“5 Things You Should Do To Become a Thought Leader In Your Industry”, With Rick Fox of Vertafore

Yitzi Weiner
Feb 4 · 10 min read
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As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rick Fox. Rick is the vice president of agency associations and networks at Vertafore, where he serves as a liaison for agency associations, clusters, and aggregators to ensure they and their members have the right technologies, systems, and policies in place to drive success. Prior to joining Vertafore, Fox served as senior vice president of sales and marketing and chief revenue officer at Agency Revolution before being named president in 2017. He was also a successful independent agency owner, having built his brokerage from scratch and through acquisitions before exiting the business in 2009.

Thank you so much for joining us Rick. Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

Over the course of my career, I’ve developed the knowledge and expertise to solve problems unique to the insurance industry. I enjoy sharing this expertise with other professionals in the field so that we can tackle these issues together and improve the industry as a whole.

I have a unique background; in that, I was an agency owner way before I was in InsurTech. Having worked on both sides of the desk gives me perspective on what challenges are out there. I’ve been featured in many publications and speaking engagements to discuss InsurTech’s role in customer experience, data-driven solutions and the entire insurance distribution channel. I’m proud to be the host of the Vertafore Insurance Podcast (VIP), an insurance industry thought leadership podcast, where I have a weekly conversation with some of the brightest people in the industry. The goal of the VIP is to get information and executable ideas out to the masses. I am an evangelist for the independent insurance channel and these opportunities have given me a platform to discuss the topics that are most important in the ever-changing insurance landscape.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I can say without a shadow of a doubt, the most interesting part of my career was the journey from being a startup independent agency all the way through 6 acquisitions and finally an exit.

It was such a learning experience to grow a business organically, and then bring on new agencies and blend those agencies with the existing business. The most intricate components were: Culture, market preference, process, and tech stack. I learned so much through this part of my career, and this definitely shaped who I am and why I’m passionate about being a thought leader in this space.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

While working at Vertafore, we went onsite to visit a larger client. I brought one of my new reps with me to shadow the experience. We spent the majority of the time talking about operational efficiency in the agency and ways to help streamline their process. One of the main topics was how that agency handled certificates of insurance, better known to us insurance folk as “certs”. My new hire had a confused look on his face when we got to the car after the meeting, so I asked him what was on his mind. He said he really enjoyed the meeting but was confused about why we spent so much time talking about breath mints (certs….).

We had a good laugh, I explained to him what certs were short for and we laughed some more. The lesson I took from that: As the industry changes, and more and more outsiders — whether that be tech people or new-to-the-industry humans — insurance has a language of its own. It took that meeting about certs for me to realize that so much of this industry is unique. Slowing down to pass on historic knowledge to newer people is crucial for the next generation’s success.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is? How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

Thought leaders offer insights as experts in their specific field or industry. When others can harness your insights to benefit themselves or their company, you’re providing thought leadership.

Leaders motivate others to act towards achieving a common goal for an organization, while an “influencer” is usually someone who has a large following and uses it to motivate others to make a purchase decision. Thought leaders don’t encourage anyone to make purchase decisions — we help people tackle problems without plugging our product or company. We express our thoughts or beliefs and encourage others to think or act that way because we believe it will positively impact our audience. Thought leaders don’t lead a specific company; we lead the industry conversation, which can ultimately have the biggest impact. I have to include a shameless plug: take a listen to the Vertafore Insurance Podcast, and I guarantee you’ll hear thought leaders delivering great information and direction to all.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader? Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

Even if you’re already an established industry expert, becoming a thought leader further bolsters your influence as a trusted knowledge source in the space, as well as the company you represent. It builds your credibility as a person of influence helping to move your industry forward. If there are certain issues that you want the industry as a whole to be more open about, or if you want to challenge the status quo and shed light on a new topic, it gives you a platform to start the discussion.

Becoming a thought leader also opens the door to new networking experiences. When I speak at insurance industry conferences, when I host my podcast, or when I am a guest on other podcasts, I meet other industry experts that I can learn from. It’s a great way to network with colleagues and potential customers who are looking for solutions to the problems you’re solving.

