TAMPA -- Attitude over aptitude. The insurance industry does a terrible job at telling its story. And it’s OK to make mistakes, as long as you’re in a mindset of failing forward.
Those were the management takeaways and industry ‘’gems" shared by Trevor Baldwin, the CEO of Baldwin Risk Partners, who was the guest at Tuesday’s Conversation with a CEO event hosted by the USF Muma College of Business.
About 100 people attended the 90-minute discussion held at the USF Health Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation in downtown Tampa. The one-on-one chat with Baldwin was the first Conversation with a CEO event during the 2023-2024 academic year. The event was led by Interim Dean GJ de Vreede.
Baldwin, 37, is married, the father of two young boys, and an alum of Florida State University. He has served as CEO since May 2019. In 2009, he joined the family company after working at a private equity firm.
He talked about leading the company in 2019 to a successful initial public offering. The company raised $229.6 million when it debuted on the Nasdaq. It was one of the largest IPOs of a Tampa-based firm in several years and the first commercial insurance brokerage to go public in at least 15 years. With over $1 billion in valuation, the company became a unicorn.
Baldwin said the family didn’t set out to build a company to go public, adding that they even pulled the plug from a potential IPO in January 2019 before working 24 hours a day for six months for its October IPO.
“We were setting out to build a forever company,” he said. Overnight, the company grew from about 400 employees to having 4,000 employees.
De Vreede asked about experiencing growing pains from the explosive growth and about lessons learned.
“We’ve made lots of mistakes along the way,” Baldwin said. “Number one, surround yourself with really talented professionals — deep experts in their craft. That enabled us to scale the infrastructure.”
“Number two, make it OK for people to make mistakes, so long as you’re in that mindset of failing forward,” he said, adding that his tenure at Baldwin Risk Partners felt like they were building an airplane while it was getting ready to take off on the runway.
Baldwin also shared his thoughts on other topics:
On what surprises him about his job: “I have a front-row seat to clients’ success.”
On the biggest misconception of the insurance industry: “What is most misunderstood is the inherent social good. We traffic in insurance claims, all day, every day. Without insurance, homeownership would be beyond the reach of most Americans. Insurance pays out billions each year for everyone to make them whole. Insurance is just misunderstood from that perspective.”
On what he looks for when hiring for talent: “Attitude over aptitude. There’s just no replacement for individuals who want to lean in. You’ve got to do things without being asked. You’ve got to lean in. Be a team player and collaborator. There are no short cuts.”
Baldwin also talked about why it was important for the company to partner with USF and the Muma College of Business. In 2022, the company donated $5.2 million to name the Baldwin Risk Partners School of Risk Management and Insurance.
He said the gift was more than writing a check. It’s about creating the next generation of workforce ready insurance professionals and building their own pipeline into their business.
“One of our core stakeholders is our community,” he said. “We’re a talent business. We trade in our know-how and our expertise. Our ability to partner with USF enables us to further all those areas.”