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December 21, 2018
Simply put, my role is to engage with customers and prospects that use surety bonds and help them to position their companies to be successful and easily obtain the surety credit they desire. Ultimately, my role is to help support the mission of Parker, Smith & Feek.
Like most people in surety, I kind of fell into it. Nobody knows what surety is in high school, and it’s not like you can major in surety at a university.
I originally worked in the investment business, but after a wrong turn in property management I decided I needed a change of environment and sent my resume off to Safeco in hopes of working for their mutual fund arm. They offered me an interview in their surety department, thinking that I had relevant experience from working with contractors. I said yes, got off the phone, and started looking into it because…truth be told, I had no idea what surety was at the time.
As luck would have it, my initial interview at Safeco was with Scott Fisher (Parker, Smith & Feek Principal, Board Member, and Surety Account Executive). It went really well; Scott does such an excellent job in front of people. It turned out to be the absolute perfect career for me and what I’d been looking for. I fit in well, learned the ropes quickly, and haven’t ever looked back.
Simply put, it’s a guarantee of a contract. In my world, I have concentrated on construction, but there are many different surety bonds available to fit a variety of needs and contractual obligations.
If the contractor does not fulfill their duty to complete a bonded project, the owner of the project will call on the surety bond at which point the surety will step in to be sure the project is completed per the terms of the underlying contract. That’s essentially it.
Surety is a slow moving business; probably the slowest of any other business I’ve seen. Some insurance companies have offered products to directly compete and take advantage of the areas where surety isn’t always efficient. I think that’s a positive, because it’s going to challenge the industry to progress.
The underwriting industry has been extremely accommodating to work life balance. I’ve been in the industry for 19 years, and there’s a lot of flexibility. Working on the agency side of things will be more challenging going forward but I believe I’m healthier when I’m busy doing something I enjoy and working with people I respect, rather than not busy doing something that isn’t feeding me.
My preference is having the flexibility to be able to work remotely. When I think about how service businesses are impactful, the answer is always lies in their people. If you hire the right people, it won’t matter whether they work from home or in the office.
That being said, there is definitely a challenge being as productive when working from home. But, when you factor in time spent commuting, you could argue that it balances out.
I’m virtually unbeatable at foosball. It…isn’t usually a subject that comes up all that often.
Maybe it was not having enough friends as a kid? (Laughs)
In all seriousness, my junior high had a game center with things like ping pong and foosball. We’d go down at lunch and I just…became an expert. I don’t play much anymore. After people play me once, they usually aren’t eager to play me again.
My wife stays at home presently. She’s worked on and off in the car business, but right now with my boys being the age they are, she’s taking care of things at home. We’ve been together for 17 years now. She grew up in the south end [of the Puget Sound] where we live now, which is great because her family is still close by. She’s an absolutely amazing cook, and we’ve learned to appreciate excellent food whether going out to restaurants in the area or just enjoying hers at home.
We have two boys age 11 and 16. They’re both total sports nuts and have played a little bit of everything, whether it’s soccer, lacrosse, baseball…I’ve spent quite a bit of time chasing them around.
A lot of our time right now goes into their sports and school activities. Their school is very family-oriented, so we do quite a bit through them to support the boys and the establishment. We do have a piece of property in Northern Idaho that we try to get out to as much as possible, when we find spare time.
And of course, being a Coug…that’s a big part of our lives too. My kids are absolute nuts for Wazzu. I keep telling them to have an open mind, but they really aren’t interested in supporting any other schools (laughs). We love watching the Cougs and going to the games.
I was always around the water as a kid, so that was probably the place I enjoyed the most. Around Spokane, you can go to a body of water and find peace. Here on the west side, there’s just too many people on the water.
I enjoyed having four distinct seasons as a kid. I used to downhill ski while growing up and I really learned to appreciate the experiences of each separate season.
The biggest driver that I have is that I truly want to help people. I think that’s probably pretty similar to others in this business. I’ve found that, if I can help put people in a better place, I tend to find myself in a better place too. I’ve gotten to the point in my career where that’s definitely the focus, as opposed to just trying to make as much money as possible.
I don’t think I have a good answer…I didn’t have aspirations of being an astronaut, or a firefighter, or a baseball player, or anything like that. My earliest memory was wanting to be in business. Early on, I was attracted to banking and stock broking because of the money. I actually did do some banking in college and became a stock broker for a while, but neither of them turned out to be the careers I thought they would be. Luckily, those experiences helped guide me towards this industry.
Spending time at our Northern Idaho property. I grew up there, so it has a special place in my heart. There’s a different pace of life out there, and that’s something I’ve learned to appreciate. When I came over to the west side after college, I never thought I’d look back. But over time, you start to understand the appeal of a small town lifestyle. I feel like my family has the best of both worlds.
I have to go back to what I said earlier about it being so slow moving. It just needs to be more flexible and progressive. It’s hard for companies in this business to take the first step because the downside can be catastrophic. We are starting to see competitive products challenging the industry to adapt.