Q&A With Chris Giuliani

The chief executive for one of the region’s fastest growing—and fastest-hiring—companies, Spring Venture Group, shares his thoughts on uses of data to drive success, finding talent and why Kansas City is the place to be right now.

Q: So let’s just start with the basics, what exactly does Spring Venture Group do?

“We want them to have a really good understanding of the culture from the first day they walk in here. We want to make sure that they understand who we are throughout the process, and how dedicated we are to them as an applicant—that’s how dedicated we’re going to be to them as an employer.”

A: Spring Venture Group is a holding company. Spring owns three different insurance agencies, and the insurance agencies are focused on senior health. We have an agency that is full comparison shopping carriers for Medicare supplement insurance, and so what our agents do is partner with the consumer to make sure that the consumer can find the best product to meet their needs when they enter into Medicare. We also sell some ancillary products to help full coverage for the consumer, and then we have another division that sells Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans. So, Medicare Advantage is an additional option for seniors when they go into Medicare in lieu of Medicare Supplement, and then everybody, when you’re a senior, needs a prescription drug plan. So same thing that we do with Medicare supplement: We comparison shop different carriers to find the product and the carrier that’s going to best meet the needs of our consumers.

Q: SVG has seen incredible growth over the past five years. What has been the biggest contributing factor to your

A: Our people are the number one with what’s driving our success. We have an amazing group of people here, many people that have been with us for years, and then so many new employees we’ve hired over the last couple of years to make up what’s been a really amazing team to work with every single day. We’re really focused on people development and giving people opportunities to do new things within Spring, and it’s really that drive that we have as a group that helps us be successful. Something that we’re doing in particular to help separate us from the competition is using data and analytics to drive a wedge between us in the competition. Our data science team and analytics team do amazing things to help give us a competitive edge in the marketplace, and something that really nobody else in our space is doing.

Q: Your company’s been one of the most prolific hiring organizations in the Kansas City area over the past couple of years with plans to bring on another thousand employees before long at the new downtown headquarters. What specifically does recruitment look like at Spring Venture Group?

A: Just as we put a huge focus on our people once they get in here, we also put a big focus on the candidate. So it all starts with an application that’s easy to use for the applicant. We have great reach with all the technology tools we use — we have great reach to find more people in different places, and it starts with a really great process, because we want people, from the second that they apply to our company, to understand how we work. We work in a fast-paced environment, and we want our people that are applying here to understand that from the first second that they apply. We’ve gotten a lot of compliments over the years on how quickly we respond to applications, and that the experience for the applicant is a great one. So putting a focus on the applicant from the start, they can start to understand the culture, because as they go through this process, it’s really important for them to understand a few things: one is what they’re going to be expected to do when they get here. We want there to be a very clear understanding of what the expectations are going to be, and then also the culture that we have here. We want them to have a really good understanding of the culture from the first day they walk in. We want to make sure that they understand who we are throughout the process, and how dedicated we are to them as an applicant — that’s how dedicated we’re going to be to them as an employer.

Q: What else is a part of your culture?
You mentioned culture a lot and how SVG is a fast-paced company, so how would you describe your culture here?

A: I would describe our culture, really when you think about it, as accountability, authenticity and innovation. Those are the three things that drive us every day when we put plans and teams together and we’re doing new things – It’s really important to continue to try to do new things, use technologies, and have everybody centralized in their ideas as we figure out how we can do things better and more efficiently, so innovation is a huge driver for us, but we don’t want to leave out how important accountability and authenticity are.

Q: With hiring in such large waves, how do you ensure that you attract quantity and quality?

A: I tell you, quality is always going to be more important than quantity. It’s really having a focus on what we need here, what is going to be the right fit for our company, and making sure that we are setting our applicants and soon-to-be new hires up for success. That comes with focusing on quality rather than quantity. 

Q: How do you leverage Kansas City as I as an ideal home to young people who feel the draw to move to a larger market like Chicago, Dallas or New York?

A: We’re in a great time right now in Kansas City; Kansas City is booming as we look out these windows in Downtown we see all the activity going on. It’s why we wanted to be a part of this Downtown. It’s an exciting city, and it’s actually got some recognition recently from a couple of major publications. The New York Times and Forbes recognizing Kansas City as a great place for young professionals to have their careers. So we really want to make sure that we get people to understand what a great city this is. This is a great city of opportunity. It’s booming with opportunity. And then we also like to get our employees ingrained in philanthropy around town to understand other ways that we can participate in making this a great city. Recently, our interns participated in a program called My KC where they had a chance to participate in some philanthropy and get a feel for what else we do at SVG besides our core businesses. 

Q: How has the onset and growth of tech changed the recruitment process?

A: It’s had a drastic change on recruitment because you know as I mentioned earlier, it gives us an opportunity to reach further to reach more people. We just talked about how important it is to talk about Kansas City, and KC being a growing city and a city of opportunity. So it gives us the ability to reach outside of KC and show people what the city has to offer, and it also gives us the ability to show what type of company we are through some of the tools that are out there.

Q: So you look outside Kansas City for talent, but I’ve also gotten the sense that you feel a certain loyalty to KC. Can you speak to how you feel about hiring people outside of Kansas City, if you look more for a certain skill set that comes from outside this area, or do feel a loyalty to try to employ those who are natives to the area?

A: There are particular positions we are going to find the best person that we can in this country. There’s going to be roles that we need to fill with the best talent we can. So to clarify what I said earlier about looking outside the metro area, a lot of that focus is on so many of the college towns around KC, like Lawrence and Manhattan, Columbia, Missouri and down at Pitt State and Springfield, Missouri. We want to focus on that outreach so that we can show what a great place KC is to work. We feel that we have a great offering at our company, paired with a great city with amazing opportunity, and we’ve had such amazing success over the years with college graduates getting their careers here, and it’s amazing to watch people that came to us as college graduates and they’re now executives of our company, I can name quite a few, so it’s exciting to watch that growth. But a lot of the outreach that I’m talking about is getting into some of these college towns where we can try to attract people to KC where they have so many opportunities to go elsewhere.

Q: What type of innovative training does SVG employ to ensure that it not only attracts and retains but also grows employees so they improve in their careers and characters during their time at SVG?

A: Training goes well beyond just the job responsibilities and what they’re going to be responsible for, that is a crucial piece. So one, we’re always trying to evolve training. How can we take our learnings from previous training and implement them in the next time? It is also crucial to make sure we are training on the right things that’s going to get somebody off to a great start in their job — that is highly important. And training does not stop after initial training in any position in this company. So what goes beyond just the training of the responsibilities? We want to train on how to be a professional in soft skills, and be able to carry yourself in a professional manner, that is really important. We also put a focus on that, through our training to help people to mature as a professional and make sure that we’re offering more than just the job responsibility training.

Q: Anything else you want to add about recruiting and retention or SVG
in general?

A: What’s been exciting for us as far as retention of our employees is that the growth is great for retention because it provides a lot of opportunity. There are a tremendous amount of people here that have been promoted to take on a new role and there are a lot of internal transfers that allow people to do specialties other than what they originally came here for. So it’s exciting to grow because as you know, if somebody doesn’t like their job, or they’re not good at their job, or they want to move on, we don’t want to see great people walk out the door, so it’s been a great luxury for us through our growth to have opportunities to fill so many different positions with the awesome people that we already have.