Episode 67: Full Transcript

[00:00:00.11] TAYLOR RHODES: Sometimes the last act of leading is leaving. Knowing when it's time for you.

[00:00:05.42] REID HOLZWORTH: That's great.

[00:00:06.05] TAYLOR RHODES: Where you're not the right leader anymore. To step aside and make room for somebody who views this as their highest and best opportunity, who's going to bring that energy that excitement. And so I had to look myself in the mirror and say, hey, you know, it's time.

[00:00:20.89] SPEAKER: This is the Insurance Technology Podcast, where we bring interesting people from across the insurance ecosystem to discuss and debate technology's impact on the industry. Join us each episode for insights and best practices from industry stewards and tomorrow's innovators. Now, here's your host, Reid Holzworth.

[00:00:41.81] REID HOLZWORTH: Welcome to the Insurance Technology Podcast. I'm your host, Reid Holzworth. In this episode, we're back with Taylor Rhodes, CEO of Applied Systems, a.k.a. my boss. In this episode, we're going to get into all things Applied, the future of Applied, what's been going on at Applied, and then we're going to get into a really great discussion on leadership. Stay tuned. Really good Stuff. So what happened after Rackspace?

[00:01:09.52] TAYLOR RHODES: After 11 years at Rackspace, I looked myself in the mirror literally one morning. I wasn't planning on leaving. And I said, man, you don't have any more good ideas for this company. You need to make way for someone who has fresh vision, fresh legs, fresh energy, and you need to step aside. And there's a book. I stole this quote and I can't remember the author. But it was a great quote. It said, sometimes the last act of leading is leaving. Knowing when it's time for you.

[00:01:37.06] REID HOLZWORTH: That's great.

[00:01:37.69] TAYLOR RHODES: Where you're not the right leader anymore. To step aside and make room for somebody who views this as their highest and best opportunity, who's going to bring that energy, that excitement. And so I had to look myself in the mirror and say, hey, you know, it's time. And so I didn't know what I wanted to do after that. I had some thoughts. I knew I didn't want to be in infrastructure as a service anymore, IaaS. We built that industry. I mean, we were totally in it.

[00:02:02.41] REID HOLZWORTH: 100%.

[00:02:03.31] TAYLOR RHODES: I had this sort of thought I wanted to go up to the SaaS layer or the software layer to learn some different things. And along came an opportunity to join a vertical software company here in Chicago at the time called SMS Assist. It was focused on the real estate facilities management space. I know, super sexy.

[00:02:20.03] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, that's awesome.

[00:02:20.66] TAYLOR RHODES: But in all reality, you think about these really big industries, real estate is the world's largest asset class. It's everywhere. And the process of getting something fixed in a building or maintained in a building is opaque, full of cheating, inefficient, often not done well, and it's very costly for the real estate owners, whether that's somebody who owns corporate real estate or if you're in a rental home or what have you. And so this company had sort of discovered this massive industry with a big problem and building a technology platform that allowed opportunity to understand what a job should cost in which zip code, unite that job with the right service provider.

[00:03:00.39] And so joined that company and spent a few years there. Helped them grow a lot. Helped them get to a point where the company transitioned into a different stage. But then I also, no disrespect to that company at all, I learned a lot there, but I realized that wasn't a mission that was too exciting to me. At Rackspace, I used to get yelled at by the CTO of major technology companies. At SMS, I'd get yelled at by a regional facilities manager from Chili's.

[00:03:25.04] [LAUGHS]

[00:03:26.06] REID HOLZWORTH: Literally.

[00:03:26.60] TAYLOR RHODES: Because the guy didn't show up to fix the oven on time. And I was like, man, that is a job for somebody, but not for me. And so I have to be excited about what I'm doing every day. So while we learned a lot and we actually built a really strong software platform, I got to learn a ton about software in the cloud, and it made me a better product leader, I just realized the mission wasn't for me. And so it was time to, again, recognize that and step aside and let somebody who loved that mission take it over.

[00:03:55.28] REID HOLZWORTH: So then--

[00:03:56.54] TAYLOR RHODES: Along came Applied.

[00:03:57.47] REID HOLZWORTH: There it is. Applied Systems.

