Category Archives: Risk Management

2015 Photo Some Days – Flu Shot Season

I am blessed to work for a company that provides flu shots for all employees who want them. They also offer shots to family members at a discount. I caught the flu several years ago. It came on really fast while I was at work. By the time I got home I could barely move, and it had me down for a week. Sadly, I know others whose lives were lost at the hands of the flu. Don’t be a victim. Doctor permitting, get your flu shot, too!

Thanks, IMA!

Did you get your flu shot?

Did you get your flu shot?

2015 Photo Some Days – Photobomb for Charity

The semi-finals were hard-fought, even as temps soared into the 90's

The semi-finals were hard-fought, even as temps soared into the 90’s

IMA Dallas’ annual Sandblast charity event took place on September 17, 2015 and was a smashing success. Benefitting Junior Achievement of Dallas and the IMA Foundation, we moved our venue this year to the Sandbar Cantina & Grill in Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood. Several of IMA’s business partners and clients participated in the event. I was particularly impressed with the skill and stamina of many of the volleyball teams, as they continued to play hard as the mercury climbed into the mid-90’s yesterday afternoon.

Sandblast Photobomb!

Sandblast Photobomb!

Of course, we managed to have lots of fun in the process of raising money for these worthy causes. For me, the personal high point of my day was FINALLY delivering my first-ever photobomb! Indeed, I have attempted to bomb many a portrait as the phenomenon has gained in popularity, but have always managed to be busted prior to the shot. This, however, was perfectly timed as two of my coworkers posed for the camera. We work hard at IMA, and I feel particularly blessed to work with a group of good, fun-loving people.

But all joking aside, we raised $15,000 for Junior Achievement, and that is a worthwhile achievement in and of itself. It is indeed a blessing to work for a company that gives so much to the communities in which we live and work.

IMA Sandblast is an annual event. If you have interest in joining us next year, give me a shout. It’s lots of fun and supports a very worthwhile cause.

Sandblast 2015 raised $15,000 for Junior Achievement Dallas!

Sandblast 2015 raised $15,000 for Junior Achievement Dallas!

2015 Photo Some Days – Winds of Change

The parking lot sits empty as CEC's former  home awaits a new tenant. 9.14.2015

The parking lot sits empty as CEC’s former home awaits a new tenant. 9.14.2015

Given my lunch meeting in Irving the other day, I took a few moments to drive around the office building that, until recently, served as the home of Chuck E. Cheese’s Support Center. I’ve enjoyed a successful and rather fruitful career thus far, and CEC is in many respects my favorite stop along my professional journey. During my tenure at CEC I worked with many wonderful people, enjoyed a particularly vibrant and employee-friendly culture, and helped deliver some pretty impressive results along the way.

Things change. In business, ownership sometimes changes as it did at CEC last spring. With that change came new leadership, new people, a new culture, and new opportunities. In my case as with many of my CEC friends, CEC’s ownership change led me to a  new opportunity with another firm. For many colleagues who remain at CEC it led to new digs and a new culture that holds the potential for some nice financial rewards down the road. I wish them well.

Tattered flags on the breeze in front of the former CEC Support Center. 9.14.2015

Tattered flags on the breeze in front of the former CEC Support Center. 9.14.2015

In a way, it’s a bit sad to see this parking lot completely empty with tattered flags flying outside the front door. Seeing those tattered flags blowing in the North Texas breeze reminded me that change, although sometimes painful and often inconvenient, can lead to good things if we simply open our minds and trust God for that next phase in life’s journey.

What’s changing in your life? What is your attitude towards that change? Keep your chin up and trust the Lord. And all will be well.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of “Cheap” Insurance

I read a post on LinkedIn the other day that purported to offer tips on how to buy “cheap” business insurance. Ever since reading it, that post has really stuck in my craw. The phrase “cheap insurance” is like fingers on a chalkboard to me and it should be to you, too. Why? Because I’ve seen what can go wrong when price is king.

