An unfortunate addiction to honey. That’s how Robert Earley, president and CEO of JPS Health Network, explains what led to his passion for beekeeping. “When I was a kid, I had to put it on everything,” Earley says. He took up the hobby about 12 years ago, when he received a hive as a 40th birthday gift from his wife, Tricia.
He jokes he had no idea what he was doing the first time he put on the beekeeping suit, but wasn’t deterred. “I didn’t have a healthcare background before I became the CEO at JPS,” he says. “Whatever life lessons I have learned—which are mostly from subjects that are a little different, like bees, for example—have really helped me.”
Earley keeps the bees at his farm, about 20 minutes west of Fort Worth. He says beekeeping serves as a metaphor for his day job; much like a beehive, every staff member has to come together to achieve success.
“We work best when we have everyone doing what they are supposed to be doing, everybody has a role, and everybody has a purpose,” he says. “The beehive only produces honey when all the conditions are right and there are no barriers to overcome. It’s no different at JPS.”
Now in his seventh year as CEO there, Earley admits that the bees have taught him patience, understanding, and trust. “You don’t want to make 40,000 bees mad,” he laughs. “Believe me.”
He doesn’t sell the honey his bees produce, but shares it with family and friends. Ironically, the healthcare executive is allergic to bee stings, though he only reports one minor incident to date. Just to be safe, Earley has an EpiPen on standby—and JPS on speed dial.