Harsha V. Agadi, MBA - Fuqua School of Business
Crawford & Company
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Harsha V. Agadi
President & Chief Executive Officer, Crawford & Company
An interview with Harsha V. Agadi, President & CEO, Crawford & Company
In our special interview on Intelligent Leadership Solutions with HARSHA V. AGADI, President and Chief Executive Officer of Crawford & Company, Executive Global takes an exclusive look behind the operation of the world’s largest independent claims management company, delivering high quality claims and administrative solutions. We gain critical insight into what it takes to succeed in the higher echelons of Fortune 500 firms as we profile the five-time CEO of the world’s leading provider of claim services, business process outsourcing, and consulting solutions for risk management, insurance and self-insured entities.
Harsha V. Agadi CV
University of Mubai, Duke University
1997 President and COO of Little Caesars
2000 Chairman and CEO of
GHS Holdings LLC
2004 CEO and President of
2009 Independent Director, Sbarro, LLC
2010 CEO of Friendly's
2011 Independent Director, Belmond Inc.
2012 Chairman of Krystal
2015 CEO and President of
Crawford & Company
Created all woman workforce at GHS subsidiary in India.
Provides scholarships to Fuqua School of Business at Duke University to two female Indian MBA students annually.
Achieved record cash flows and delivered 116% return to Crawford shareholders last year.
Intelligent Leadership Solutions
EG: In a nutshell, since you became the CEO, what is the most important change in approach that you have brought to Crawford & Company that has elevated it to the
success it knows today?
Harsha V. Agadi: I had been serving on the Crawford Board for seven years before becoming CEO, so when I stepped into this position of leadership, I was familiar with the company and the industry. With that, my immediate focus was on creating a winning management team, establishing a culture that places relentless focus on our customers, caring for employees and developing a technology-enabled strategy to invest in building capabilities organically and through acquisitions. It’s been about leading a transformation journey from a legacy claims adjusting business to a very modern, state of the art business focused on restoring communities and business.
EG: With the fast pace of evolution in the world today, how does Crawford keep itself on the cutting edge of claims management?
HA: Crawford aims to play a role in every part of the claims process, from first notice of loss to complete claims resolution. It’s our goal to add value throughout every part of a claim, anywhere on the planet. To do that, we must combine technical skills, such as artificial intelligence, with client needs. To outpace competitors, we are diversifying company services and reimagining our marketplace. Balancing what we do well with new ways to do it is a primary strategy for Crawford.
EG: What are some of the most notable advantages that Crawford provides to clients?
HA: The heart of our business is to restore lives. Our focus on client and policyholder relationships sets Crawford apart. We are there for our clients, quickly, when it matters most. From helping employees recover from a workplace injury to restoring the homes of policyholders following a hurricane, we never lose sight that our business is about helping people. Our talent is the best and brightest among our industry, and our field adjusters use a wide range of innovative, new technologies to assist
with claims – from drones to live video reporting and on-demand adjusting services.
EG: In the case of catastrophic events, Crawford & Company focuses on fast and responsive service
to claimants and policyholders; what have been the most challenging cases of disaster management that you had to oversee?
HA: At Crawford, we never forget that people and businesses are looking to us to guide them through the challenges of a catastrophe. Every catastrophe brings its own challenges, as demonstrated by the Fort McMurray wildfire in Canada, where our adjusters helped to bring a community back to life by restoring 41 schools and the only major hospital in the area. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was also complex due to the size and scope of the settlement. More recently, homeowner claims in Australia from Cyclone Debbie are valued at A$1bn (ICA) and claims from the UK Cumbria Floods are valued at £1.3bn (ABI). Those are massive incidents that predominantly affected homeowners who needed a friendly face to guide them through the claims process.
Award-Winning Company & Strong Leadership
EG: Crawford & Company has received a great deal of awards and accolades. What are the ones that make you most proud?
HA: The recognition that makes me most proud is actually what you won’t find on our website. Employee awards, or awards received by our customers as a result of our services and innovations are the awards that are most meaningful to me.
EG: With Crawford & Company being the largest solution provider for claims management and business process outsourcing in the world, what are some of the risks and challenges that you are facing now that you are at the top?
HA: There are new entrants coming to market each day with great ideas and groundbreaking technologies. Industry disruption is both a challenge and an opportunity. We are constantly evaluating acquisition and partnership opportunities to stay abreast of our changing industry, while maximizing cost savings and efficiencies for our clients. Another challenge is attracting employees early in their careers. The insurance sector is a fascinating market, yet the industry is challenged by marketing our relevance to millennial job seekers.
EG: You have obtained a B.Com from the University of Mumbai and an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business; how did your academic training contribute to your ascension and pinnacle of success in business today?
HA: I’m grateful for having a strong academic background that prepared me for life, strategic decisions and a strong work ethic. The United States and India are two of the largest democracies in the world yet growing up in India was a very different experience than growing up in America. My academic experiences have given me a global perspective and diversity of thought that has served me well. I continue to be passionate about education, which is why my wife and I support a scholarship for two female graduate students from India to attend Duke’s MBA program every year, as well chairing the SKSVMA College of Engineering and Technology, a top 10 institution in India.
