First job: Selling shoes in junior high school
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Florida State University; master’s degree, Emory University
Boards: Director of boards at Alleghany Corp. and Platinum Underwriters Holding Ltd.; member of the boards of Griffith Foundation for Insurance Education, American Institute for CPCU and Insurance Institute of America; active with Butler County United Way
What was your greatest business challenge?
In 1987, I assumed leadership, my first CEO job, of an almost-bankrupt Ohio insurance company, and we were able to put some capital in it, restore the ratings with the ratings companies and eventually sell it to another investor for a threefold return over a five-year period.
What is the greatest business lesson you’ve learned?
Success in business is not just about leading and setting strategy. It has as much to do with a strong focus on monitoring, on controlling and executing. You can set the strategy, you can make some motivating speeches, but unless you really follow it up with some strong execution and focus on controls and where to go next and what the next steps are, it doesn’t happen.
Whom do you admire most in business?
The former CEO of Alleghany Corp., John Burns Jr. I’ve known him for almost 20 years. He’s not only superintelligent, a strong communicator, a good leader, but he practiced an attitude that his role was to help his employees succeed.
Following every conversation I’d have with him, the very last thing he’d ask was, ‘Now, how can I help you?’ And I think that’s the best example that I know of someone who’s not only able to deliver value to the shareholders but also able to assist his employees in becoming successful, which, in turn, makes him successful.