“We help each other through things. We bond. We connect. We are all in this together, and we simply need to remember this.”
– The Urban Monk, Pedram Shojai
Shelley Kuhleman learned from an early age to make it on her own. When you grow up in a family with seven children, you must learn to fend for yourself, but you also know what it’s like to be part of a bigger team and always look to help others around you.
“I have a message I keep on my computer that reads, ‘It is my job to provide opportunities for my employees,’” says Shelley. “It’s a big thing at our company—always looking for ways for people to grow and become more successful.”
Shelley serves as Assistant Vice-President of Product Development for USHEALTH Group®. It’s quite literally Shelley’s position and mission to make things as good as they can be for the consumer, as well as those serving out front—the agents and leaders who sell health products for USHEALTH Advisors®. Any great company knows and appreciates the people behind-the-scenes who make the wheels turn, the machine grind, and make it possible for those out front to shine.
When the foundation is strong, the house stands tall.
Shelley knows what it’s like to build that foundation because she’s done it for years raising two boys—both of whom are now in their early 30s—and doing it all as a single mom.
“Being a single mom is probably my biggest accomplishment and biggest challenge, especially making sure my boys turned out as great as they did,” says Shelley. “I’ve been doing it on my own since they were toddlers. You learn to be both a mom and a dad for them, and I would say it taught me that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to.”
Shelley says her parents set a great example by raising a large family and doing it by taking others into the fold.
“We already had a family of four children—myself and three brothers—but my parents took in three foster kids as well, so I had another brother and two sisters,” says Shelley. “Growing up that way, I think to a degree it prepared me for being a single parent because I was used to having a lot of people around and at the same time being pretty independent. It helped in my work as well, always doing my best and moving up in the company. I think it all goes together.”
After spending several years together, Shelley and her husband divorced while her boys were still young. A few years later, she moved herself and her boys from her hometown of Houston to Arlington, Texas. It was a bold move to make alone, especially leaving the rest of her family—her support system— behind, but one she made happen with determination and hard work.
Shelley has worked in the same place for more than two decades now as a product analyst and though the names and purpose of the company have changed, her dedication and desire have not—to help and to serve the best she possibly can. When she and her team get it right, the company can do anything. After all, without the right products, there’s nothing for the sales force to sell. You can’t sell what you don’t have.
So, what does a product analyst do? Pretty much everything everyone else wouldn’t want to deal with. It might not be sexy, but it’s significant. You don’t hit a billion dollars in sales like USHEALTH Advisors did last year without the right products to offer and the marketplace in which to sell it. For the analyst team, it’s a huge undertaking to make sure the products serve the right purpose, the contracts are correct, and the brochures and summaries are synced-up. Then, it’s a laborious state-by-state, regulation-by-regulation, compliance-by-compliance filing and approval process to get a product to the market—a process that only the most patient can tackle or juggle.
Luckily for USHEALTH, Shelley is used to juggling more than one task and doing it with style and flair. After all, in her formative years, Shelley spent more than a few years mastering the baton.
“I was a twirler and part of the drum baton corps for eight years,” says Shelley. “I was also a drum major for three years.”
All these opportunities served Shelley well in her work as a product analyst, since her responsibilities require her to spin from one task to another. For that, you must display discipline and dedication, but it’s that focused work ethic and vision that has helped USHEALTH Group perform some pretty incredible feats in the insurance industry, especially in the early years of the company when the landscape dramatically changed.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is when we had to introduce private plans as the Affordable Care Act came into being,” says Shelley. “We had to get new products out on the street, and we got it done in three months! That really helped us become so successful during the early ACA years because we were able to pivot and move fast. For some companies, that would have taken a year or more. Agents don’t always realize what takes place behind the scenes. The product development has to be good and we have to be so good at what we do or it all doesn’t happen so quickly.”
Shelley says one of the best parts about the quick response to the changing times was the recognition from the man she holds in high regard, the President and CEO of USHEALTH Group and USHEALTH Advisors, Troy McQuagge.
“When we made it happen so quickly, Troy said, ‘Bless you’, and then he gave us some stock options as a reward for our work. It’s so nice to be recognized for your efforts. It’s just so different since Troy took over. Every time I see him, I get a hug. I can guarantee you no one I ever worked for, no CEO, ever gave me a hug. At most companies when the big boss comes by you, put your head down so he doesn’t see you. Not here. Anyone in the company can get a hug. Troy doesn’t have any pretense. Everyone wants to walk up and talk to him. It’s so rare to be able to do that. It’s a totally different company since Troy took over. Before Troy, there were no perks, except you were just lucky to have a job. Now you love your job. It’s just a different environment. It’s a more positive place to come to every day. It’s all Troy, he’ll say it’s not, but none of it would have happened if he hadn’t come on and shared his ideas and his views. It’s made such a big difference.”
Shelley continues, “It’s why we are a billion-dollar company. It’s all the little things that Troy has done that matter. Little things like parking. Our home office is in downtown Fort Worth, Texas and before Troy was here, we’d have to try and pay for parking. It could cost the employee $90 to $100 a month, and most couldn’t afford it. People were trying to avoid paying and having to park so far away from the office and then walk over in all kinds of weather. It wasn’t a good situation. When Troy came, he said this paying for parking thing is ridiculous. He contracted with other parking lots and hired a shuttle to pick people up, even if they can’t park near the building. It runs constantly in the morning to get everyone to work. We even have sodas in the breakroom for free. It might not seem like a big deal, but all the little things add up—they really do.”
“Troy knows you too. I love to travel, and I like to go scuba diving and whenever Troy sees me, he’ll ask me how it’s going and where I’m going next to dive. He remembers that stuff. Many of us have his number or can message Troy on Facebook and he’ll message you back, or he’ll comment on a post you put up on social media. I don’t know how he does all that. It’s just amazing.”
Shelley knows that while USHEALTH is a great place to work and values its employees, agents, and leaders, it is a company where the “C” stands for Customer First. It’s always about core company values.
“I have worked for companies who did not care whether the product was something good for the customer or not. When we create a product, we make sure it adheres to our core values, including number one, which is value for the customer. We are consumer-oriented—we only want to offer value.”
It’s a company culture that Shelley finds so fulfilling. She says USHEALTH has afforded her much abundance and she wants to share it with others, including the most important people in her life.
Her boys, Stephen and Shawn, are the loves of her life and Shelley says she’s thrilled and proud they have “turned out so good.” Shawn and his wife Jessie have blessed Shelley with two grandsons, Pierce and Parker, and those blessings increase the abundance in all that Shelley does. She says she’s focused on following the golden rule, to give what you’ve got.
Shelley says she always wants to be there for her family and to be a blessing for her sons, daughter-in-law, and grandkids, but to do even more than that.
“Just the other day, I was talking to a friend about sharing our blessings,” says Shelley. “We were at a birthday lunch together and I ended up buying lunch for everyone, and my friend said it was so cool that I wanted to do that. The birthday girl is a single mom too and is at a different stage in her life, which I know all about because I lived it. I wanted to do my part to bless her and maybe give her a little something I didn’t have when I was going through that same journey. I have had a very blessed life, and my goal is to bless other people as well.”
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.