[00:03:59.51] TAYLOR RHODES: Yeah. This is my third company in a long career of 20 plus years.

[00:04:03.37] REID HOLZWORTH: Wow, yeah, that's right. That's awesome, man.

[00:04:05.33] TAYLOR RHODES: I don't jump around. I tend to want to find-- that sort of middle stint at SMS was the shortest I've ever worked anywhere. Now I'm five years in here at Applied. I tend to want to find something that I can put my heart into, that intrigues me, that I believe is a worthy mission where I can build a great team and work with people I want. And then as long as I'm learning and we're continuing to do great things on the way, I want to be here.

[00:04:26.91] So along came Applied. And at first, like everybody, no offense, but I was like insurance? I don't know anything about insurance at all. I don't know anything about insurance technology. But as I started studying the space, it was interesting. First of all, insurance is ubiquitous. It's in everyone's lives. Whether you think about it or not, you can't do anything without insurance. You can't buy a car. You can't buy a home. You can't start a small business. You can't get a loan. And so I started thinking, wow, it does touch everyone's lives.

[00:04:54.00] And as I started doing my homework on the company and the industry, I started talking to a lot of people in the insurance agency and broker space and just finding out that, man, insurance is an underserved industry in terms of technology capability. It's just behind. A lot of the way that they would describe the systems and tools they had to work with was like, man.

[00:05:17.70] And then we have to enter all this data again and then we got an email a form off somewhere and then we got to wait for a long time to get an answer back. And in the meantime, our customers, our clients are end insured or having wonderful digital experiences outside of the insurance industry. And then they come back and they're like, why do yours suck so bad?

[00:05:34.58] And I just felt this sort of notion-- at Rackspace and at SMS, I got a chance to play a role in digital transformation for other industries. And I thought that's the transferable knowledge here. I think I can bring expertise to this industry about digital transformation. How do you enable better business models through the use of technology?

[00:05:53.48] And I thought that's what I can bring. I'll have to learn a lot about insurance. But Applied had so many people who were deep in insurance. And I felt like, OK, I can learn from those folks. What I can bring is this experience thinking about better business models enabled through technology. And I signed up.

[00:06:09.87] REID HOLZWORTH: Here you are.

[00:06:10.41] TAYLOR RHODES: Here I am. They haven't fired me yet.

[00:06:12.93] [LAUGHS]

[00:06:13.32] REID HOLZWORTH: How long have you been here at Applied now?

[00:06:14.91] TAYLOR RHODES: Almost five years.

[00:06:15.98] REID HOLZWORTH: Jeez.

[00:06:17.29] TAYLOR RHODES: Yeah, it's going fast.

[00:06:18.93] REID HOLZWORTH: Oh my God. Yeah, same, I guess. That's wild.

[00:06:22.08] TAYLOR RHODES: Yeah, you got here right before me.

[00:06:23.61] REID HOLZWORTH: Right before you. Yeah.

[00:06:24.66] TAYLOR RHODES: Yeah. I remember when we first had lunch together. I first met you.

[00:06:27.42] REID HOLZWORTH: I'll never forget that.

[00:06:28.38] TAYLOR RHODES: I thought, oh man, this guy is a pirate.

[00:06:31.29] REID HOLZWORTH: You still say that.

[00:06:32.59] [LAUGHTER]

[00:06:34.05] TAYLOR RHODES: Yeah, that's my nickname for you, Reid the pirate. We can talk about why that is.

[00:06:38.95] [LAUGHTER]

[00:06:40.44] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, no, I do. I remember that conversation. For the listeners, I mean, it was after the acquisition of Tech Canary. We were all here. And I wasn't really happy. I wasn't really doing much here a lot. And we had a mission and we completed the mission and it's OK, now what? And I remember we sat. I learned that you were going to become the CEO of Applied. I reached out to you on LinkedIn. And I will say this about you. You are really good at responding, period, to anybody. You are. You're that guy.

[00:07:11.69] And so you just, boom, came back to me and we went and had lunch. And it was like an hour long lunch and we sat there for half the day. And I basically came there to tell you that I was going to leave and go do other things, and you asked me to stay. I don't know if that was a good decision or a bad one. To be determined.

