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#33 - Steve Paraboschi: Developing Intrapreneurs in Corporate Culture


Steve Paraboschi featured on Innovate Marketing Podcast

As the CEO at International Medical Group (IMG) in Indianapolis, Indiana, Steve Paraboschi is a Senior Executive with over 24 years of broad Financial Services industry experience and a successful track record of developing business strategies that drive topline/bottom growth and supporting a dynamic environment of teamwork and employee development





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Shawn P Neal

And welcome to Innovate Marketing, where we are bringing you interviews with the people that are making waves in the world of marketing, branding, and business growth. I'm your host, Shawn P Neal, and we are brought to you by MyPodcast.Media. So if you're a brand and you're considering podcasting or even revamping an existing podcast, make sure you visit MyPodcast.Media.


Now we've got a great show for you today. So without further ado, let's get into it.


My guess is that you are familiar with entrepreneurs. Okay. So we all kind of get what an entrepreneur is, but what about intrapreneurship? Intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs share many of the same qualities, only intrapreneurs do those qualities, they perform those qualities, within an organization. Some would say they're actually an organization's absolute best asset.


And that's exactly what we're going to talk about today. Now, before we get to our interview, let me introduce you to our guest, Steve Paraboschi.



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Steve Paraboschi joined International Medical Group in 2017 as Executive Vice President. In January of 2020, Steve became President of IMG and was later appointed to his current role as president and CEO in August of 2021.


With more than 30 years of broad financial services industry experience, Steve is proactive and deliberate with IMG’s strategic planning and operational success in the international health insurance, travel insurance and assistance services markets. He's had a successful track record at developing business strategies that drive top line and bottom line growth and support a dynamic environment of teamwork and employee development. He's responsible for leading the enterprise forward with a focus on innovation and success in IMGs key growth segments.



Shawn P Neal

So right off the bat, you know, I think people can be a little intimidated by, or maybe turned off by the term intrapreneur. And quite frankly, I think that that's because it sounds so much like “entrepreneur.” But it also kind of implies that there, you know, maybe a lot of decision making ability being given to the workforce.


So for clarity's sake, can you just kind of tell us a little bit about your definition or interpretation of what an intrapreneur is?



Steve Paraboschi

Sure. Well, Shawn, thank you. I mean, you know, words mean things and words are very important. And in the corporate environment, especially at all levels of the organization, when you talk about the word intrapreneur intrapreneurship, you know, sometimes people's eyes glaze over and they're focused on, well, you know, You know, in my role, I don't have an entrepreneurial role. I don't have a role in the typical traditional sense of an entrepreneur. So in terms of shifting the word a little bit and just talking or thinking about intrapreneurship, you know, it's a very simple concept of how anybody at any level in the organization can innovate, can look at processes differently, look at products differently, look at marketing differently.


And the most important thing is to be comfortable in taking risks to push the best practice within your function to the next level. So it's sort of the internal view of entrepreneurship.



Shawn P Neal

All right, and so IMG, by the way, I won't try to summarize this myself, but I'll let you do this. But IMG is involved in the insurance industry. And for more specifics, I'm going to turn it over to you. So cue Steve for more definition.



Steve Paraboschi

(laughter) Great. Yes. International Medical Group is a managing general underwriter, or a managing general agent, technically. What we do is we put together insurance products in the cross border health, medical, and travel insurance arena. We sell these products to individuals. We sell these products to groups, both on a short term and long term basis. We like to think about it as we're providing you the right medical or travel insurance product while you're away from home.


We've been in business since the early 1990s. We've been best in class in many of the niches that we play in inside of the medical and travel insurance arenas.


So much so that we also take the services we provide to our customers and sell them to other insurance companies. So insurance companies could repackage our services as a part of the insurance products that they sell to. So we're both, you know, sort of an individual play as well as a B2B play.



Shawn P Neal

Right. So I was, you know, looking online and really kind of exploring what employees are saying about IMG. And one of the things that kept coming up is that they really feel impacted by IMG and the work that they're doing. So what are some of the things that you would say there that encourages this intrapreneurship kind of culture at IMG.



Steve Paraboschi

What's the secret that creates that intrapreneurship inside of our culture? And I think it really boils down to a few, a few key points. So one, we are a company that is focused on performance. We're a company from our early beginning to where we are now, that is focused on the idea of pay for performance, rewarding people for being successful at what they do, rewarding people for taking risks.


Second, you can think of it as a company that's focused on its vision. Many companies can be focused on a vision. Our vision is one that is very impactful, one that's very emotional. And we take that vision, and that vision to be the generally accepted company to provide health and safety solutions for when somebody is away from home.


