Q&A With Millennial CEO And Book Author Rick Lindquist

Rick Lindquist

Millennial Rick Lindquist is making his mark in the business world and enjoying the success of his co-authored 2014 bestseller book, The End of Employer-Provided Health Insurance. Lindquist, in his 30's, is the President and CEO of Zane Benefits, Inc. 

He joined Zane Benefits as its thirteenth employee in 2007. He was promoted to Director of Sales in 2009 and took over as President in 2011. Rick received a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science from Duke University.

Today, he kindly answered questions about leadership, mentors, his book, and Millennials in the workplace.

Q&A with Rick Lindquist, President and CEO of Zane Benefits, Inc.

1.  Which of your leadership skills helped you most to rise through the ranks at Zane Benefits?

Lindquist: Professional will, which is defined in Jim Collins’ famous book, Good to Great. My parents taught me this concept at a young age, and it was reinforced through sports. It’s a simple concept. First, you must do whatever must be done to produce the best long-term results for the company, regardless of how difficult it may be. Second, when mistakes are made, you always hold yourself accountable rather than pointing fingers outward. Professional will and general curiosity are two core leadership skills we look for in team members at Zane Benefits. Curiosity is the sign of a world-changing, great, individual.

2.  How much of what you read in books and on Blogs about how to lead Millennials do you believe is good advice. Why or why not?

Lindquist: I just read The Alliance by Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn. It’s a terrific book about leading all workers (especially Millennials) in today’s workforce. It emphasizes a framework that ensures continuous mutually-beneficial value creation between employer and employee. Today’s workers are more empowered than ever. In order to attract, develop and retain the best people (especially with respect to Millennials) in today’s job world, you must have a plan to advance your workers’ career opportunities during their time with you. Good advice.

 3.  What inspired you to co-author your book?

Lindquist: It was all about empowering the healthcare consumer and small business owners through education. At Zane Benefits, we help small businesses level the health benefits playing field. Our approach is quite different than the traditional approach to company health insurance where the employer picks one plan for everyone. Instead, we enable each employee to purchase their own individual health plan independent of employment and provide a real dollar defined contribution from the company to cover the cost. Contrary to common belief, everyone wins with our solution because the employee gets choice and lower premiums and the employer saves money and removes a significant administrative burden. The book is about sharing our learnings from eight years at Zane Benefits with all small businesses and educating employees on the advantages of individual health insurance.

4.  What was the most difficult thing about co-authoring your book?

Lindquist: It was definitely the timeline. We decided to write the book in July 2014 and had a deadline of November 2014, which is when open enrollment happens for individual health insurance. That gave us roughly four months to get the project done and edited (while also running a fast growing software company). It was hard, but with the help from some key team members (especially Christina Merhar and Michael Dyer), we got it done. It was totally worth it. The emails we receive from readers thanking us for the content are fulfilling.

5.  What leadership skills did you learn while playing sports in high school and college do you use today in the workplace?

Lindquist: It’s funny. I love hiring athletes because high-level sports teach two core leadership skills: professional will and curiosity. Great athletes recognize the need to do whatever is necessary for the long-term interests of the team. And, the best athletes (the captains) nearly always hold themselves accountable versus pointing fingers at teammates. Also, the most successful athletes have learned the benefits of being curious. Curiosity, or asking why and how, is the shortcut to winning in athletics. The same applies to business.

6.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a CEO in your early 30's?

Lindquist: Not sure there are any disadvantages. I love my job. It doesn’t feel like work. I’m so lucky to be able to lead (and be led by) a team of great people who share my number motivation: Zane Benefits’ mission to level the playing field for small businesses.

7.  How important have mentors been to your career?

Lindquist: Huge. I would not be here without them. There are way too many to list. I’m talking hundreds (if not thousands) of people. Other than my parents, the most influential mentor so far has been my partner and co-author, Paul Zane Pilzer. Without Paul’s mentorship and full support, I would not be here today. That reminds me of a funny story about Paul and my first meeting. When I first interviewed with Paul in 2007, I asked him about Zane Benefits’ company health insurance plan because my father had told me: “A good job comes with good (employer-provided) health insurance.” My father’s advice was ignored when I accepted Paul’s job offer and purchased an individual health insurance policy for $57 a month—I am still with the same insurer today.

8.  What's your favorite book about leadership and why?

Lindquist: Good to Great. It validated my core values with respect to leadership style. The best CEOs are Level 5 Leaders which is defined as someone with both professional will and unflinching humility. It also gave me a framework to better lead people way smarter than me. Here’s our version of the framework as we apply it at Zane Benefits. First, get the right people on the bus, then figure out the what. Second, confront the brutal facts of the business. You must do this together. Third, figure out what you are all deeply passionate about, what you can be the best in the world at, and what drives your economic engine. The intersection of these three circles is your BHAG, or big hairy audacious goal, The BAHG forms the basis for your company’s great opportunity. Fourth, create a culture of self-disciplined people who take disciplined action consistent with the big hairy audacious goal. Fifth, use technology to accelerate momentum. And, manage the company toward continued improvement and results.

9.  What's your advice for how best to lead Millennials in the workplace?

Lindquist: First, cancel your group health insurance plan if you have one and give employees money so they can choose, manage and keep their plan when they switch jobs. : ) Seriously though, the best advice on leading Millennials is to recognize that they are not joining your company to be “lifers”. They are focused on building experience and skills toward personal professional goals that develop rapidly as they advance in their careers. The only way to attract them, develop them, and keep them is to “give them the keys” in a structured fashion and work together in a mutually beneficial way. Read The Alliance for more.

Lindquist and his book have been featured on Marketwatch, MSN, Forbes, and Bloomberg. You can follow the him on Twitter.

Co-author and mentor to Lindquist, Paul Zane Pilzer


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