by Gordon Nary
Gordon: Where did you earn your JD and what was the most challenging course that you took, and why was it so challenging?
Dennis: I went to Western State University College of Law and graduated from the Fullerton, California campus. Challenging courses? All of them. I went to school while working 50+ hours a week, attending classes in the evenings and weekends. It took 4 years vs. a 2.5-3 year daytime curriculum.
Gordon: While I want to ask you a few questions about your business background I am particularly curious about The Catholic Collective charity you are currently establishing. Can you tell me about The Catholic Collective’s mission?
Dennis: Gordon, I am very happy to tell you what The Catholic Collective is about. First of all, I established it as a 501c3 in early 2021 and it will be once it is launched as a destination website for all things Catholic. The problem the Collective will solve is the ability for anyone interested in searching the Internet for Catholic content, they should be able to find it in the Collective. A friend of mine calls it the “Library of Congress for Catholics”. Through the Collective, Catholic Foundations, and as many Catholic organizations, Catholic bloggers, and content providers already on the Internet, will be able to be accessed through the Collective’s website.
We are experiencing an explosion of Catholic digital content on the Internet, but how does a Catholic, or someone who wants to find out more about Catholicism sort through the ever increasing volume of Catholic websites to find the Catholic content he or she is looking for? The Collective will use mobile digital technologies, such as aggregation technologies and knowledge management software to build searchable content directories. We will also develop communication channels with the content providers, we call “Catholic Collective Allies”’ to provide 2-way communications between our Allies and Subscribers.
The value proposition for our Allies, such as charitable foundations, will be the ability to promote their foundation and their missions more widely through their Collective profiles and advertisements through the Collective. The same will be true for other Catholic Allies in the Collective, particularly for the SMB Catholic organizations in the greatest need for funding and market reach.
The value proposition for Subscribers is that the Collective will simplify their search needs. Once the Subscriber likes to view certain website favorite sites, they can pay a subscription based on a bundle of sites, like subscription levels that one can find in cable TV channels. The Collective website doesn’t require you to pay a subscription that includes websites they are interested in. For example, on my Frontier cable system I don’t listen to music on Frontier but know that in some way I am paying for those channels anyway. The Subscriber will only pay for what sites they want to connect with on a continuous basis.
The Collective also helps every Subscriber and Ally to increase their level of evangelism of the Gospel and the Catholic Faith. Once the Collective is formally launched, I can see how the Catholic Collective can become a new parish ministry for those parishioners who want to share the Word to others. Also think of it this way, the Collective is utilizing an “Ecosystem Social Media and Business Model” which emulates a similar market growth approach I developed for CaseMed Solutions.
Like any charity I need funding and human resources to accelerate the Collective in the market.
Gordon: Can you elaborate on what an Ecosystem Social Media and Business Model is? I never heard of that.
Dennis: Yes. An Ecosystem Social Media and Business Model is like Facebook and LinkedIn and how they grow their business. Consultants may classify it as an “Integrated Network Economy”. You may never have thought of this, but everyone has an ecosystem of family, friends and business relationships and their family, friends and business relationships also have similar ecosystems.
So, at CaseMed, a Colorado-based nurse case management company, as its acting COO (through my DBCLink consulting business) we have created a new company called The InsurHealth Affinity Group, LLC. This utilizes the ecosystem business model. We are reaching out to other case management companies, claims TPAs, healthcare providers, law firms and foundations to join the “Affinity Group '' as equity and associate members to help all members grow exponentially on a national business plan.
The value proposition of the Affinity Group to its customers and business partners is that the Affinity Group members share their resources across the country, in a shared revenue model, to provide “holistic” healthcare and financial support for the injured individual. Our passion is to support injured patients. Our business model helps all Affinity Group members to grow nationally and at a lower cost of operations.
Gordon: Wow, this is interesting. Let’s look back to your earlier business experiences to see how you arrived at the business models you are now using. When did you work at Union Bank and what were your primary responsibilities?
Dennis: Good idea. I have found that God has helped me learn through all of my earlier experiences, good and bad, by peeling back the onion of Christian understanding and direction in life. It started when I was 8 years old and playing outside my house. When I got tired, I would lay down on the ground and look up at the sky, watching the clouds overhead and trying to see images in the clouds. One day when I was cloud gazing, I heard God speak to me. He asked, “Why did I create you?” That phrase has stayed with me all my life and I keep peeling back God’s onion of wisdom every day. It certainly has helped with my work life and family life.
Union Bank was my first real job. The funny story about being accepted by Union Bank was that I was trying to get employment in Northern California, and I called the father of a former seminary classmate because he told me during my college seminary stay that I I ever wanted a job to call him.
As the story goes, I called him from Santa Clara, CA, and he was in Los Angeles. I told him about my predicament, and he asked me to hold, and he would come back on the phone. When he came back on the phone call, he introduced me to the Union Bank head of HR. That person asked me how much I needed to make and foolishly I said $500/month even though I should have asked for $1,000/month. So, like my classmate’s father, I was put on hold. When he returned, he told me to report to the Union Bank branch in San Jose and report to the Operations Manager.