We bring that vision to life through our mission, where, within our mission as an organization, we are focused on being that exceptionally innovative partner. And that focus on exceptional innovation- practical, exceptional innovation- really drives people to look at new ways of doing things. Taking risks so that they can move to the next level themselves. So motivating people, not only from their own goal perspective, but motivating people from a higher level message on what the organization is about.



Shawn P Neal

Yeah. And, and a lot of employees, fair enough, are saying that the work there is impactful. And I know it can be very much driven, you know, like a call center environment, but they're talking about, you know, you may be talking to someone at two in the morning who is a thousand miles away and having a huge crisis. Like a serious crisis. And they have the opportunity to really contribute to helping someone in that moment of crisis. So, can you talk a little bit about the values that encourage this culture that drive this culture at IMG?



Steve Paraboschi

Yes, absolutely. You know, the work we do, in some cases, can get repetitive. However, one of our values is to be there. And the concept of “be there” means you need to be there to support our customers at their worst moments of their lives. You need to be empathetic and supportive, and you need to be able to find the complete solution to their issue. And it's not, you know, it's not every day. It's not all the time that we get these in particular issues, but you don't know when it's coming and it can surprise anybody at any time. And that's the, one of the big reasons why our products are so important.


When you are away from a home, you are more vulnerable to issues. You don't have your support structure with you. And when an IMG employee can be there to support you, that's what the team is focused in on.



Shawn P Neal

I think with anything like this, it sounds good in theory. You know, and people may or may not necessarily believe that there's value. Can you talk about the value a little bit, you know, where this has played out in the real world? Maybe an example of how you've seen this play out.



Steve Paraboschi

Sure. I can give you 2 examples. I can give you one relatively recently- We had a customer hiking in 1 of the Greek isles, middle-aged gentleman. Unfortunately, he slipped, fell, and had pretty horrific injuries to his shoulder, his rib cage, et cetera. And on the island he was on, didn't have the medical infrastructure to be able to support him appropriately. One of our agents, in the middle of the night, got a phone call. This agent activated the appropriate medical member of the team to be able to support the individual to be able to be moved to the appropriate center of excellence in and around the Greek islands. And this individual needed to have surgery, convalesce a little bit. And then we were able to get that individual back to the United States. Again, all underneath our insurance all paid for by the premium this individual paid and we backed up the promise to be there for that individual. You know, other examples in parts of our business where we sell services to other insurance companies, we sell very complicated case management services to companies that are contracted by the U. S. military. So you can understand where those people may be and there is a particular focus that once an individual, a contractor of the U. S. military, gets injured, that contractor’s company is responsible for that medical care until that individual gets back to the, sort of, the maximum rehabilitation necessary. And, you know, we're providing that health care all across the globe in many austere environments, Iraq, Afghanistan, parts of southern Africa.


So it's just something that we do. It's an important part of our culture for people to understand that, you know, we need to be able to be there in one of the worst times in people's lives.



Shawn P Neal

And it looks like IMG is leveraging a lot of different technology to stay very accessible to its customers.



Steve Paraboschi

That is fair to say. A lot of our customer service comes in through phone calls. A lot of our customer service comes in through emails. Obviously, there's chat, there's SMS, there's all different ways these days that people want to interact with their insurance company. Another aspect of our business, we have a large medical team, medical professionals here in the United States, medical professionals in our other corporate office in Cardiff, Wales, as well as many allied partners across the globe- what we call our field case manager network- that are able to project medical care in any country in the world.



Shawn P Neal

So internally, when you're looking at people that would excel at intrapreneurship, at being that intrapreneur, what kind of characteristics or attributes or whatever are you looking at to identify those people?



Steve Paraboschi

Sure. I mean, I think there are a bunch of obvious qualities and attributes of who may be a good intrapreneur and who may be focused in that area and lean toward that sort of skill set. You know, you have self motivated people, creative people, curious people, people that are unafraid of taking risks, people that are naturally collaborative with others.


You know, I would say somebody who is trusting and trustworthy is also something that we look for inside the organization. And trusting and trustworthy; I don't mean, you know, from its typical definition of trusting and trustworthy. I'm talking about it from the perspective of that concept of vulnerability.Somebody who is truly in touch with themselves, knows what created them, and is able to share that and be absolutely comfortable inside of their skin. Because again, as you get into debate, as you get into conflict, as you get into discussions about, what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, and the concept of taking risk, you need to have someone who's comfortable with the idea that they can fail.


Comfortable with the idea that there's not going to be punishment for failure and comfortable with the idea that, you know, the people around them are supporting them in their idea. Despite again, a bad outcome. Sometimes there's going to be a bad outcome. What goes on as long as you took the appropriate risk control, as long as you're very communicative and supportive of your peers, there's no reason why this is a situation of punishment- it should be celebrated.



