Meet Thomas K. “Smitty” Smith, Chief Marketing Officer for Markel Corporation
What is your role at Markel, and what excites you the most about it?
As the Chief Marketing Officer I have an opportunity to be on the front line with our associates, agents, and brokers regularly. I have an opportunity to engage with some of the best professionals in our business, and it makes me very bullish on the future of Markel and our forward-thinking production partners.
How do you keep it fresh after 30+ years? What motivates and excites you?
I like work. I like Markel. I like the people I work with inside and outside the company. This gives it perspective: One day my niece said she and I had a “jobbies.” I had no clue what she meant until she explained it’s when you combine a “job” with a “hobby.” It pretty much explains it.
And, I have met and continue to meet some of the most interesting people, I get to visit places I wouldn’t otherwise, and learn about businesses in ways many never get a chance to do. I feel lucky to be where I am.
What is the best advice you have received during your career?
The advice that always comes to mind was given to me in the late 70s before I joined the insurance business when I was a unit sales manager for a well-known consumer products company. A particularly dignified, successful gentleman said to me one day “without suppliers you don’t need customers.” I wasn’t’ sure exactly what he meant until he explained that no matter what you do in business your relationships will be built on trust and competence, and you’d better have plenty of both. I think about that every day and hope someday folks will say about me that I was a man you could do business with because I was trustworthy, capable, and I am fun to be around.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give someone that’s new to the insurance industry?Unless you’re the smartest guy in the room (which I am usually not, even when I am alone), learn who the expert is on any given subject and don’t be afraid to talk to them, ask for advice and learn from them. Some day you will be the subject matter expert, and it is your obligation to help like you were helped.
Aside from the family, it was being a good enough athlete to be a champion gymnast in high school and later play college football. Most people still laugh at me being a gymnast. It’s hard for even me to think of it. My specialty was the trampoline. Too funny, since I looked like a fullback in a gymnast uniform which is exactly what I was. It was not a pretty picture.
Given complete freedom of choice, how and where would you like to spend next week?
At my favorite place: The Greenbrier. If you’re not familiar, it’s a resort and national historic landmark located in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia. Of all the places I’ve traveled, it continues as my favorite. In fact, we will be back there again soon for golf, pool, the spa, and the all-important annual family croquet tournament. It’s brutal to the finish, and the winner has bragging rights all year.