Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, Mark Watson has always been adventurous, making his first successful investment in his 20s. In 1998, Watson caught wind of a 500-employee insurance company headed straight to the bottom. The logical first thought? Run. Watson’s first thought? Invest.
As a dynamic shareholder, Watson regularly discussed strategic ideas with the chairman. Seduced, the chairman invited him to join the board… then convinced him to become CEO! In 2000, Watson accepted the challenge and took control of what had become a sinking ship.
Quickly, Watson surrounded himself with the right team and repaired the balance sheet. However, he knew that if the company were to thrive ever again, he had to make a radical decision. So, he used the company’s spare cash to acquire a competitor almost the same size! A risky and expensive move that didn’t go unnoticed.
But Watson had a plan. Following a successful acquisition, he made a dozen acquisitions of niche insurance competitors to accelerate the transformation towards a global, specialty insurer.
Today, 20 years later, the company—Argo—is a thriving specialty insurer with 1400 employees and over $3 billion in annual revenue. When a catastrophe happens, natural or man-made, chances are Argo is helping somebody out somewhere in the world. In the past, Argo has insured U2 concerts and intervened following the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.
In 2018, Mark Watson is still CEO of Argo, enjoying the journey and the achievement, while feeling more adventurous than ever.
SKILLSETS AND BEYOND
Some people are great leaders without having a flair for entrepreneurship. But leaders who master entrepreneurship while also being great investors are rare and remarkable. It is true that, eventually, delegation is a must, as one person can’t do it all, but mastering all of the above offers the leader a unique bird’s-eye perspective on what’s happening and what lies ahead.
© Story by Tarek Issa.
- Based on an interview with Mark Watson for Tarek Issa/for-starters.com
- Picture: courtesy of Mark Watson.