I had no banking or economic courses in college. Nevertheless, they hired me under their marketing budget to be that branch’s Head Teller, which the current tellers had to train me. Yes, a chauvinistic hire, but we are talking about the early 1970’s.
I learned my responsibilities quickly and when I wanted to start my legal education the bank graciously transferred me to southern California to their branch bank in San Diego. After a couple of years there I interviewed with the Operations Manager at Safeco in Fountain Valley.
Gordon: What did you enjoy most working for Safeco Insurance?
Dennis: I have to say that when I went to the Safeco Fountain Valley office and sat down with the hiring manager who was the Operations Administration Officer, we chatted in the lunchroom when the other employees left after lunch. I was considered by the HR manager who interviewed me before I interviewed by the hiring manager that I was a good candidate who had a Bachelor of Arts degree and had worked at a bank. The hiring manager and I had a very comfortable discussion, but his last question was dangerous to answer. He said, “do you drink?” In my mind I was thinking I may be considered to replace someone who drank to excess. My answer, “I like to have a beer every once and awhile.” He laughed out loud in acceptance as he said, “that’s good because I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t drink.”
The Administration Officer was technically the best operations manager in the world and I learned a lot from him. After 11 months at Fountain Valley, he asked me to consider a promotional move to Safeco’s home office in Seattle, Washington. I was at a crossroad because I could work for the Chief Legal Officer at our office or make the transfer. I chose the transfer because in California at the time, an attorney would make little money and in my view it would take me 10 years to be able to buy a home for my wife and daughter. It was the best decision because when I arrived in Seattle, I was able to purchase my first home in the first month I was there.
My role at Safeco was to be a National Systems Coordinator working in Operations and interfacing with all departments of the company. That is where I first learned about how to create business solutions with technology. After the first year I was known as someone “who could get things done.” Some successes were:
Developing a National Insurance Coverage Solicitation to Safeco’s insureds. The surprising results of the campaign produced the highest ever increase in premiums for the coverage – a 21% success ratio.
A free form print solution for the state of Minnesota who regulated an “Easy to Read” policy for their constituents. Before that the company only had forms printing (“fill in the box”) processes that were expensive to produce. It turned out that this one change changed the entire forms printing in the company significantly reducing print and IT costs.
There was a new way of rating vehicles in auto insurance that the underwriting department was launching and I project managed the IT development with IT. It was a new trend in the industry and because I was the program manager for operations, Safeco filmed me doing advertisements for the new rating.
The final successful program was designing and teaching Automation Coordinators and Agents on a new technology to produce insurance policies for the company.
While I was in line to become a Region Administrations Officer and only making $25,000/year, a friend of mine at Cigna Property & Casualty (a merger between Aetna P&C and the Insurance Company of North America (INA)) and mover me to the CIGNA office in Minnesota.
Gordon: What were your primary responsibilities as Director of Operations & Finance at Cigna Insurance Company?
Dennis: I didn’t start out as the Director of Operations & Finance because my friend first made me the Claims & Customer Services Operations Manager in Minnesota. After 11 (long months as I would say) in Minnesota I was promoted to The Operations Manager at the Seattle Office which was one of the worst performing CIGNA offices in the country ranking 70 out of 71 offices.
As most mergers or acquisitions go, in the Seattle CIGNA office the former INA managers were chosen to run the business over the Aetna managers. That presented cooperation challenges in the office and in large part why the office had poor performance when I arrived. I was perceived more as an INA manager, but nothing could be further from the truth. Long story short, I made many operational changes and within 1 year my team was able to increase results to win the “Best Operations Improvement” award moving the office into the top 5 of CIGNA’s offices. That positioned me for a promotion to Eastern New England Regional Office as the Director of Operations and Finance in Boston.
Our first born son was only a couple of months old when we made the move. We stayed in Massachusetts for 5 years before leaving CIGNA to join Unisys. However, the Boston office was divided culturally just like the CIGNA Seattle office. The Aetna underwriters were in one downtown office and the INA claims organization was in another and they operated as two separate organizations in every way. Oh, and we had a sister office in New Hampshire. Animosity was obvious.
As luck would have it, CIGNA Home Office Real-estate wanted to move to a collated office building. Again, the culture differences raised challenges. One wanted to stay downtown Boston and the other to move to a suburb. As the primary officer to develop a collocation strategy, a plan was developed to determine which of 4 locations everyone wanted to move to. The suburban office, which was brand new and right of the Red Line, won. After the initial grumbling everyone loved the new location and like the Seattle office operations improved dramatically. One specific award during that time was that we won a companywide Non-Admitted Assets award for the best improvement collecting premiums from agents.
Gordon: What are you proudest of while you were Industry Marketing Consultant & Practice Leader at Unisys?
