I’ve learned I need to get out of their way, to give them the freedom to go do what they do best.
Tell me about Portland. I hear great things about the city these days.
It’s a little bit more of a foodie city now. There’s been kind of the growth of the microbrew spirit. Everything that’s shown on the television show “Portlandia” tells you everything we are. It really is true.
I was wondering what the locals think of “Portlandia.”
It’s great that it’s caught on as a little kitschy show. Even some high-powered actors do cameos in the show. Every single episode there’s some truth to it. A little, at least.
So what’s the best part about living in Portland, besides all the locally brewed beers?
Probably the best part of living in Oregon is that you live in a culture that really respects the quality of the air, the surrounding beauty. You’re an hour from mountain skiing, an hour from the coast. You’re in this cool little valley where recreation is part of life. People love to hunt and fish, and people love to enjoy four full seasons. It’s a great place to raise your kids.
Tell me a little about your business.
I’m one of the founders of The Partners Group, but the roots of the company really go back to 1980 and Bruce Kerr, who’s my partner. We have an expertise in the medical community. We have 2,000 to 3,000 physician clients. We do anything from wealth management to personal lines. We cover 300 medical clinics. We manage benefits and analytics and wellness programs for 30-plus hospitals. Healthcare is a big part of The Partners Group.
This is your 30th year in the industry. What keeps you going?
This business is built for me. I love being entrepreneurial. I love being in a business that takes care of people. Everything we do is relieving risk or providing guidance and protection for our neighbors and friends.
Do you have a favorite insurance joke?
A broker, an underwriter and a client go into a bar…and no one comes out.
What’s your favorite place to visit?
We just got back from Kapalua, Hawaii. We try to get over there once a year. Hawaii is not a difficult travel from Portland. It’s good to be there in February. It’s a good season for whales.
What is something you never leave home without?
My iPad and my Bose headset. If I have those two things wherever I go, I can read anything, I can listen to anything, I can watch anything. It’s a really invaluable tool. And my running shoes.
You’re a runner?
I’m a lifetime runner. It is my physical exercise. The more I run, the better I think. It unlocks the other side of the brain that I don’t let out during the workday. I can solve all my problems with a good run.
Do you run every day?
I just got off running 28 out of 29 days. There were lots of short runs. It gets dark early here in the winter. For me that’s my best insurance policy against succumbing to the darkness. Get out every day and do three to five miles whether you want to or not.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Probably that I’m chairman of our church elder’s board, that my faith dictates everything that I do. That’s probably not something that gets out there very often. I’m not afraid to tell people that’s the biggest driver to who I am and what my success has been.
What’s the best advice you ever got?
“Past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior.” Tom Rand told me that. He has since passed, but he was a corporate psychologist when I worked at Unum.
How would the people you work with describe your management style?
I’m intense. I have high expectations of my leadership. But I am hands-off. One of the things I’ve learned is I need to get out of their way, to give them the freedom to go do what they do best. If I get too involved, I’m only inhibiting them.
What have you learned that you like to pass on to others?
Make sure you’ve got your relationship-building skills at their highest level.
If you could change the industry, what would you do?
Make it easier to get licensed in 50 states. It’s absolutely ridiculous that every state still has jurisdiction for how you get licensed.
What gives you your leader’s edge in this industry?
When you hire people who are smarter and brighter and harder working than you, it forces you to sharpen your swords. My leader’s edge is to hire people who are more talented than we are. They keep us on our toes.
The Cruickshank File
Hometown: West Linn, Oregon
Family: Wife, Ginger (married 22 years); four kids: Randy, 19; Mackenzie, 18; Grace, 16; Ian, 14
Last Book Read: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, by Malcolm Gladwell
Wheels: BMW X5 (It’s my fourth one.)