Faces in Business: Creed Waelchli, assistant vice president/practice leader at Cottingham & Butler

Creed Waelchli is an assistant vice president with Cottingham & Butler and practice leader for their Specialized Insurance Division. His focus is on helping local clients protect what is most valuable to them.

He has held various positions throughout his career, always being centered around sales and client service. From selling industrial electronics, asset management software, pleasure boats and luxury yachts, business solutions or insurance solutions.

He takes great pride in giving back to the community by contributing as vice president of the Dubuque Main Street board of directors, executive chair of the Loras Legacy Ball, vice chair of the Finley Health Foundation Board, Steeple Square Legacy Council, 100+ Men Who Care of Dubuque, C&B Better Initiative Advisory Board, Scouting Golf Classic Committee and numerous other charitable organizations.

In his personal life, his wife, Lynn, has a busy career with Alliant Energy and he’s continuously amazed how much she accomplishes while keeping control of a busy home.

They have two children, a son, Jaxen, is a junior at Western Dubuque High School and a daughter, Hayden, an eighth grader at Drexler Middle School, both of whom he could not be more proud of and have taught him so much. He greatly enjoys watching them participating in sports and traveling to new places with them.

Tell us about your field and what attracted you to it.

I’ve been in sales my entire professional life. There was a point that I started to reflect on what I wanted to take me to retirement. What could I do that capitalized on my natural skill set?

I found that insurance could provide me a sense of purpose while earning a living that could utilize my strengths. My previous positions had really prepared me with an understanding of what businesses need from a trusted adviser. Another seat at their leadership table to help them, interpret for them, an important financial tool their business needs to protect their employees and assets in the event of a loss that could wipe out their hard work.

How has your field changed in the time you’ve worked in it? How have you adapted?

I feel like the divide between experts and the baseline has grown a lot, especially over the past few years. Insurance is becoming increasingly more complicated. There is a tremendous importance on getting it right for our clients and their employees. That’s not something you can fake.

Is there a person or people who have had a tremendous impact on you?

I’ll use this as an opportunity to name a few that I am very appreciative of.

John Schmidt: I worked with John on fundraising for Loras College and he has really become a mentor for me.

Greg Burbach: I learned so much about client service, business and sales from him in my time working for him at Honkamp, P.C.

John Butler: He is an incredibly intelligent and thoughtful person that has really helped me to become a bigger thinker and be more thorough in my thought process.

Do you have any advice for young people and/or new graduates?

Listen. Ask questions. Learn. Repeat. Be genuinely curious. Listen to questions that leaders you admire ask and reflect on why they asked that particular question. You’ll be amazed what you pick up as you look at situations through their lenses. Use every experience as an opportunity to soak it in and learn something from reflection.

What have you found to be the most valuable resource for learning? Are you an on-the-job learner or do you prefer another way?

The people that surround me. My coworkers challenge me to be better every day. It’s part of our culture to help each other be better. Not so much by providing the answers but rather by asking questions that help you think things through. C&B is not for the meek of heart, so it’s best to be prepared if you ask a question to have what you feel is the answer.

Math vs. creativity. People person vs. introvert. Slow and steady vs. quick and nimble. Where do you fall on those divides? Do you believe there even is a divide?

Like so many things, the truth is somewhere in between. The quick answer is creativity, people person, slow and steady. I have never been accused of being quick or nimble. I have found though that the best growth comes from being uncomfortable. Pushing your boundaries or expanding your comfort zone really makes the next time something similar comes up easier to work through.

When you think of the future, what kind of changes would you like to see in your field? In the broader world?

My hope is that my clients and coworkers experience the value that I bring. The world is ever becoming more demanding with expectations getting higher all the time and I hope they see I have their best interest at heart.

In general, I hope the broader world becomes more empathetic with each other. There’s far too much right vs. wrong, when in reality people should be open to having their mind changed and be compassionate to how others feel. You don’t have to agree with everyone or anyone, for that matter, but you still should respect their opinion. It’s OK to agree to disagree.

How has your professional life helped you grow as a person?

As I mentioned previously, growth comes through challenge and getting outside your comfort zone. I’ve continuously been put or put myself in situations that aren’t the easy path. After you get through it, the next time you approach it, it’s not near as intimidating.

How do you strike a work/life balance?

It’s tough. I’ve done it wrong at times. As I have gotten older, I hope I have gotten better at this as well. In my career, it’s not as cut and dry as 8 to 5, Monday through Friday.

Clients need help when they need help, so it’s really become a process of recognizing the moment and appreciating it more. Having the experience to know how to prioritize and what can wait.