[00:07:30.88] TAYLOR RHODES: I'll tell you guys offline. No, the deal was I remember you used a phrase that really stuck with me. You're like, man, at Tech Canary, we were on a mission and we were going 100 miles per hour. And now I feel like I've been put in the school zone and go 10 miles an hour. And there's so much more we can be doing.

[00:07:47.00] And I just want to state for the record Applied took a lot of heat at the time for the Tech Canary acquisition.

[00:07:51.70] REID HOLZWORTH: Oh yeah. Big time.

[00:07:52.60] TAYLOR RHODES: I got here after that. So that was not my decision. But I'm glad we made it. And a lot of people were wondering why? Why did Applied-- was it a good decision or a bad decision for the industry? And you and I started talking about the need for Applied to rediscover innovation.

[00:08:10.48] Applied had been around for 35 years at that time. It had reached a level of success in the industry and had done some amazing things along the way to include inventing the first management system, to include a lot of things that were great for the industry. But I think at the time with absolutely 0 disrespect for the people who were here before I got here and the people who were here when I got here, I think the company had just lost some of that innovation spark. You were feeling it.

[00:08:38.98] REID HOLZWORTH: 100%.

[00:08:40.06] TAYLOR RHODES: And it wasn't because we didn't have caring people who really cared about their clients, who really cared about the industry. In fact, to the contrary I found we had really caring people who really cared about their customers, really cared about the industry, and they were frustrated too that maybe some of the innovation opportunity wasn't on the agenda.

[00:09:01.07] And so I remember that lunch. I remember walking away from it going, OK, I'm brand new to this company. I'm brand new to this industry. I like the guy and I like his spirit, and I think I can learn from him. But man, is the company going to accept that? Are they going to want to embrace an entrepreneur? Are they going to want to-- or are they going to want to kill him?

[00:09:21.56] And I'm the brand new guy and it gets back to that leadership lesson. Just because you're the CEO of somewhere, it doesn't matter initially. They might say yes to your face. But if you don't learn the business, learn them, care about them, figure out what your contributions are going to be, they won't follow you. So I remember coming to Applied. And I'm sitting there thinking, OK, well, I'm the CEO.

[00:09:47.26] But man, it was not-- I got to be honest. It wasn't the most warm reception I've ever had in my life. These were people who were deep industry experts, and they're like, what the heck do you know about insurance? And so I had to go about figuring out who's who in the zoo? Where can I add initial value and help and earn some credibility? What's the vision for Applied that's going to get people to swing from, hey, we're skeptics and are we ever going to be innovative and winning? To being like, yes, I believe.

[00:10:15.28] And all of that kind of ran straight into my interactions with you, because you'll remember it took a little while for me to get my feet under me and figure out what could I do with Reid here that would help me in my mission to say we are playing to win. We're back on the field and have an innovation agenda. And we're going to go become a client-centric culture again that is actually doing good things on behalf of our customers in the industry.

[00:10:39.52] And then I asked you to take on the CEO role for Ivans, because we agreed that was a tremendously strategic asset. It had kind of lost its innovation mojo a while ago but had tremendous potential to do good for the industry. And I said the reason I call you a pirate, remember I told you, entrepreneurs are special people, because they always see something that is wrong and they have the courage to go do something about it and make it better.

[00:11:04.97] And my pirate analogy there is were out sailing your ship around and boarding and burning the boats in the industry that needed to be burned. And that's what entrepreneurs do. They're dissatisfied with the status quo. And so anyway, let me pause there. But when I first got here, I thought this company needs to believe again that we will innovate. We will experiment. We will introduce new things. We will go take risk to do good things for our clients. We will become a place where you actually can be excited about the work you do. And that was what I saw.

[00:11:41.09] REID HOLZWORTH: It was. And you asked me. You said, when you asked me to stay, you didn't say, hey, I want you to stay. You said, just give me six months. Give me six months. Give me some time. And I said, OK. It might have even not even that, 90 days or something. it's just like, let's see.

[00:11:53.78] TAYLOR RHODES: I think it was more like six months.

[00:11:54.99] REID HOLZWORTH: Six months, whatever. But anyways, yeah, and it was, It was tough. It was tough for a couple of years, I'd say. The first couple of years.

