PayneWest Post

Our Time is Now

By Steve Smelley

In this crazy, interesting and complex time we live, I am extremely grateful for the wonderful collection of colleagues we have assembled. I am inspired every day by both what we’ve collectively accomplished as a team as well as the awesome opportunities that lie ahead.  As inspired and optimistic as I am though, it takes just a moment of looking around to wonder if I’m being a Pollyanna.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s just a sign of our times or if every generation goes through some phase of societal or political change. Today, it seems more Americans are cheering for their side to “win” or shaking their head in utter despair.

Events where we could find common ground seem to divide us more than ever—tragic school shootings, #MeToo movement, immigration, diversity, victims finding their voice, North Korea, Syria—the list continues. It’s hard to imagine what will come next. As I write this article, I am sitting on a plane, headed to Washington DC to lobby for our industry and the client’s we serve. It dawned on me that in today’s climate, some are inspired to get involved on the Hill and others want to run for the hills. You may be thinking to yourself, why is the PayneWest Post Leadership Corner sounding so political?  It is not my intent to be political or even pick sides in what should be areas of reasonable debate and dialogue. But, from my vantage point, civil discourse in America seems to be evaporating right before us. People are choosing sides over solutions and beliefs or dogma over people. Sometimes, it just seems people are getting selfish.  It’s sad and it is a contagious disease.

We can either throw up our hands in despair or do something productive.  I believe so strongly in our core values, our focus on clients, colleagues and communities and the very business that we are in, that I remain optimistic and inspired. While we’re not (yet) solving America’s biggest political problems, we are building something very special here at PayneWest.

I have the distinct privilege to regularly witness greatness across our company. It starts with each individual and reaches its fullest potential when the individual works as part of a team.  It’s about both the individual and joint accountability and ultimately—collective execution. Greatness happens when we take the time to get involved in something larger than any one person.  It happens when we reach across the aisle and help others. This doesn’t mean we always agree. But when we work together with the common focus to take care of our clients, our fellow colleagues and the communities we live in, it is nothing short of inspiring and uplifting; especially in these interesting times in which we live.

While it may seem our impact on the national scene is small, we can make big impacts on those around us—in our homes and at work. It was inspiring to see our Sales Team step up to assist with phones and clients on Wednesday, April 11, while everyone else in the company was traveling to or from Connect.  We appreciate all of those who stepped up to assist.  As an attendee of Connect, I was moved to hear Taylor Montgomery and Melissa Thompson lead groups of colleagues through a discussion and the introduction of the South African philosophy of Ubuntu to PayneWest. The philosophy can be best articulated by the belief that “I am because WE are.” Thank you Taylor and Melissa and everyone who showed the commitment to act in the spirit of Ubuntu at PayneWest!

I am blessed to call PayneWest “my” company—as I hope each of you call it “yours.”  Let’s continue to lift each other up, honor our differences, seek common ground and make our company even better. +ONE


Personal Lines Homeowner Kits are in High Demand!

Homeowner kits are now available for your clients. You can build your kit and place an order by filling out a Wufoo form.

The kits are specifically designed to assist you and your clients in identifying potential risk points as well as helpful, DIY-style maintenance suggestions.

  • Homeowners’ Maintenance Manual. Safety checklists, helpful reminders and proper maintenance tips to reduce the risk of loss.
  • Personal Property Inventory Checklist. Household inventory checklists and unique suggestions for creating and maintaining inventories.
  • Main Gas Shutoff and Main Water Shutoff hashtags. Use these to conveniently mark the main gas and water shutoff valves to keep visible reminders of where they’re located.


Connecting the Stars

Connect, formerly known as the Annual Service Meeting, is our yearly, non-sales related meeting.  PayneWest colleagues gather to celebrate success, build on relations, connect with colleagues and carrier partners as well as gather insight and knowledge both in personal development and professional continued education.

Unlike years past, each session was two nights with one night in celebration of awards like Rookie of the Year, IT Tech Hero, Marketing Project of the Year, Top New Business and so much more.  The award show and entertainment evening was sponsored by United Healthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield of MT.  The other night was spent networking with carrier partners in a fun, interactive trade show sponsored by Great American Insurance Group.  Attendees enjoyed volunteering, learned the power of UBUNTU and developed conflict resolution skills and so much more.

Where the Stars Meet

Network Builder 2018 will be held in Palm Springs, California.  The glamorous history of Hollywood’s influence in the desert meets the boho-chic festival experience. The two-day event for carrier partners and PayneWest sales is uniquely crafted to reflect a Palm Springs where the modern day meets the past.

A celebration of 2017 awards is sponsored by Liberty/Safeco.  Guests are encouraged to dress as their favorite Elvis Presley character, Frank Sinatra, James Dean or Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. Blue Cross Blue Shield of MT and Western National sponsor the welcome evening in a Coachella-inspired festival.  Check out what to expect at


Building Better Businesses

On February 15 & 16, the Construction Specialty Division hosted a Construction Summit in Seattle. It was attended by 18 construction clients and prospects and their respective sales executives.  The theme of the meeting was Building Better Businesses, and the program included peer-to-peer discussions and formal presentations on Workforce, Technology, Perpetuation and Strategic Planning; topics that the attendees identified as being the most challenging areas for their business planning.  Our goal was to provide our guests with education, perspective and resources for these areas AND to demonstrate how PayneWest Insurance delivers services that expand upon the risk management arena.

