St. Louis Character: Michael Reth moves from the garage to a world stage – St. Louis Business Journal – St. Louis Business Journal

After growing up in New York state and Florida, Michael Reth moved 23 years ago to the St. Louis area for a job. “It feels like home. It’s the longest I’ve ever lived in a place. I’m still working on being a St. Louisan. I think I’m close,” he said with a smile.
From the garage of his Defiance home in St. Charles County, Reth founded Axiom, a technology firm that has digitized products in the automotive dealership industry including financing, insurance and vehicle protection contracts.
Based in O’Fallon, Axiom also has offices in London, England; Kyiv, Ukraine; Minsk, Belarus; Warsaw, Poland; and plans to open one in Australia Jan. 1. Reth is scheduled in early October to share the Axiom story with an audience of about 5,000 people attending an international technology and insurance conference in Las Vegas.
Reth’s vision is not confined to Axiom. He is also advocating for a statewide strategy to build an I-70 tech corridor that would benefit rural sections of the state as well as the St. Louis and Kansas City regions.
“We believe that we could build a domicile in the middle of the country and take advantage of the technology and human capital resources here; all while living in a great state with a lot of life-work balance,” he said.
When did you realize you wanted to become an entrepreneur? I can think back to being a child. I remember sitting with my parents saying, “I’m going to be a businessman.” I didn’t know what that meant. But I think I’ve always had that spirit. Athletics led me to leadership positions, the will to try to get better at whatever skillset I was working on. So I think that spirit of challenge and overcoming adversity and taking on new challenges came from sports as a kid. I was always working. When I was seven years old, I was working alongside my dad, picking up scraps at construction sites because he was working as a tradesman. If it wasn’t that, I was sanding my grandfather’s boat at nine. It was because that was what we were taught. Getting something for work, not something for nothing, is probably instilled early on.
How did Axiom begin? Axiom became a business idea about nine years ago. I had a desire to get back into the dealer-facing, automotive industry with a modern, technologically-focused solution. That didn’t exist in our space. Insurance is not very innovative in and of itself, so we said, “look, if we are going to do this, let’s focus on building a blue ocean strategy of consumer-first technologically-advanced protection.” I wanted to build an entity that had a two-part approach: focus on the evolving and emerging consumer technology and also on how the customer wanted to consume that type of insurance.
How has Axiom grown and how do you explain why that has happened? The response from the industry and the consumer on the products we offer has been overwhelmingly positive, and we believe it is attributed to the delivery method being rooted in a modern, technological approach. Our industry is a $70 billion a year industry in North America and we’re the first company to deliver and execute a connected warranty solution to the consumer as well as the asset itself in some cases.
Did you start in a garage? When we started out, we had five people on folding tables in a garage out in St. Charles County. Rather than taking a lot of startup capital, we self-funded this deal into existence, got our first client, and from our first client we grew from there. We went from serving five automotive dealerships in the United States to on our way to 2,000 today, along with many insurance institutions as well as affiliate direct-selling organizations around the United States with these protection products.
Why do you shut down work for a day and take your employees to a Cardinals game? The diversity of our human capital is the reason why we’re so successful. We’ve all been tired – employers and employees – over the last two years, given what the world has put in front of us. The things that we took for granted that were just part of our daily life, the ability to socialize, have work office parties, have Christmas parties, team-building events, that all got taken away. So when we found out the Cardinals were open for the season and they were going to allow fans in the stadium, I made the decision to say, let’s shut the office and take all the employees for a day. We let all of our customers and partners know we’re going to take this day and reward our employees. It may be an inconvenience for a couple of hours for half a day, but we want to give back to our people. We probably will do it from this point forward as a St. Louis baseball holiday that we’ll take once a year.
What are your hobbies? What do you like to do outside work? I really enjoy being with family and being outside in the world. We have a family farm property that we escape to in central Missouri. We travel in a RV and get away and get into nature. Spending time disconnected from technology and work is probably my hobby. I’m also a coach. We built youth development teams for softball and baseball that are giving back to the community. Kids who have loved the game but may not be able to afford the high cost of youth sports; we’re actually donating a lot of capital and coaching time to give those kids an equal amount of opportunity.
More about Michael Reth
Title: Founder of Axiom and co-founder/CEO of Axiom Connected
Age: 47
Education: Associate of arts in business/commerce, St. Petersburg College; bachelor of Science degree in business/managerial economics, Maryville University; MBA in finance and management, Maryville University.
Family: Michael and his wife Laura, currently reside in Defiance with their three children, Maren, Claire and Kase.
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