Local hockey great transforms success on the ice rink to the insurance field

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Rough … tough … gritty … even violent. That may describe Barry Richter’s professional sports career, but there’s little of that Brutus-like stereotype now as he leads nearly 70 employees at Hausmann-Johnson Insurance. As president and principal, Richter, 44, is passionate about the company he leads, as well as the family he has created.

Sports runs in Richter’s blood. His father, Pat, was not only a UW football star who set the Rose Bowl record for catches in 1963, he also served 14 years as UW’s athletic director. Barry, on the other hand, was drafted by the Hartford Whalers during his junior year of high school. He later won accolades for his play on UW-Madison’s hockey team before going on to play for 15 years in the NHL, the AHL, the Swiss League, the Swedish Elite League, and the 1994 U.S. Hockey Team.

Richter recently sat down with IB to discuss his career and his transition from ice to insurance.

IB: It’s a long way from professional hockey to insurance. How did that happen?
I had been interning at Fish & Schulkamp, a local insurance agency, during my off time, and when I finally retired from hockey in 2008, I was asked if I’d like to join the firm. I didn’t make millions [as as a hockey player], but I made a decent living. Financially, I still had to work. I wanted to work.

IB: But insurance?
I never intended to go into insurance. I thought insurance was Ward Cleaver knocking on your door at 5:30 at night and selling you a policy. When I started getting into it, though, I realized that it’s a great business that’s all about relationships. You meet with CFOs or business owners and find ways to help them manage their risk. You learn so much about different businesses.

IB: What qualified you for the H-J job after just two years in the industry?
For 15 years, I was learning management: how to deal with people, being the captain of a team, negotiating contracts — things you don’t learn in a classroom. And I have a great management team around me here. I know my weaknesses and my strengths, and I listen. There are so many similarities between sports and business. Vince Lombardi said it’s not about whether you get knocked down, but whether you get up and learn from it. Same thing in sales.

IB: You came to Hausmann-Johnson in 2010. What changes have you made?
The culture has always been great here, but now we’ve taken it up several levels in terms of openness and communication. I meet with everyone every two weeks. We talk about business or more personal things, or maybe employee awards or particular achievements. I want to make sure everyone knows each other. We have fun here. The staff hangs out after work. We still have the Hausmann-Johnson family values instilled in our culture.



IB: What’s your biggest challenge?
Generating new business is always a challenge. We continue our steady growth, and 2014 was one of our better years. We have a nice foothold, but we need to tell that story better.

IB: What makes you a good leader?
I listen. I learned in hockey that there’s always someone better and smarter than you, but if you listen, you can pick things up to make yourself better. Our younger staff members might want time off rather than a bonus, for example. It’s important to know that.

IB: What advice would you give business owners about risk management?
They should view their insurance consultant as a trusted advisor, just as they do their CPA or attorney. Employee benefits is number two in terms of expenses, behind payroll, and protecting assets are big decisions. We are not a commodity.

IB: What might people not know about Barry Richter?
I’m getting inducted into the Madison Sports Hall of Fame in June. That’s a big deal. I remember going to my dad’s induction in 1976 as a 5-year old.
Also, I like everything in terms of music. I took my daughter to see Justin Bieber at the height of his career. I took one for the team on that one. My first concert was Kiss in 1978 at the Coliseum. More than 30 years later, I took my son to see them. It was great! I missed my buddy’s wedding because I went to a Guns N’ Roses concert, and he didn’t find out until 15 years later!

IB: What advice do you give your four kids?
There’s always someone better, someone better looking, someone richer. I learned that in sports. Just work hard, be humble, be happy, and enjoy life.

IB: What would your dad say about you these days?
He would be proud that he raised his family right. When I was playing hockey, he kept asking me, jokingly, when I was going to get a real job. But he treats people the same no matter who he talks to. It’s a quality we both share. We’ll talk to anyone. It’s a Richter trait.

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