Alan Jay Kaufman is chairman, president and CEO of independent wholesale insurance brokerage Burns & Wilcox, as well as Kaufman Financial Group, its parent company. He recently answered SmartBrief’s questions about leadership, continuing education and other issues in insurance.
How would you describe your leadership style?
It is framed from a variety of experiences. I learned a great deal from my father, the late Herbert W. Kaufman, who founded Burns & Wilcox in 1969. I find that my work ethic, leadership style and entrepreneurial spirit are complemented from years as an attorney in private practice.
My father built Burns & Wilcox into a nationally recognized wholesale broker and underwriting manager. When I took over the leadership of the company, my focus was the future growth of Burns & Wilcox and the Kaufman Financial Group. We expanded internationally and added other leading companies that deepened our expertise and made us more globally competitive. (read more…)
Innovation has for years come from designers and marketers, from the creators of new products. The top innovation consulting firms all spring from the roots of building new products. “Most innovative” lists are populated by … well, Apple is always first … then comes a predictable list of companies that make cool products: Nike, Samsung, etc.
But today’s new generation of innovators knows that innovation is no longer limited to the domain of companies who makes things you can see and touch.
The clothing retailer Urban Outfitters, for example, has grown from under $500 million in revenue to nearly $3 billion over the past ten years. Not only does the company consistently grow faster than the competition, they are also significantly more profitable.
I asked the CEO to explain his success. He seems to have a secret formula. Why aren’t competitors copying him? He gave me four reasons:
- While his main competitors want to appeal to a broad customer base, Urban Outfitters cares only about one: college students.
Disney has many businesses, but one of its most successful is in cruise ships. They’re popular and make money. Cruise ships in general are also problematic when it comes to environmental impact, as they are not fuel-efficient and create pollution in the air and water. How much? The Environmental Protection Agency in 2008 estimated that a single cruise ship, each day, produced the following pollution, according to The Daily Green:
“21,000 gallons of sewage
One ton of garbage
170,000 gallons of wastewater from sinks, showers and laundry
More than 25 pounds of batteries, fluorescent lights, medical wastes and expired chemicals
Up to 6,400 gallons of oily bilge water from engines”
Cruise ships haven’t lost favor with consumers, they won’t be outlawed, and they won’t voluntarily quit. But they can improve their environmental footprint and efficiency. One company that’s done this is Disney, which scored highest in a report card from Friends of the Earth last year for its efforts in sewage treatment, water quality, cuts in air emissions and improvement from two years prior. (read more…)