Shawn P Neal

Okay. So if we do encourage this, how does that impact the bottom line? Can you tell us a little bit about what you've seen on your side and what your experience is with actually how it impacts the final outcomes there.



Steve Paraboschi

So one, I think at IMG, we're very careful to stay within our core competencies. And I think one of the points, and Shawn, you brought this up earlier how managers and leaders may be uncomfortable with the concept of intrapreneurship and people having freedom inside of their organization. If you stay within your comfort zone, kind of where you have your core competencies, it's very important.


Now within core competency in, you know, sort of the guardrails of what your business does, we've seen a lot of success. What we've seen… our profits go up, our profitability is up, as well as we see the retention of our employees. There's a tight labor market out there, and we're seeing over the past few years, the best employee retention that we've ever had as an organization. Making sure that the people you train and the people you're comfortable with stay with the organization long term, I think, is an absolute KPI that people need to be focused on in building successful organizations.



Shawn P Neal

And it's like the thing that nobody wants to talk about, but yet everybody wants to talk about, right.

You know, really looking at how this emotionally impacts an employee and overall the culture of the workforce. What can you say to that? And how does this shape the wellbeing?



Steve Paraboschi

I absolutely do think that people that are more invested in an organization- people that want to go and move their part of the process Into intrapreneurship, move their part of the product development, move their part of customer service, move their part of sales and make it better- these people are much more committed to the organization. It's on an emotional level. They're much more excited about coming to work. They're much more excited about talking about what they do.


As I had mentioned earlier in the discussion when we were talking about that situation in Greece where one of our call center reps had to be there at that moment that that older gentleman had called in, you have somebody there that wanted to take a risk, needed to take a risk, needed to be able to support this individual and give me 10 of them versus one individual that's just following the rules.


Shawn P Neal

What are some of the strategies that IMG is employing to maintain and encourage intrapreneurship?



Steve Paraboschi

It's a multifaceted strategy to nurture the culture. I mentioned earlier a pay for performance culture. I think that that is sort of typical to be able to be there and be able to incentivize people to be able to take risks. I think that that's very important. I talked about trust earlier. The idea of supporting people as they take risks. So that they understand, you know, appropriately taking risks are supported inside the organization.


We just moved our corporate headquarters inside of Indianapolis to a beautiful new facility. Some people think that that's old fashioned. You know, the idea of having bricks and mortar facilities these days. But we have sort of a... sort of a mixed approach. We have our new beautiful facility here in Indianapolis, but we also allow a lot of hybrid and work-from-home environments. We have people working at IMG from 26 different U.S. states. We have people working for IMG from 10 different European countries. So bringing in a diverse workforce is also very important because we're a global company. We have customers from all over the world, and we need to be thinking about various different aspects of culture when we talk about how to motivate people and how to support people while we're looking to make processes better. While we're looking to make products better and invest in intrapreneurship. So, again, a diverse workforce is something that's also very important. I think it excites people to work with different cultures. And you know, it's something that here at IMG, sometimes people may not think that a company inside of Indianapolis can be diverse, but it's one of the most diverse places that I've ever worked. I've worked for some of the biggest insurance companies in the world.



Shawn P Neal

As we're wrapping up, I would love to get your thoughts when you think about speaking directly to our audience. Our audience is comprised of people who are in leadership positions, decision making positions.


And maybe they're looking at this and saying this is a path that we need to go down, or we've wanted to go down, but they're not really sure where to start or how to really wrap their heads around creating this culture of intrapreneurship. Can you just kind of speak directly to them for a moment about how to do this and what might be the considerations.



Steve Paraboschi

I think it starts with an inspiring vision and mission. As people, as humans, we are motivated by doing things for the big picture, and I think that's the best way to motivate people. So start with a vision and mission that matters to your employee base. Obviously it needs to matter to your marketplace, but I do think you need to be focused on inspiring your employees first. I think creating a culture that supports risk taking, supports the idea of trust and vulnerability inside of the workplace, the free exchange of opinions and ideas at all levels of the organization. I think we all need to be focused on the bottom line and everything that we do needs to be able to be measured in the bottom line.


But I do think starting from the metrics 1st or starting from the bottom line 1st is one of the key mistakes that many managers and leaders make inside of their companies. Focused on inspiration, focus on motivation, focus on getting the right employees in the right seats. Having the right team is more important than the right strategy.



Shawn P Neal

That is absolutely great. Steve Paraboschi, thank you so much for being a guest on here today and for sharing your thoughts, your insights, and your experience in this space. We absolutely appreciate it and hope to see you back soon.



Steve Paraboschi

Shawn, thank you so much. I will be back whenever you want me.


(Focus- Developing intrapreneurs in corporate culture)





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