EG: Being a five-time CEO and having managed a $2.0 billion restaurant chain, you are without a doubt a strong leader; what role does leadership play in effective board level management?
HA: It’s easy to think of leadership as top-down, hierarchical management. I agree, though, that effective leadership does need to include all levels, all directions. I stay very connected with our board and believe in open, transparent communication. I also learn from hosting employees at various levels of the organization to lunch and listening to their feedback. Finally, I’m not afraid of friction – in fact, I encourage healthy debate among board leaders, executives and employees. I believe in listening far more than speaking. As leaders, we need little to no paranoia; we have to trust each other and build strong relationships.
Harsha V. Agadi
Hire good people quickly – character cannot be taught – and surround yourself with people who are always smarter and better than you.
Diversity of thought is key. Look beyond a situation and try to connect the dots to build new ideas and face challenges. Be ready to be disruptive.
Streamline costs and inefficiencies. Lead the industry in excellent customer service. Deliver innovative products and services efficiently
Harsha V. Agadi
The Serial Entreprenenur
Harsha V. Agadi is the president and chief executive officer of Crawford & Company. He is also chairman of GHS Holdings, LLC with investments in restaurants, hospitality and other related industries. Agadi has nearly 30 years’ experience in various senior leadership positions for several food service and franchise companies as well as Fortune 500® companies.
Additionally, Agadi serves on the Boards of Belmond Ltd., Crawford & Company, and Diversified Foodservice Supply, Inc. He currently extends his work with these Boards via his presence on the Audit, Investment, and Compensation Committees and taking on the role of Compensation Committee Chair for Belmond Ltd. A member of the Crawford Board since 2010, Agadi is very familiar with its management, operations and strategic planning process. Until very recently he also chaired the compensation committee prior to becoming the interim chief executive officer in August 2015. This is his fifth time holding the CEO title.
Aside from Agadi’s corporate endeavors, he also actively participates on several charitable boards in the United States and abroad. He is on the Board of Eaglebrook School in Massachusetts and Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, Agadi’s alma mater. In India, Agadi serves as chairman of the Board of SKSVMA College of Engineering & Technology, a top-ten institution in Karnataka, India.
Due to his passion for philanthropy, Agadi is an active donor via GHS Charitable Foundation at Duke University where he has established an endowment at the Fuqua School of Business. The Harshavardhan V. Agadi Scholarship is awarded each year to a promising female student from India.
EG: What are some of the most crucial skills that an entrepreneur should develop in order to be a strong leader for their company and achieve success?
HA: Of course, you have to know your numbers and who you are as a business to be able to carry that vision across your organization. But I also think to achieve success as a leader, you must continually learn, surround yourself with people who aren’t afraid to challenge you, and have a good sense of humor – because if you take yourself too seriously you won’t ever be able to think your way out of a tough situation. Your family and your friendships are what keep you steady throughout the highs and lows of your career so maintaining those relationships should be a priority.
EG: What do you believe is the biggest challenge to running a global enterprise that companies face in this time and age, and what solutions should they look towards in order to overcome it?
HA: The current business climate demands more of us, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our Crawford team is meeting these challenges by transforming into a leaner, faster, more agile organization. Opportunities often arise during times of change, and we are ready to seize them as they emerge through avenues like Crawford Innovative Ventures, our capital investment arm. Investing in the infrastructure to make your employees successful is another strategy that we have implemented to face market challenges head on rather than being reactionary in our ever-shifting economy.
EG: People don't often associate innovation with the insurance industry, what are the changes and innovations at Crawford that keep you energized as a leader?
HA: If they don’t associate innovation with insurance, they haven’t met us yet! I love being part of a team that is thinking globally and futuristically about claims management. WeGoLook, one of our businesses, is changing the landscape of claims adjustment through the gig economy model and a mobile, connected team. Contractor Connection, another of our businesses, is a unique network of contractors, vetted and overseen by a robust tracking system measuring time, costs and satisfaction. Our teams are using cutting edge technology and building services in other areas of risk that have an effect on businesses to generate positive disruptions in our marketplace.
EG: Being at the top of companies such as Little Caesars, Church’s Chicken, Friendly’s and Krystal, you have certainly demonstrated a strong knowledge in the fast-food industry; your activity in GHS Holdings have revealed your proficiency in the hospitality sector; now having brought Crawford & Company to success as the world’s largest independent claims management company, you have risen to the top of theclaims services sector. What’s the secret?
HA: There are more similarities than differences across these industries. My career in the food service and hospitality industries taught me valuable lessons in customer service, which is a pillar of good business and applies to all industries. Humility in serving clients is a mindset. I believe that finding and keeping top talent bolsters a company’s success. Hire people who are better than you. There is no magic formula to success; it’s a combination of hard work, humility and putting the customer first.
Harsha V. Agadi is the president and chief executive officer of Crawford & Company®. He is chairman of GHS Holdings, LLC, with investments in restaurants, hospitality and other related industries. Agadi has nearly 30 years of experience in various senior leadership positions for several food service and franchise companies as well as Fortune 500® companies.
To find out more information about Crawford & Company, please visit