As CEO of Insight Global, Bert Bean leads a team of more than 4,000 employees in 66 offices in the United States and Canada. He’s grown that Fortune 500 company’s revenue to $4 billion since taking over as CEO in 2018.
The 17-year veteran of the recruiting business was too busy climbing the corporate ladder to make it to his 10th or 20th high school reunion at Andalusia High School.
But he he told a sold-out crowd at the 2023 Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet Thursday that a watershed moment in his career came last year when he was told that a hometown company had contracted with his company for recruiting.
“A year ago, I was on a call with the guy who runs our Huntsville office and he said, “Hey, you know CDG? They’re up in Huntsville now and they called us out of the blue with some business to work on.”
Bean said CDG previously had worked with his company’s competitor, but decided to give Insight Global a shot because he was from Andalusia.
“I think all most people want is to know that they have done well by the people who raised them. When the chips are down, ‘Can I go home?’
“I got tears in my eyes when I got that call,” Bean recalled. “That was validation. I was so proud of the chance to support CDG and my hometown.”
Bean talked about the importance of values in the workplace before turning to lessons he learned in Andalusia.
“This town built me,” he said. “I had amazing experiences here. We moved here when I was 4, and moved away when I was 21 or so.
“First, I learned compassionate forgiveness from my favorite high school teacher, Mrs. Maria Smith,” he said.
Smith had assigned the class to do group projects. Each group was to write a report on a country, and prepare a dish from the country. He and two friends printed the first thing they saw about their assigned country, Chile, and signed their names. Then they served a can of Hormel chili as their dish.
“Mrs. Smith was cool,” he said. “She gave us an ‘F.’ But she let us do it again so we wouldn’t fail Spanish. That was compassionate forgiveness.”
He said he learned humility in fourth grade from Lela Horry.
“Her son was playing at Alabama. He wasn’t rich yet, and he was at home, so he came to class and asked his mother for money,” he said, adding that his teacher unceremoniously dressed her son down and told him no.
“I learned that no matter what, you’re never too big for your mom to correct you,” he said.
“I learned something as simple as kindness from watching Melinda Maynor,” he said.
Not long after the Bean family moved to town, his mom’s van broke down.
“She managed to limp this thing to the garage, and they told her it would take three weeks to repair,” he said. “We walked home to Prestwood Bridge Road, and every day, my mother walked us to school.
“Mrs. Melinda Maynor saw us and insisted that my mother take one of her cars, and use it as much as she needed it. That was kindness.”
From one of his first bosses, Jan King, he learned to be on time.
“I was a lifeguard at the city pool, and I was not always on time. Thank you, Jan.”
And he said he learned the value of hard work when he got a summer job working with Dr. Toby Atkinson at the animal clinic.
“I thought maybe I wanted to be a vet and I wanted to learn about it,” he said. “Dr. Atkinson made me work hard. I got to work at 6 a.m. and it seemed like I left at 6 p.m., cleaning out stalls, and bathing dogs.
“I have so much respect for veterinarians,” he said. “I learned I can work hard. I talk about (Dr. Atkinson) all the time, about the value of hard work, and what we call grit.”
He said he learned to have pride in your craft and a standard of excellence by watching Meryane Murphy and the Andalusia Ballet.
“Mrs. Murphy taught my sister ballet,” he said. “We went to see her in ‘Nutcracker’ and ‘Messiah.’ As I kid, I was more into sports than ballet, but I could see the professionalism and the standard of excellence, whether you’re performing in New York City or the Dixon Center in Andalusia.”
Bean also said he and his mother, Betsy Bean, arrived for the event early and enjoyed driving around Andalusia for the first time in a number of years.
“It looks so vibrant,” he said.
Bean also talked about the process he used when he took over as CEO of Insight Global to develop the company’s values, and to teach those values across the company. He also shared stories of how the resulting value statement helped the company to thrive during the pandemic, when many companies were not hiring.