Photo credit: insurancejobs.com

Photo credit: insurancejobs.com

Why do businesses purchase insurance anyway? Because they have assets – people, property, profits – at risk of loss due to something accidentally going wrong. Furthermore, business owners and their employees are sometimes unjustly accused of wrongdoing, and in those situations, the cost of defending the claim often exceeds the value of the claim itself. The financial cost of defending claims, repairing, replacing or rebuilding damaged business property, and indemnifying claimants may exceed the business’s ability to pay for the loss on its own. Insurance is really a source of funds to cover the costs resulting from accidental loss; costs which the business cannot otherwise afford to absorb.

Truth is, insurance companies and the insurance policies they sell are not created equal. If the insurance buyer isn’t careful, that “cheap” policy may not respond as anticipated when a loss occurs. Perhaps the policy was cheap because the insurer’s financials are not real strong. Will the insurance company be around to pay the loss when it comes due? That day of reckoning often comes years after the temporary satisfaction derived from getting that cheap premium has worn off. Perhaps the policy was cheap because the underwriter excluded some key elements of coverage or reduced coverage limits on some aspects of the policy in return for cheapening the cost of his product. Such adjustments are sometimes the very thing that jumps up to bite the business in the behind when the claim is presented and declined by the insurer, leaving the business owners with nothing more than a three-ring binder full of paper that just might be worthy of campfire starter fuel. If you are the business owner or the owner’s designated manager of her risk management and insurance strategy, you do not want to place yourself or your business in this precarious position.

Photo credit: sorryaboutyourweight.com

Photo credit: sorryaboutyourweight.com

So what is a business owner to do? How can she be most assured that the insurance she purchases today will truly be there for her business later when it’s needed? Let me answer this way. I consider myself to be a pretty decent handyman. I’ll tackle basic repairs to many items in my home, but there are three items I will not touch: electricity, natural gas, and plumbing. If I mess with those systems and make a mistake, the result could be catastrophic. So when those systems need work, I call a pro. Business insurance falls into that category as well. The business owner is very skilled in her chosen field but probably does not have the expertise or the relationships to self-source the best possible insurance policy for her business at the best possible price. That’s where the insurance broker steps in.

A quality insurance broker will be familiar with the business owner’s industry and the insurers most qualified to cover it. A quality broker will interview the business owner or her designee to glean as clear an understanding as possible of the potential causes of accidental loss the business might face while counseling her on practical strategies that just might help prevent the loss from occurring in the first place. In transacting an insurance purchase, the broker’s job is to gather required underwriting data, prepare marketing materials for presentation to qualified potential insurers, receive quotes, and negotiate policy terms, conditions and price. The broker then presents quality options with pros and cons of each to the business owner or her designated insurance buyer so she is equipped make an informed purchase.

Photo credit: dearmediacare.com

Photo credit: dearmediacare.com

Managing the insurance transaction in this manner benefits the business owner in at least two ways: (1) The business owner is free to focus on her business while letting the insurance pro work the marketplace in her behalf, and (2) The business owner is now in the best possible position to achieve the optimal balance between coverage quality and coverage price. Even better is the fact that insurance brokers are typically compensated by the insurers via commissions; thus, the business owner should not incur additional cost for accessing the services of a quality insurance broker. (Note that there are other methods of broker compensation, but that is a topic for another post).

If you are a business owner with the objective of buying “cheap” business insurance, I hope you will rethink that strategy. Don’t put your business at risk to save a few bucks on your insurance premiums. Call a pro who will manage the insurance marketplace in your behalf to help you achieve a quality purchase at a reasonable price. That, indeed, is the wise business decision.

Note to the Reader: The information offered herein is derived from my personal experience as a risk management professional. The thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. This information should not be considered as a substitute for legal, tax and/or actuarial advice. Please contact the appropriate professional counsel for such matters.

Know Your Audience

“Did you know that workers’ compensation claims cost our company over $24 million last year!?” I asked incredulously. And, with that opening line, I lost my audience.

I had the best of intentions. I wanted to raise awareness. I wanted to achieve buy-in. I wanted my audience of operations vice presidents and warehouse managers to leave the meeting with a sense of purpose and a committed resolve to run their distribution centers in the safest manner possible. Unfortunately, I only achieved one of my three objectives, and that only in part: They all left the meeting.

This squandered opportunity underscores an often overlooked component of successful communication: the need to tailor the message to the audience. Truth is, we did have an opportunity to reduce workers’ compensation costs. Achieving the buy-in of the operations professionals who ran the warehouses and loaded the trucks was essential to our success. And, in this instance, I failed.

