Q&A: The Courage to Succeed

Justin Smulison


April 11, 2022

RIMS President Patrick Sterling

Patrick Sterling’s 2022 RIMS presidency begins at a pivotal time as unprecedented change fueled by COVID-19, international conflict and supply chain challenges continue to have a ripple effect on global businesses and the entire risk management profession.

A 34-year veteran of the restaurant industry, Sterling is the vice president of legendary people at Texas Roadhouse in Louisville, Kentucky. There, he oversees executive and management staffing, benefits and compensation, human resource administration, risk management, asset protection, and employee relations.

Sterling has also been a RIMS member for 17 years. He has been actively involved with RIMS Kentuckiana Bluegrass Chapter, and volunteered on RIMS external affairs, finance and audit, and annual conference programming committees. He joined RIMS global board of directors in 2018 and has served as the Society’s board secretary, treasurer and vice President. He was a Risk Manager of the Year Honor Roll inductee in 2016 and a “Risk Innovator” award winner in 2009.

He spoke to Risk Management about his goals as RIMS president and how his presidential theme of courage is a trait that unites risk professionals.

Risk Management: What will be the focus of your presidency?

Patrick Sterling: Helping RIMS emerge from the pandemic era is the top priority. So much has changed over the last couple of years and RIMS has adapted. We need to take a look at everything that we offer—from membership services to conferences—and see how we may need to shift or expand and chart the best way forward.

And then obviously with RIMS CEO Mary Roth announcing her retirement, we know we have huge shoes to fill. We need to successfully navigate those leadership changes and ensure a smooth transition.

Risk Management: Why is “courage” the theme of your RIMS presidency?

Sterling: Courage reflects what we have seen—and continue to see—over the past few years. I certainly saw it from my own guest-facing staff. But it goes way beyond that—from health care professionals and frontline workers risking their lives for others, to business leaders who had to weigh all sorts of variables and risks and make decisions that would impact their companies in the short- and long-term. It takes courage to act, express ideas and make choices that might be considered counterintuitive, unpopular and, in some cases, dangerous. 

Risk Management: Let’s talk about some of those high-level risks. Given that Texas Roadhouse is one of the more recognizable restaurant brands in the United States, what do you feel are some of the biggest risks that an organization of that size and reach faces today?

Sterling: Our risks aren’t unlike most businesses in the world right now. I think we're all facing supply chain risks, and cybersecurity remains at the top of our minds. The newest risk that is impacting everyone is the talent risk or the talent gap. Once businesses started getting busy again coming out of COVID, the talent supply just wasn’t there. That was a real emerging risk in our world.  

Risk Management: What risk philosophies do you extend to your team?

Sterling: My risk philosophy is very much in line with the organization’s, in that it is focused on “people first.” We have a guest relations mindset first and foremost. Guests get the care and resolution they need. The same goes for our employees—if they get hurt at work, we want to make sure they can heal and get the love they need. They need to feel cared for and not get caught up in a bureaucratic process. This is also why we adjust our liability claims in-house.

Risk Management: How do you feel that risk professionals can remain relevant in their organizations? And what has worked for you?

Sterling: You have to be a continual learner. The world is changing so fast, especially in the technology space. I have always been very close to our IT department just to have better tech-based discussions about managing cyberrisk. You need to make the effort to understand some key terms and concepts in order to successfully communicate, which is why I think learning the vernacular is critical.

And that is one key advantage that RIMS provides, particularly in the way of combining education and networking. Our membership is very generous with their knowledge, and we have resources like OPIS to help learn from others who have already been down the road.

Risk Management: Speaking of networking, you will be attending RISKWORLD in April. Why do you feel it is crucial that RISKWORLD be held in-person?

Sterling: It’s one thing to engage on a computer, but you need to learn things by going beyond your four walls. It’s time to reach out and expand yourself. I have had an opportunity to attend a few conferences, and the energy that you get from being back in-person is uplifting. The conversations are better because they are not always planned. It has been proven that these are the best way to forge relationships. RIMS traditionally provided these valuable experiences, and I am honored that it will resume during my time as president.

For more with Patrick Sterling, listen to his conversation on RIMScast.

Justin Smulison is the business content manager at RIMS.