You had a cancer scare in 2012. What about that?
I was 44 and had an unexpected bout with colorectal cancer. It was right around the same time I took on the role as CEO of Holmes Murphy. When I got the news, it was a real curveball. I encourage everyone I know to get an annual physical. I’m doing really well now, thanks to the doctors, my wife Nicolette, and a tremendous amount of support from family and friends.
Did you have surgery?
Yes, surgery, chemo and radiation. It was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me.
I’ve heard people say that about facing a terrifying illness. Why do you say that?
You think you live life with integrity, with purpose. But it’s not until adversity hits that you find out what kind of support you have around you. My family and friends—I was truly blessed by the outpouring of support.
Where did you grow up?
The western suburbs of Chicago.
Who were your childhood heroes?
I have six siblings—three boys and three girls. In terms of heroes, I would say my family. I may not put each of them up there in terms of hero status every day, but I was and remain incredibly close to all of them.
You met your wife at the University of Iowa.
Nicolette and I were best friends in college. Next thing you know, I needed someone to accompany me to business functions.
What’s the best advice she ever gave you?
My wife is an attorney. She’s trained to give advice. She provides input on all things—even things I don’t need advice on. I get it.
What does your perfect weekend look like?
Watching our four boys play sports and having friends and family over for dinner and just hanging out.
What’s your family’s favorite vacation spot?
We love to go on family ski vacations and where there are warm-weather beaches. Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is one of our family’s favorite ski towns. Kauai, in Hawaii, was also a highlight for our family.
You interned at Arthur J. Gallagher and later became vice president. How did that happen?
I was fortunate. In the insurance industry, there are always people who help you along the way. I had great guidance and counsel and had a lot of energy. You could say I’m driven.
Who were your mentors?
My dad taught me business around the dinner table when I was little. I always knew I was going to go into business. I never thought it would be in the insurance industry. I would have to say, however, the support I’ve received along the way from co-workers, clients and those in the industry has been phenomenal and included many mentors.
Last year Holmes Murphy started a training program for young employees called The Brainery. How come?
Our industry is horrible at attracting young talent. Holmes Murphy has a long history of attracting and developing talent. We strive to stay ahead of the industry curve.
Something co-workers would be surprised to learn about you?
I would say how analytical I am.
You think they don’t know that?
Everybody thinks I have a lot of energy, but I don’t think they know how much I analyze everything.
What’s the most interesting thing in your office?
A plaster of my hand and my kids’ hands all stacked on each other. We made it at the Iowa State Fair. Of course, the kids broke it and we had to glue it back together, but it still has significant meaning to me.
How would your co-workers describe your management style?
I think energetic, passionate and, hopefully, fun.
If you could change one thing about the insurance industry, what would it be?
Government involvement is a challenge. There’s got to be a balance.
What gives you your leader’s edge?
An industry based on people, on integrity. If you like people and like working through people to achieve goals and objectives and serving clients—relationships are at the core of that. It’s the best industry in the world because of the people we get to work with and the clients we get to serve. That’s fulfilling.
The Keough File
Favorite Writer: I read business books, but...Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Last Book Read: Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, by Gino Wickman
Favorite Band: U2
Favorite Movie: Jason Bourne series Zero Dark Thirty
Wheels: Range Rover Sport
Something you never leave home without? A purpose