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Kimberly Wilkerson recognized as part of Women Who Mean Business

Kimberly Wilkerson is recognized as part of accomplished group of women business leaders.  Read the story here:  Women Who Mean Business

 
Third-generation CEO Wilkerson steers agency to vibrant future

October 4, 2013
  Reporter- Kansas City Business Journal

Ryan Wilkerson understands the term “trial by fire.” He became the third-generation CEO of Haas & Wilkerson Insurance in 2004 after his father passed away unexpectedly. He was 28 and had worked there full time for only about five years. But he leaned on employees and grew into his new role. Today, he’s transformed the 76-year-old business into a modern, vibrant company on a strong growth path.

How did you keep the company going while you were grieving the death of your father?

Those first couple years, I was dealing with the loss of my father, and the business was dealing with the loss of its leader. I was promoted into a position by our board of directors that, frankly, I wasn’t ready for. I had no experience as a CEO or president and had to learn my way. The great part was that we have an amazing staff with a lot of great leaders. They rallied around me and helped prop up the company to keep it moving forward while I figured out the estate stuff and learned my role.

What experience did you have coming into your role as CEO?

This is a third-generation family business. My grandfather founded the business in 1937. I’ve been around it my whole life.

I like to tell people that my insurance experience really goes back to age 6. I’d go to Royals games with my grandfather on one side and my dad on the other, and they would talk business over my head the entire time.

My dad took me to trade shows when I was 12 years old. He bought me a tie and put me in the trade show booth with the rest of the staff. I’d see him interacting with the clients, and that’s how I got to learn about the festival industry and its special risks and service needs. He’d bring me along on the road, and I learned a lot, but I also got to occasionally go on the rides. It was fun, but at the same time I was learning the business.

In high school, I started doing copies and mail room work. On and off during college, I’d come back and work during the summers. I pioneered an intern program here where they used me as the guinea pig. I learned all different aspects of the business. ... So when I came back after college, I had a good feel for what the business was all about.

When you became CEO, what was your focus early on?

One of our major focuses early on was technology. My father had not done a good job investing in new technology. So we reinvented the entire platform for our office. We bought new software and hardware for the business and went totally paperless. We did that in the first couple of years.

That spurred the renovation of our building. I think something like 20-30 percent of our floor space was taken up by file cabinets. Once we got rid of those, we had a lot of open space in a building that we owned since 1982 that had never updated. So while we were trying to update the business and come out with a new vision, we had a very 1982 style in here. It was gray and burgundy in 1982-style furniture, drop ceilings and bad fluorescent lighting. It just didn’t fit our vision for the company going forward.

How is the business different today?

When I took over, our sales force wasn’t really active in the Kansas City market. We’ve always been known as a program agency, and we’ve got niches where we insure outdoor entertainment like fairs and festivals. But that has always just been half of our business. The other half was focused on regional businesses in the small and middle market. We also had personal lines for home and auto. But we haven’t been focused on growing that segment in a long time. We haven’t hired salespeople in a long time. We really haven’t been focused on our brand in the local market because we do so much business nationally.

So we recognized that there was a big opportunity to do more business in Kansas City. ... We really needed to leverage that to grow our operation.

It was almost like we treated it as a startup business. We hired a bunch of new people and brought in some new leadership for our local practice. Now we’re really focused on trying to grow that segment. We’re out there actively looking to work with locally owned, middle-market, commercial businesses.

What do you like best about the job?

I love the hunt and the win. When I took over the business, it was mature. It wasn’t a really dynamic, exciting sales organization. We’ve changed that. We’re out there creating opportunities, and we’re growing again. I think that’s fun. It’s fun to see the entire team share in that success.

I also love visiting with clients and solving their problems. We’re a professional service organization, and I want us to be considered a part of the key consultative team for a business. If there is a situation where risk is involved, I want to make it as painless as possible for our clients to protect themselves.

 
Ryan Wilkerson Introduced as NextGen Leader

The future of the Kansas City area’s businesses and community organizations is in great hands.

Judges for the Kansas City Business Journal’s inaugural NextGen Leaders class spent hours poring over applications and debating the qualifications of those applicants. Difficult as it was, they were able to agree on 25 winners.

NextGen Leaders is not a program that ends with someone being presented a plaque. Rather, that’s just the beginning. This program is designed to celebrate the accomplishments of the honorees, but also to give them exposure to the present generation of area leaders and help them build connections with each other and with future NextGen classes.

