Hagerty on the Move: Innovative strategies spark insurer’s growth, expansion

Protecting $30 billion of classic motorcycles, cars, and boats worldwide takes a lot of innovation. And space.

Fortunately, Hagerty has both.

Seven hundred employees of the classic vehicles insurer in Traverse City work either at the River’s Edge campus on Cass Street or 130 S. Union, in the former Bank of Northern Michigan/Chemical Bank building.

This January, Hagerty will gain an additional 25,000 square feet of office space at its new 250 E. Front Street location, expanding its home town presence to 240,000 square feet.

An additional nearly 200 off-site employees work in Golden, Colo., Canada, and the United Kingdom, said Coco Champagne, senior vice president for human resources.

“But what’s most important is our connection to Traverse City,” she said.

As its spaces expand, so has its programming. Online, a new classic car-sharing program, an exclusive insurance partnership for the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, and its YouTube show, “The Barn Find Hunter,” are attracting new classic motor fans.

Locally, its “Cars and Caffeine” program lured collectors to exhibit their classics and enjoy cups of coffee in the Hagerty parking lot on summer Friday mornings. Noted car aficionado Jay Leno even stopped by when he was in the area to perform at Interlochen in 2016.

“It’s a casual gathering for sharing stories and their passion for autos,” said Champagne.

To lure a new generation into the collector world, the agency launched the Hagerty Driving Experience in 2011 to educate young drivers on how to operate manual transmission vehicles. Driving Experiences sell out across the country and in Canada.

Not bad for a company that started in 1984 in the basement of founders Frank and Louise Hagerty. Since that inauspicious beginning, the company has spearheaded several innovative programs and achieved international success.

“We’ve had constant revenue growth, insuring over a million vehicles,” Champagne said. “What’s most important is our knowledge of the industry and collector vehicles.”

That knowledge is disseminated in a variety of ways. There’s a weekly newsletter, Hagerty Weekly News, and a valuation tool, Hagerty Price Guide, published three times a year. The company also actively engages clients and would-be clients through social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

On its YouTube channel, viewers can watch time-lapse videos of engine and transmission rebuilds. There are also vehicle valuation videos, seminars and more. The channel debuted in 2007 and today has more than 33 million views and nearly 200,000 subscribers. More than 178,000 subscribe to “The Barn Find Hunter,” ranking it among the most popular automobile-focused shows online. Renowned automotive author Tom Cotter hosts the program, scouring the countryside for lost classics.

One very recent development is the company’s DriveShare program, which links vintage and collector car enthusiasts with those who own such vehicles. In August, the company acquired Classics&Exotics, the nation’s only peer-to-peer online marketplace for classic cars, and relaunched it. Cars can be rented to those who want a special experience for a birthday excursion, wedding, or other special event, or just for the thrill of driving such a vehicle. Renters are pre-screened and then put in touch with owners. Both vintage rides and new high end exotic cars are part of the program. Among the available vehicles: a 2005 Ferrari F430 for $1,300 a day in Farmingdale, N.Y.; a 1981 Delorean in Jamul, Calif. for $800 a day; and a Porsche Boxster for $99 a day in Roanoke, Va.

“Our goal is to provide a common platform that connects enthusiasts and owners to expand the community of people who love cars. DriveShare gives people an easy way to get behind the wheel of cars they’ve always wanted to drive,” said CEO McKeel Hagerty in a news release announcing the program.

Hagerty is not just about vintage cars. Earlier this year, the company showcased a 2018 Dodge Demon, the most powerful street legal production car ever made. Dodge named Hagerty its official insurance provider of the vehicle in April.

Another facet of the company’s innovations is the Swap to Street Challenge. For the past two years, a six-person team from Hagerty has gone to the Antique Automobile Club of America Eastern Division’s national fall meet to build a vehicle from parts secured at the swap meet in just four days. Brett Lirones, a marine agent and underwriter, was one of the builders.

“It was amazing and surreal,” he said. “I can’t stress how cool it was to … put together a 90-year-old car.”

The team of four builders and two parts chasers took with them a chassis and engine, which they registered with the state before they left. That way it could be insured and legally driven back from the meet, which takes place in Hershey, Pa. They towed it there behind the previous year’s build, a Ford pickup. They found a body the first day, then scoured the meet for headlights, seats, bumpers and all the other parts needed. They live streamed the entire build.

They were successful in finding almost everything – except a top. That lack didn’t make it any less operable, but the team encountered rain on the return trip, requiring rain gear and tarps. It broke down briefly, when they stopped to show it off at Snyder’s Antique Auto Parts in Ohio. They trailered it the rest of the way back to Michigan before driving it triumphantly to the company’s Traverse City headquarters.

The company continues to evolve internally as well, including offering the latest and greatest surroundings and tools for employees.

“As we moved into new offices we partnered with Herman Miller for design,” said Champagne. “We want to give [them] the best opportunities to do their work by focusing on design and optimizing technology.”

What’s next?

“We want to continue to grow and continue to bring jobs here,” Champagne said. “We’ll focus on our clients and the community.”

HAGERTY SEEKS 2018 NONPROFIT PARTNER

Hagerty is accepting applications from area organizations for the company’s annual nonprofit partner program. In addition to a financial investment of $25,000, Hagerty will work with the selected nonprofit to plan a mutually determined year-long service program.

Qualified organizations must have a strong presence and an office in the five-county Grand Traverse region (Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau counties) and be a registered 501(c)(3) organization. Organizations which can benefit from Hagerty’s capabilities in customer experience, business strategy, talent management and marketing, as well as organizations that are connected to a national or international network, are especially encouraged to apply.

Request for Proposal (RFP) applications will be accepted via email through 5 p.m. Eastern on Friday, Oct. 13. A committee from Hagerty, leveraging the expertise and services of the NorthSky Nonprofit Network, will review applications and will conduct site visits to the finalists during the first week of November. The 2018 Annual Nonprofit Partner will be announced in December.

Previous Annual Nonprofit Partners include Goodwill Northern Michigan, Michael’s Place, TART Trails and the Father Fred Foundation. Those organizations have received a wide range of support from Hagerty, including leadership and growth coaching, analysis and upgrade of retail and online operations, app and website development, review of metrics and analytics, communications and human resources consultation, and event and philanthropic assistance.

Interested organizations can request the RFP application and submission guidelines by emailing HagertyCares@hagerty.com.

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