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Episode 36: How LegalShield Became a Great Place to Work

Photo by Richard R. Barron

Nancy and Kenny just wrapped up their series of podcasts about employee and distributor engagement. Those episodes detail evidence-based approaches you can use to make your company a great place to work. But we wanted to give you more than just the theories and strategies. We wanted to answer the question:

What does it look like in practice?

In this episode, Nancy sat down with Matt Layton—LegalShield’s Vice President of Network Strategy—to find out how they’ve made DSN’s list of great employers (not once, but twice). Matt talks us through the attitudes, values, history, and traditions that make LegalShield a wonderful place to work.

Full Transcript

Nancy Tobler: Welcome to Podcast. Today my guest is Matt Layton from LegalShield.

We have been talking about, for the past couple of months, what makes a company a great place to work, and LegalShield has been on the great places to work… uh… “winners list”—I don’t know what we’d call it—for the last few years.

I have the wonderful opportunity to talk to Matt about LegalShield and what they do and how that makes them unique in the industry.

Matt is the Vice President of Network Strategy and he’s been at LegalShield for 20 years. Welcome, Matt.

Matt Layton: Thank you. Hey, it’s a most certainly my pleasure to be on with you guys today.

Nancy Tobler: Thank you. So, the first question I’d like to start off with is how would you describe your organizational culture at LegalShield?

Plan, Do, Check, Adapt

Matt Layton: Sure, thank you. That’s kind of a broad question but yeah, we like to—We started business in 1972. Right? So, we’re a 45 plus years old. We like to call ourselves the 45-year overnight success. Right?

Nancy Tobler: [Laughs.]

Matt Layton: A 45-year-old start up. Because that’s—that’s kind of the mentality we try to take. Especially, you know, in the more recent years, the last five, six, seven years.

It’s a can-do attitude, we’re always thinking about continuous improvement. Especially in the kind of direct sales field. We’ve got a force of sales associates out in the field making sales and recruiting new team members.

So, really, how can we just make those slow continuous improvements that, build on each other? It’s really, plan, do, check, adapt. How do we constantly, put new plans into place, review them, check them, get rid of what didn’t work, improve upon what did work. “What gets measured, gets done,” is really the mantra that we hold to.

LegalShield History

Nancy Tobler: Yeah, great. I didn’t realize you’d started in 1975. Was it was called LegalShield at the beginning?

Matt Layton: It was actually 1972. Right? So, we started as a Sportsman’s Motor Club. So, it was really just like traffic citations and it’s just like a motor club for car tickets and accidents. And then we became Prepaid Legal shortly after that. Now LegalShield.

Nancy Tobler: Oh, that’s right. I remember when you went from Prepaid to LegalShield. But I wondered if you’d started out as Prepaid.

Matt Layton: Nope. Yeah, it was 1972, actually. We were started out as Sportsmen’s Motor Club and that really gets into the story of our founder. Right? And how how we even came to be.

He had a car wreck. He had insurance to cover his car, he had health insurance that covered his health. Actually, he was found at no fault for the accident, but he got sued by the other party.

What he didn’t then have was insurance to cover those legal needs. While he had his car and his health taken care of, he got sued. There wasn’t any protection there.

So, that really kind of spawned the idea of our entire business.

Nancy Tobler: Wow. Well, that’s a great founder story. I think many people don’t realize the need they can have for legal fees to be covered.

Protecting the Rights of Those Who Can’t Afford Counsel

Matt Layton: That’s really at the core of our mission and vision. I mean, we kind of take it upon ourselves and we believe that we’re correcting an injustice in the legal system today. Right?

We’re protecting the rights of individuals who, have legal issues but may not be able to afford the protection and the counsel. And in order to ensure they receive those rights.

We kind of hate to think about it, but you could probably get as much, you know, legal help and protection as you can afford. And that really shouldn’t be the way it should be. All of us should have equal access to our rights.

Nancy Tobler: I have access to my son. He’s a lawyer. But he doesn’t do all kinds of law, that’s the trick. His response is, “I’m not that kind of lawyer.”

Matt Layton: That’s one of the main objections we get, like, “Well, I may not need legal services, or I may not need your plan. My friend’s an attorney or my son, or my father.” It’s like just what you exactly said. Well, one, I don’t know that they’re going to want to, you know, answer your call 24 hours a day.

Nancy Tobler: Right.

Matt Layton: I don’t know if they’ve got all the expertise in all the different areas of law.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah, he just dismisses me. But, you know, that’s fine. He still loves me, so it’s okay.

