Dave Kaufman steers Motorists into new fields, both in and out of business

Pay it forward

Motorists — and its commitment to philanthropy — is fittingly led by someone who has that same commitment on a personal level. Kaufman, the first person in his family to go to college, originally had no plans for higher education.

But when the owner of a local car dealership, who had seen Kaufman play basketball, discovered that, he took him to Ohio Wesleyan and introduced him to the basketball coach.

“He actually passed away fall term of my freshman year. He completely changed the trajectory of my life, and I never got a chance to thank him. The only day I spent with him was the day we went to campus,” Kaufman says.

To pay back somebody who was no longer alive, Kaufman decided to do the same thing for another kid. When he heard about Future Possibilities, founded in New York City, he found the right fit.

Today, the nonprofit is just focused in Columbus. Approximately 80 coaches meet weekly with 80 fifth-graders to help them develop life skills. To build self-esteem, each child sets a goal, develops a plan to reach that goal and then works to achieve it.

Kaufman remembers the first child he coached; his father was in prison and his mother was unemployed. The first time he went to the house, they didn’t use the front door because they were afraid that they couldn’t get it locked again.

“It’s just like, wow, this is three blocks from my office,” he says.

Moments like that help you appreciate what you’ve been blessed with and fuel your commitment to give back and try to make a difference, Kaufman says.

After all, significance is always greater than success.

 

Takeaways:

  • Focus on people and purpose; delegate the rest.
  • Don’t let the structure dictate your strategy.
  • Accelerate your path with new resources, without losing what got you there.

 

The file:

Name: Dave Kaufman
Title: CEO
Company: Motorists Insurance Group

Born: Bellefontaine, Ohio
Education: Bachelor’s in mathematics and economics, Ohio Wesleyan University

If you planned to be a math teacher and basketball coach, how did you end up in insurance? I was thinking of getting my master’s and did some interviews on campus. Connecticut General liked my background and thought it aligned with being an actuary, which I didn’t know anything about.

They flew me out to Hartford. In one of the last interviews, the guy asked me if I played baseball because he had seen some of the sports I was involved with. Long story short, the shortstop on their softball team was hurt. So, I ended up staying over that weekend and subbing in for him. That turned into a job offer and changed my whole course.

What were the hardest management skill for you to learn? Probably the difficult conversation, where you’ve got an individual that’s not performing to expectations. You invest a lot in coaching them, empowering them and leading them, and then it’s not working. You have to divorce the professional from the person.

It has to happen. If you avoid that, then typically the people to get hurt are your top performers because they have to cover for the underachiever.

Where might someone find you on the weekend? I like sports. I golf, snow ski, play tennis and run. My wife’s the marathon runner. I’ve run five, but I run because she does. So really any of that, with my three daughters who are all active that way, too. It would definitely be some kind of sporting event.