I joined Toastmasters to learn to organize my thoughts, tailor my presentation to the audience in the room, and deliver my message with confidence and authority.

Fast-forward one year. After the debacle of the year before I had to battle to get the risk management team a spot on the operations meeting agenda. Quite frankly, I understood management’s hesitance; my presentation the year before used an hour of valuable time and achieved nothing. I told them I had learned my lesson. I joined Toastmasters to learn to organize my thoughts, tailor my presentation to the audience in the room, and deliver my message with confidence and authority. I showed them a draft of my new presentation as I told them this year would be different. And it was.

“I want you all to close your eyes,” I said. “Picture in your mind the best order selector in your warehouse; you know, the one with the near-perfect pick rate and lowest error rating. I know that each of you already has that person pictured in your mind. Now, picture him at home because he hurt his back at work. He’s off for six months. Open your eyes.”

I had their attention. I asked, “How many of you have had this experience in your operation at least once during the past year?” Many raised their hands. I asked them, one by one, “How was your warehouse impacted by that employee’s prolonged absence from work?” All of a sudden, a discussion broke out! Operations VP’s and warehouse managers shared how overall pick rates deteriorated and overtime costs increased. Several even talked about reduced morale and reduced bonus payouts. “If I could show you three simple things you can implement now to help avoid this disruption going forward, would you consider them?” I now had their full attention. I had a room full of risk management deputies. Mission accomplished.

During that second presentation, I never talked about money. I didn’t preach the virtues of prevention as a means of reducing retained loss costs. Why? Because this audience couldn’t care less about those things. That is not the world in which they live and breathe every day.

I had the honor of addressing the attorneys and paralegals of Vernis & Bowling at their 2014 firm retreat in Orlando, FL.

I had the honor of addressing the attorneys and paralegals of Vernis & Bowling at their 2014 firm retreat in Orlando, FL.

That presentation, now some 20 years in the past, was the catalyst for some amazing results. And, for me personally, it launched a true appreciation for and enjoyment of public speaking.

I offer this glimpse into my career learning process in the hopes that you might consider (or reconsider) each slide in that PowerPoint deck you’re about to present. Persuading a Board, a C-Suite, mid-management colleagues, and operations professionals to support any given objective will typically require a different approach tailored to each of those groups. To whom are you presenting? I’m sure the content is important to you, but is the content important to them? How can you make your objective meaningful to your audience? Will your supporting facts resonate with them?

After several years of absence, I rejoined a local Toastmasters club two years ago. I believe strongly that well-honed communication and presentation skills are an essential component to any leader’s success. I know they have contributed hugely to mine.

Click here to learn more about Toastmasters and how it can help you hone your communication and presentation skills!

Listening for the Win

“Don’t puke on your prospect.”

OK, a bit crass perhaps, but it is some of the best advice on salesmanship I’ve ever been given. Any of us who have purchased B2B goods and services have experienced this. The sales rep reaches out and you grant that first meeting. Upon entering your office, the sales rep launches into a completely one-sided dialogue about how great he is, how great his company is, and why you should be doing business with him. He asks no questions, and although you try to turn this into a real conversation, he won’t allow you to participate. He simply has too much to say!

Case in point: When I was Director of Risk Management at a large restaurant chain, I was called by a representative with a local insurance brokerage firm. Upon entering my office, he asked me one question: “Do you purchase accounts receivable insurance?” he asked. “No,” said I, “our guests typically pay with credit cards…” and that was the end of the discussion. Oh, the meeting lasted another 15 minutes as the rep droned on and on about how uncollectable accounts receivable have practically sunk many businesses and how every business should have this coverage. I finally cut him off and showed him the door. As he walked out, he dropped some expensive looking accounts receivable insurance marketing materials on my desk as he said, “I’ll be in touch.” The marketing materials went straight into my trash can, and thankfully, he never did follow up. Indeed, “sales puke” is a sure-fire way to ensure that you never win that piece of business.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

A former boss of mine was a Covey disciple. He had his entire team read Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and he recited this quote incessantly. He even found budget money for each of us to attend a live presentation by Dr. Covey himself a few years before he passed away. I agree with my former boss that 7 Habits is a must read for any business professional, regardless of your line of work. But it is this quote in particular that has stuck in my mind over all these years. I have applied it in my risk management roles and I apply it in my current role in commercial insurance sales.

