Missouri Employers Mutual celebrates 25 years of providing affordable insurance and safety to businesses.
Jim Owen, the president and CEO of Missouri Employers Mutual, says that some of his favorite moments at MEM have been the celebrations.
After reuniting retired employees and celebrating the growth of the company for the 25th anniversary back in March, Jim says there’s always a time to appreciate how far MEM has come over the years.
“It’s about celebrating being able to say, ‘Look where we were, look where we’ve come from, and look forward to where we know we can go because it’s a bright future,”’ he says, smiling. “A future so bright we have to wear shades, right?”
And the future is bright. Time in business is not the only thing MEM celebrates — every year equals safer working conditions for employees in Missouri and possibly lives saved as well. As a company that found success in a struggling workers’ compensation market, MEM prides itself on giving back real results to the community by promoting preventative safety before incidents happen.
Founded in a Moment of Need
When MEM was created by the Missouri State Legislature in 1993, the state was in a crisis. Workers’ compensation was required for businesses, but unaffordable, and businesses had to enter involuntary market pools that gave high rates for not much service. “It was not good for Missouri businesses, and literally 38% of Missouri businesses were in that,” Jim says. “That’s how bad it was.”
So when MEM’s doors opened in 1995 to provide affordable insurance and good service, it was a hit. They started writing a lot of policies and quickly became the No. 1 carrier in Missouri by the end of their first year. Now, only 3% of businesses remain in the involuntary market, and workers’ compensation is one of the most profitable lines of insurance.
According to Jim, MEM’s early success was due in part to its diligent employees. “It was a real crisis. Somebody needed to step in, and they created MEM,” he says. “We put our staff together and hired people who were looking to come to a company that had a purpose.”
MEM remains the market share leader in Missouri after all these years, an impressive feat considering the competition of giant international insurance companies. “We are David,” Jim explains. “We’re taking on these Goliaths in the industry, and we have to grow from this very small mom-and-pop company to a company that has to be agile.”
A Culture of Safety
There’s a flag in front of the MEM building. When lowered to half-mast, it signals to every employee that there was a fatality to one of the 200,000 workers covered by MEM. It’s a symbol that something terrible has happened, and a reminder for all employees to look into the issue so it will never happen again.
The flag shows how safety and caring for workers are two core components of MEM’s values. Revee White, the director of marketing and communications, says that the company culture is “safety fanaticism.”
“If you talk to any of our employees, most of them won’t say they work for an insurance company,” she says. “They’ll say that they work for a safety company that provides insurance.”
Jim explains that by focusing on safety first and how to best serve workers, the employees at MEM have confidence that they have a purpose and are working for something meaningful. Each day at work has value in bringing someone home.
“We feel part of it,” Jim says about employees having a purpose in their work. “It’s all in one village, as they say, but we feel like we’re an integral part of keeping people safe.”
Pay It Forward
Though safety is MEM’s primary goal, they also have a focus on giving back to the community. Employees put in more than 2,000 volunteer hours over the past year, and employee contributions to community causes topped $75,000. “We have people who are genuinely interested in helping the people in our community,” Jim says.
This spirit was prevalent during the 25th anniversary celebrations, as employees were given money to give to nonprofits or to help someone in need. One employee gave the money to a nurse at the hospital to buy pizza for her co-workers, but the nurse ended up giving it to a COVID-19 patient being released from the hospital — a truly pay-it-forward series of events.
Ultimately, paying it forward is at the heart of MEM. “If we can get all businesses showing safety and showing they care for their employees, then they’re happier at work and they’re more productive,” Jim says. “Then you go home and you’re happier to your spouse and your kid and you’re happier in your community. That’s why we talk about paying it forward.”
Missouri Employers Mutual
MEM created by Missouri State Legislature to address the insurance crisis.
MEM opens its doors and becomes No. 1 in the Missouri workers’ compensation market.
The company opens Kansas City, St. Louis, and Springfield offices over three years.
MEM Partners with Previsor Insurance to serve more Missouri businesses and launch in Kansas.
MEM awards its first safety grants to 17 Missouri businesses.
MEM expands Previsor Insurance into five new states: Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennessee.
MEM celebrates 25 years of providing affordable insurance to businesses.