Unique Ways LegalShield Benefits Employees

Nancy Tobler: So, let’s talk about your employees and unique benefits you offer to your employees.

Matt Layton: Sure. I mean, we’ve got a, you know, a gym on campus here. Our building’s really in, southeastern Oklahoma. Ada Oklahoma, if anyone knows where that is. We have a 60-acre campus here that our building sits upon.

Like I said we’ve got a gym. We’ve got a restaurant that we subsidize the healthy food options there at the restaurant.

But, really, probably what I think are some of the most unique and the best benefits, right, is, you know, all of our employees have the legal protection that we just talked about previously. All of our employees have the identity theft protection plans that we market.

But probably what’s the most exciting benefit is that we encourage and offer all of our employees the ability to participate in the LegalShield opportunity. And really, that opportunity is, you know, selling and marketing our legal plans and identity theft plans. And then, even going out and building a team of independent contractors that, do the same. Go out and sell and market our products.

Nancy Tobler: I think you are unique there. I can’t think of another company where employees can participate in the compensation plan.

Matt Layton: That’s that’s how our company runs. Right? They send us membership plans that they’ve sold. We send them out advanced commissions. So, we strongly encourage all of our employees to participate.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s great.

How LegalShield Supports the Community

Nancy Tobler: So, the next question I had is what service [you offer]? I think that one of the things that makes for great companies is that they have a vision—not just about their products, but they have a vision about how the community should be. And I’m just wondering what services you provide to the community?

Donating to Charities

Matt Layton: Sure. One of our One of our main focuses is on the United Way. So, we have a year-round collection there. I mean, that’s always front of mind for all of our employees. We’re the largest contributor in our in our area.

The employees kind of run this on a yearly basis. And then the company always comes over the top and matches that 100 percent.

Right now, we’ve got a, a holiday food box that we’re collecting. Our goal is to feed 500 families for an entire year. So, I mean, that’s our goal there.

We always, we’ve got a strong participation in Relay for Life. You know, they collect money for cancer research and awareness. That’s kind of during the summer. We create teams all around the company and then we compete against each other, who can raise the most money.

Community Service

One of the recent things that I’ve been doing with my team, especially in the vein of community service is, how are we out in the community participating in and getting either awareness for ourselves and the and the company out?

So, myself, I always maintain a seat on the board of directors, you know, of a local community service.

One of my team members was just voted on to the Board of Directors of the United Way since we are such a big big participant there.

We have another young lady who was just voted onto the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

So, we like to raise money. We like to get out in the community and help those that need it the most. But we also like to, you know, get out and actually participate and help build what is all around us.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. That I think that’s wonderful I hadn’t really even thought about people serving on board of directors for service programs as a service to the community but it’s a great one. It’s a wonderful activity.

Matt Layton: Yeah absolutely. So, writing your check is, one good thing. Everybody wants money and that’s certainly helpful.

But really, if you can instill that idea in all of your people—and by all of our people I mean the folks that are employed and all of our team members here at LegalShield. If we can really instill that servant-leader mindset in everyone, I think it helps, you know, us as a company, it helps the community, you know, it helps you personally and professionally.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. Well, the research really suggests that community outreach has a great impact on employee morale. And I think you’ve got some wonderful things that you’re doing. I think United Way is a pretty solid program.

But I love the idea of feeding 500 families for a year. I’ve never even heard of anyone try to do that. You know, usually it’s collect for one meal, essentially, you collect for a Thanksgiving dinner or a Christmas dinner. I applaud what you’re doing.

Matt Layton: And that’s certainly actually where it started. Right? Several years in a row that was our focus. How can we collect enough food for, you know, a Thanksgiving meal for folks that may not have it otherwise? We saw that, you know, we were doing such a good job there. Why not step it up a little bit? You know, set up higher and bigger goals for ourselves.

Nancy Tobler: Well, it’s your same mantra. Right? Plan, do, check your progress, and then react. It’s the same.

Matt Layton: Absolutely.

Nancy Tobler: Same process, so I love it.

Matt Layton: Yeah. And then just kind of, again, back to the service to community and kind of going out ourselves into the community, really. That’s one of the four truths of LegalShield. Right?

Personal and Professional Development Are Core

Matt Layton: Personal and professional development are at our core. So, really, not only are we interested in doing the best for our company, you know, selling the most memberships, recruiting the most people. I mean, we’re interested in building up the best employees possible, both personally and professionally.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. Well, I think that’s another area that we’ve talked about here on the podcast, actually, is that training and development are huge. People feel valued when you offer those goals and meeting those goals and the training and how to do that. I think that’s just wonderful.

