By Jennifer Mayer
Patrick Ryan, the Marriott School of Business” International Executive of the Year recipient, urged graduate business students in a lecture series Friday, Nov. 8, not only to develop business skills, but also communication skills.
“I am a great believer in interpersonal and intrapersonal communication skills,” Ryan said. “Our best leaders are great listeners. A great human need is to be heard.”
As the CEO of one of the top international insurance brokerage firms, Ryan”s company (Aon) employs more than 50,000 employees worldwide.
Aon”s largest office was in New York City. It was devastated when the second airplane crashed into the World Trade Center, Ryan said. Although 1,300 Aon employees were on four of the WTC floors, more than 75 percent made it out of the building safely.
But 176 employees died.
The company”s largest and most immediate concern was communication between the victims” families and the company, Ryan said.
The company eventually responded with an all-extensive insurance coverage plan to cover financial needs for victims” families, Ryan said. Children of victims are now covered until they are 19-years-old; spouses are covered until they remarry.
“It made a huge statement,” Ryan said. “It made people feel better.”
Communication with families was important, but Aon officials realized that the need for communication in time of crisis at any organization or institution is important, Ryan said.
The insurance brokerage firm has now integrated with Rudy Giuliani”s company to school companies and institutions in crisis management, Ryan said.
“After a crisis happens, human loss has to be minimized,” Ryan said. “Economic lost has to be dealt with.”
Ryan said he believes the success of business depends on the people. He admitted that he spends too long with people, but finds that it is the essence of business.
“People is what we are all about,” Ryan said. “We have intellectual capital.”
The largest challenge for Aon is to keep their current employees, Ryan said. As a lucrative field, many business people jump from firm to firm.
“It is just not business,” Ryan said. “The quality of people we bring in is what we are.”
Ryan graduated from Northwestern University. He began his own insurance business in 1963 at age 26.
“My goal was to build a national distribution sales organization,” Ryan said.
Ryan said he was looking for an industry that would challenge him, where the only limitations would be himself.
After struggling for almost a decade, the company went public in 1971, providing more money to the company, Ryan said.
For the first 13 years, Ryan focused on specialization in one specific area of insurance, he said. Eventually the company has expanded into other areas of insurance including medical.
Ryan said the merger with a larger company helped him realize his dream. Aon now has expanded into a decentralized network throughout the world, servicing more than 120 countries.
“It [the merger] is what allowed Aon to become what it is today through a lot of luck and hard work,” Ryan said.