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

The insurance industry is family. I have been around insurance for many years and have an incredible amount of information in this big head of mine. I feel a responsibility to the industry to share my experience and put it into the hands of people it can benefit. As a thought leader, I get the opportunity to get into great conversations with others that I can learn from and with those who can learn from me.

As a thought leader, you’re also getting your company’s name in front of other industry professionals. By contributing your expertise, you’re also meeting your potential customers where they’re at — in the search for solutions to their problem. Finally, you don’t want your competitor to be the one dominating industry conversations, so it’s important to represent your company by speaking on relevant topics.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

  1. Speaking Opportunities — speak at key industry events to have your voice and opinion heard, and develop new contacts at the conference. I was speaking at an event in Las Vegas and was approached after I got off stage with an opportunity to speak to a much larger audience at a different event. So, one of two things happened. Either 1) My content was informational and helpful, or 2) they asked everyone else, and I was the only person left they hadn’t asked.
  2. Podcast — If you truly want to be a thought leader, this is a great avenue for that. Identify and speak on several podcasts to establish authority and engage with new audiences, and when you’ve established a position of thought leadership, host your own! Most of you have heard of the Connected Insurance Podcast, powered by Agency Revolution. I created that podcast because I knew there was a need for thought leadership, and that has become one of the most successful podcasts in the industry. Now, being at Vertafore, our new podcast has been received so well by the industry. So much great content and dialogue!
  3. Contribute articles to industry trade publications — frequently write contributed content for industry trade publications on trending topics the insurance industry is facing. At first, I would reach out to publications. You know you’re doing something right when they start reaching out to you for content.
  4. Comment on trending news — offer your thoughts and opinions on trending issues in your industry that the news is currently covering. You can share your thoughts through personal or company blog posts, social media, or by reaching out to journalists and bloggers offering them commentary. I love to write blogs and comment on other blogs. Some people that I count as friends have come from simple comments on others’ blogs.
  5. Be active on social. Having conversations and opinions on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram is a great way to get your thoughts out there. Make sure to self-promote your articles, podcasts, and interviews! I have seen my following on LinkedIn grow a lot since I’ve made a concentrated effort to “be in the conversation.”

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

The names that instantly jump into my head, from the insurance industry, are people like Ron Berg and Ryan Hanley. Although Ryan has left the industry, he is still doing his thing in a different space. Overall, I’m a big fan of Brendan Burchard and Simon Sinek.

What makes thought leaders like these impressive is their tireless work ethic to share their thoughts and experience. Couple that with the deep knowledge and expertise they have, and you have the recipe to becoming a great thought leader.

The lessons I’ve taken from them:

  1. Commit to it, stay involved, stay active with your thought leadership
  2. Find peers and help each other help the masses, and
  3. Be genuine

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

Thought leadership isn’t just a buzzword phrase — it’s an important step in showcasing your expertise and brand in your industry or on a specific trending topic. The term “thought leader” may seem like an overused term to some, but it still carries a legitimate meaning. You’re helping others in your industry learn and grow by sharing your knowledge, and that makes you a true leader.

Frankly, call it whatever you want. The folks who use their knowledge to influence others in a positive way know they’re helping and will continue to advance their industry.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Love what you do, and be passionate about helping others. That genuine approach will help you in your journey. If you love it, burnout isn’t on the roadmap.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY! The insurance industry is widely known as a slow-to-adopt industry. Technology is here, the consumer has changed, now it’s time to embrace technology.

If I could snap my finger like Thanos in Avengers and all insurance people would instantly be ready to EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY, wow. That would be something.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Simply put, outwork everyone. The best thought leaders got to where they are by believing something as simple as this and then presenting it in a digestible way for people to follow.

In business, with my kids, or in coaching — starting with hard work is the best possible foundation. My work teams, my kids, the teams I’ve coached, and even myself know that if you work as hard as possible, good things will come.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

I would love to have a cup of coffee with Tony Robbins. He has helped millions of people, and you can tell he enjoys what he does. Tony is the hardest worker in the room!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rickfox888

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rick-fox-03226ba4/

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film…

Yitzi Weiner

Written by

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Yitzi Weiner

Written by

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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