Ken Tolson’s passion for innovation and his dedication to improving the claims process make him a vital part of the Crawford family. He is an exceptional leader serving as the Global President of Network Solutions. This year, he celebrates 32 years with the company and the adjusting industry.
After graduating from North Carolina State University with a degree in architecture, Ken was pursuing his commercial real estate brokerage license and saw an opportunity with Crawford on a message board at the school he was attending. He was hired in 1989 as an Outside Property Adjuster in the Raleigh, North Carolina branch office. His background in construction and knowledge of architecture gave him an advantageous perspective while handling claims.
He has held many positions throughout his career at Crawford, including Branch Manager, Vice President, Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President of Broadspire before transitioning to his current role in February of 2017.
Ken describes himself as “a technologist trapped in an adjuster’s body.” When an opportunity became available to work in an IT role, he seized the moment. While he enjoyed this position, he missed the daily interaction with customers. Even now in his leadership role he finds himself longing for days in the field. “I miss it,” he shared. “Going out and rolling your sleeves up to help people restore their lives. You become involved in these people’s lives, and that’s the part I really love. It’s a very rewarding job.”
He has always wanted to explore all the pockets of the industry and feels fortunate to have been able to do so within one company. He has spent the last thirty years challenging and exposing himself to new ways of thinking about the claims process. “One of the cool things about Crawford is its diversity within its businesses,” he said. “Those opportunities guided me. Crawford has and continues to indulge my curiosity.” For those new to the industry, he stresses the importance of being eager to learn.
Ken is known for being passionate about driving change throughout the organization. “Crawford is the incubator of the industry,” Ken admits. “We have to constantly innovate.” He is currently interested in the digitalization of the claims process through various technologies such as Hover, virtual reality, and even augmented reality tools.
For Ken, driving change within an organization can be challenging, but it is necessary for the organization’s survival. He says it is critical to stay abreast on what is happening in the industry to make sure that Crawford is not only a part of the early market, but also prepared to use the new tools in unique and engaging ways.
In Ken’s view, the pandemic has accelerated change. But that was not the start of the push toward virtual platforms and processes. Change was coming regardless and it should be seen as an opportunity as opposed to a threat. “We embrace disruption,” he said. “We don’t run from it.”
As a change-oriented person, Ken is excited for what the next 10 years will look like in the adjusting industry. He encourages others to also be excited for change because it will only make the process more useful and efficient. According to Ken, “these digital tools will help eliminate the tedious and repetitive clicking tasks leaving more time to help our people to be more effective and allow them to build deeper connections with the policyholder and our customers. The great thing about this business is you’ll never automate the human connection.”
In his role at Crawford, Ken wants to be seen as a leader of the people. He enjoys being a part of the daily grind with his team. And he wants to have connections with his team that are built on trust and respect. In meetings, he appreciates an open forum style where his team can challenge one another. But the objective of the meeting is create a plan and get to work. His team knows their mission is to rally as a whole and find solutions together.
"On my team I’m one of them, not above them,” “I don’t expect my people to do something I wouldn’t.”
His job is to make sure the right people are around the table. And he is proud of the team around him. Learning from his colleagues helps him appreciates what each person has to offer. “Now I sit on a team where my colleagues are in Hong Kong, Sydney, London-- all over the world,” he said. “It shows you how small the world really is and how similar our problems are regardless where or who we are.” He is reminded of the RESTORE mission through the people he has worked for and those he continues to work with.
When Ken is not working, he enjoys being outdoors. In addition to being an avid road cycler, he enjoys climbing and hiking throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina where he meets people from all over the world. Grateful for his rewarding career and 31 years with Crawford, Ken continues to dedicate himself to the organization, his team, the clients, and the insured on a daily basis.