How did you get into the business?
I graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a finance degree in 1987. My first job out of school was as an underwriter for Mass Mutual. True story: I did 32 interviews my senior year—everybody from Hershey’s to G.O.D. [Guaranteed Overnight Delivery]. The last two were with Chubb and Mass Mutual. I lived three miles from the Mass Mutual home office in Springfield. I don’t think anybody really plans on going into insurance. Twenty-five years later, I’m still here.
What do you like most about the business?
When you break it down to what it’s all about, it’s a really fun business. It’s such a people business. It’s such a personal business. That’s the number one reason. I still stay in touch with a lot of guys who were in my group school 25 years ago.
What’s the most interesting insurance placement you’ve been a part of?
I think the coolest was in 1992, when I was underwriting for Mass Mutual. We underwrote the roadies for the Grateful Dead, out of our San Francisco office.
What is it like where you live?
I live in a little town called Longmeadow right outside of Springfield. Springfield is known as the city of homes. It’s a pretty blue-collar town. It’s going through some tough times economically right now, like a lot of towns and cities in the country. It was a great place to grow up. Today everybody knows it for two reasons: the National Basketball Hall of Fame and Mass Mutual. And Doctor Seuss. Mulberry Street is about two miles from the Hall of Fame. That’s the Mulberry Street that Doctor Seuss refers to in the book.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I still like to work out a lot. I enjoy reading, though not as much as I should. I spend a lot of time with my family, not enough…but getting better! I’m gone Monday through Friday a lot, so when I’m home I try to stick with them.
Do you do a lot of traveling for pleasure?
In my wife’s words, “There’s never enough travel.” We get one or two great family trips in per year.
What’s your favorite place to visit?
For our 20th wedding anniversary, we spent a week in Napa. It’s just a beautiful area.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I ran two marathons—Holyoke and Cape Cod. My best time was 3:49:52.
Who was your most influential business mentor?
Neil Daboul, my dad, and Peter Daboul, my uncle. The mentoring, the discussions, the lessons, the feedback, the coaching and the honesty have been priceless. I am who I am thanks to them.
What business leader, in any industry, do you most admire?
Somebody I have a great deal of respect for is Lee Iacocca. The turnaround at Chrysler—that was an amazing thing that he did. Perfect no, but he saved Chrysler.
What’s the most interesting thing in your office?
A horsewhip. I was chairman of the board for the Springfield Boys and Girls Club. I started every meeting saying “Giddyap.” So when I left, I got a gavel and a whip.
Your favorite charity?
We started a scholarship at UMass in my grandparents’ name, Rose and George Daboul. That’s something we’ve very proud of.
This month you take over as chairman of the Council of Employee Benefits Executives. Do you have specific goals for the year ahead?
The Council members are the elite in the insurance industry when it comes to brokers and consultants. It’s just a pure honor to be part of The Council in general. As the chair, you just want to make sure you keep the momentum going that’s been set by the staff and board.
What gives you your leader’s edge in this industry?
The relationships I’ve developed over 25 years. Honestly, when I think about it, I think that’s my edge.
The Daboul File
Hometown: Longmeadow, Mass.
Family: Wife of 22 years, Mary (“I met her in high school”); daughter Hanna, 18; son Colby, 15
Wheels: BMW 525xi
Favorite Quote: From Lou Holtz: “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”
Favorite team: Boston Red Sox—“Diehard.”
All-time favorite Red Sox player: Ted Williams