Hylant started as a Toledo-based insurance company in 1935. In the late 1980s, the third generation of the company made the bold move to expand the business to new markets. Today, with third and fourth generation family members in leadership, Hylant has 14 offices in six states with nearly 700 employees.
Despite the company’s growth, family remains a core part of Hylant’s culture. We were thrilled to talk with Mike Hylant, CEO about how they’ve maintained the feeling of a family business and how they promote this unique aspect to attract business and top talent.
FBA: Mike, how many siblings do you have and how many of you are involved in the family business?
Mike: I am one of nine siblings and am second to the youngest. Our father, Robert E. Hylant, Sr., was an only child.
Our father exposed us to the business at a very young age. Only two of us aspired to be part of the business early on. However, all nine of us have been in the business in various roles at one time or another. Today, five of us are active in the business.
FBA: Did you always want to be part of the family business?
Mike: Yes, I always knew I wanted to be in the family business and hoped to run it one day. I remember telling my older brother, Patrick R. Hylant, Sr., that one day I would have his job! He is our retired chairman today and is 12 years older than me.
FBA: What’s the most rewarding aspect of being part of a family business?
Mike: For me, it’s been the opportunity to grow the business over the years. We started with one office and about 30 employees, then began rapidly growing the business in the 1980s. My brother, Steve T. Hylant, opened our first office outside Toledo in Detroit in 1987. Two years later, I moved to Cleveland and opened our office in that market. Today, we have 14 offices in six states, and we have almost 700 employees. Throughout the years and growth, we’ve kept our family values and culture alive. We have been named a Business Insurance “Best Places to Work” all nine years the list has been published.
FBA: How have you managed to grow and also maintain good family relationships?
Mike: In a family business, every family member involved must contribute towards success and set the tone for employees around hard work, dedication, loyalty, honesty, and transparency. If you practice those things in business and family life, then open and honest communication and trust will develop.
We have been very fortunate as a family over the years in the sense that we all get along pretty well. We celebrate holidays as a family (that’s a lot of people with nine siblings and their wives, husbands, kids, and grandkids!) and have a family vacation each summer with all the generations.
In any business, difficult decisions must be made. The key is to have compassion and empathy in the process.
FBA: What resources have helped you navigate family/co-owner/colleague relationships?
Mike: I’ve watched and learned from family members who came before me. I was involved with Young Presidents’ Organization while I was in Cleveland, so I learned a lot from others who had family owned and operated businesses. Over the years, we have consulted with outside coaches to gain fresh perspectives on how to run the business.
FBA: Do you promote yourself as a family business in your marketing? Why or why not?
Mike: Yes, we most definitely promote and market ourselves as a family business. The reason for that is simple: We are a family business with a unique culture that our clients identify as Hylant. We recently went through a branding exercise with a marketing firm. They surveyed our employees, customers, former customers, prospects, and vendors. It was clear from the responses that our family culture is what they identify with most.
FBA: How has being a family business helped you attract top talent?
Mike: We know that our family business and culture extends to our employees, customers, and vendors with regard to how we treat them, communicate with them and share success with them.
We celebrate and recognize years of service with employees every year. We have employees who have been with us for as long as 40 years, and we are proud that we have created an environment in which people want to work and have careers. The family business culture has helped us recruit top talent as well as younger talent.
FBA: Thinking of all that your family has accomplished, how do you think your founders would feel about what your family has achieved?
Mike: I am pretty sure our grandfather would be completely overwhelmed and proud. I know our father would not only be proud of how we have grown the business, but also the way we have grown under his vision of a family atmosphere. Unfortunately, our father passed away in 1989, so he did not witness much of the growth.
FBA: What words of wisdom would you pass on to the next generation or another family business?
Mike: A couple of things come to mind. One is, “Never lose your dreams!” Another might be, “Never let anyone tell you that you cannot accomplish something.” Finally, “Someone has to be the best at what you do, so why not you?”
Thanks to Mike Hylant for taking the time to share with us. Hylant is an Angel Member of the Family Business Alliance. Learn more about Hylant at www.hylant.com.