June 27, 2016

Mostly cloudy

No. 4: Joyce

Editor’s note: Earlier this year, The Gazette conducted an informal survey of community and government leaders and asked them who they thought were the most influential people in Medina County. We narrowed the list down to 10 based on the number of votes each received, with No. 1 garnering the most. In the following days, we will feature each influential person as we count down to No. 1.


Staff Writer

He doesn’t work in the engineering field.

But sitting at the helm of Medina County’s largest employer, the Westfield Group, Bob Joyce spends a large part of his job efforts evaluating tensile strength —that is, the amount of engineering stress that can be placed on an object before it gives way.

Joyce, however, doesn’t look at rope, wire or beams. He looks at people: his employees, his customers and his agents.

“As human beings, change is something we are not comfortable with,” said Joyce, who explained one of the biggest challenges of his job is preparing those around him for change in a global environment.

“I look at tensile strength. How strong is the wire? That’s true in the organization. How much change can an organization take before it snaps,” Joyce, who turns 60 on Sunday, said in his Westfield Center office. “I would say this: people have far more capability on any given day than they ever give themselves credit for,”

As CEO of the Westfield Group since 2003, Joyce said he has drilled into that potential to see his company succeed.

As CEO of the county’s largest employer, Bob Joyce spends a lot of his time evaluating the tensile strength of Westfield Group’s employees, customers and agents. He studies people to see how much change they can take and reports they are far more capable on any given day than they give themselves credit for.(Shirley Ware | Photo Editor)

The Westfield Group can trace its roots to 1948 when Ohio Farmer’s Insurance was founded. Today, the insurance portion of the company, which is a group of five businesses, operates in 29 states. Westfield Bank, which opened in 2001, operates in all 50 states.

The company has 1,450 full-time employees in Medina County in addition to 260 seasonal workers and 40 interns.

And Joyce said Westfield consistently meets its corporate goal to grow its book value 8 percent each year.

But despite the continuing growth, Joyce explained part of his job is managing that growth and change so the company keeps its founding values.

“Everything has changed and nothing has changed. And it really applies here,” Joyce said. “What hasn’t changed? Core foundational values haven’t changed. Respect for people, ethical conduct haven’t changed. We have a tagline here: ‘Sharing knowledge and building trust.’ That runs throughout the organization.”

Joyce added the trust factor is very important in his realm, the financial services world.

“It’s very different than building a product and putting it on a shelf and selling it. My product here is piece of mind. It’s not unique. It’s what we do and it’s true across the franchise. But it’s delivered through people,” he said. “You’ve got to have good people. Our business is driven through people.”

Finding the people who will build peace of mind and relationships, Joyce said, is what keeps his organization running.

“Our number one corporate goal is to attract, develop, empower and retain quality people. Our investment in our people in regards to leadership development and skills development are second to none,” he said.

In recent years, Westfield Group has set much of its attention on recruiting its employees right out of college and training them in its Graduate Development Program. Thus, at the start of their career, Westfield employees learn the ropes of the business and learn how to provide the knowledge and trust that Westfield Group cultivates.

But, the training doesn’t stop there.

One year ago, Joyce created the position of director of learning at Westfield who works to shape the skills development programs for all Westfield employees. Today, the company delivers education through online tools, classroom tools and using outside partnerships with local educators like Case Western Reserve University and the Medina County University Center.

Joyce, however, stressed training does not only happen in the classroom. It happens every day in the real world. As a 26-year veteran and retired captain in the Navy, Joyce garnered much of his leadership experience while deployed and under pressure.

“One of the ways I look at and assess leaders is how well they can teach,” he said.

Thus, he makes sure he gives his employees the opportunity to teach and assist those in need throughout the county, the region and the nation.

Last year, Westfield Group employees built a house in Medina for Habitat for Humanity and assisted in the construction of 14 other houses with the group. Currently, two Westfield Group employees sit on the board of United Way of Medina County. They have chaired the local American Red Cross and American Heart Association chapters.

“Being a part of those organizations helps them make decisions on what they do and how they perform. It’s great leadership experience,” Joyce said. He, too, has had such leadership experience while sitting on the advisory board for economic development group Team NEO and while serving on the board of trustees for the Griffith Insurance Education Foundation and the Cleveland Playhouse Square Foundation.

It’s not just about developing employees. It’s also about giving back, said Joyce. In the last few years the amount of corporate giving by Westfield through its Westfield Foundation has exploded, Joyce said.

“We’re the largest employer in the county, so we have to give back. We’re a fortunate company, so we have to give back,” he said.

In 2006 and 2007, Westfield gave $2 million to nonprofits. One-third of the money stayed in Medina County.

Westfield is a sponsor of Academic Challenge in Ohio, the Cleveland Plus regional economic development group, the Cleveland Cavaliers Straight “A” All-Stars, and the Mid-Ohio Driving School in Lexington, Ohio. In addition, it has given money to the Medina City Schools Foundation, Michelle’s Leading Star Foundation, Wadsworth-Rittman, Medina General and Lodi Community hospitals, Medina Creative Housing, the Medina County Port Authority and many more.

Giving to Medina County is building Westfield’s home, Joyce explained.

Joyce lives in Montville Township with his wife, Bonnie.

And Medina County will be Westfield’s home for quite some time. While he hopes to make Westfield a national player in upcoming years, the business is primarily Medina County-based.

“This will be the home office for Westfield for as long as I can see. For sure, that goes without saying, I guess, from my standpoint,” Joyce said. “Medina County is going to continue to change. It will; we can’t stop it. … And as the region and the country grow, you’re going to see Medina County grow.”

Kacik may be reached at 330-721-4049 or business@ohio.net.