Risk Management

The Profession

Sandra Little of the Bar-S Foods Co. talks about the diligence needed to prevent product recalls and the fascination of people-watching.
By: | November 2, 2015 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?


My first job ever was for the Newark Star Ledger. I used to deliver papers in the morning before school. I was probably about 12 years old.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

I was working in the liability claims area in New Jersey and Delaware for ESIS, a TPA that is part of ACE. Then when I came to Arizona I worked for a couple of excess and surplus insurance companies in the claims area. I just got to the point where I was looking for a change but wanted to be able to use my claims skills and risk management seemed to be a perfect fit.

R&I: Where did you start out?

My first risk management position was with Elizabeth Arden Spas, where I began working in 2006. I stayed on until 2013.

Sandra Little, manager, enterprise risk, Bar-S Foods Co.

Sandra Little, manager, enterprise risk, Bar-S Foods Co.

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

I think we’re creating visibility for ourselves by demonstrating vision and value. In my view, risk management is the blending of science and art. You’ve got to be creative in how you approach everyday challenges, but then you have to translate information into concrete numbers to provide to the financial side of the business, again establishing value. That is really a great part of what we do.

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

I think we could do a better job at establishing support and purpose for risk management education at the university level. There are some programs out there, and I think we could do more to promote existing ones and to create new ones.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

Being in the food manufacturing business, we are always very aware of contamination issues. We’ve seen a lot of recalls this year with a variety of different things involving produce, ice cream, hummus and more. I think that the risk management community and insurance industry must remain diligent in efforts to maintain effective supply chains and distribution channels.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

The one I have the highest opinion of is the one that responds when I have a problem. Our organization is so large and complex that when I have a problem I need someone who can address the scope of what my risk is. It could be AIG, or ACE, Travelers, Liberty or virtually any commercial insurer that has depth and resources.

112015_profession_sidebarR&I: Are you optimistic about the U.S. economy or pessimistic and why?

I’m going to say optimistic. I’m generally a “less regulation” person, so I think if companies had the benefit of having less regulation, in a general context, we could be doing even better.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Actually many of the people I’ve met through RIMS have been mentors to me. But I want to particularly mention two women, the first being Lynn Lovell, who has been a mentor for me since I entered the risk management community. She is a risk manager and an educator and does a lot of in-person and online teaching. I would also mention a woman by the name of Jackie Wanta, who is a construction account manager for broker Lovitt & Touché. I met her through Lynn and she lives down the street from me so we spend a lot of time talking about industry topics. She is also a former president of the “Big I” (Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America) here in Arizona.


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

I have two things to mention: I trained for and ran a half-marathon a few years back. It was one of those things I just thought I’d never be able to do. Also the completion of my MBA. Those two things really gave me the ability to understand that I could accomplish whatever I wanted and that led me to the place I am today.

I like this work because it’s different every day. You don’t know what’s going to happen or the challenges you’re going to be handed on any given day.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

There is a steak house here in Scottsdale called City Hall. I really enjoy that restaurant because the food is simple but so well done that it’s exquisite.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

I really had to think about this one: It’s my morning coffee! After that, its probably water. But I just love the experience of coffee in the morning.

R&I: What is the most unusual or interesting places you have ever visited?

I haven’t travelled too much outside of the United States, so I would have to say Times Square and Las Vegas. In both places, particularly Times Square, you just see every range of person in just about every point in their life, with every type of emotion that you could imagine. It’s just fascinating to watch those people.

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

Inviting two of my nieces to move in with me when they were trying to launch their careers after graduating college. It’s so important to have a mentor and a support system at that stage since it will impact the rest of that person’s life. I took that vocation very seriously because I was aware of how I could impact these girls.

R&I: What do they do now?

One is about to become a senior accountant for a company called SilverRock. The other is an accounting assistant for broker Risk Placement Services in Scottsdale.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

At the risk of sounding cliché I think it’s the military, the police and the firefighters. These people put their lives on the line every day and yet are so humble, and ask for so little in return.


R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I like this work because it’s different every day. You don’t know what’s going to happen or the challenges you’re going to be handed on any given day.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

I don’t think they know what I do. They do know I am a great reference for insurance-related questions, but unless they are industry people, I don’t think they know what I do.

Janet Aschkenasy is a freelance financial writer based in New York. She can be reached at [email protected]

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]