Northern Insuring, Inc. is pleased to announce that our very own President and CEO, Deena Giltz McCullough has been named the 2023 Business Person of the Year by the North Country Chamber of Commerce.
By adhering to Northern Insuring's Core Values of community, respect, and integrity, Deena has been able to navigate and overcome many challenges during her career. These challenges, both professional and personal, have had a profound impact on her leadership philosophy and company culture.
A message to Deena from the Northern Team: From leading our agency through the Ice Storm of ‘98 right up to the global pandemic, Deena has proven more than once that she can withstand any storm. She is the epitome of leadership and more than deserves this recognition. Congratulations Deena and thank you for all you do for us!
Read Deena's inspiring acceptance speech below:
Garry & team. Wow. Thank you! I am proud to be the 3rd female leader honored with this award.
To my Northern colleagues, Health Network board buddies, friends & family, you know who you are and what you mean to me. Your love and support encourages me to be the very best version of myself.
In preparing remarks for tonight I asked myself what is the recipe for how to lead a successful multi-generational family business? In reflection, for me this is about aligning and prioritizing values, personal and corporate, living these values and cascading why these matter for a shared team vision.
I’d like to tell you about three defining moments that highlight these 3 values ~ community, respect, and integrity ~ and their impact on my leadership and organizational culture.
The first defining moment is the Ice Storm of 1998.
Picture this. My dad and president, Rod Giltz, is busy soaking up the sun in Grand Cayman. I call him the old-fashioned way and he dismisses how bad the weather is. In fairness, it is still hard to believe. I stepped up, made decisions quickly leaned into what the community needed most by:
Taking care of our customers & team
Keeping our office open
Starting a day care center in our breakroom for employee’s kiddos
Setting up makeshift offices for our companies to write claim checks on the spot.
And by supporting organizations that were helping people and businesses in our community that were less fortunate than we were.
Three days later my dad called. He happened to walk by a television highlighting the ice storm damage and had an ah ha moment. By then the decisions had already been made.
We learned from this experience, developed a comprehensive disaster preparedness plan, and included a pandemic response. Risk management is our business and modeling this behavior is critical.
The second defining moment is when my 17-year-old son, Sean, died suddenly by suicide in 2005.
In my grief I leaned into what our family needed by respecting my personal mental health and self-care. I don’t have to tell you that people amaze and disappoint us all the time. My true community showed up for me then and keeps showing up now. I learned who my ‘people’ were by the respect they showed me – a valuable lesson.
I took time to care for my younger children, then just 12 and 14. I did what I had to do to advocate for my kids, hold my marriage together and take care of myself. I knew that I could not return to work until I was well enough, and I let my dad know that reality. My work family was patient and kind to me, respecting my decisions.
Our team’s emotional well-being has been a priority since. We are clear, concise, and thoughtful in our communication and commitment to listening. I know that I am a more empathic leader because of Sean.
The third defining moment is the pandemic. Which is still happening. And also why we have adopted a new 2023 motto. Try Harder and Have more Fun.
Because of our disaster plan we had a strategy in place, invested in technology and were able to work remotely seamlessly and in-person safely. Integrity is about keeping our promises, staying true to our commitments, and earning trust through honesty. Our preparedness kept us focused and engaged with our customers, companies, and team.
The pandemic provided me an opportunity for self-reflection. People were dying and this was tragic. Fortunately, my close people were not dying. This meant I had a clearer head.
I plotted a plan, got team buy in and put significant resources into growing the next generation of leaders.
Plans have been made to transfer the business ownership. My time is often spent in deep discussion and strategic training with team members. As a result, many have transitioned to new duties and are loving the challenge, the chance to make a positive impact and to see an even brighter future with our organization.
We live in a world where instant gratification is enticing. Yet, I can tell you that it has been my legacy to stay true to and prioritize the values of community, respect, and integrity.
In the process we have all built a successful and sustainable multi-generational family business.
There is no perfect recipe for success but this one has been a pretty sweet ride.
Northern Insuring Agency, Inc., founded in 1930, specializes in Auto, Home, Business, Life & Health Insurance, and Employee Benefits services.
Northern insuring is an equal opportunity employer. If you're looking to join a dynamic team of insurance professionals, visit our employment page.