The Right Connections
From her co-worker Eric Lardy’s perspective, one of Michelle Bennett’s most winning traits is her ability to build relationships and use them to strengthen risk management.
“One of her advantages is that she really knows how to create personal networks. And that’s something that I didn’t have to foster; it’s innate with Michelle.
“She created good and strong relationships throughout the company,” said Lardy, a senior vice president with Phoenix-based Cable One.
As the sole risk manager for a cable company that was spun off from Graham Holdings in late 2015, Bennett was smart to focus on relationships; she was going to need them because she faced a host of challenges.
One of her first challenges is that she inherited a risk management program that she knew she’d have to make adjustments to if it was going to better fit the new operation.
“What I inherited was your Dad’s size 50 suit and you are a freshman in college and you wear a 32,” she said.
Banking on her relationship skills, Bennett set about identifying strategic partners that were going to be able to help her streamline Cable One’s risk management approach.
Eventually that meant changing brokers, but Bennett was thoughtful and diplomatic in making that change. She had to know when to make a move and when to stand pat.
“The challenge is in knowing when to play that card and when to sit back,” she said.
Bennett’s changes worked, she cut premium costs from the company and added to net income as a result.
She also faced a vendor relationship challenge. Cable One serves populations in underserved areas like Mississippi and Idaho. Making sure vendors are financially viable and can deliver needed services was a key concern.
So, again using her relationship talents. Bennett began the process of educating various business leaders throughout the company on the need to vet vendors in order to avoid credit and supply chain risks.
“What I inherited was your Dad’s size 50 suit and you are a freshman in college and you wear a 32.” — Michelle Bennett, director of risk management, Cable One
Initially it took some time for department heads to understand what Bennett was driving at. But in the end, the process helped the business units understand the “why” of the perceived risk, as well as the importance of demanding certain coverages and endorsements before approving a vendor.
“For me, that’s half the battle,” Bennett said. “If you can explain the ‘why,’ then the buy-in is going to be easier.”
In essence, Bennett, operating as a one-woman risk management department, is bringing culture change to her entire company.
That includes the concept of enterprise risk management, which she is in the process of implementing at Cable One.
“She is bringing to us a more formalized vision of risk,” Lardy said. &