[00:12:05.00] TAYLOR RHODES: The company had been so successfully led by Reid French, my predecessor. And Reid was an amazing CEO for Applied, did a lot of wonderful things for the company. But his style and my style couldn't probably be more different. And so the company wasn't necessarily directly ready for me in my style. And it just took work. It took work to get people bought in.

[00:12:25.49] It took work to get people-- and you had to change some of the team as well, because some people like to play for a certain coach and that's their coach and they're comfortable in that coach's system. They can be wildly successful. Then a new coach comes along with a different system and some people are honest enough to say, hey, you know what? Thanks a lot. This isn't my system. I'd like to leave.

[00:12:45.06] And so we also had to do a lot of building and bringing people into the company who came from non-insurance backgrounds but very relevant technology and services backgrounds. And again, who viewed this as their highest and best opportunity, who would bring that energy and that vigor and that drive and that curiosity to it. So there was a long period of time where we had to get the team right.

[00:13:07.65] REID HOLZWORTH: Oh yeah, absolutely.

[00:13:08.82] TAYLOR RHODES: You and I talk about teams all the time. If you don't get the team right, you can't do anything else. So first job always is figure out what the team needs to be and then build the team.

[00:13:15.96] REID HOLZWORTH: Well, you have a great team now. And it's fairly-- most everybody's new on the team for the most part.

[00:13:20.89] TAYLOR RHODES: The last five years. There's some folks now who are getting to their third and fourth anniversaries, but there's also some folks who are still in their one to two years. But yeah, so they're learning the insurance industry and bringing what they've done in a great way at other companies to this industry.

[00:13:37.35] REID HOLZWORTH: I'll tell you what. This company is a completely different company than when you and I met for lunch that day. Completely different. And I think the industry knows that and they feel it. And I mean, I think for me when it really came together was not this last supply net but the one before in Nashville. I mean, just the buzz and everything. I mean, of course, this last one that's just continuing that. But you could feel the culture and the difference and just everybody. And it's just, you know.

[00:14:12.82] TAYLOR RHODES: We say this all the time here. It's like, when your clients win, you win. And if you keep that North Star and you really mean it and you use that simple mindset, when your clients win, we win. If you help your clients win, we win. They will trust you as a partner and you will benefit from them winning. And that sounds so simple, but you have to really examine every decision to be like, how does this help our clients win? How does it help this industry become a better place where more agencies and brokers and carriers are thriving?

[00:14:43.99] And that's just the mindset that I think I've strived hard to bring to this company. And it challenges us all the time to examine our decisions in a good way. What's the value of this decision? Should we say yes to this? Should we say no to this? And so I think that's a key element of really the reinvigoration of Applied.

[00:15:04.69] And also I told the market after a year or so here, I said, hey, I want us to become a humbler company. We don't know everything. We don't have the best answer to everything. We need to be out listening more. We need to be engaging with our clients in new ways. We need to be really thinking about the ecosystem and talking to people about what they need and what they want to see and being humble enough to also say, hey man, some of our stuff stinks.

[00:15:27.94] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, fair enough.

[00:15:29.14] TAYLOR RHODES: We have some stuff out there that's old, that hasn't been modernized, that needs to be better. And so this notion of coming at this with a very client centric vision but also the humility to look at what we've done well and build on it and look at where we've screwed things up or not invested appropriately and be humble enough to say we're going to fix that. I think that's become a key characteristic of Applied's culture. And I think that's powerful.

[00:15:53.17] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, well, I mean, you've really built a culture that just breeds innovation, first and foremost. And you've really built a really great, kind culture of people, people that really enjoy coming here to work. And I mean, they really do. It's very different in that way in a positive way. And I think it's hard. It says a lot to you as a leader.

[00:16:11.87] I mean, you're hands down an awesome leader. I mean, throughout this whole conversation, you've brought up so much about leadership and there's so many great nuggets. And this is how you are all the time. It's not like you prepped for this or whatever. This is just who you are. And I think it's pretty amazing being here and being involved in it.

[00:16:30.14] And then for the listeners too, everybody keep in mind, I had no golden handcuffs. I didn't have to be here. 0. And so I'm here because I enjoy it And everybody's here because they enjoy it. And even when we acquire companies, the handcuffs are not really there.

