Michael Smith

Chief Operations Officer and Managing Partner at Next Level Solutions

Michael Smith
Photo by Katy St. ClairMichael Smith is Chief Operations Officer and Managing Partner at Next Level Solutions. Purchase Photo

Next Level Solutions is a global IT services provider for property and casualty insurance companies. Over 300 team members are based in four locations: Guaynabo, Puerto Rico; Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Columbia, South Carolina; and the company’s headquarters in Springfield.

But away from work, you’ll find NLS co-founder, Chief Operations Officer and Managing Partner Michael Smith on the back of his tractor in Marshfield.

“Selfishly, I wanted NLS to be headquartered out of Springfield because I love this community; this is my home,” he says. “But Springfield is a strategic and low-cost city to build a tech company.”

Smith and Chris Sawyer, NLS President and CEO, launched NLS in 2018. The duo had worked in building custom solutions for software utilized by insurance companies and wanted to build a company that could combine good, hard work with smarter, custom solutions.

“Michael’s big dreams and small-town values have helped create a culture in which NLS is making significant impact for our national accounts, while maintaining a connectedness to our 417 home and community,” says Christie Browne, NLS Vice President of Delivery. “We’re able to do big things under Michael’s leadership because we follow his example of taking risks and believing in ourselves.”

Prior to starting NLS, Smith felt limited in his career opportunities. Now, he recruits top talent for high-paying insurance software professional jobs in Springfield, with opportunities for team members to grow, live and invest in 417-land. “We’re promoting people who are innovative, challenging the norm, looking for efficiencies and doing things differently, while working well with others,” he says. “I’m not looking for years of service, I’m looking for value added to the company, and we reward that mindset with a culture that supports their success.”

Since launching in 2018, NLS has quietly donated hundreds of thousands to local charities, including $68,000 raised for Men Wear Pink with the American Cancer Society. Investing in the community isn’t just a core value to NLS, it’s a call to action, he says.

417-land has proven to be a reliable resource for talent for NLS, and as needs arise, will continue to hire from the rich local talent pool.

“We believe that when you invest in people, they’ll want to invest in their community,” he says. “We have nearly 200 employees who live here, and we want our community to be the best it can be for them, too.”

Nailed It, Failed It with Michael Smith

“Toward the end of 2019, we got a phone call from a nationwide insurance company, that was in need of some help. He got my name as a referral from somebody else who we had worked with in the past, and today, we still have that client. They’re our biggest client and we have a great relationship with them. In that moment, I realized all the blood, sweat and tears that we put in to start up this company in the first 18 months, we were on the map. A really big company reaching out to us was very validating that we were on the right track, and we grew our success as a company from serving them well.” #NailedIt

“We had a candidate interview really well, maybe one of the best interviews I’ve ever had. When we brought the leader in, they weren’t able to perform on what they said. The direction the director-level leader wanted to take was not in alignment with our vision for the company. That particular person eventually resigned, but we learned in that process that we needed to change the way we hired leaders. Now, we do multiple group interviews, with a half-day, in-person interview experience in Springfield. I fly in candidates to have lunch with us. How a candidate interacts with others is just as important and strategic as a candidate who can talk a good game.” #FailedIt

For the Record

Book recommendation
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Conservationist. “I love being in the outdoors.”

Your hometown

Your coffee order
White mocha.

Favorite way to unwind in the Ozarks?
Boating on Table Rock Lake with his wife and kids.

Meaningful mentor
Jeremy Loftin.

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