The difference between good and great isn’t that much. A little extra effort can make a tremendous difference.
Tell me a little about your business.
Harry Koch Sr. started our business in Omaha 97 years ago. We’ve grown into the largest family-owned insurance agency in Nebraska.
What’s kept you in the business?
It’s the people. The diversity of working with the sales teams, service teams, company representatives, and long-term and new clients make every day a little different. In this business, there is a clearly defined win and loss. I’m a fairly competitive person—I thrive in that kind of environment.
Where did you grow up?
Columbus, Nebraska, a rural community of about 20,000 people, 90 miles west of Omaha. I wanted to be a schoolteacher and a basketball coach, and although it’s a noble profession, it wasn’t going to give me the W-2 I wanted.
What does your perfect weekend look like?
It would involve a sporting event and spending time with my family. Hunting, fishing, hunting and fishing! We have a recreational cabin where we go to swim and fish. Our grandkids are at the age where we spend a lot of time at events: T-ball, soccer, and even an occasional dance recital.
Do you have a favorite movie?
Anything with John Wayne, like “Rio Lobo.” “Jeremiah Johnson” with Robert Redford. I’m a western guy.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I like dogs. I don’t know if that’s something to be surprised about or not. I have a yellow lab named Cabela. I’m not a very complex person. There’s not much people don’t know about me.
Who was your most influential business mentor?
Harry Koch Jr. took me under his wing and mentored me on running an agency. When we determined a third generation of family ownership wasn’t in the future for our organization, he and I worked hard to find the right home for us. It was important to have our company continue on with ownership that shared the same business values and community commitment that had made us successful for nearly nine decades.
What business leader, in any industry, do you most admire?
Being a Nebraska native, I have witnessed up close the leadership qualities displayed by Tom Osborne. As an educator, coach, member of the U.S. Congress, athletic director for the University of Nebraska and community advocate, his reach has spanned from kids to adults, and his reputation for leadership, integrity, honor and compassion always precedes him.
What’s the best advice you ever got?
My dad told me if you want what everybody else has, do what everyone else does. If you want something more, do something more. It’s worked for me
What’s the best advice you ever gave?
Try to make a difference. The difference between good and great isn’t that much. A little extra effort can make a tremendous difference.
What’s the most interesting thing in your office?
I have a 46-inch northern pike, the third fish I ever caught in Canada. I was in northern Saskatchewan in August of 1994. It was the first time I had ever gone out of the country to catch a fish.
Do you have a favorite steakhouse in Omaha?
I’ve never been disappointed by Nebraska beef. I don’t want to single any one place out in case one of them says, “Why didn’t you name my place?”
How would the people you work with describe your management style?
Fair and accountable. I try to allow people to be involved and have input in the decisions that need to be made.
What have you learned that you could pass on to others?
Respect everyone. Always show evidence of your value. In our business, we are the middlemen. We always have to make sure that we add and create value in our business relationships.
If you could change the industry, what would you do?
We need to do a better job of illustrating the value our business brings. Look at what happened with Hurricane Sandy—how we helped put lives back together, how we put homes back together. Just being able to help people restore the things they have worked hard for, at the end of the day, makes me feel good.
What gives you your leader’s edge in this industry?
- Being affiliated with The Council allows me to collaborate with the best and brightest in our industry. The organization allows me to listen to the challenges my peers face in their business and the solutions they present and brainstorm on innovative ways to grow our businesses.
- The Council is a resource-rich organization that has provided me with opportunities to take proven strategies and implement them in my own organization.
- As a Nebraska native and a diehard fan of the Cornhuskers’ football team, I’ve been exposed to outstanding leaders my whole life. Now if we could just figure out how to win a bowl game.
The Trofholz File
Hometown: Omaha, Neb.
Family: Wife, Debra (married 36 years). Two sons: Cody, 34; Tony, 32. Five grandkids: 7, 5, 3, 22 months and 11 months.
Last Vacation: Copper Mountain, Colo., for skiing. (“I’m on the bottom of my career there.”)
Wheels: 2011 GMC Yukon