[00:16:47.41] TAYLOR RHODES: That's one of the things that I'm really proud of is we have made eight or nine acquisitions since I've been here. And of those entrepreneurial founders, all but one of them all but the leaders and founders of those companies except for one company are still here. And like you said, they're not handcuffed.

[00:17:05.05] And what we said to them when we were thinking about buying the company is we are trying to be humble enough to invite you in as an entrepreneur and criticize us and help us understand what you saw from outside Applied that were our vulnerabilities or our opportunities that we weren't seeing. And we want you to come here and play on a bigger stage. We want you to come here and bring that critical view, that entrepreneurial spirit, that walking in our client's shoes, because so many of them come from the industry.

[00:17:32.67] And it's a great statement for a 40-year-old company now to be able to bring entrepreneurs in and have them elect to stay. And it's not because they're telling us we're awesome. A lot of times you and I have hard conversations about, hey, dude, we're screwing this up or we're not doing this well or we need to do this differently. But I think it's a hallmark of our cultural shift and our mindset toward innovation and humility when you can bring entrepreneurs like that in and have them elect to stay and look at all of them progress and be in bigger roles and having more influence than they had when they got here.

[00:18:03.45] REID HOLZWORTH: It's so good. And I talk to so many startups all the time and they know it. They see it. And a lot of them are looking to, hey, that's their exit in the future, because that's kind of the next step of their career. I've had these conversations with so many out there. They want to sell their business to this organization because of the culture, because of what you've built. It's awesome.

[00:18:25.90] TAYLOR RHODES: Most big companies buy things and screw them up. And it really takes intentionality and hard work to buy something and actually create value from it. And that's what we're-- we build a lot of awesome things here, so we always want to be an organic R&D shop as well.

[00:18:38.90] But when you find that right opportunity to buy something or either the talent augments your capabilities, the product accelerates your roadmap, and you can put it into the rest of the suite and bring it to clients. I mean, buying things isn't always the answer. But if you're smart about what you buy and then you're good at integrating and actually making those founders and those people feel at home, you can create real value through that.

[00:19:01.36] REID HOLZWORTH: Well, I mean, Applied-- and I'm not just saying this because it involved in it-- is very, very smart about the acquisitions that we make. We're not just buying stuff to buy stuff either. And a big part of it is that culture. We've looked at businesses and I've been involved in this where great product, good leadership team, but the business was a mess. And in order to buy that, we would have to let go a lot of people. And although we could have bought that, we could have done that, we said, we're not doing that. No. It's just not--

[00:19:37.18] TAYLOR RHODES: I mean, we say no 10 times more than we say. Maybe even 20 times more, as you know. But I think also importantly for Applied though, when I first got here, remember that I had to convince people we were ready to play to win again and that we had the right backing from our investors to play to win.

[00:19:54.56] And one of the first decisions we made, I was only six months into the company, is we said, look, at the time Indio was doing very well in the market as one of the top and sure tech properties out there because they were solving real problems in the commercial line space. And we said, look, we think Indio will be better. It will be better together if it's a part of the overall agency management ecosystem we have here in our ability to invest behind it, in our ability to put it into the right distribution model.

[00:20:26.26] And we went and reached for it. We didn't pay a cheap price for Indio. Now at the time, valuations were different than they are today. But that was a risk. And I'm so thankful at the time the board-- I was brand new to our board and our investors. And they chose to back that decision with a lot of diligence behind it. But they chose to back that because they understood the power of the message, both internally the team Applied, as well as to the market. Hey, we are here to play to win. We're here to innovate. We're here to take risks on behalf of our clients.

[00:20:54.23] And that was a spark. I remember talking to a lot of our team after that. They're like, wow, we never expected Applied to do something like that. And I remember that decision. And that was a sweaty decision as well, because I'm the brand new guy. I'm like, well, what if this is the wrong decision?

[00:21:09.58] [LAUGHTER]

[00:21:10.66] But it turned out to be the right one and it turned out to be the spark that I think set us on this tempo and this momentum of getting back into a leadership role.

[00:21:19.72] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah. Well, I mean, you're doing it, man. I mean, the business is crushing it. I mean you're taking down bigger and bigger customers. I mean, it's just insane.