People need, indeed they like, to be heard. I believe failure to listen is often to blame when negotiations end in stalemate or objectives fail to be met. Applying Covey’s principle generally yields one of two results in my experience:

 (1) The business associates (or sales prospects) with whom you are speaking are more apt to hear you out and more readily consider your viewpoint (or product) if you’ve heard them out first and asked meaningful questions;

(2) You begin to see enough value in your associate’s viewpoint that you begin to change your own mind. In a sales scenario, you may learn about a pain point your prospect is experiencing and alter your approach accordingly. In both scenarios, you learn something and the ultimate end result is best for all!

Do you see what is happening here? Both outcomes are wins!

As I look back over my career, I readily see that I have been most successful when I have worked hard to practice good listening skills. It’s a sign of interest. It’s a demonstration of respect. And no matter the line of work, sound listening skills will open doors. Go ahead, give it a shot. I dare you.

Photo credit: My iPhone 5s, Idaho Springs, CO. February 2015

Photo credit: My iPhone 5s, Idaho Springs, CO. February 2015

Wisdom or Folly?

“If I only knew then what I know now, I would have approached my life back then so differently.” I bet almost all of us have stated that lament at one time or another, either on looking back at high school, college, or maybe that first job. Ah, wisdom; that wonderful gift from God that opens our eyes to a grander plan than we could ever comprehend on our own. Wisdom helps us realize that life is a much larger picture than even the wisest among us can perceive at any given time, and although we cannot see the entirety of that big picture we know it exists. As we gain in wisdom we begin to look beyond our own well being and seek the well being of others. We begin to realize that the world wasn’t created solely for our benefit, but we were created to serve the world around us. If we seek wisdom we can find it.

“Then I saw that there was more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness.” Ecclesiastes 2:13 

Why, then, do some seem to choose to wallow in folly? What is folly, anyway? Merriam-Webster defines folly, “the lack of good sense or judgment; a foolish act or idea; foolish behavior.” Truly, folly is all around us. Now, to be fair, I must confess that I have spent my share of time pursuing folly. I remember making decent grades in high school without having to put in a whole lot of effort. I remember making the Dean’s list my freshman year of college – not the list of students who excelled, but the list of students whose admission was in possible jeopardy because of a lower-than-acceptable GPA. It seems that my studies in “Texas Dance Hall” my freshman year did not support my major at Concordia Lutheran College. I remember the early days of my working career, in which my priorities included occupying my favorite bar stool at the local watering hole. “If I only knew then what I know now…”

Succinctly stated, folly gets us nowhere constructive. Pursuit of folly keeps us in darkness; it is a barrier to success both personally and professionally. Unfortunately, folly often presents itself as the path of least resistance, thus it is relatively easy to follow. But following folly’s path is like starting down that hiking trail that ventures into the woods. At first the path is wide and easy to follow. As we move deeper into the woods the path grows narrower, weeds begin to obstruct the way, and we soon find ourselves standing in the middle of the woods with no clear sense of direction as we wonder how to get out. Having followed folly’s path, we find ourselves worse off than we were upon beginning folly’s journey.

Our country seems to have embraced folly these days. Our national debt climbs at an alarming rate with no effort by our government nor demand by the people to reverse the trend. We seek after short-term pleasure without seeing the big picture of the long-term consequences of those choices. Have we killed the cure for cancer or the next great composer through abortion? As we continue to whittle away at our moral foundation, shouting slurs and insults at one another along the way, are we not sacrificing the long term health and well-being of our nation? As we, in our passivity, hand over increasing amounts of power to our unelected Supreme Court, are we not squandering the freedoms that thousands of men and women fought and died to win and preserve? Folly, indeed. It won’t be long before the path vanishes into the weeds and we find ourselves standing alone in the dark, cold woods wondering how in the heck we got there and where do we go now.

The United States is headed down a dark path, but it is not too late to change course. I choose wisdom. I choose Light. I choose to share the virtues of those things as I shun the foolishness of folly. I don’t want our nation to look back at today from fifty years hence and lament, “If I only knew then what I know now…”

What say you?

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