To read Ryan Wilkerson's introduction to NextGen, click here: Ryan Wilkerson NextGen Leader

 
Ryan Wilkerson joins inagural class of NextGen Leaders!
Meet the inaugural class of NextGen Leaders 

The future of the Kansas City area’s businesses and community organizations is in great hands.

Judges for the Kansas City Business Journal’s inaugural NextGen Leaders class spent hours poring over applications and debating the qualifications of those applicants. Difficult as it was, they were able to agree on 25 winners.

NextGen Leaders is not a program that ends with someone being presented a plaque. Rather, that’s just the beginning. This program is designed to celebrate the accomplishments of the honorees, but also to give them exposure to the present generation of area leaders and help them build connections with each other and with future NextGen classes.

We’ll tell you more about our NextGen Leaders in a special supplement that will appear in the June 14 print edition of the Kansas City Business Journal. But, without further ado, here is the NextGen Class of 2013:

Christian Arnold — principal, Clockwork Architecture + Design

Jessica Bishop — CEO and founder, Klink Mobile Inc.

Michael Collins — CEO, Port Authority of Kansas City

Jackie DeSouza — CEO, Lee’s Summit Medical Center

Julie Donelon — CEO, Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA)

Katie Dunn Fitzgerald — senior wealth consultant, Mariner Wealth Advisors

Cameron Garrison — partner, Lathrop & Gage LLP

Ashley Z. Hand — chief innovation officer, City of Kansas City

Larry Jacob — CEO, Dover Strategy Group

Courtney Kounkel — founder and partner, Centric Projects

Tondee Lutterman — partner, BKD LLP

Mark McClendon — executive director-technology, VML

Tom Mitchell — principal, marketing leader, DLR Group

Alana Muller — president, Kauffman FastTrac

Sarah Osborne — actuarial director, Lockton Cos.

Jim Rine — president of Kansas City region, UMB Bank

Angela Salmon — senior vice president, EFL Associates Inc.

Ryan Schneider — senior vice president, Jones Lang LaSalle

Rachel Sexton — COO, VPR Cos.

Tucker Trotter — president, Dimensional Innovations Inc.

Angelo Trozzolo — president, Trozzolo Communications Group

Shanelle Varone — managing director of major gifts, Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics

Matt Watson — CEO and founder, Stackify LLC

Matthew Weaver — principal, Power Group Cos.

Ryan Wilkerson — CEO, Haas & Wilkerson Insurance

 
Haas & Wilkerson becomes title sponsor of Accelerent Kansas City

November 1, 2012

Haas & Wilkerson Insurance has agreed to a multi-year commitment to become the title sponsor of Accelerent Kansas City.  Haas & Wilkerson will be the primary sponsor of the group, which provides an innovative environment for local businesses and their leaders to build meaningful relationships and grow their companies.  Together Haas & Wilkerson and Accelerent share the goal of increasing visibility and activity within the Greater Kansas City Area.  To meet the goal, Haas & Wilkerson plans to explore ways the group can expand into even more civic and philanthropic projects in the Kansas City region.  “I have high hopes for this initiative and believe that over time our efforts will not only have a great impact both emotionally and financially on our community and our companies, but will also create brand awareness for Accelerent thus driving positive results for our organizations,” said Ryan Wilkerson, President and CEO of Haas & Wilkerson Insurance.  “We are very pleased with this partnership,” said Ross Passantino, Market Director – Kansas City Region.  “Clearly, Haas & Wilkerson is a great fit for us, they understand our model and I’m very confident that all of our Kansas City Partners are as excited as we are about having them lead the group.”

 About Haas & Wilkerson:

 Founded in 1939, Haas & Wilkerson Insurance is an independent insurance brokerage based in Kansas City.  They provide insurance solutions to organizations throughout North America.  Many know them for their specialty and niche insurance products, such as insurance for amusements, fairs, festivals, rodeos, waterparks and youth sports.  The firm also offers expertise in standard commercial insurance, life and health insurance, personal insurance lines and employee benefit products.  Haas & Wilkerson Insurance support services include risk management, third-party administration, claims and loss-control services.

 About Accelerent:

 Accelerent is an exclusive business development platform designed to serve the middle market business community.  Every partner company is exclusive to its business category, and Accelerent brings them together in a variety of environments to build new relationships and generate new business.  Accelerent provides training, tools, strategy and support to generate measurable results for its partners.

 
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