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Kenn Butler

A few years ago I needed an insurance broker, and ended up not just with insurance, but a mentor as well.  Kenn Butler has been an inspiration.

Kenn was born and raised in Invercargill.  He was a natural sportsman excelling at badminton, tennis and squash. His father was a firm believer that ‘a child and sport stays out of court’.   That suited Kenn fine and his dad was well pleased until, at the age of 27, fate interrupted Kenn’s charmed run.

While training for the 1982 Rotorua marathon, Kenn started getting swollen knees.  A few months later he had full blown Rheumatoid arthritis and ended up in hospital being dosed with steroids. 

Character building… or perhaps not.  Kenn could have spent the six weeks he was bed ridden, deciding that life would be diminished.   He chose otherwise, but first he had to learn, once more, how to walk. 

With his previous sports beyond reach, he took up golf, and then bowls, becoming a member of the  Eastbourne Bowling Club and part of a team that won the Wellington junior fours. 

Junior? How could that be for a man in his thirties?  In bowls, you’re a junior for your first five years as a player.  You could be a ‘junior’ at eighty. 

Swimming, however, is the activity that he credits with saving his life.  To this day he knocks out 45 lengths at Riverside pool four times a week.

Kenn came to Nelson in 1998, and eleven years later, while playing touch rugby, he dropped dead.  His heart stopped, and it took 26 minutes to bring him back.

In 2005, after thirty-two years in the insurance industry he reached an ethical impasse with his employer and was unceremoniously dumped.  

What now?  The obvious thing was to become an independent insurance broker, but it takes time to establish a client base, so he applied for a job with the police.  That job was analysing data on alcohol abuse and making recommendations for managing the problem. 

Less than a year into the job, he was asked to speak about leadership at an in-house conference.  He regaled an audience of sixty, and rounded out by saying “within three hours a third of you will remember nothing of what I have said, a further third will remember nothing in three days, and the final third will have forgotten it all in three weeks”. 

An overly deprecating prognosis, though it is true, motivational speakers are often like candy bars.  Their affect is short lived.   

To give his messages some staying power, he told his audience that he was going to send each of them a weekly booster in the form of an email covering an aspect of his talk, or expanding on it.  He then, also, wrote a book on leadership

Five hundred and fifty- five emails later, Kenn is still going strong.  I joined his subscriber list three years ago.  I find his emails a satisfying read because they are thought provoking, come from the heart, and are never superficial.

At 62, Kenn is particularly well.  His business is growing and he is thinking about how he can deal with the growth while still providing the one-on-one service that has made it succeed.  He’s all for labour saving technology but believes that the elimination of people in our service industries, is working against productivity.   Hear! Hear! I dread to think what has been the cumulative affect on my productivity, of struggling to do things on-line and then waiting eons to talk to someone who can help.  

Kenn’s success is the result of putting his clients first, second and third.  Last year his business won the Nelson Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award. 

It you think you might enjoy receiving Kenn’s newsletters just email Kenn at:

Just type ‘Yes Please‘ in the subject line.

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