[00:21:27.23] TAYLOR RHODES: I think it's, again, it's because we're focused on client value. I mean, honestly, it's not because they don't have other choices. It's because I hope what they see in us is we're not perfect. We still have a lot of work to do on our product portfolio. We're modernizing technology that's now 20 years Old we have gaps. So they're not seeing us as perfect. They're seeing us as an honest, caring, humble partner who will do what we say we will do for them and continue to deliver better solutions for them.

[00:21:57.14] So I think the ultimate compliment in the market is when somebody chooses to come to you from somewhere else and when your current clients choose to stay and buy more things from you over time. And that's humbling. That's a lot of responsibility. We know that the trust that our clients put in us is not trivial. And so it's just that being that humble to say, again, man, I got to earn that every day. I got to build a team and a company and a culture that can earn that every day and not be perfect but be getting better along the way.

[00:22:27.81] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah. Yeah, well, so let's talk a little bit about the technology. A lot of people would say, and this is a touchy subject, but a lot of people say, oh, it takes so long and blah, blah, blah. I mean, talk a little bit about that. I mean, just the transformation. I mean, would say that there's been a few transformations here. There's the Applied transformation, the culture and everything you've done there. But then there's also epic transformation. And so talk a little bit about that.

[00:22:53.41] TAYLOR RHODES: Yeah. Well, technology is a funny thing. It's complex. And the older it gets, the more tech debt you pile up over time. What is tech debt? Tech debt is suboptimal decisions that are made along the way to do something you know you have to do, but you'll pay the price for it later on. It's like credit card debt. I want that pair of shoes. I don't have the cash now. So I'm going to put it on that credit card, but I know I'm going to have to pay interest on that debt later on down the road. Technology is the same way.

[00:23:20.98] And one of the things that was very daunting for me as I was doing my initial diligence from outside Applied. And quite frankly, one of the reasons I almost didn't take the job was there was a lot of tech debt here. And this industry has a lot of tech debt, because we're operating off of sometimes on the carrier side 40-year-old systems. Same on the agency side.

[00:23:39.40] There is a lot of technology that was built in the late '90s, early 2000s up to 2010 pre-cloud, pre-really modern internet architecture. And over time, those systems have been built on and built on and built on and built on. And that tech debt piles up and the complexity then of unraveling and paying off the tech debt.

[00:23:59.74] So four years ago, we set out here to say, look one of the fundamental missions, if we're going to become more valuable for our clients, if we can become more innovative, we got to pay that tech debt off. And a lot of that's just hard. Strap the tool belt on. Go bring your pick and your shovel to work. And your clients can't appreciate it and see it for a while, because it takes a long time to chip away and to rebuild things and re-architect and replatform. And we've made a ton of progress over the last few years. But we still have more to go.

[00:24:26.98] We're at a stage now where we are hiring many, many, many smart software developers this year because we're finally at the point where we have taken care of a lot of that tech debt where they can start to work in new modern environments and accelerate our pace of R&D and deliver more value to our clients.

[00:24:44.56] I was really proud at our last Applied Net in Vegas in October. We were able to unveil some real value adds inside of Epic and inside of EZLynx that came because of all the work we've done on transforming the technology. So more to come on that. I think the more tech that we're able to pay off and retire and get into modern cloud based systems, the faster we can go on innovation, the more value we can create for our clients.

[00:25:08.84] So that's not a trivial task. Epic is a very broad, very complex system that does a million things for an insurance agency or brokerage. Rebuilding all of that is hard work. And I totally empathize with our clients. I get awesome emails from some great clients whose names I won't share here, because I didn't ask for permission. But they're like, why don't you go faster?

[00:25:31.78] But they're awesome people. They're giving us good feedback. And oftentimes I'm like, hey, we will be. And frankly, if you look back 24 months, we are. We're just not where you want us to be yet, but we will be, because we are fully committed to that and investing a ton of money into doing it.

[00:25:46.24] REID HOLZWORTH: It's the same on the Ivan side. We had to do the same thing. And now, just now a few years later, we're able to start to build really cool stuff.

[00:25:55.33] TAYLOR RHODES: When you took on Ivans, it was early 2000s, maybe late '90s technology.

