Lifestyle Personal Lines the July/August 2022 issue

Bill Johnson, Founder, Chairman & CEO, The Liberty Company Insurance Brokers

“I want to be getting out of bed with passion every day because I love what I do.”
By Chris Hann Posted on July 19, 2022
Q
I’m pretty sure you’re the only insurance executive I’ve interviewed who has also produced movies with Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, Keanu Reeves and Nicole Kidman. You founded your business and ran it successfully for 16 years, and then you go to Hollywood and produce movies. Why?
A
I got to a certain point and started looking around for role models, trying to understand what the next phases of my life were going to look like. I just thought, when I get into my 50s, I want to be getting out of bed with passion every day because I love what I do. And that meant it needed to have a creative component to it. At that time—I was living in Los Angeles—that translated into doing the film producer transition, and I decided to head down that path.

Favorite vacation spot: The Maldives (“It’s just heaven on earth. They have these little buildings that are built on stilts over the water, and it’s the most insane water you’ve ever seen.”)

Favorite movie that he has not produced: The Matrix

Favorite actor: Brad Pitt (“I just think he never sold out. He’s remained the biggest star who’s just truly a character actor.”)

Favorite musician: Stevie Nicks

Favorite tennis player: Jimmy Connors. (“He was my favorite when I first started playing as a kid. He was number one in the world, and I wanted my backhand to be like his.”)

Favorite author: Eckhart Tolle

Favorite food:  Chile rellenos

Q
After leaving the movie business, you went on a trip around the world for a year with your wife and kids.
A
It was a year filled with adventures. A random Tuesday would be a day of hiking three hours deep into a cave and finding ancient ruins of sacrifices and all sorts of crazy stuff in the jungle of Belize. We spent some time in the U.S., in Colorado and New York City and upstate New York and Chicago, and then we headed down into Central and South America. We bounced around Mexico and Guatemala, Belize, up and down Argentina, Brazil, Easter Island, and then over to Bali for a month over the holidays. And then Bhutan and Japan for a month during the cherry blossom season. And then Morocco, and then Paris and London, the South of France. We could have gone for another two to three years easily.
Q
Were there lessons you learned producing movies that you were able to apply when you came back to Liberty in 2018?
A
I had raised $800 million of financing for the different films that I produced. So I learned a lot about the world of finance. As I was coming back into Liberty, and now focusing on scaling Liberty, my ability to navigate around the capital markets and figure out what was best for Liberty was greatly enhanced by that experience.
Q
Culture is important at Liberty. What distinguishes it?
A
I put a lot of thought into it. We ultimately settled on eight core values. I like eight because it’s a sign of infinity. The first value is integrity. And then excellence. Then the next three go together because they’re feeling oriented, and those are caring, kindness and fairness. And then the last three go together because they’re people oriented, and those are teamwork, good feelings, and fun. When we introduced these values in this mission statement, the shift was palpable. When this cultural shift happened, that’s when the company just took off.
Q
And you think there’s a correlation?
A
There’s no question in my mind.
Q
Give me the summary pitch about Liberty.
A
We’re currently about $150 million in revenue. And I expect that we’ll finish the year north of 200. It’s been an incredible journey. We’ve gone from 50 employees to about 750 employees, and I expect we’ll be over 1,000 by the end of the year. We’re about 60% commercial lines, 20% personal lines and 20% employee benefits. And we’re focused on feeling good.
Q
How would your co-workers describe your management style?
A
I’d like to think they would describe it as one based on servant leadership and collaboration and upliftment.
Q
If you could change one thing about the insurance industry, what would it be?
A
We’re changing it, which is focus on truly caring for our people.
Q
What gives you your leader’s edge in this industry?
A
I think the fact that I operate this business as a spiritual practice. It’s my opportunity to give service. It’s my opportunity to inspire. It’s my opportunity to make other people’s lives better.
Chris Hann Associate Editor Read More

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