As part of our commitment to delivering innovative solutions and creating a positive impact for our customers, clients, and teammates, we have proudly assembled a leadership team that is rich in both expertise and creativity, as they cast the vision for the future of Brown & Brown Absence Services Group while also developing and executing against our strategies for success.
We are pleased to continue our leadership series by introducing Michael Cleveland, President of Advisory Services. Michael joined the company in 2020 as the President of Professional Disability Associates (PDA), shortly before Brown & Brown Absence expanded its solutions to include those powered by PDA.
Upon joining the team, Michael took on the role of overseeing several of the company’s branded solutions, including Claims Management, Disability Advisory, and Talent Solutions. After spending over 30 years in the absence, group disability, and life waiver of premium space, the expertise and depth of knowledge Michael brings to the organization helps fuel the growth of the business.
Michael joined Brown & Brown Absence at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and was vital in the strategic growth and success of several business services and solutions as the market adapted to its “new normal.” When asked about joining the company at such a tumultuous time for society, Michael confirmed the challenges he faced were mostly related to relocating to Maine saying:
“I think the most challenging thing was making the cross-country drive from Scottsdale to Portland with a partner, a dog, and an aging cat. Finding hotels and places to eat during the height of the pandemic and starting a new life all the way across the country was a little disconcerting. However, my partner Nolan and I always seek to find the humor in things, and we had some pretty good stories to tell after that epic trip.”
We asked Michael to reflect further on his time at Brown & Brown and what he expects for the future of the company. Here is what he had to say:
What is the biggest impact you have had at Brown & Brown Absence?
“I’m a firm believer that leaders don’t accomplish things alone, they accomplish things by surrounding themselves with other strong and capable leaders. It’s all about the team effort. I pride myself on the development of a strong and dedicated leadership team that always seeks to do the right thing by our teammates and customers.”
What responsibilities of your role do you take the most pride in?
“I think it is critical for a leader to develop strong and healthy relationships with their boss, peers, direct reports, and all teammates. I always say that I’ve never been the most creative person. I’m not an artist or a musician. I couldn’t draw a good stick figure to save my life! However, I think I understand people very well and so the relationships that I build are what I take the most pride in.”
What would you consider the be the biggest highlight(s) of your career with Brown & Brown?
“Back to the “creative” comment, one of the things that I like most about being here is the ability to step away from my “operational hat” and put on that “creative hat” that I have always wanted to wear. Taking my knowledge of the industry, the products, and customers has allowed me to work with the team to develop some great new services. Talent Builder is a great example of this. The ability to take our Skill Builder solution and pair it with the staffing component from Avenica has given us something to sell that we believe will be a key asset to carriers who are seeking to staff their claim organizations with top talent in this tight employment market.”
What excites you most about the future of Brown & Brown Absence Services Group?
“Unlike many large companies, we can move quickly and be nimble. I like the adage, “we’re small but mighty.” We need to continue to take advantage of our size and focus our energies on the emerging needs of the market. That’s another reason I’m so excited that Kimberly Mashburn has joined our team. She brings a wealth of knowledge that pairs nicely with the work that we’ve already done to build our brand and expand our products and services to new carriers and new markets.”
You have been working in the absence industry for over 30 years. Do you have any thoughts or predictions about how the absence industry will evolve over the coming months, given the unique circumstances of the last 24 months and the ongoing pandemic?
“Being prepared is always important, but many people never have a “plan B” when things go wrong. I think the pandemic has brought that to light in so many ways. Things like a tidal wave of claims, the move to remote work, and the Great Resignation have been a wake-up call for many. We’re always looking at the pain points that carriers face, with a lens of what’s coming in the future concerning absence. This helps us develop the right products that will address some of the concerns that carriers face as absence evolves. Being the company that provides the “plan B” for the carrier is a great place to be!”
Michael leaves us with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt he found many years ago and has stuck with him throughout his career:
“‘Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.’ I like to add to the end of that, ‘but at least you did the right thing.’ It’s not always easy to do the right thing, but we should always strive to do so!”