[00:25:59.98] REID HOLZWORTH: Oh Yeah.

[00:26:01.27] TAYLOR RHODES: And had not been invested in.

[00:26:02.98] REID HOLZWORTH: No. No, no. Dusty, dusty.

[00:26:05.47] TAYLOR RHODES: Things break a lot. People go hey, why can't you go change that button over here? It's so simple. And you're like, to do that, I got to go back and rewire code that touches 1,000 other things. It'll take me a year. And I mean, how frustrating is that for us and for our clients?

[00:26:20.43] REID HOLZWORTH: It's tough, man. It was tough. Yeah. I mean, for me, this has been a huge learning curve. So many things. I've learned so much just being around you and your leadership style and just what you've done for this organization. And then just dealing with the slog of Ivans and doing the Ivans transformation. And then obviously the tech. And so it's been good, but it's the same. I mean, all this stuff is really coming together. And so yeah, it's amazing.

[00:26:53.56] TAYLOR RHODES: You had the courage and the foresight as that leader to go do the transformation on the technology side. And now on the Ivan side, look, Ivans in the market when I first got here was like, I don't know, man, it's AL3 technology from the '80s that's good for one thing only and that's shipping and changes to a policy one way down to the agency. And you had a vision for it to become something so much more.

[00:27:16.51] The Ivans distribution platform creating not only connectivity but value add in other ways. And you had to go through, you had to bite your impatience back a little bit. You go, man, I got to go rebuild a lot of the tech first. So good leadership, and I think you've got Ivans now in a place where it is a much better asset for the industry and has so much future potential for the industry.

[00:27:35.93] REID HOLZWORTH: So much. So much. So what does the future look like, Taylor, next few years?

[00:27:40.45] TAYLOR RHODES: Predicting the future is a fool's game, Reid.

[00:27:42.91] [LAUGHTER]

[00:27:44.59] If I could predict the future, I would go to Vegas and I wouldn't be talking to you. Look, I mean, I think you could start big. I mean, the world's a fraught place right now. I have kids who are now in their early 20s and late teens. And I watch my kids and how stressed out they are about this world. And there's so much uncertainty.

[00:28:04.18] You've got the war in Europe now, war in the Middle East, you've got tensions with Russia and China, you've got climate change. No matter what side of the spectrum of the aisle you're on, the climate is changing. And you've got cyber threats. You've got is the US economy going to work for the next generation.

[00:28:25.53] So I think the world is a very uncertain and stressful place. And so that has impact on business. In our industry, it both is a blessing and a curse. We've seen the insurers have to pull back from key markets like Florida and California due to climate change risk. We've seen the birth on the other hand opportunity of new lines like cyber that are opportunities for us to serve our industry better and protect our clients in new ways.

[00:28:50.81] We have a US election coming up this year that's going to be a pretty interesting one. Trump won very handily in Iowa at the Iowa caucuses last night. So you've got this sort of, I'll put my personal editorial out, we as the greatest democracy in the world are putting the choice of Joe Biden versus Donald Trump. And I personally just wish we had better choices. I don't say that to be a smart ass at all. Where's the leadership in this world?

[00:29:18.02] REID HOLZWORTH: That's right.

[00:29:18.44] TAYLOR RHODES: Where are our statesmen and women who are bringing a bold vision and inspiring a nation and bringing us along? And that's frustrating to watch the lack of leadership and how broken our government is, especially at a time when global risk is increasing. So what's the future? I generally tend to be an optimistic person, even though everything I just said would tell you I'm a pessimist. I am optimistic because I think humans generally have the spark of the divine in them and are created to do great things. And when you give them the opportunity within the right culture, they'll rise up and they'll do the great things.

[00:29:48.91] And so for Applied, that means we want to be a place in this crazy world that is a safe harbor for our folks. Where if they're willing to bring their smarts and a good attitude and hard work and a determination to be a good teammate, they're going to do great here. And in return, creating that cultural opportunity for them, it will convert to them wanting to serve our clients better.

[00:30:10.00] And so for me, that's in this crazy world I go, hey, what difference can I make? Well, I think I can make a difference for 3,000 plus people serving hundreds of thousands of people and users and thousands of agencies and carriers out there. I think we can make a difference by becoming a place that is even better at engaging people who want to do awesome things and deliver value. And that's my little way to add value in this world.

