FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Lee Rogers
December 17, 2013
His mom was a social worker, his dad, insurance guy – who founded the firm. Lee was born in 1972, in Exeter, England – brought to Calgary by his immigrating parents where he grew up. A first born, with two younger sisters. Sir Winston Churchill high school, then off to Mount Royal, then dropping out to focus on soccer. And later, a career in the family business – insurance, married, 4 kids of his own …
Following this summer’s flooding I became involved in planning a Flood Issues panel which I chaired for the Calgary Real Estate Forum in October – and it was in the course of that planning that I first encountered Lee Rogers. I was aware of the firm – I drive by their office building often and see the sign - Rogers Insurance – I thought it was likely owned by a guy named Roger.
Sitting down recently with Lee for this interview proved to be a lesson in focus – which he is. His office is a tad intimidating – feels like a corporate trophy room displaying awards and recognition along with lots of family photos but like most corporate leader offices, I sense he doesn’t spend a lot of time there. Or maybe I just realize you don’t stay that trim sitting behind a desk all day . . .
The firm was founded by Lee’s father. Lee became President there in 2004. He describes his firm’s business today as 70% Calgary, 20% Red Deer and 10% Fort McMurray – with Edmonton next on his radar screen. Growth of the company has been both organic and by acquisition.
Recruiting and retention”, he says, is key in his approach to staff. He’s proud of that TOP60 plaque on the wall, a top-50 employer, talks enthusiastically about the firm. Off 225 employees, 67 are employee shareholders. They have a ‘bring your dog to work’ policy. Seriously? “Yes”. As I exited the premises I was looking for little gates on office doorways … and I wondered how my dog would function in a place where I wouldn’t have to run home at lunch or avoid working late because I had a dog at home needing to go out. Cool idea. He also described a company program of supporting employees to realize their personal dreams. Part genuine, part altruism, part support for people who need a hand and cash to make it happen.
I asked Lee how he sees the market for insurance brokers over the next quarter; what’s the marketplace like for the next 90 days?
… business is good. Alberta is the best place to be. More volatile than other places – diversity of the province, oil & gas, construction, real estate – more things are thriving than are going down. We are building business all the time.
And over the next 5 years?
…. our industry is going online more – customers are initiating relationships, looking for quotes. Insurance APPS, search engine optimization are prevalent. Consolidation is a factor – small firms don’t have the range of products and insurance markets larger ones do. Smaller players need infrastructure and capital. We deal with over 100 insurance firms – with an increasing focus on costs. For brokers, it is all about access to markets – while for the customer it is about better pricing. This comes from better and more data, better risk analysis. Just as brokers are consolidating, so are insurance companies. Some of them own brokerage firms – that is growing. This is, and will continue to be, a very competitive market.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
...trust. Ease of doing business. Not complicated. Quality is more important than price – depending on the end-use. A sense of engaging – when I’m the customer I want to be the most important thing in their work.
What distinguishes you that causes people choose Lee, why do they choose Rogers Insurance – why are you been selected over your competitors?
… trustworthy. Experience. Aggressive. Sense of urgency. I breathe customer service – I’m wired that way.
How would you describe your management style?
... my management style would be described as ‘I don’t consider myself a manager’. That’s not my strength. I have 2 direct reports and 2 indirect reports. I focus on the sales group. I provide help and consultation.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… our ability to continue to grow organically. I’m driven by fear of failure – it’s always around.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my father has been the consummate mentor – we are opposite personalities. He’s taught me patience, to be more detail oriented. He’s a real friend. And, Bruce Rabik, our COO has been an important mentor for me.
... positive about our business. I love doing good work for our clients. Growing the business. Startups are fun!
Work life balance?
… 50 hours weeks, coaching soccer, playing tennis, golf, squash, water skiing, working out
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