Collins gave some of the best years of his career to Palmer & Cay, a prestigious commercial insurance brokerage firm based in the American South. Dubbed “The Ship” by those closest to it, the 135-year-old company was both successful and highly respected in the industry. When first hired as one of three people in the Atlanta office’s benefits division, the author learned that they only had $90,000 in annual revenue on the books. Fifteen years later, through the hard work of his dedicated team, that number had climbed to $10 million, and the group had ballooned to forty-eight staff members. As the division’s Senior Vice President and Managing Partner, Collins was in a comfortable and satisfying position. Then, in the span of just two years, The Ship sank.
In Collin’s analysis, the first sign of trouble on board the Palmer & Cay came in the form of new, outside leadership at the helm. Other personnel changes soon followed in this captain’s wake, and these junior officers, like their skipper, brought with them ways of doing business that were often at odds with the ones that had kept The Ship afloat for over a century. Excessive spending and aggressive expansion combined with poor decision making quickly caused the once sturdy company to flounder.
In a well-written chronicle of events that reads like a novel, the author offers up a candid, no-holds-barred account of Palmer & Cay’s dreadful demise. Collins is not afraid to name names nor to place the blame for the company’s downfall on the shoulders of those he finds responsible. He maintains a good pace throughout the book with short, well-constructed chapters that explore specific subjects with enough depth to inform the reader but never bog down the narrative. Engaging, insightful, and obviously heartfelt, Collins cautionary tale of corporate collapse is a must-read for business leaders.
Reviewed by John E. Roper
Recommended by The US Review of Books
Collins story exemplifies the importance of business leaders understanding and adopting the philosophy of servant leadership. A managerial approach incorporating servant leadership may very well have avoided many of the decisions which appear to have caused the failure of Palmer & Cay
Reviewed by Arn Rubinoff, Attorney and Adjunct Professor, Georgia Tech Scheller College
An outstanding read on every level. The story of Palmer & Cay’s change strategy (both poorly conceived and badly executed) was made dramatic and vivid by the author’s insider view and obvious love for his company and colleagues. He provides the reader an emotional bridge and genuine feelings of loss and betrayal that are rarely found in non-fiction business books. As a consultant who worked with the company during this change process, I can attest to both the accuracy of Mr. Collins’ depiction of the sinking of Palmer & Cay and to his depiction of the deep feelings engendered by that loss. Palmer & Cay was a uniquely superb service organization that understood it’s customers and it’s markets as well as any brokerage firm in the industry. Despite the changes in the regulatory climate and the challenges the insurance industry was facing, it’s quite likely that Palmer & Cay could have continued to thrive and grow with it’s focus on regional leadership, it’s remarkable talent level, and it’s unique servant- leadership culture. However, the banality of it’s motivations for change, the arrogance of it’s new leadership and the speed of it’s demise all make up a cautionary tale for the modern CEO. Mr. Collins final chapter alone is an MBA level discourse on leadership and the critical importance of corporate culture in successful business today. I loved this book of Business.
By Richard Fortieron June 23, 2017