[00:30:34.79] REID HOLZWORTH: That's awesome, man. If you could change one thing in insurance, Taylor, what would you change?

[00:30:39.26] TAYLOR RHODES: We talk a lot about the chicken and egg problem.

[00:30:41.06] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, I knew you were going to say that. I knew you were going to say that.

[00:30:43.10] TAYLOR RHODES: Yeah, look, I mean, it's an interesting industry because it does work in two parts. There's the people who make insurance and there's the people who distribute insurance. And when I first got here, one of the things I had to learn about this industry is that's a complex setup. And I would go and visit large agency customers and they'd say, we want this from the carriers. And you guys are the ones who can build the technology and the connected workflows that do that.

[00:31:06.66] And I say, man, that sounds awesome. Let me go talk to the carriers. And the carriers go, well, I don't want to spend money building that until I see the agency demand. And we'd go back to the agency and go they don't want to build it yet. So will you tell them-- no, I'm not willing to train my people on that until it's a full service product. So the carrier's got to move first. And I'd be like, do you hear what you're saying, people? But I get it. Change is hard and it can be costly.

[00:31:28.99] But that's the chicken and egg problem. We need to see this industry become more focused on becoming a modern online industry where things like digital e-trading, which is better for the end client, can speed things up, take cost out of both the agency and the broker side of the market, enable them to make decisions faster, win more business, renew more business. That takes connectivity and it takes the full what we call the digital roundtrip of insurance. And if I do one thing in this industry, I'm going to keep pounding on that rock until it cracks, because I think that's a better insurance experience for everybody in the industry.

[00:32:05.97] REID HOLZWORTH: It's getting there though, man. We're seeing it. We're starting to see it. We are. I think that the carriers and the agencies and us and the technology companies are starting to come together. And they're all coming together. The agencies are talking to agencies. Carriers are talking to carriers for the betterment of the industry. So it's starting to happen.

[00:32:21.54] TAYLOR RHODES: Yeah. I think it's-- and that's our mission here is how do we make this industry better for everyone who interacts with it through intelligent use of tech?

[00:32:31.69] REID HOLZWORTH: Taylor Rhodes, folks. Man, well, this episode was special. This one was very different. It was different for me in that I've lived this. I've been a part of this for the last few years, and this has been a big part of my life.

[00:32:47.09] I think it really gave a view into what's really going on at Applied. People can really see that. And after the first episode dropped, I got tons and tons and tons of people reaching out with such positive feedback on it. And it's funny. We kind of take it for granted, because we live it every day.

[00:33:11.39] But for people to really understand and get in Taylor's head and really get to understand him as a person, the guy is a true leader, a real leader and a good leader, not a bad one. It doesn't mean just because you're a leader, it doesn't make you good. He's really, really good guy and just everything throughout all of his experience from the Marines all the way up until now, it just proves that.

[00:33:42.32] And I always tell people, I'm like, Applied is a different animal. It really is. When I came to Applied, I would not still be here if it was the old Applied. Seriously. And as I've said before, I never had any golden handcuffs. Everything that was said in this podcast was 100% the truth and none of it was scripted or anything. We literally sat down in the office and just started talking.

[00:34:11.33] So it goes to show you what type of company culture a person like Taylor can build. It's amazing. It really has been amazing. And I think for me it was a lot of reflection on that after this and listening to this. And yeah, I'm really proud of it. And I think it's been a lot of work, but Taylor's bad ass. He really is. And I'm not kissing his ass.

[00:34:40.82] So hey, I'll say this too. I really enjoy digging into the leadership side and really getting to know people in that way. I think it's really beneficial for everyone and it's beneficial for me just even listening to it. It makes me a better leader. And I feel like if that's helping me, it's going to help you the listeners as well. And so we're going to continue to do that. We're going to continue to dig in there.

[00:35:02.93] We're going to dig into other things too that are not as typical for Insurance Technology Podcast. At some point this year, we'll get into things like mental health and stuff like that. I think it's all very, very important for all of us as leaders that are listening to this. And so yeah, I can't say enough. It was definitely one of my favorite, just because of how close I've been to it, and it was a lot of fun.