Linda Alwood, Executive Director of the Louisiana Claims Association (LCA), is our latest “Women in Comp” featured leader. Read on for her perspective about building a business and getting the job done, regardless of gender.
Comp Blog: Let’s start with your personal background. Did you grow up in Louisiana?
Alwood: Yes, I’m from Shreveport originally. I went to college in Monroe. At the time it was called Northeast, now it’s ULM. I got my degree there and then later my husband and I started our association management company, 26 years ago now. And we’ve been doing it ever since. We’ve worked for the Louisiana Claims Association about 16 years.
Comp Blog: What was your major in college that led to the association management angle?
Alwood: I majored in business and minored in economics. After that, I had several positions including one with the state where I was Assistant Commissioner under Governor Dave Treen. In that job, I was in charge of state contracts and purchasing. I started my business after that ended.
Comp Blog: How did you become involved with the Louisiana Claims Association in particular?
Alwood: I was asked to give a quote. They were looking for an executive director and had never had one before. This was when the organization relatively new. The person that introduced me to it was Bill Adams, who has been in the industry for years and years. He referred me for the proposal.
Comp Blog: Since that time, what was your strategy in growing LCA?
Alwood: We were trying to get LCA to a point where their state conference was the conference to attend. In order to do that, we put the emphasis on great speakers and having as many exhibitors as possible, so people could see the latest tools and information across the industry. We started having themes to each conference too, since it’s supposed to be both fun and educational. It has continued to grow, and LCA is now, I believe, achieving its goal of being the source for information and networking that it wants to be.
Comp Blog: How do you go about getting speakers and determining topics for the workers’ comp track of the conference?
Alwood: Several years ago we started putting out a call for speakers to submit proposals. We found that we can get about 90 percent of the ones we’re going to use from that method. We also have key people in the comp industry that we contact that are on the cutting edge and can give more unique presentations. We try really hard not to have the same speakers every year, and if we do, we try to make sure it’s on a different topic. It’s a process and I’m not the only one. Several people on the LCA conference committee and Board of Directors make this happen.
Comp Blog: Do you have any thoughts about what you’ve seen evolve in terms of gender in the workplace in the course of your career and in the course of building your business?
Alwood: I can tell you that when I was an Assistant Commissioner of Administration with the state I was the only woman. All of the other commissioners were men, and I had a lot of people that came to me and were excited that a woman was in that position. They wanted me to make statements on it and such, but I refused. I used to say, ‘what needs to happen is, women need to do the job to the best of their ability.’ We certainly have as much ability as men. What I want to be known for is that I did the job and I did it right. That’s what women need to do in whatever industry it is. I don’t think we should be given special treatment or whatever, just go in and do it.
Comp Blog: Describe a typical day.
Alwood: I have no routine! That’s one of the things that’s most difficult about my day in fact is that there’s no routine to it. But actually, I love it that way. I work for multiple statewide and regional organizations so every day is different. Sometimes people will ask if I plan to retire soon and I say, ‘absolutely not, I’m going to do it as long as it continues being fun and I enjoy it!’
Comp Blog: Do you have a professional philosophy that you try to live by?
Alwood: My husband says that this is going to be my epitaph, because everyday he hears me say this to a client: “No problem, I’ll take care of it.” That’s what I’m supposed to do – make sure that these associations have what they need and problems are solved.
Comp Blog: Are there any particular organizations or hobbies that you are passionate about, aside from the ones you run?
Alwood: I belong to the Louisiana Society of Association Executives, and I attend their conference and learn best practices and things like that. But I also am very involved with our church and we do an awful lot of volunteer work with them, which is where my heart is.