Mike Roche, The Alliance

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Mike Roche, director of business development, The Alliance.
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What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

The biggest reward I get from my job at The Alliance is helping employers control their health care costs; getting a handle on one of their biggest budget items allows them to use that money to reinvest in their business and employees. Getting feedback from employees on how we saved them a thousand bucks on an MRI is a reward that doesn’t get old. One of the most challenging aspects of my job is seeing employers wasting thousands and thousands of dollars by simply not educating their employees; if you equip your employees with the knowledge they need and show them how they can save money, they will absolutely take advantage of those opportunities — it just takes some time and effort.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

My grandfather, Orville Froh. He came from humble beginnings and through hard work and perseverance he was able to build a couple successful businesses. After selling those, he and his wife, Isabelle, bought a small set of fishing cabins on the Mississippi River and ran those for many years. He exemplified the phrase, “There is no substitute for hard work.”

What has been the high point of your career so far?

Hands down, joining The Alliance. I spent the bulk of my career with CUNA Mutual and embraced the cooperative philosophy. One of great things about the credit union movement is how they work together. There was a sharing of best practices, and the leaders of individual credit unions would meet to discuss how to make all of them successful. I have found the same thing at The Alliance. We can connect employers who have similar challenges on very specific topics and work together to solve them. Knowing that there is always a willingness to share ideas and help others succeed by the employers who work with The Alliance makes it easy to come to work every day.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Read a lot more. Not just industry-related materials either. Find information on any topic that you have even a slight interest in — you never know if those things will spark deeper learning from within. When you explore new ideas and understanding, they can lead to some pretty great places.

What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

There are a wide variety of things to do in Dane County. It’s true that there is something for everyone in this area. Whether you enjoy being outdoors, talking and engaging in politics, watching college sports, or viewing live music, we have many of the great elements of larger cities without all that big city traffic!

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

I love to grill. Quite honestly, our grill never gets put away. Whether it’s steaks, seafood, or burgers and brats, I would rather throw it on a grill than prepare it any other way. One of my favorite go-to menu items is fresh salmon prepared on a cedar plank.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Watching hockey. It doesn’t matter if it is the pro or collegiate level or a team of 8-year-olds, I’m a die-hard hockey nerd. I coached the sport for many years and truly miss teaching the game to kids. When I was at a former employer, I always scheduled my trip to Minnesota so that I had an overnight — that way I could catch a couple of high school games while I was there.

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