Keeping up with the CEOs amid Covid-19: King Price

CEO Gideon Galloway is missing the action and energy of the ‘un-corporate’ culture at the office.
Galloway says the insurer basically rolled out its disaster recovery plan – ‘and I score us 10/10’. Image: Supplied

Many companies have had to change their business operations during the lockdown period. We caught up with several CEOs to find out how they’re holding up, and whether or not it’s ‘business as usual’.

Here’s what Gideon Galloway, CEO of King Price Insurance, said.

Where are you working from?

I’m working from home: my study, the patio, the couch, by the pool.

‘Home’ is in Pretoria, and we’re still enjoying warm weather so it’s a blessing to be able to sit outside and get things done. And I have three children to bring me coffee and snacks, so all in all, I’m quite comfortable.

How are you conducting your meetings?

Technology makes it so easy to have meetings from wherever you are. Between Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts and Skype our team hasn’t missed a meeting yet.

How are you finding working away from your usual designated workstation?

A large portion of our employees have unlimited leave [a trust-based system that replaces the normal types such as annual leave and sick leave and is said to inspire ‘ownership’ of the objectives of the business; one downside being that if employees resign, they will not be paid for unused holidays] and we’re used to them working from wherever they happen to be, so the physical distance is pretty easy to deal with.

We have always had a disaster recovery plan ready and waiting, which stood us in good stead when we needed to move everyone off-site quickly.

It was the forecasting that became a challenge. Identifying and planning for all the possible business outcomes – best and worst cases – took up a large chunk of our time. And considerable brainpower. Who could have imagined that we’d be adjusting our business plan because of a virus?

I’ve been reading lately about how important internal communication is becoming. More than ever, employees are looking to their bosses for reliable, factual information. Being in a position to pass on positive messaging to our staff, before and during the lockdown, is something I’m really proud of.

Is the lockdown causing a huge disruption in your business operations?

I wouldn’t have thought it would be possible to get all of our over 1 000 staff working from home in less than a week. Kudos to our IT team for making that happen. It helps that we were already running the latest tech, which can be accessed from anywhere and maintains security and controls. I guess we basically rolled out our disaster recovery plan – and I score us 10/10.

Where necessary, we’ve shuffled work around to make the best use of our resources. At King Price, we measure everything in real-time and this info is available to our managers via an app, so relocating resources is easy and proactive.

I’ve also noticed that people are getting to do the admin-intensive tasks that kept getting put at the bottom of their priority lists. So that’s great.

Moving forward, how does your company need to transform in order to keep up with the changing times?

We see ourselves as a tech business, even more than an insurer, so bringing the future forward is always high on our agenda.

Our lockdown learnings are very much people-oriented. We’ve noted that many people with centralised job functions, even some call centre consultants, have flourished while working off-site. On the one hand we’re surprised, but on the other hand, this is proof that our stringent recruiting methods are working. We’ve measured the ‘success factors’ for every job function and all potential new royal family members are tested against these habits and character traits before even being interviewed.

We’re so sure that our new recruits are a good ‘fit’ that we offer a R50 000 quitting bonus to anyone who joins us and isn’t completely happy in their first month. We’ve only paid it out once.

Going forward, I think we’ll be looking at extending unlimited leave to more staff members, and adding half-day working hours as an option for parents.

But even given the success of our work-from-home operations, we’ll always have a core team at the office. We believe that a vibrant, energetic, positive culture and being with inspiring, like-minded people, is very important. We’ve become known for our un-corporate culture. We even bought a bus to bring schools, churches and other companies to our ‘kingdom’ to look around and learn how we do things differently. We’re hosting a tour a day. For reals. You can book a tour by emailing culture@kingprice.co.za [tours resume after lockdown]. Get a sneak peek by clicking here.

After lockdown where are we likely to see you?

At the office. I’m a people-person and I miss the action and the energy. This time at home has been great for catching up, doing some important strategic shuffling and planning for the future, but I really miss our day-to-day office vibe.

I’ll probably also play a round of golf. And then my wife and I will host a massive braai to catch up with our friends and family.

What do you crave the most?

People. I’m a social being, and screen time doesn’t quite cut it for me … and, honestly, I’m also craving Steers and KFC.

What are you most indulging in while working from home?

Work, work, work. I don’t think I’ve ever worked this hard or had fewer distractions.

And it’s really nice to know that my family is around all the time, even when I’m typing away. In between deadlines and meetings we’ve shared some incredible quality family time that I’m very grateful for.

Is there a particular song, series or book that is keeping you busy during this time?

I always have a lot on the go. I like listening to audiobooks. At the moment I’m into ‘The 10X Rule’ (Grant Cardone), ‘Loonshots’ (Safi Bahcall) and ‘The Infinite Game’ (Simon Sinek). All highly recommended.

I don’t normally watch a lot of TV, but I’ve enjoyed a few comedies with the kids. And with MasterChef always on in the background, my cooking skills have improved.

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