Company Traditions

Nancy Tobler: So, the next question I have is what traditions do you have for your employees, what traditions do your employees value?

Annual Picnic

Matt Layton: Sure, so yearly, and again, we go back to our founder—we were lucky to have our founder from 1972 up until about six or seven years ago. But, his annual company picnic.

So, historically, we had it at a local park here in Ada, Oklahoma. More recently once we came out to our new building in 2003, where we’ve got the 60-acre campus, the party’s held here. And it’s almost like a county fair atmosphere. Right?

So, we, kickoff of work a little bit early that day we’ve got food booths set up all around the campus. You know, there are inflatable toys for everyone’s family. There are games. We have a band. We have a dunk tank.

So, it’s really almost like, just a full day at the county fair that we set up here at the corporate office.

And really, we’ve been doing this certainly through my entire 20-year tenure. And it was happening long before that as well.

Nancy Tobler: Wow, yeah. Wow. It’s amazing how yearly traditions can spark that unity. And it, creates an opportunity for people to see each other outside of work. In that social environment and create relationships, so, I think that’s a great one.

Matt Layton: Yeah, that’s certainly what it’s about. Right? So, how do I step out of the professional atmosphere. We may be hitting up against deadlines, I mean, I may not necessarily agree with all of my co-workers. I mean, it’s it’s stressful. We’ve got deadlines to meet. But, you know, what are those regular events that we can plan, that we can step outside of that? You can let all of that other other stuff go and just have, you know, a heck of a time with the folks that you’re working with all day.

Normally the company picnic’s in the middle of summer.

Christmas and Holiday Party

Matt Layton: At the end of the year we have a Christmas slash holiday party that’s really almost the same structure. It’s not the full on, faire atmosphere. But we cut off our work early we’ve got a half a day. We have a talent show. It’s really, again, celebrating our people.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah.

Matt Layton: Everyone has the opportunity to show what they can do. So, it’s normally a talent show. We bring a band in and really the culmination of that event is where we name the Employee of the Year. So, every single month we have an Employee of the Month. So, of those 12 Employees of the Month, we bring them back up again. You know, everyone loves recognition. That’s how you get a group of folks moving. And from that 12 we picked the one Employee of the Year. So, that’s kind of the culmination of the year.

Nancy Tobler: Great. I think that’s wonderful. I think that thinking about the Employee of the Month that leads into my next question which is:

How LegalShield Rewards Employees

Nancy Tobler: What unique rewards or what rewards do you use with your employees?

Matt Layton: Sure. I’m sure we’re like everyone else. Paid time off. We’ve got a 401k that—I don’t know how everyone else does it—but our company has and continues to match 100 percent of the contributions to the 401k.

Another big one, we kind of hit on it earlier about that personal and professional development, tuition reimbursement program. Again, personal and professional development are at our core. So, not only do we want folks, doing a good job in the office at their day to day work. We want them to be becoming better people outside of the office because, if you’re better personally, or if you’re building upon yourself, you’re going to bring more skills into the office.

Profit-sharing bonuses

Matt Layton: And really, to me, a really exciting one—and it’s kind of a relatively new change—it’s a quarterly profit-sharing bonus. What that is that it immediately and strictly aligns all of the employees with the core goals and missions of the company. So, every single quarter, we issue profit sharing bonuses to all employees based upon the results the company’s seeing.

So, it really helps everyone in the company understand, “Okay, what is our what is our mission this month?” Or, “What is the company goal this month?”

It gets cascaded down from the top to the bottom. Everyone’s moving in the same direction. Everyone’s got the same goal and everyone’s going to get rewarded. Right? When we hit and/or exceed our goals.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. Yeah, I think that profit sharing, is very popular. I think all of us like that. Well, all of us like… not just the money. It’s the idea that we all are invested in this company’s future. And profit sharing reflects that the company sees us as part of the future.

Matt Layton: No, 100 percent. And we like to think about it, it’s all about, candor and responsibility. Right? We want everyone to know what the company is shooting for. I mean, there isn’t any secrets up in the C-level suite.

Everyone knows what everyone else’s goals are. Everyone’s moving toward that same point of view into the future.

I think you hit it exactly on the head. Everyone feels and knows “what I need to do to individually contribute.”

When all those contributions are added up, that’s when the company meets their goals.

We started off and We started this with an annual profit-sharing bonus and then we moved to, every six months. Now we’re to quarterly. In the perfect world, this goes down to a monthly or even a pay period profit sharing bonus.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. Yeah, that’s nice. I like the progression of it.

