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Posted: May 01, 2011

Athena finalist: Marcia Benshoof

IMA president has her game on for the customer and the greater good

Lisa Ryckman

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On most workdays, there's no place Marcia Benshoof would rather be than at her IMA office in downtown Denver. But this is no ordinary workday.

It's opening day for the Colorado Rockies.

"I love baseball," says Benshoof, who can see Coors Field from her sixth-floor office, which doesn't make missing the game any easier.

But the 52-year-old exec has a job to do, and it happens to be one she finds both rewarding and challenging. As president of IMA of Colorado, an insurance, asset and risk management provider, Benshoof works to foster a culture of community service and camaraderie for her nearly 200 employees.

"We love each other," she says. "You can feel it."

A lot of that love comes from the top down, says IMA public relations manager Meme Moore, who nominated Benshoof for the Athena Award.

"Marcia's an inspirational leader," Moore says. "She knows everybody's name; she's an open door kind of person. She's not up in some ivory tower - she's down with the troops. She really knows how to connect with people."

Some of that ability might be traced back to Benshoof's degrees in psychology and counseling from the University of Northern Colorado, and her time in nursing school. Thirty years ago, that foundation made her an ideal pioneer for an emerging marketplace called "case management," guiding patient care and acting as an advocate.

It's a sensibility that has governed her business career.

"People who know me would say that the customer is in every conversation, whether they're in the room or not," Benshoof says. "I'm a vigilante about keeping the customer there."

She says she taught herself about acquisition, startup and turnaround and was eventually hired to help Pinnacol Assurance get back on its feet. Benshoof served as Pinnacol's chief business officer for 11 years, overseeing all aspects of underwriting, safety and claims service for the company's 58,000 customers.

For Benshoof, part of Pinnacol's success came from engaging employees to serve the greater good through a program called Pinnacol in Action.
"It's a recognition that it's not just one person; it's all of us," she says. "We recruited seven ‘mere mortals' from across the company - we didn't want it to be just the executive team - and they coordinated with our partners."

Together, that group of seven set the strategy for the company and talks about best practices with the groups they serve. Those have included Volunteers of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters, National Sports Center for the Disabled (Benshoof is on the Board of Trustees), Junior Achievement and the 9Health Fairs.

At IMA, one of Benshoof's favorite programs involved adopting Bryant Webster Elementary and bringing in a physical fitness program to help kids get in shape.

"We have employees over there doing a dynamic warm-up with the kiddos, we got everybody shoes, and paid for the program," Benshoof says. "We launched it in October, and it's really going great. The kids are much more fit."

IMA has it own staff of health and wellness educators - "We're our own clients," she says - and Benshoof's regular "Walk with the Prez" jaunt gives employees a chance to get some exercise and some face time with senior management.

True to her reputation as an innovator, Benshoof's got another fitness-oriented surprise up her sleeve.

"Zumba," she says. "They're going to ‘Dance with the Prez.' They just don't know it yet."
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Lisa Ryckman is the Associate Editor/Online at ColoradoBiz. Contact her at lryckman@cobizmag.com.

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