In this edition of our “Smart Leaders” Series we had the opportunity to speak with Reagan Thompson – Senior Risk Manager of Zaxby’s. Zaxby’s is a chain of fast food alternative food that offers its guests prepared to order chicken fingerz, buffalo wings, sandwiches, Zalads and Zappetizers. They are primarily based in the south eastern United States. So let’s jump into the interview.
WCI: Where did you go to school and what did you study?
RT: I attended the University of Georgia and received a Bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences in the area of Merchandising.
WCI: What person/persons have had the most influence in your life and why?
RT: My parents have always had an influence on my life. They have always supported my goals and encouraged me to grow professionally. My dad had a career in Risk Management for over 30 years which had an impact on my own professional goals as a risk manager. Since I started at Zaxby’s 9 years ago I’ve looked to my boss, the Senior Director of Risk Management- Debbie Andrews, as my mentor. She continuously guides and directs me towards my career and personal goals.
WCI: Outside of work (is there such a thing) what kind of hobbies or activities are you into?
RT: I enjoy reading, playing outside with my children, attending UGA’s football games and volunteering with various local organizations.
WCI: If you had some extra time in the day what do you think you would spend it on?
RT: If I had extra time in the day I would spend that doing things that I enjoy outside of work since it seems that there is never enough time in the day to accomplish all that I desire to achieve.
WCI: Can you give us an overview of your career and how you got to Zaxby’s?
RT: At Zaxby’s I bring focused attention and expertise required to effectively mitigate organizational risks associated with matters that have potential to impair the Brand’s integrity, reputation, and financial viability. My primary focus is to protect and provide solutions for Zaxby’s, its affiliates, and licensees through the design, implementation, and management of processes and controls. These processes and controls manage the information in connection with contracts and vendor management. I also collaborate with all Departments within Zaxby’s as well as outside partners.
WCI: What kinds of technology are essential to you every day? On a personal or a business level?
RT: I use the standard everyday technology you find in the office, but I really rely on interacting face to face with coworkers and having calls with business associates outside of Zaxby’s.
WCI: What direction do you see the comp / risk industry headed over the next few years?
RT: That’s a tough one, with new areas of legislation and pending litigation throughout the Healthcare Industry as well as the recent attention to wage and hour and OSHA standards, it’s hard to say where the industry is headed.
WCI: Whether Zaxby’s self-administers or uses a TPA, do you feel there is an advantage of using one over the other for workers comp claims?
RT: Zaxby’s currently is a lower deductible program through a carrier. We have been fortunate enough that our low frequency and severity of claims allow us to maintain this type of program.
WCI: What are the typical injuries that you see employees sustain?
RT: For Zaxby’s size we are very fortunate to have a very low loss run. However, being in the Quick Service Restaurant Industry the most common injuries I see are slip and falls, cuts and burns.
WCI: What has been some of the hardest decisions you have had to make as a risk manager?
RT: I think one of the hardest decisions to make involves switching carriers. You form a relationship with your designated adjusters and they in turn learn about the importance of Zaxby’s cultural and the well-being and recovery of our team members.
WCI: Whether it be a piece of technology or equipment- what do you wish you had that would make your job easier?
RT: Ideally someone would come up with software to track all the documents that flow through the Risk Department on a daily basis. Whether it be claims, contracts or certificates of insurance the software would be able to house and manage these in one place.
WCI: What do you think makes your team at Zaxby’s a success?
RT: In any relationship communication is the key to success. In our department coworkers are open and honest which gives us the ability to freely communicate with each other regarding daily tasks or a crisis situation.
WCI: If you think about your work comp adjusters, what kinds of qualities do they possess that make them essential to your operation?
RT: As I have already stated, communication is vital. It is important that our work comp adjusters are speaking with injured team members constantly and ensuring their recovery and well being are taken care of.
WCI: Do you have a specific story in mind of an adjuster who really went the extra mile to have a successful outcome on their case?
RT: I feel that all of our adjusters go the extra mile when handling claims. They understand Zaxby’s culture and the importance that each and every team member brings to the company.
WCI: Do you have a return-to-work program in place? If so can you tell us a little about that?
RT: We do have a return to work program in place. We strive to provide meaningful work activity for all team members who temporarily become unable to perform any or all portions of their regular job duties due to a work related injury. By providing temporary transitional or modified work, injured team members can remain an active and vital part of Zaxby’s. Our return to work duties may be in the form of either changed duties within the scope of a team member’s current position or other available duties for which they may be qualified, or through a reduced work- hours schedule.
WCI: What has been a success for your risk management program? What hasn’t quite worked out?
RT: A success for our program has been the recent implementation of contract management. I have worked to streamline the process of reviewing contracts ensuring that they have reasonable terms and eliminating potential risk. I try not to focus on things that haven’t worked, because with our department we view everything as an opportunity to improve.
WCI: What do you think makes a great leader?
RT: Authenticity is key, also I believe that caring about people will drive you to do better and work harder. Earning a paycheck and the title you carry is not enough to set you apart.
WCI: What resources do you use to stay on top of industry news?
RT: I rely on seminars and conferences as well as periodicals to stay updated on developments in the industry.
WCI: What do you think Zaxby’s does for employees that separate you from others in the industry?
RT: Zaxby’s takes measures to ensure that every team member in the Zaxby’s spectrum are cared for and respected. Zaxby’s is committed to continuously improve upon that.
About Reagan: As the Senior Risk Manager, Reagan brings focused attention and expertise required to effectively mitigate organizational risks associated with matters that have potential to impair the Brand’s integrity, reputation, and financial viability. Reagan’s primary focus is to protect and provide solutions for Zaxby’s Franchising, Inc., its affiliates, and licensees through the design, implementation, and management of processes and controls. These processes and controls manage the information in connection with contracts and vendor management. Reagan collaborates with all Departments within ZFI as well as outside partners. Reagan began her career with ZFI in 2005 as the Risk Administration Coordinator.