So, the next question I have is a little different than what people normally ask on benefits and how companies run. But I think it shows a lot about how your employees see you. And the question is:

In A Tight Knit Community, Word Gets Out

Nancy Tobler: Do your employees recommend your company as a great place to work?

Matt Layton: Yeah, that is a that is a good, good, good, good question. So, I think I’ve mentioned this earlier, so we’re headquartered—our home office—and really for, 40 plus years, our only office, was located in Ada, Oklahoma.

That’s, you know, southeastern Oklahoma. That town is, 20 to 25 thousand people. So, really, the only way that we could, stay at full employment or the only way we could attract new people is through that word of mouth. Right?

So, I mean, yes there could be advertising in the in the local paper or with you know the job postings on the internet, but really, because the community is so small and so tight knit. Word did get out. Right?

So, everyone knew who Prepaid Legal or LegalShield was. So, you couldn’t help but get new prospective employees out [of that community]. They had already heard of us. Right?

So, no one was coming to our doors having never heard from us.

So, really, for 40 plus years that was really the only way that we did and could attract talent is through word of mouth. Most, you know, everyone knows somebody or is related to somebody in a small town. That’s really the foundation upon which our entire company is built.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah, that’s, I think that’s very powerful. I think that really speaks to the culture you were talking about at the very beginning of the call. Right? That you can see yourselves as a company that plans, does, checks, and then reacts. Right?

Matt Layton: Yeah.

Folks Work Better When They Have Personal Relationships

Nancy Tobler: But that’s that family sort of atmosphere. Right? We are always working through issues and trying to do a better job. I think that that’s just great.

Matt Layton: And I think that kind of goes back to a lot of the buy in you were talking about the profit-sharing bonuses. Because, most of the folks here at the home office are from the local community, we all know each other. Right?

Our kids went to school together. Our families see each other at the local supermarket. So, there is that sense of community.

And, I think folks work better when they have those personal relationships like you’re talking about.

That’s the reason you have the company picnics. That’s the reason you have the holiday parties. It’s to build that, personal relationships among all of your employees. I think, we have the benefit of… That’s already in place a lot of times when folks, come out here to work.

Recently, I mean, we now have an office down in Richardson around Dallas, Texas. New York City, we’ve got an office now that’s relatively new. We’re making headways in the United Kingdom. Going to have an office there.

Nancy Tobler: Oh wow. Well, congratulations.

Matt Layton: We’ve got potentially up in the north, northeast.

But I say all that to say: those people are coming on board. They don’t necessarily know or see a lot of us at the home office, but they’re coming into a culture where that’s all already built.

Nancy Tobler: Right.

Matt Layton: I think we’re going to only be stronger. Because they’re going to immediately be acclimated to the way we’ve done business for 40 plus years.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah, yeah, that’s great. Well, that’s pretty much the questions I had. Is there anything else that you want to add about being a great place to work?

Matt Layton: No, hey, I certainly appreciate all of your questions. I think they’ve ran the gamut.

A Strong Core of Long-Term Employees

Matt Layton: Probably one of the things that we’re most excited about is the tenure of our employees. We have you know 200 plus people that have been here 10, 15, 20, years.

So, we’ve got that family atmosphere. Right? We’ve got a lot of, ingrained knowledge. So, it’s not like there’s just a whole bunch of new people coming in and out the door every week.

We have a strong and large core of employees that have almost been here since the beginning. I mean, there’s a lot of knowledge there that you just can’t recreate.

Nancy Tobler: You can’t replace it.

Matt Layton: You can’t put that in the cloud and go up there and get it. So, we think, we’re uniquely positioned to take this company light years ahead.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah, that’s great. Yeah, I didn’t realize you were going international. I think that’s wonderful. I think that’s a great move.

So, thank you so much. I congratulate you again on making the list of great places to work on DSN’s list each year. I think you’ve been on two out of the last three years? Can’t remember.

Matt Layton: Hey, just go ahead and pencil us in from here on out.

Nancy Tobler: That’s what I was gonna say, I don’t think there’s any reason why you won’t be on again this year. So, thank you again for taking your time out of your busy day for sharing a little bit about LegalShield and what makes you a great place to work.

Matt Layton: Thank you. Completely enjoyed it.

Nancy Tobler: Thank you. Bye now.

Thank you for listening to our podcast with Matt Layton from LegalShield on great places to work. It was very wonderful of him to spend some time with us today. He really shows and demonstrates the concepts we’ve been talking about—Kenny and I have been talking about—in terms of great places to work.

As always, if you like this podcast, please like or share. We love to have feedback, so any feedback you can send to us, we’d love to hear it. Thank you.

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