Deena James is the President of Krueger and James Insurance Agency, an insurance firm that specializes in commercial insurance, though offering a complete portfolio of services – from personal insurance to risk management.
Krueger and James is licensed and bonded in 15 States throughout the Southern and Midwest region of America. Deena has worked her way up the insurance industry ladder the old-fashioned way, with hard work, grit, and determination.
Starting in the file room at Krueger and James after graduating high school, Deena worked herself all the way up to CEO of the company. She is passionate about the insurance industry and now boasts 30 years of hands-on experience. She holds a CIC (Certified Insurance Counselor) designation and a BBA in Management and Accounting, which she earned at the University of Central Oklahoma.
Deena has won a number of awards, including the 2013 Women Who Mean Business Award from the Kansas City Business Journal.
Deena leads a full life, sharing a wonderful home life with her husband, three children, and seven grandchildren.
LXCouncil: Tell us a little bit about your 30-year journey, from file clerk to CEO. It used to be the American Dream and the way leaders were born, but this has changed a good deal over time. It’s more of a rarity now.
Deena: Initially, my rise within the company was organic, and then I decided I wanted it – I wanted to run the company; to lead it. I guess the change, when I kicked the drive into gear, occurred in the 1970’s. I was told that a female couldn’t become management in the insurance industry, and I had to prove that wrong. I moved to Kansas City and joined the agency I now own. That was when I knew I could do it.
LXCouncil: How has the insurance industry changed in that time and how has it changed the way that Krueger and James conduct their business?
Deena: The Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) has changed the whole industry, top to bottom. We knew our focus had to be on our clients, that we had to know more, and be better, than anyone else – had to become experts on the insurance industry. We also had to take each client individually, one at a time, so we could help the smallest to largest clients the same way, treat them all the same. The Affordable Care Act meant that we now had to focus on finding a benefit for each and every client. We now have to compete with portals and Internet navigators and health care exchanges, so we have to be experts and point out the issues and benefits of coverage to clients as these Internet aides only help you find the best price, not the best product or the best value.
LXCouncil: Can you name a specific experience that you can share about being involved in a peer group that has helped you evolve as a leader?
Deena: Everything helps you grow when you work at it. My best training has come with coaching others. I love the John Maxwell-type leadership training and his qualities of leadership. With this group, LXC, it puts you with people from all different kinds of industries from all different types of markets, yet you find you are all doing the same thing or facing the same types of problems. Whether it’s insurance or a restaurant chain or a consulting firm, we’re all trying to cut payroll, all trying to find funding. The LXC peer group allows us to approach the same problems with different views from different industries, to bounce your problems and solutions off of others.
LXCouncil: How has this experience helped your business or you as a leader at your business?
Deena: Anything that challenges you to think about something differently – approaching the way you hold a meeting, finding alternative insurance plans for customers, finding creative ways to cut payroll – helps you grow and helps improve your business. In this group, everyone has sales goals and sales people, no matter what industry. Everyone has bank issues and accounts receivable. We find that while we have different businesses, we’re all in the same boat and we can help each other with fresh approaches to problems.
LXCouncil: What does Krueger and James do that is unique, that separates your company from the pack?
Deena: We are in a highly competitive market so we point out the value of having experts in your corner when dealing with insurance coverage. We offer a company that knows everything about coverages and their pitfalls. We have become particular on the clients that we choose, because we form a partnership with them. We befriend them and educate and consult with them. We really become extended board members for them; we do a lot of handholding and guiding. Also, we have an exceptionally smart and determined team that we expect more from. At this firm, from the CEO on down, we are all immersed in this business, we are all experts and know coverages forwards and backwards.