The 2017 CEOs Who 'Get It'

2017 CEOs Who Get it
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Timothy J. Gassmann

Timothy J. Gassmann

Millhiser Smith
Cedar Rapids, IA


  • Established a mission not to control loss, but to prevent the loss from ever occurring
  • Implemented the Millhiser Smith Risk Improvement Team, which supplies safety and injury prevention services to commercial clients and non-clients of the organization.

Millhiser Smith is a full-service risk management and insurance agency that has been around since 1928. Our specialty is reducing risk and providing insurance solutions for our commercial and personal lines clients throughout the eastern Iowa area. We employ 39 workers.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

Because safety is what we instill in our clients, it needs to be paramount within our organization. We train all of our employees with regard to any safety issues and emphasize that when any employee is off-site, others in the agency should know of their whereabouts. We do annual testing of our Emergency Action Plan to make sure it is solid and employees understand it. All of our employees are knowledgeable on OSHA topics to not only keep them safe, but also to be able to communicate with our clients on relevant safety issues.

Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.”

Over the last 25 years, I have seen the financial impact that workplace injuries have on businesses. It has forced us to become more proactive in our analysis of safety standards instead of being reactive, which is common in the insurance environment. Maintaining proactive measures helps our clients improve their bottom line by reducing their overall cost of insurance.

What is the biggest obstacle to safety at your organization, and how do you work to overcome it?

Our biggest obstacle is safety complacency. Because we do not work in a high-hazard industry, sometimes we forget about the everyday situations we are in. Things like fleet safety and ergonomics need to be at the forefront of our minds in our daily working environment. Another obstacle is sometimes working with our clients. They are busy running their business, making sure sales are up, producing new clients, etc. It is very easy for them to focus on those important aspects of the business, but through our proprietary Millhiser Smith DISCOVERisk Process we get them to focus on the safety aspects as well.

How do you instill a sense of safety in employees on an ongoing basis?

We provide quarterly safety training to all of our employees on different OSHA topics. We provide pertinent safety information through fliers, emails or toolbox talks on a weekly basis. The agency has embarked on building a culture of success through organizational values – which includes everyday safety – to help our employees and our clients become healthier, safer and more profitable.

How does your organization measure safety? What are the leading indicators that show you how safe your organization is, and where do you see room for improvement?

Through the ongoing efforts of our Risk Improvement Team, we help our clients prevent and reduce workplace injuries through relevant, customized onsite safety training, OSHA compliance and other loss-control activities. When an injury does occur, we work diligently to reduce the impact of it to the client’s bottom line through accident investigation, root cause analysis, return-to-work programming and claims management. We then use indicators to measure effectiveness through incident rate (TRIR and DART) benchmarking and experience modification rating for workers’ compensation insurance, among others. The insurance environment is constantly changing. Challenges that we need to continually keep abreast of include new exposures at client facilities and changes made by regulatory agencies such as OSHA.

What role does off-the-job safety play in your organization’s overall safety program? What types of off-the-job safety and health programs does your organization offer to employees?

The agency has a philosophy of wanting our employees and our clients’ employees to be able to go home in the same condition as they arrived at work so they can take care of all of the family duties they have. We provide our employees with a wellness program that consists of monthly challenges, reimbursement for gym membership and weight management classes. We feel that in order to keep our employees safe they also need to stay healthy. Millhiser Smith has also provided a free CPR class, fire extinguisher training and a self-defense class to anyone interested in learning how to protect themselves.

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