Human on the Inside with Honan’s Andrew Fluitsma

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5 min read

We’re big believers in the power of human skills. But don’t just take our word for it – the evidence for excellence powered by human (‘soft’) skills is everywhere! In this engaging, ever-enlightening series, we speak with industry leaders, innovators and game-changers to learn a little about their personal career journeys, and how human-led strategies, philosophies and cultures are proving a force for good in their working worlds …

Welcome Andrew, and thanks for stepping into the #SuccessIsHuman Spotlight!
You’re the CEO of Honan Insurance Group, a role you’ve held for almost three years now following an initial 9 year tenure progressing through the business. In 1 sentence (ok, we’ll give you 3), what does your current role entail?

I could be boring and say ‘continued development of our growth strategy through enhancing our strategic plan, client experience and inorganic M&A strategy,’ but I’m going to say … “I am the voice of the brand – I like that better!”

Your impressive career commenced with 12 months at Marsh back in 2003, followed by five years at Aon before joining Honan in late 2009. That’s nearly two decades in financial services, and insurance broking specifically. Clearly you found your calling early on! How does your career to date speak to your personal purpose and what drives you as an individual?

I genuinely love working. I think if I stop running fast I might stop altogether, so I just keep running fast. I think that in each phase of life, your motivations to show up and perform change. For me, this has involved shifts from a largely self-centred approach, to family-oriented, and very much to the broader business communities I’m involved in personally and professionally. The key communities I’m deeply involved with include our team at Honan, the insurance industry, our clients, and peer groups too.

Tell us a little about your personal education pathway/s – what led you to where you are now? How closely do your formal qualifications match your current career?

I chose to study Commerce after I finished school, with no real idea of what discipline within my Degree I would choose to specialise in. I’ve long had a passion for marketing and brand, but I also wanted to understand the business engine room, so elected to major in both Finance and Marketing. Given where I am now, I think my Uni pathway actually provided the perfect segue for my career to follow – especially when I consider all the fundamentals which informed my vision for Honan.

A few years later – once I realised insurance was for me – I went on to complete a Post-Grad (Masters) in Risk and Insurance. I strongly believe in continuous education if you want a career you’re truly engaged in, not just a job.

If you could share one piece of career advice to your 21 year old self it would be …

I’m pretty proud of my 21 year old self. When my peers were earning more and seemingly having more ‘fun’ in their jobs, I worked hard to shut out the noise, remain disciplined in my studies, my long-term career vision and ‘stayed the course’. That said, I would certainly revisit some of my initial business fashion choices … snake-skin pointy shoes really didn’t work with a charcoal suit!

Maximising the potential of individuals, communities and businesses through the power of human skills is the reason Maxme exists. Can you tell us a little about the role and / or value of human skills in your workplace right now?

It’s so damn important. You hear people say “be authentic” all the time, but it’s almost like they then went and googled “authentic” and practiced it. I think it’s powerful to show vulnerability and raw emotion, to show love and and definitely show passion. I have definitely laughed and cried in front of my entire company. I have also reflected on bad behaviour and called my entire leadership team to apologise. I’ve asked for honesty, and have sincerely promised a safe environment to ensure I’m provided the accurate, often hard feedback I need in order to make good decisions. Most importantly, a workplace with strong human skills is one where your people can look each other in the eye and be honest with each other – a workplace where everyone can become a better human, and feel safe to express themselves along the way.

Self Awareness sets the critical foundation for all Maxme learning experiences. With that said … what’s your strongest trait / personal super power?

I simply love a very simple saying “if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.” I think I’m particularly good at understanding who the smart people are, and not being afraid to ask them for help.

And on the flip side, what’s one human / ‘soft’ skill you’ve had to really work on improving over the course of your career

Without doubt my temper. My profession is largely about negotiation and competitiveness, which used to really bring out an ugly side of me. I’ve worked so hard to be kind and more constructive in negotiation. I’ve learnt a lot about not ‘winning at all costs’ … that, ultimately, I can ‘win’ without being a di*khead in the process!

If you could share one piece of career advice with recent Uni graduates or candidates keen to work at a company like Honan, what would it be?

Find a way to enjoy coming to work. If you wake up every day and dread the day ahead then it’s not a good place to start. Seek out what you’re good at, excel at it, really get to know your colleagues, have a positive impact on the culture you’re immersed in, and have fun!

You’ve been granted approval to add one University graduate to your team, but have 100 applicants, all with outstanding academic results. How do you find your perfect candidate – what are you looking for?

Positive energy is so important, and it can be measured in many different ways but in all honesty we move so fast at Honan and we simply don’t have room for negativity. We always make mistakes, we fix them and we move on. We always find a way to generate positive outcomes from a mistake, a situation or a circumstance. It really takes a lot of energy to get back up again, so I do look for that ‘bounce back’ energy.

In the words of John Dewey, “education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.”
What’s next on your #learning agenda?

I can be quite specific here. Pre COVID I was looking into doing an Advanced Management course at Stanford University (CA, USA) – something I wanted to do on campus as I think that the experience and friendships made are just as powerful as the content. The outcomes and what I want to achieve from this was really to have my views on management challenged, to learn new theories, get inspired by case studies, and shake up my thinking and perspective.

In many ways, becoming a CEO has been a bit like becoming a parent – I have developed my own style by simply ‘doing’. There really is no handbook – I think it’s more about time on the job, and the occasional ‘kick of the tyres’ to see what others are doing in similar roles.