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Employee Spotlight: Mike Burns

Parker, Smith & Feek Employee spotlight, Mike Burns | Benefits Account Executive | Spokane

How would you describe your role at PS&F?

My role is to drive our brand awareness in the eastern part of Washington state to employers. Parker, Smith & Feek is such a high-quality firm and offers exceptional service, so I just need to carry that flag as far and wide as I possibly can to find clients that are a right fit and keep them happy. 

You’re from Portland, Oregon originally. How did you come to live in Spokane?

I left Portland at 17 and never looked back. I went to the University of Washington – I come from a long line of Huskies, including my brothers and sisters, so I think I was destined to go there. I actually knew opens in a new windowDwight Jarvis in college, and we both got jobs in the same industry after graduation. 

Later, though, I was working on my MBA in Alaska, and had fulfilled about half of my credit requirements when my employer told me that they needed me back in Washington – it didn’t matter where in Washington, I just needed to return to the state. 

I started researching universities to transfer to. I didn’t really want to go back to UW since I’d already gone there, and I checked out Western Washington University a bit…but Gonzaga really caught my eye. I’d gone there for a recruiting trip and thought, “What a great place, there’s bike trails everywhere and this awesome river running through town, and you can buy a beautiful house for a quarter of what it would cost in Seattle…” I ended up going, and that’s what brought my wife and I to Spokane originally.

Nine months after I got my MBA, my wife and I sold our house, put our stuff into storage, and booked a ticket to travel the world. Well…the ticket was for September 20th, 2001. Obviously, we didn’t get to take that trip. So we bought a camper van instead and spent a few months driving all over North America, and when air travel was feasible again, we went around the world.

We came back, lived in Phoenix for a while, and then a job at a third-party administrator brought us back to Spokane. Three kids and 15 years later, we’re still in the same house.

Mike and his family taking a family picture on grass

What’s made you so passionate about the insurance industry?

Healthcare is super expensive no matter how much money you make, and our system is challenging and confusing to navigate. Even just trying to figure out how to book an appointment to see a provider can be a real undertaking. I really enjoy that my role is to provide great value to healthcare consumers – whether that’s financially, or just by guiding them to the right care options. For something that is such a huge expense and takes so much time, I am glad that my role is to help.

What is the most valuable advice you ever received? 

Attitude is everything. If you have a positive outlook, you’ll make your own destiny happen. If you have a poor attitude, you’re not going anywhere in life.

Mike and his family atop a mountain peak in skiing gear

Do you volunteer with any organizations or charities?

I do – at times it feels like too much! I’m a volunteer ski patrol at opens in a new windowMount Spokane on both the alpine and Nordic sides. Thursday nights, I keep the mountain safe. My kids are hardcore Nordic skiers and my daughter, Bridget, is nationally ranked, so I spend most of my weekends on the Nordic side, driving snowmobiles, grooming, and doing a lot of different things.

I’m also a race director for our local area, helping put on a junior national qualifier race every year for the opens in a new windowPacific Northwest Ski Association. I’m the liaison for the Spokane region and have to be certified as a United States Ski Official. You have to do several hours of safe sport training because you work with kids and take them on trips, so that’s a really important requirement.

I also sit on the State of Washington opens in a new windowWinter Recreation Advisory Committee as the Eastern Washington representative. Whenever you buy a Sno-Park permit, that money goes into our program and I’m responsible for allocating that money for the East Side. We try our best to be good stewards of the state money and ensure that the winter experience is great for everyone.

Do you have any role models?

My family. Specifically, my brother – his work ethic at everything is focused and intense. He’s a very generous person. My wife is the foundation of our family, and her stability and commitment to excellence is why everyone in our household is successful. She takes care of our home, and it is a 24/7 job that deserves way more praise and appreciation than it regularly receives.

And finally, my kids who’ve taken a difficult situation with COVID-19 and turned it into a positive. They have worked to become better as students, musicians, and all-around people. The pandemic has made us realize we really like being together all of the time.

Selfie at the top of a mountain peak

What’s something exciting going on in the employee benefits industry?

Healthcare is an industry that works best when it’s local, personal, and relationship based. An exciting development I’ve seen is to make healthcare more direct for consumers through a collaboration between employers and providers to create clinically integrated networks. It allows these groups to share information more readily, so patients can receive care closer to home and providers can access all of their health information and make better decisions. I think that trend is going to continue, and employers will continue to partner with health delivery systems directly and provide a better, more holistic understanding of the patients they’re serving.

Just having an open choice of any healthcare network is not always the most cost-effective way to go about finding the right care and doesn’t provide a very efficient way to understand a patient’s data. Sharing data in today’s age of technology shouldn’t be so difficult, so we need to be doing a better job of coordinating that. Setting up these networks is going to continue to drive better outcomes and better quality of care and reduce costs along the way.   


Where are you from? Portland, Oregon

Family? Wife, Kate; daughters Bridget (16), Charlotte (14), Annika (10)

Favorite vacation spot? New Zealand and Patagonia, Argentina

Favorite movie? An Officer and a Gentleman – my brother-in-law was in that one

Favorite restaurant? Park Lodge and Trattoria Italia

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