tech stack.
One word that describes how you like to work.
Current mobile device:
Lenovo X1 Carbon
Project(s) you’re currently working on:
Significant Insurance Agent App update and release!
Accomplishments you’re proud of:
Entering a $650 billion per year vertical and thriving seven years later!
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
New Insurance Agent App release; Additional management system integrations; Delivering insurance company micro-messages (cancellations, payment due, change requests) directly to policyholders via the IA App along with FNOL delivery directly from IA App to insurance companies.
What are your biggest professional challenges?
Teaching the elephant to dance… aka, insurance vertical inertia. If you’re familiar with the DISC personality assessment I am a high D (Dominant) personality working in a high S (Steady)/C (Compliant) vertical. Reconciling the three is a constant challenge!
What do you like most about your job?
It’s on me (whatever it may be), no one else… and I can do it from anywhere!
What are the top three apps you use on your phone?
The top three are utility apps everyone uses: Phone, email, and text.
I have nearly 150 apps that have earned real estate on my phone because even though they are not used every day, I utilize them in given situations over time. Productivity (IA App, Slack, Infusionsoft, BofA, Chatra, Alexa), Media (WSJ, CNBC, Kindle, Podbean, Netflix), Social (LinkedIn, Twitter, FB) Travel (Uber, Lyft, GMaps, Waze, Delta, AA, SWA, United), Food Take Out (8 apps).
How do you manage your to-do list?
After years of trying to organize electronically I have gone back to paper and a weekly/monthly planner, except for my calendar which is managed across our company electronically.
To-do tasks must fit into one of the following categories that help me organize around family, business (big picture business, business projects, networking), and personal (fitness, lifestyle/relationships, spiritual/metaphysical).
What do you do when you finish a project?
It depends on the project. A major milestone usually involves rum. Depending on the season, acknowledging milestone markers could be indoor or outdoor activities, including the support of the remarkable Charlotte Rescue Mission that’s changing a lot of lives, one life at a time!
What’s your best time-saving tip or hack?
Only touch it once. Either delegate it or complete it.
What’s the first thing you do when you get in the office?
The first thing I execute on a given morning is whatever was determined the previous day or evening. I review the upcoming day in the evening so that I am ready to produce, not ponder.
What do you listen to while working?
No music during the day. CNBC is on with no sound (a legacy habit from my past), and Spotify’s Yoga & Relaxation music in the evening.
Favorite social network?
Coffee or tea?
Night owl or morning person?
What are you watching on Netflix right now?
Need something new… Just binged on Murder Mountain and found it fascinating…. Not the murder, but the pot industry in Humboldt County, CA.
Watch Fyre – Gifted entrepreneur gone wrong or pathological con artist?
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Opportunity, and the story of the lion and the gazelle. Every day the gazelle wakes up knowing it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every day a lion wakes up knowing it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. Whether I feel like a lion or a gazelle is irrelevant. What matters is that I’m running with purpose!
Who are your business idols and why?
Jack Welch, specifically two of his six tenets: 1) Determine your own destiny or someone else will, 2) If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.
Tim Ferriss helps me stay grounded and rounded.
Reid Hoffman pushes me to think beyond where we are now and how to scale.
Ray Dalio & Ben Horowitz. When you know what these guys have been through and created, it’s hard not to be inspired.
Eric Schmidt is brilliant on so many levels and yet so self-effacing. That’s worth idolizing.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
In business, it does not matter what I think, it’s all about what the prospect/client thinks.
Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.
Jim Valvano’s ESPY speech: “There are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think -- spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that's a heck of a day…” And: “Don’t give up – don’t ever give up!”
In the end it will be OK. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.
What would you be doing if you weren’t working at your current job?
Something with the CIA.
Who would you like to see in a future This is the Way post?
Frank Sentner - The Godfather of InsurTech.