PrismHR Spotlight: CSM Michael Wolff

By James Tehrani

As our meeting begins, Michael Wolff, one of PrismHR’s Customer Success Managers (CSMs), pulls out a soccer ball from the shelf behind him. 

Hey, this guy’s goal-oriented, I think. 

Showing me the country flag on the ball, he asks me, in his calm, cards-to-his-vest sort of way, if I know where he’s originally from. Having done some homework, I immediately recognize the flag as that of the Netherlands as I know he speaks Dutch. 

What caught me off-guard, however, was the backstory that came next. 

Family History 

During World War II, the Netherlands stayed neutral as long as it could. Germany decided to invade the country regardless on May 10, 1940. Four days later, the Dutch agreed to surrender, however, because of a communication error, Germany still carried out its planned attack on Rotterdam, the Netherlands’ second-largest city. More than 80,000 people were displaced in the process. The city used to have canals like Amsterdam, Michael explains, but most of the rubble wound up in them after the bombing. 

The Dutch may have surrendered, but that didn’t mean the battle was over. There were many forms of resistance within the country after the German occupation. Michael’s maternal grandmother, for one, knitted garments for the Dutch underground, such as black gloves and black sweaters, to help people in the Dutch resistance stay out of sight while they were performing covert operations at night.  

One person who could not fade into the darkness, however, was Michael’s grandfather. During the war, Michael explains, the Germans would enlist people from the countries they conquered to contribute to the German war effort. One day, they came to get Michael’s grandfather; they wanted him to work in a munitions factory in Germany. It was not a request. 

What the Germans did not know was that Michael’s mother’s family was made up of trained actors, so, even with a gun to his head and a doctor examining him, Michael’s grandfather was able to fake a horrific stomach ailment that got him out of the assignment. “Otherwise,” Michael says, “I would have never met the man because the Allied forces would have been bombing those factories, and he would not have survived.” 

One doesn’t have to wonder where Michael gets his stoic nature from. That cool-under-pressure gift has served him well throughout his life and career from the time he worked as a senior fraud investigator with one of the biggest insurance companies in the country to today as a CSM at PrismHR. 

“Michael works hard,” says Melissa Eversole, PrismHR’s director of customer success. “He has a great personality and is full of energy. He really understands the clients and can relate to their struggles and their needs since he himself experienced those things firsthand prior to working here at PrismHR. You can count on Michael to jump in and assist and help bring solutions to the customers.” 

Growing Up a Military Kid 

Michael grew up a military brat. He was born in South Holland, Netherlands, but he wasn’t there long. As a child, Michael and his family moved around because Michael’s dad was in the military. Actually, multiple militaries. Michael’s father, Cornelis Wolff, was born in Indonesia, when it was still a Dutch colony, and moved to the Netherlands around the time Indonesia gained its independence in 1949. Cornelis served in the Dutch military, and later immigrated to the United States, so he decided to apply for a green card, which he got.  

What he wasn’t expecting was that he would later be drafted into the U.S. Army as well.  During his service, he was sent to Paris to drive a general around. The general decided, since Cornelis was back in Europe, he should be able to go back to his roots in the Netherlands. And it was in the late 1950s at the American Consulate that he met his future wife, Toos, too. Michael’s parents have been together ever since, and have been married for 63 years now. Michael’s dad would later serve in Vietnam, and eventually retired as a Master Seargent in the U.S. Army. 

Michael came to the United States when he was 3. The Wolffs first moved to Alabama—where Michael’s younger sister, Saskia Lovine, was born—and then to Frankfurt, Germany. They would later move to Bay City, Texas, before winding up in Maryland where Michael lives to this day.  

With his dad’s military background, Michael grew up participating in Boy Scouts. Unlike some boys who inevitably outgrow the organization and leave, Michael embraced it. In fact, he loved it so much that he became one of the youngest Eagle Scouts at the age of 14—about four years before most reach that goal. Only about 6% of Scouts ever get to that level. 

He was done with the Scouts by about the age of 16, but he turned his attention to high school athletics. He excelled at tennis and football. American football, not soccer. He played fullback and safety, but, in his senior year, his coach moved him to guard. How many 5-foot-8, 155-pound guards do you know? 

“I was a little bit crazy so I would hit anything,” he says. “It didn’t matter to me.” 

He still enjoys sports; today he is an avid racquetball player. 

Read our profiles of CSMs Melissa Eversole, Jason Ward and Matt Yuknis.

He went to college to study engineering, but after two years decided it wasn’t for him. He switched to economics instead and got his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland. After college, he was looking for a job and a career, and his persistence paid off. He called his State Farm agent and asked if they had any jobs, and he was quickly hired to process claims. It was at State Farm that he met his wife, Sharon, too. “She has red hair, so …” Talk about “like a good neighbor.” They met at the Greenbrier resort in West Virgina at a claims conference, and they married in 1996. Sharon worked until they had their third child when she became a stay-at-home mom. She rejoined the workforce as her kids got older, and is currently working for one of the largest insurance brokers in the country as an employee benefits producer.     