Feedback from attendees has been very positive.  One prospect stated, “I think you guys are on the right track and ahead of the game in terms of trying to differentiate yourselves to bring a broader view/skill set beyond insurance to your clients.”  Additionally, the event had a very positive impact on two large prospective accounts that had been in our pipeline for years, both of whom decided to move their business to PWI since the meeting!

Through understanding the business plans of our clients and prospects, we are better positioned to design risk plans that are tailored to their needs and which can strengthen the quality of the relationship.  The Construction Specialty Division’s Summit illustrates how we can differentiate ourselves and create value for our customers when we align ourselves effectively.


Circle of Excellence

Roughly 2% of individuals in our industry hold the well-respected CPCU and CEBS designations. Achieving them is a multi-year investment of personal time and energy; it takes major dedication, commitment and focus to pass grueling, extensive national exams while balancing life and work. It is one of the largest investments that one can make in their own personal and professional development. Colleagues who successfully complete the CPCU or CEBS designation are welcomed to the PayneWest Circle of Excellence and attend their conferment with a guest at the National Conventions. We are proud to recognize the 27 colleagues who have achieved this goal:

  • Greg Beery, CPCU (Portland)
  • Danielle Black, CPCU (Albany)
  • Kathy Burt, CPCU (Helena)
  • Mindy Carver, CPCU (Missoula)
  • Case DeWit, CPCU (Missoula)
  • Stacy Dingman, CPCU (Bozeman)
  • Thomas Downey, CPCU (Butte)
  • Joan Fallgreen, CPCU (Missoula)
  • Theodore Fedyk, CPCU (Bozeman)
  • Casey Galloway, CPCU (Missoula)
  • Bonnie Garza, CPCU (Missoula)
  • Jennifer Harris, CPCU (Bigfork)
  • Alysia Heisdorf, CPCU (Missoula)
  • Christin Hoiness, CPCU (Missoula)
  • Chris Huwaldt, CPCU (McMinnville)
  • James Majeskey, CPCU (Spokane)
  • Clara Mays, CPCU (Polson)
  • John McGree, CPCU (Butte)
  • Rhela Moulding, CPCU (Missoula)
  • Yvette Olson, CPCU (Billings)
  • Judy Sharpe, CEBS (Kalispell)
  • Scott Simmons, CPCU (Spokane)
  • Janette Smith, CPCU (Spokane)
  • Nicole Thao, CPCU (Missoula)
  • Jeff Wallace, CPCU (Spokane)
  • Carol Williams, CPCU (Spokane)
  • Lisa Wren, CPCU (Spokane)

Earned Designations and Completed Programs


  • Brett Arnold – Chartered Private Risk and Insurance Advisor (CPRIA)
  • Angie Colbert – Accredited Customer Service Representative (ACSR)
  • Sherry De-Hoog Grinstead – Construction Risk Insurance Specialist (CRIS)
  • Marie Dorsett – Agribusiness and Farm Insurance Specialist (AFIS)
  • Kathi Gehrs – Associate in Insurance Services (AIS)
  • Jason Grinstead Commercial Lines Coverage Specialist (CLCS)
  • John Hermes – Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC)
  • Pete Heatherington – Commercial Lines Coverage Specialist (CLCS)
  • Jessica Laabs – Chartered Private Risk and Insurance Advisor (CPRIA)
  • Mac Kirk – Commercial Lines Coverage Specialist (CLCS)
  • Shannon Mahoney – Accredited Customer Service Representative (ACSR)
  • Sam Mahr – Management Liability Insurance Specialist (MLIS)
  • Gina McCluhan – Construction Risk Insurance Specialist (CRIS)
  • Lauren McDonald – Small Business Coverage Specialist (SBCS)
  • Karla McHugh – Accredited Customer Service Representative (ACSR)
  • Jackie Sue McFarlin – Certified Self-Funding Specialist (CSFS)
  • Jana McMillan – CISR Elite
  • Rehnna Merkel – Associate in General Insurance (AINS)
  • Chelsie Metzentine – Personal Lines Coverage Specialist (PLCS)
  • Joyce Nilsson-Nelson – Small Business Coverage Specialist (SBCS)
  • Kelsy Ployhar – Personal Lines Coverage Specialist (PLCS)
  • Abby Ritter – Small Business Coverage Specialist (SBCS)
  • Ambrosia Robison – Management Liability Insurance Specialist (MLIS)
  • Kelsey Stewart – Management Liability Insurance Specialist (MLIS)
  • Dakota Stonehouse – Commercial Lines Coverage Specialist (CLCS)
  • Sam Stych – Commercial Lines Coverage Specialist (CLCS)
  • Brandy Vanderwood – Associate in General Insurance (AINS)