Texas Roadhouse’s Risk Manager Talks COVID-19, Continuing Education and a Pandemic Risk Insurance Act

Texas Roadhouse’s Patrick Sterling shares his risk journey, from his days split between HR and risk, to today, where he is working diligently with his whole team.
By: | March 14, 2021

R&I: What was your first job? 

Well, I mowed lawns during the summer and that was down in Louisiana. So it was pretty brutal. And I did that before I got my first real job, which was at McDonald’s.

R&I: How did you come to your current position? 

I was recruited to Texas Roadhouse by a longtime friend, Mark Simpson. Was 17 years ago. And when he was recruiting me, told me he didn’t have the budget for me to be full-time on the HR team.

So he asked me to split time between HR and managing the insurance and claims program, which at that time, was in its infancy. And that was the beginning of my risk career.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in risk management and the insurance industry since you’ve been in it? 

I would say the evolution of the risk management profession from just a role that manages insurance and claims to being a key advisor within the organization.

Risk professionals now play a critical role in helping our leaders become aware of risk. And it allows them to make more informed decisions, set and adapt goals, develop new strategies, and to innovate.

R&I: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?  

It has to be this past year. Keeping employees safe, keeping the business moving in the right direction has certainly been a challenge more this year than any other year in the past.

Now with that, every challenge creates an opportunity. And as challenging as this last year has been, it’s created a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the value of good risk management.

R&I: Who has been your mentor(s) and why? 

Yeah, I have quite a few. I have a group of folks that I use as a sounding board and I like to call them my personal advisory board. But there are a couple that stand out and one of them is Chris Duncan and he’s currently the COO at Decisely.

Chris is a former chief risk officer with Delta Airlines, and he has one of the most brilliant minds at risk management. He helped me when I started with Texas Roadhouse, to create the strategy on how to build a top-flight risk program.

Chris has this amazing ability to take the complex and make it seem simple and he has a passion and energy that has shown me that risk management can be fun. He’s been really influential.

In addition, Scott Colosi. He’s retired president of Texas Roadhouse. He was the CFO when I started and helped me build our risk program here. He’s been an amazing partner, a supporter and an advisor.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right? 

I would say we’re not settling for what’s been done in the past. Risk professionals around the world are doing a better job, not just communicating the value of risk management, but demonstrating how it can impact revenue generating opportunities; support innovation, and allow organizations to grow both in market share and globally.

We continue to take major strides in elevating the profession by helping business leaders make better decisions; and improve the organization, and enable it to emerge stronger.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of? 

We need to continue to develop ourselves as professionals; strengthen our skills, and do whatever we can to stay informed of best practices. Growing our brand as risk professionals is also very important.

Personally, I’m going to be getting my RIMS CRMP certification this year. But I’m a strong believer in continuing education. And when it comes to managing our risk programs, horizon scanning’s something we can do a better job at.

Pandemic risks for example, were not new. It was on our radars. But many were not prepared for the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. I think we all need to reassess and really map out a plan for a lot of ‘what if’s.’

Now this isn’t an easy task and many risk professionals might not know where to start. So leaning on your network is always a great option. And if you need help building that network, there’s no better place than RIMS.

R&I: How would you say technology has impacted the risk management profession? 

Well, technology provides better data which helps risk professionals provide better insight about current and future challenges and also opportunities.

So with better information, business leaders can make better, and more informed decisions. In addition, the increase in availability of real-time data has also helped the speed of decision-making and analysis too. We can see what’s working and what’s not, quicker.

This has been exceptionally important this year, the pandemic. That said, I don’t think the profession has fully taken advantage of technology. This is an opportunity for us.

At the RIMS annual conference, you can visit booth after booth of technology vendors that can help make your job easier. This year the conference is virtual, but there are already over a hundred exhibitors lined up. It’s amazing what is out there for us to use.

R&I: How can the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act (PRIA) help businesses and the insurance industry recover from the pandemic?

PRIA is all about future pandemics. So it’s about building confidence and protecting our businesses and employees. And for the insurance community, it would provide a financial backstop for the worst-case scenario. But I would say PRIA’s all about future pandemics.

Now this is a global issue. RIMS continues to work with elected officials and insurance partners around the world and other risk management associations. And, you know, for RIMS, it’s critical that the insurance consumer’s perspective is incorporated into a final solution. Really at the end of the day, RIMS promotes that a public private partnership is the best solution.

R&I: What’s your favorite book or movie? 

Well, I love comedies and anytime Caddyshack comes on, I have to watch it. It never gets old for me. And for more recent movies, I really like The Hangover. That’s one that I have to watch every time as well.

R&I: What is your favorite drink? 

Having lived in Kentucky for 17 years, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for good bourbon and I enjoy it straight over an ice ball.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of? 

I would say my most important job in life is as a parent. And I’m a very proud girl dad, and my three daughters are absolutely amazing. So that’s in life.

At work, I’m most proud of my teams and my team leaders. They’ve always performed at an exceptionally high level, but this past year they took it to another level,  what we like to call Legendary!

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you’ve ever engaged in? 

So I took a tandem jet ski ride with my youngest daughter. It was a good day, so we went out into the Gulf of Mexico and we said ‘Let’s go look for dolphins.’ And we thought we found them, because we saw some dark figures swimming quickly underneath us. We were scooting around, jumping waves, ‘Hey look, even more dolphins.’ And later we found out those weren’t dolphins, they were sharks. So I’m just really glad we didn’t tip over. &

Courtney DuChene is a freelance journalist based in Philadelphia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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