Tony Mercurio empowers employees to develop their own goals

Tony Mercurio is a 2018 Northeast Ohio Smart 50 honoree and Sustainability award winner

Tony Mercurio is big on individual goals and objectives for employees at National Interstate Insurance, so long as they don’t come from him.

“I’m a true believer that you don’t tell your employees what their objectives are for the year,” says Mercurio, president and CEO at the $750 million specialty property and casualty insurance company. “Make them write their own objectives. You can help them, you can coach them and you can tweak them. But if they come up with their objectives, they will own them on a whole different level. That means execution comes at a whole greater level.”

Aggressive goals

Mercurio has set his sights on becoming a $1 billion company in the near future. He’s confident that a new 125,000-square-foot headquarters in Richfield, complete with its own Starbucks, exercise center, state-of-the-art cafeteria and locker room will only help his team of 700 employees in their pursuit of that goal.

“We want it to be a place where the people who work here aren’t in such a hurry to get out of here at 5 p.m.,” Mercurio says.

Mercurio has served in several roles since arriving at the company in 1997. He was named COO in 2013, president in 2015 and assumed the role of president and CEO in 2016.

“If your work is as important to you as anything else you care deeply about, you will naturally lead from the heart,” Mercurio says. “People will see that you’re authentic and they’ll want to follow you.”

New opportunities

In addition to authenticity, Mercurio is a big believer in the power of sustainability.

“With things like autonomous vehicles and other technological advances, we’re in an industry that is constantly changing,” he says. “We’ve been working to create products and services, and identify other marketplaces and gaps in needs of our insured. We are organically creating business units and revenue sources that go well beyond insurance.”

The uncertainty about the future makes him a little anxious, but that’s OK.

“I get up and half of me is so excited about what we’re doing here and the other half of me is nervous about what we need to do tomorrow,” Mercurio says. “The fact that 700 families rely on a National Interstate paycheck every two weeks, there’s not a lot more that you need to get you out of bed. It’s an empowering feeling and it creates incredible accountability.”

On the side

Favorite sport: College football
Favorite vacation spot: Southwest Florida
Currently reading: “Make Your Bed,” by Adm. William H. McRaven
Where you’ll most likely find me on the weekend: On Lake Erie on our boat
Growing up, I wanted to be: The left guard for the Cleveland Browns
My business philosophy is… connect work to your personal life.
One thing people might find surprising about me: I’ve run 10 full marathons, including Boston.