Soon after meeting his wife, Michael moved on to catastrophe duty at State Farm, and there he learned what empathy was really about. It’s a quality that he brings to his job at PrismHR every day dealing with customers.  

“All the photos and all the videos and all the pictures that you see” after a disaster, he explains, “doesn’t even come close to when you’re standing on the ground. It looks like a bomb blew up.  Basically, you know everything is destroyed, everything is thrown everywhere. You have the smells, the feeling of helplessness from the people. Not only the people, the animals, the pets. They don’t even know what to guard anymore.  What’s their property? They have no clue. They’re just walking around aimlessly.” 

While learning about looking out for people is what he learned most from that role, he learned about cutting to the chase in his next. 

The Truth and Only the Truth 

He ultimately became a senior fraud investigator at State Farm, a position he held for almost 16 years. He remembers using his calm, to-the-point demeanor to get the truth. For instance, one time there was a suspicious claim about a stolen vehicle, so he went to investigate. Even though the room was extremely cold, the man he interviewed was sweating bullets. Michael finally told him, “I can interview you for 2½ hours, follow up on some leads, then ultimately refer you to the Insurance Fraud division for the state of Maryland, or ….” The truth quickly came out that the man had gone drinking with friends, and he couldn’t even remember who drove the car onto a curb.  

As much as he loved the job, when the insurance giant needed to relocate him, he decided not to go. He didn’t want to move far away from his parents and in-laws. Lucky enough for him, he knew someone who was selling a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), and his background in insurance came in handy. The PEO model is a bit more complex in Maryland because there is no master plan for health insurance, which is basically a risk pool, like in most states. Each company had to have their own individual plan, but Michael knew exactly how to handle that with his insurance experience. 

After five years, Michael wanted to try something else. One of his clients had an opening managing the parking lots at Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI), which is roughly the 25th-busiest airport in the country. But it all happened during COVID-19, so travel was at a standstill. With his background in the PEO space, he quickly reconnected with some of the people at PrismHR, and when there was an opening in the CSM space, he jumped at the opportunity. 

He has a deep understanding of PEOs’ issues from his own experience, and he uses that knowledge every day in his job. He says the PrismHR software has continued to improve since his time operating his own PEO. Today, he adds, “PrismHR is enhancing and modernizing the software at breakneck speed.” 

But he knows issues still arise with any type of software, and he’s happy to help his customers anyway he can. He also likes the collaborative part of his job. Not only does he regularly discuss issues with his fellow CSMs, but also he likes to use that same collaborative mentality when working with his customers to come up with the best possible solution. 

Jessica Minner, Director of Information Systems and Technology Services, Human Capital Concepts

“Michael is extremely resourceful and always attentive to our requests or issues,” says Jessica Minner, director of information systems and technology services at Human Capital Concepts based in Indianapolis. “His experience in the PEO industry is invaluable, as he not only helps me with requests and questions in Prism software, but also gives great advice and tips regarding the bigger solution since he has a work history that includes running his own PEO business.  I can’t tell you how many times he has given me helpful insight or information that I needed to resolve my issue or create a process that was needed because he was able to draw from his experience, not just his knowledge of the PrismHR platform.” 

Pathik Mody, Chief Technology Officer,
Trion Solutions Inc.

Added Pathik Mody, Trion Solutions Inc.’s chief technology officer, Michael’s “commitment to excellence and graceful navigation of challenges are the pillars upon which Trion’s success rests, ensuring effective solutions are delivered.” 

While Michael discussed his career in a matter-of-fact fashion, he got really excited when discussing his family. He and Sharon have three grown children, and they have a chocolate lab named Nellie. 

Their daughter, Kayla, is a terrapin like her father having graduated from the University of Maryland. She’s their middle child, and Kayla started out in engineering just like her dad before switching gears. Instead of economics though, she turned to marketing and studio art, and is now going for her master’s in integrated marketing communications from Northwestern University.  

They also have two sons: Their eldest, Justin, went to graduate school at Penn State studying additive manufacturing (aka 3-D printing). He’s now a thermal systems design  engineer. Their youngest, Luke, is also their biggest; he was 11 lbs. 2 oz. at birth, and is currently 6-foot-5. He gets it from his mother’s side of the family. Luke’s studying mechanical engineering at Loyola University Maryland, and plays club-level lacrosse and basketball. 

As we finish our conversation, it dawns on me that maybe some of our customers would like to learn more about Michael’s story, so what better place than PrismHR LIVE? So I ask him how to say, “I look forward to seeing you at PrismHR LIVE,” in Dutch. 

He thinks about it for a moment, and then comes up with: Ik kijk er naar uit om je te zien bij PrismHR Live. So he’s not only Dutch, he’s clutch, too. You’ll have to ask him how to pronounce it.

As we shine the spotlight on Michael, we look forward to seeing you under the bright lights of Nashville where it’s Your Time to Shine at PrismHR LIVE!

James Tehrani is PrismHR’s digital content marketing manager. He’s an award-winning writer and editor based in the Chicago area.