Dennis: I arrived at Unisys in Detroit just after Burroughs and Sperry merged to form Unisys. And yes, the culture wars existed there too. However, Unisys was predominantly a technology hardware product company competing mostly with IBM at the time. I was hired to help marketing understand how to sell to the 300 mainframe clients they acquired because of the merger. At that time, I was the only “insurance marketing” guy in the company. While the company was headquartered in Pennsylvania and they hired an experienced and successful insurance managing consultant from a Big 4 consulting firm, I had a free range in my work for the first 4 years at Unisys.
What I taught Unisys was how to become services and solution consultants to their customers by transitioning their insurance sales reps away from just hardware sales to services. At the time Unisys at best had 10% of their sales in services. This is because competing against IBM and other hardware vendors was difficult and Unisys needed another approach to become successful. So I trained a few good sales reps in services consulting and worked with them talking with their insurance clients.
The few good sales reps and I over a 5 year program doubled services revenue and managed the services revenue over 10% and much better at the time than the other service offerings than the other Financial Services bread and butter products they were selling. Consultative selling was only just beginning when I was at Unisys but became the trend internationally not long after.
Gordon: What were your primary responsibilities as Technology Practice Leader at Towers Watson?
Dennis: When at Unisys I formed a business relationship with Tillinghast Towers Watson, now called Towers Watson. Unisys management wanted me to move to Pennsylvania as they were downsizing the Detroit operations and it would have been another promotional move. However, for family reasons, I turned down the offer and applied at Tillinghast. They had just gone through a customer survey that told them they needed IT consulting and Risk Management services. I was hired to develop an IT consulting practice.
The strategic plan was for the actuaries at Tillinghast to work with their clients to introduce the IT Consulting group to them. We had some successes like getting Tillinghast involved in a $10 million ongoing project with an insurance entity in the West. But the actuaries were very parochially protective about sharing their clients with anyone about anything. So, I moved on.
Gordon: What is your fondest memory when you were Managing Principal at Steckler Associates Consulting LLC?
Dennis: I developed the Steckler Associates Consulting which then was renamed as the Steckler Group in developing a consulting business focused on helping clients develop business and technology solutions. To be brief, let me describe some of my major client relationships.
Dillon Kane/STA Group – I was hired to assist a Dillon Kane consulting group in Chicago to support the company with their largest insurance company client in developing business architecture for technology solutions. This early consulting engagement led Dillon Kane to develop a new business called STA Group that expanded into a much larger business and technology consulting firm.
One of my major assignments was helping a rehabilitated insurance company in Rhode Island replace its policy writing and claims systems into modern computing and processing systems through strategic planning and project management – an 18 month project
AON Risk Services – I was hired to become the primary insurance Broker and Client Relationship Manager for an international conglomerate to develop a fee-based risk services program for this manufacturing company client. As a result, doubled the client’s revenue for AON from $1 million in commissions and another $1.5 million in fee for service revenue.
iGate (formerly Patni) is an Indian based technology services consulting company. I was an AVP assisting the management team with its US insurance industry clients. India doesn’t have insurance companies as they exist in the Western world, so it was part educating the iGate sales reps and working with them on client services.
Exigen Services – Exigen was a Russia owned company that had presence in Europe and wanted to expand its Software as a Service (SaaS) technology services in the US. Exigen was one of the vendor systems that we deployed in the Rhode Island engagement. I was hired to co-manage the project.
Return on Intelligence – This was a start up consulting firm that wanted me to be an insurance consulting partner. We have very little traction in the market which led me to depart for NIIT Technologies.
NIIT Technologies – Like the iGate assignment, this was another India technology firm that was in need of someone who could work with them to enlarge their insurance industry market. Like iGate, I assisted the management team and sales reps on solutioning and sales support.
All of these consulting assignments led me to leverage the Steckler Associates business into buying a Surety processing company in California called InsurVision Technology (IVT) and renaming Steckler Associates into Steckler Group because from the purchase of IVT we separated the surety business into what was called SuretyWave and its IT support into Digital Business Creations.
SuretyWave was the most modern surety processing software system in the industry and was the service vendor for the most insurance agents and brokers and the distribution channel to insurance companies writing surety bonds. The success of the company and its position in the market led to selling the company (December 2020) to a French surety company wanting to become a larger surety entity in the US market with designs to expand into Latin America. I was the CEO and COO for SuretyWave.
What I enjoyed most about serving as SuretyWave’s CEO was that we were able to get into a niche business and serve a great number of customers while developing value added features for the customer base.
Gordon: When and why did you found and serve as CEO of Digital Business Creations and What was its mission?
Dennis: Since we didn’t have a sufficiently resourced IT staff at the purchase of IVT we created Digital Business Creations (DBC) to be a consulting firm that would engage third party IT companies to support our digital transformation of the SuretyWave business. Because we had the DBC company listed in our SuretyWave agreements we agreed to change the name to DBCLink so that current SuretyWave clients didn’t reach out to us instead of the new owner.
Gordon: You currently serve as CEO at DBCLink. Can you share what you are doing at DBCLink today?
Dennis: My partner and I work with two different clients. The company I focused on was CaseMed that I mentioned before working as their acting COO to develop a revenue growth strategy utilizing an ecosystem business model.
Gordon: Thank you for a great Interview.