Louise Perrin, EMBA '03
One day, when Louise Perrin was a girl growing up in Ohio, she came home from school with an assignment that had been given an "A." Her mother, a schoolteacher herself, looked it over, frowned, and decided to pay the teacher a visit. Why? It was not, her mother believed, "A" work. The teacher needed to know to ask more from her daughter so her daughter would expect more from herself. Now an agency vice president at State Farm Insurance Companies in Milwaukee, Perrin says the story helps explain where her commitment to excellence came from.
"Whatever I do," she says. "I want to do it well."
Perrin began her career at State Farm 22 years ago as an agent selling auto, homeowners, life, and health insurance policies. In 2001, she entered the executive MBA program at Cornell, "a powerful experience," she says, that "changed the way I fundamentally think and make decisions, especially in how I help people manage and thrive through ambiguity." Today, she manages four vice presidents of the agency with responsibility for recruiting, marketing, advertising and agency distribution in six states that generate annual revenues of $2.9 billion. Much of her time is spent strategizing ways to increase market share, revenues, and agency distribution capacity.
Perrin takes the most pride, however, in developing people. This ethos characterizes both her own day-to-day management style and the mission of State Farm's Heartland Leadership Academy, a two-part leadership workshop. "It is important for people's voices to be heard," she says. "As a result, they feel valued, recognized, and respected."
When not striving to develop executives and field leaders, Perrin is striving to improve her community. She is a board member of the Southeastern Wisconsin Red Cross, mother of a teenaged daughter, and founding member of People Responsible for the Development of Education in Evansville, Ind.
She is a vocal advocate for supporting and developing young people, female executives, and budding entrepreneurs.
A fan of the performing arts, Perrin sits on the boards of Friends of Art, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, and the Milwaukee Ballet. She helped secure funding for the State Farm Jazz Quartet and State Farm String Quartet, which offer talented young musicians the chance to study with faculty at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music.
So what challenges someone with so much passion for so many things? In what area is she still working toward that bona fide "A"?
Perrin thinks it over a while.
"Balancing all of life's priorities," she says.
– Mark Rader