Column: Roger's Soapbox

Dressing for Success

By: | September 2, 2014 • 3 min read
Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

Attention, insurance types. You are about to receive critical information on how to propel your career in an upwardly direction. This is your time. Seize the moment.

Until now, you have doubtless been appearing for work in suitable attire. You wear a dark suit when meeting clients, an open-necked shirt or blouse when working in the back office, jeans on Friday. In the modern business world, however, this marks you as a non-achiever.


Open your mind to the case of Dov Charney, founder, chairman and CEO of American Apparel. Starting with a $10,000 loan from his father, Charney built a fashion empire with 250 outlets in 20 countries. No small achievement, but perhaps you feel you could have done something similar.

Could you have done it by attending a meeting entirely naked save for a sock, not worn on your foot?

For one thing, the sort of behavior that would have the likes of you or me locked up is quite acceptable if everyone’s making a buck off it. For another, naked is the new black.

Could you have toured your back office wearing only your underpants?

Could you star in your own advertising, lounging around with a couple of largely naked chicks (or dudes) attending to you?

And could you have engaged in sex while talking to a reporter? Charney reportedly did all of those things.

See what I’m saying? Your staid and sensible manner is what’s holding you back.

To reach the C-suite, you must cast aside your inhibitions, and while you’re at it, your clothes, and show the world what you’re made of.

Go on, do it now.

Unfortunately, this story does not end well. (Nor will yours if you start hanging around the water cooler with your privates on parade, in case you were about to embrace the idea.)

Economic conditions since 2007-2008, plus the ever-shifting sands of fashion, made American Apparel’s $50 T-shirts somehow less attractive. Sales collapsed. Debts soared.

In 2013, the company lost more than $100 million. Its share price went from about $14 in 2008 to $0.64 at this writing. The emperor, it seems, had no clothes.

The board swung into action, although why it waited until its shares had lost 95 percent of their value to remove Charney as chairman and CEO has gone unreported. It looks to be all over for the self-confessed “dirty guy.”

What lessons can we learn from this debacle, other than the need to let a little air into your everyday dress code?

For one thing, the sort of behavior that would have the likes of you or me locked up is quite acceptable if everyone’s making a buck off it. For another, naked is the new black.


The company’s advertisements were generally considered to be of amateurish quality, poorly lit and unevenly staged, with a sort of “sexting” look to them.

Publishing such images, by the way, has steadfastly been resisted by the management of this fine publication, despite the massive boost in sales that would doubtless ensue. The truly shocking aspect of this unlikely story is that this ebullient, outside-the-shirt thinker Charney is Canadian.

Excessive behavior from an American? Of course.

Wacky and unpredictable goings-on in an English boardroom? Not unheard of.

But a Canadian wearing underpants in the warehouse? The mind reels.

Nothing, it seems, is sacred any more.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]