November 2012

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live in a man's world Insuring dreams for the futureJack Salzwedel By Emily Bradley Jack Salzwedel vowed never to go into insurance. Growing up with a father who worked as an agent for American Family Insurance, he thought he'd seen enough of the industry. But after nearly 30 years with American Family, Salzwedel—now chairman and CEO of the Fortune 500 company—wouldn't dream of doing anything else. He's clearly found his niche. Starting as a claims adjuster in 1983, he quickly rose through the ranks to his current role. Now he's the man driving American Family in new directions. With the company's recently opened DreamBank, an interactive flagship store that's part innovation lab, part brand-testing station and part model agency, Salzwedel hopes to inspire community members to realize their own dreams—even if they don't involve insurance. Tell me about the DreamBank. How does it tie into American Family's goals? The whole concept is about going after your dreams, realizing your dreams and doing the hard work that it takes to get there. And at the end of the day, what American Family would like to do is pro- tect those dreams, whether it's a car, whether it's a home, whether it's a business or protecting your kids after you're gone—certainly life insurance is a part of it. We'll protect the dreams that you have. But it comes from the core values of American Family, what we've been all about for a long time. And it's about 100 feet away from where American Family origi- nally opened its doors back in 1927. We opened it on Oct. 3, which was our 85th [anniversary], so there's a nice story to be told about the very modest beginnings of our organization and where Dream- Bank sits in the middle of that. What's the best thing about working in the insurance industry? Being able to help people when they're at their most vulnerable. When a tornado goes through Joplin, Mo., or a wildfire in Colora- do devastates an area, to go in there and take these people who have lost just about everything and being able to make them whole—it's a great part of the business. It's a side of the business most people don't see. How does working in an industry that regularly deals with natural disasters and human tragedy impact you? My father was an agent with American Family, so I kind of grew Quick Questions with Salzwedel What do you attribute your success to? Good mentors. I've had the good fortune of having people who've been great leaders with me along the way. 28 What's one of your favorite Madison activities? Have a burger downtown at The Plaza Tavern. What's the biggest perk for American Family employees? Work-life balance. What's the best part of your job? Being able to help people succeed. up with this. But it can be pretty stressful for people. After the Jo- plin tornadoes, we spent a fair amount of time with the agents and employees who were there. Those agents who live there are insuring their friends or a person they're on a softball team with—and the next day these people have nothing. We take seriously that this has an impact on our employees' lives as well. American Family is well-known for its philanthropy. How does charitable giving fit in with the company's mission? The bottom line on that is we're trying to build a community here in American Family, and we're trying to help the communities where we operate. How does it feel to be the caretaker of American Family's long legacy? We view ourselves as the stewards of what's been built. We're do- ing things differently than we've done in the past but trying to maintain the strong values that we've had in the organization for a long, long time. ••• BRAVA Magazine November 2012 Photo by Sarah Maughan

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