It’s very easy to get started on a project. It’s very hard to finish.
You earned a bachelor’s and master’s from Ohio State and founded your business in Columbus. Are you a native Buckeye?
Yes, I grew up in Ottawa, in the northwestern part of the state. It’s a small rural town, about 50 miles from Toledo, with roughly 3,700 people. Everybody knows everybody. It was a great place to grow up.
Where did you get your entrepreneurial spirit?
I was always, to some degree, entrepreneurial. At an early age, 12 or 13 years old, I was helping my dad build spec houses. My dad worked for an electric utility company during the day. My mom was a stay-at-home mom but also helped manage the extracurricular business my dad had building houses. We worked after school and on weekends all the time. At that point I saw clearly I enjoyed building things.
What did you learn from building homes with your dad that you apply in your business life today?
It’s very easy to get started on a project. It’s very hard to finish. I learned to finish deals. I learned to finish projects. That’s what I feel my strength is. I guess I’m a finisher.
Why start BroadStreet Partners in 2001?
The industry was consolidating significantly. I felt there was an opportunity. I approached Bob Bailey, then CEO of State Auto Insurance Company. I said I really want to strike out on my own and I’ve got an investor. He said, “How about if we invest in the business with you?” So they invested in our business for 10 years.
Give me some vital stats on BroadStreet Partners.
We are roughly $385 million in revenue and $2.8 billion in premium. We have 18 core partners throughout the United States with 145 office locations and close to 2,300 colleagues within these operations. Over the last 15 years these core partners have grown their own operations organically and through tuck-in acquisitions of 211 smaller agencies.
What’s kept you in the business for so long?
It’s a business where you are surrounded by high-energy entrepreneurs focused on building something every day. We have the opportunity to invest in these high-performing agencies. It’s exciting, energizing and never boring.
What is something your co-workers would be surprised to learn about you?
After graduate school I bought and restored a 1943 Piper Cub airplane, learned to fly it and got my pilot’s license.
That sounds pretty daunting.
It was a challenge but a labor of love.
Who were your role models in business?
I admire Warren Buffett very much. We built the company around the Berkshire Hathaway model. Basically, we invest in high-performing agencies with exceptional leadership teams, then we let them run their business. We don’t try to change what has made them successful. At 80-some years old, Buffett is still relevant, and he’s doing what he loves. Also, I grew up enjoying college basketball and admired UCLA coach John Wooden.
What did you learn from John Wooden?
He inspired his players and the people around him to realize great things can be accomplished if no one cares who gets credit. It’s all about character. One of my favorite quotes from him is: “Be more concerned about your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
How would your co-workers describe your management style?
Does not like bureaucracy, loves flat organizations, always seeks win-win results and gains loyalty by giving it.
If you could change one thing about the insurance industry, what would it be?
Given the trend of consolidation occurring in the distribution side of the industry, I think carriers and agencies need to work more collaboratively developing and mentoring new producer talent.
What gives you your leader’s edge?
Our unique business model that attracts by far the best agencies in the country as partners.
They’re not looking to sell out. They’re looking to incrementally grow their operations. There’s a certain type of entrepreneur that fits the BroadStreet model. It’s the leader who’s not done yet, not done leading, not done growing, not done building and not done working.
The Miley File
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Favorite cities to travel to for work: New York, Toronto
Last book read: When the Game Stands Tall: The Story of the De La Salle Spartans and Football’s Longest Winning Streak, by Neil Hayes (“It was sent to me by one of our core partners in California who was a player on the record-setting team, with a 151-game win streak. The book was also turned into a very successful movie. It’s a story about brotherhood and the endless fight to achieve greatness in all aspects of life.”)
Wheels: Ford F-150 Platinum pickup