Please set up your API key!

The Rough Notes Company Inc.



March 24
10:32 2020

Risk Managers’ Forum

By Kyle Drawdy


Five lessons to live by

There are thousands of individual skills that we, as risk managers, need to know to do our jobs successfully. These skills can range from mitigation techniques to contract negotiations to coverage expertise. A risk manager is a mix of an attorney, insurance agent, public relations expert, loss/safety coordinator, and accounting and finance specialist. We’ve been called the “bad guys,” or refer-red to as the “office of no.” The reality is, we’re the “office of know.”

We take on all of our roles with one objective in mind: the safety and security of our employees, clients, students, and guests. We may be a department of one, or one of dozens in a large corporate structure. Regardless of our size, we’re relentless when working to reach our goals.

It takes years to learn the skills necessary to become a successful risk manager. The majority of us will spend our entire careers earning professional designations or advanced degrees or attending specialized training. We do this because we understand one simple fact: Risk never stops evolving. The risk management process is not a one-and-done system. We must be vigilant in our efforts to identify and control risk. Certain knowledge can be acquired only through experience.

As risk managers … we’re the face of security, safety, and business continuity.

In the hope that my experiences can help you, whether you’re a risk manager or an agent or broker with risk management responsibilities, here’s a list of five things I wish I had learned earlier in my career:

Keep calm and carry on. As a risk manager, you’re always juggling a hundred different balls while trying to ski down a mountain. You most likely take your work home with you and make yourself available 24/7 by email, text, or phone. The stress of the job, trying to establish a work/life balance, and other personal issues can weigh you down. It’s important to remember that the actions you take in the first few moments of a crisis will have a lasting impact on the overall response. A risk manager is the “tip of the spear” and the first person that leadership and employees look to during a crisis. How you choose to respond will be observed by both the internal and external stakeholders of the organization, and they will respond in kind. If you seem lost, confused, or overwhelmed, the organizational response will be incoherent, delayed, and ineffective. In some cases this could mean serious injury, death, or a significant loss of revenue. Remember to take a deep breath and present a calm and confident presence in the face of adversity so others follow your example.

This too shall pass. Today you may be dealing with an industrial accident that injured several employees, or maybe your organization produced a faulty product that needs to be recalled. You’re likely dealing with issues related to the coronavirus (COVID-19). We find ourselves personally invested in controlling risk and focusing on the impact it may have on the organization’s strategic or operational goals. We stay up at night thinking of ways to improve training and safety so accidents do not recur. We worry about how to implement social distancing while not alienating our employees and customers.

Whatever the situation, no matter how bad it seems, never forget that this incident or crisis eventually will come to a conclusion. For some of us, our crisis may have been when the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001, and all air traffic was suspended for 48 hours. This was the only time in history that the FAA has shut down all air traffic. For others, it may have been in late 2007 when the housing bubble burst, leading to the Great Recession. Overcoming the challenges created by these events seemed almost impossible at the time, but we were able to adapt and recover. In many ways, we emerged from these incidents stronger and more prepared for the future.

Right now, people are scared of the coronavirus and worried about what’s to come. People are worried about their jobs, rent, bills, and whether schools will stay open or close. As risk managers, we’ve prepared for disasters of one kind or another throughout our careers. We’ve survived hurricanes that have leveled cities, rebuilt communities that have been devastated by tornados, come through a financial crisis that redefined retirement and investing as we once knew it. We acknowledge that things may get worse before they get better, but we also know we can come out stronger and more capable of handling a crisis in the future.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but often better than a master of one.” That expression perfectly sums up my experience as a risk manager. We’re many things to many people. For some, we’re trusted advisors. For others, we’re an inconvenient step in an approval process. Regardless of how others view us, our jobs are crucial to the survival of our individual organizations.

Given everything we do, there’s no way we can be an expert in all areas. Iwouldn’t be as successful as I am if I didn’t make it a point to surround myself with people who are smarter than me. It’s okay to ask for help! Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak or unable to do your job. It simply means you acknowledge the need for help from others who are more capable or knowledgeable in a specific area or exposure. Experts (consultants, agents, inspectors, and so on) work in specialized fields and can offer tailored guidance and advice on specific issues or exposures. That’s why they’re called experts and not generalists. They can be part of your external team and an integral part of your risk management program.

Relationships. Our success as risk managers may depend on the actions or responses of others. Nothing is more important than established relationships built on mutual respect and trust. There will be times in your career when you need a favor. It may be as simple as help with developing an employment policy or as important as preapproving millions in hurricane mitigation funds. Assistance in these and other situations is available only if you’ve taken the time to build a network of vendors, experts, peers, and trusted advisors. This means more than going golfing on a sunny afternoon.

When we make promises or commitments, people trust that we will deliver when the time comes. As you start expanding your network of peers, eventually someone will ask you for a favor or help with a project. Be sure you assist them in any way possible. As the saying goes: Pay it forward.

Common sense. Every day we analyze heat maps, risk registers, loss runs, triangles, insurance policies, hold harmless agreements, and numerous other internal and external data. We can spend hours examining the implications of each variable or an increase of $250 on an offer in a mediation. Being a risk manager, however, means simply using common sense. If a decision “feels” right, chances are it is. Not every decision I’ve made has been perfect or worked out the way I had hoped, but I’ve rarely regretted making a decision that felt right.

As risk managers, not only do we owe a duty to our organizations, but also we have a social obligation to our external stakeholders. We’re the face of security, safety, and business continuity. Whether it’s COVID-19 or another future crisis, remember to take a breath, present a confident persona, and ask for help when you need it. Look to your peers for guidance and trust your gut.

The author

Kyle Drawdy is the director of risk management for the North East Florida Educational Consortium, which consists of 13 rural school districts. The risk management program is responsible for providing risk control and financing options for the combined exposure of $3.6 billion in total insurable value (TIV), 126,000 students, and 18,000 employees. Prior to this position, Kyle was a risk manager for the Florida College System. Kyle is also a consultant and faculty member for the National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research and has obtained his CIC, CRM, and ARM designations.

Related Articles






Western Digital


Spread The Word & Share This Page

Trending Tweets