Today, I feel like I have finally arrived. Watching my billboard of a sign being put up today made me very reflective and thankful to be where I am today. Hard to believe that just a “short” 10 years ago I was renting a room and calling it my office. I had a $100 desk I bought on craigslist that was being held together by L-brackets from being moved a few too many times, 1 file cabinet that was donated to me by my brother Juston, 2 mismatched customer chairs my dad had picked up from the Habitat for Humanity East St. Tammany, and a computer donated by my mom all in a “office” where there was barely enough room to fit the little furniture I had. In time my makeshift room/offices got a little bigger but there were many struggles along the way. Building a business from scratch, especially an insurance office is not for the faint of heart and is no easy tasks. I remember in my early days there were many nights where I was still here when the sun came up the following morning. I remember tirelessly reading how to market/grow a business books and picking anyone’s brain who was successful and that was willing to share their knowledge with me. I remember learning from underwriters and trying to learn on the fly as there is no handbook on how to run an agency. There were a lot of trial and errors along the way for me including the worry of being able to afford to pay rent in addition to my personal bills. Then it was the worry of affording payroll for some help so I could leave before midnight or the sun coming up. I won’t bore you with the rest of my many struggles but suffice it to say there were a lot both personally and professionally.
For those of you who know me personally, you know that I am a creature of habit and that change is not something I adapt to willingly. This business, this dream that I had of being a business owner and offering people a safe place that they could come to and get sound, solid advice about their insurance portfolio without the feeling of being pressured, browbeat, or feeling like the products they were sold were in my best interests instead of theirs. This was my goal. To teach people what insurance is all about and to make sure they never had to go through the struggles that my family and I did. I saw firsthand at a young age the devastation that was caused when an agent sold my father a health policy that was supposed to cover in the event of a medical claim but didn’t. Their blind trust in this individual was misplaced and cost my parents the better part of their life savings. To avoid losing everything they had worked so hard all their lives to acquire their safety net was used to keep the wolves from the door. We went from an upper middle class income family with the freedom to travel and live a good life to a family that struggled to make ends meet with little liquid cash. All because of the word of a “trusted” advisor. It was at that point in my young life that I thought that I could make a difference. So today I zealously work to make sure that my clients, friends and family would never face the struggles that I watched my parents go through and the struggles that we as a family experienced together.
So today, many years later my agency has grown. It seems that I went from a staff of 1 plus me to 2, sometimes 3 plus me to a staff of 4 licensed agents, 2 CSR’s, 1 marketing rep (coming soon) and myself over night. Those of you who know me personally or who follow our social media know the struggle that I have had finding good help. No, I don’t mean a warm body to fill a seat and punch a clock. I’ve had many of those people who by Dave Ramsey’s definition are people who show up late, leave early and steal while they are there and add no value to your company. Employees… Something I never wanted. Those who see the turnover we’ve experienced, it wasn’t because these people were quitting. It was that I offer a 90 day trial period to see if these applicants fit into our company culture and can meet the high expectations of customer service that our clients become accustomed to receiving and that I require of my team. These individuals couldn’t or rather wouldn’t do that, so they were promptly fired and replaced. I also read many books on how to interview and find the diamonds in the rough, but hey! it’s not a perfect science and this too has been a learning process. No business owner wants turnover, myself included. But worse than turnover is losing a customer due to lack of performance on the part of the people who are supposed to be representing me and All Saints Insurance and our company vision. The people who work with me, my team, are expected to give you customer service that exceeds your expectations and makes you feel like “Wow! They really went above and beyond for me.” We have been blessed to have a few individuals like that in previous years that have moved on for various reasons. Somewhere due to their thoughts of greener grass, one in particular was because of my failure as a leader. I’ve learned many valuable lessons over the years about the kind of boss I wanted to be, the kind of person I wanted to be. I am by no means perfect as a person or a boss but I daily try to be better than the person and employer I was yesterday. Today, I feel like the team I have surrounded myself with are no less than the “Insurance Dream Team”. They are kind, considerate, always willing to go above and beyond for our clients and their teammates. They are in agreement with our company vision and look out for the interest of our customers without consideration of what’s in it for them in return. These people who allow my dream to become a reality. The people who I entrust my precious customer base to in my absence. The customer base that I built from scratch by my own blood, sweat, tears, and sleepless nights. So today, to most, the installation of our billboard sized pylon sign, (who Jessica pointed out the irony of our sign being bigger than the Walgreens sign across the street) may not seem like much to most but to me it feels like I have arrived.
God’s timing is perfect and my once tiny room is now a several offices with no more room to fit additional desks/personnel. My personal office is larger than the room I started in and I am very humbled and honored. Honored that my customers have entrusted me and my team to advise them on covering their most prized possessions and lives. Honored that I get to work beside people who believe that we do work that matters here. Humbled that I started this business with no money, a broke down desk and some donated items and that I can now look around and see that my fully furnished office and all its contents and my sign were paid for with cash and never credit the way that Dave Ramsey teaches. So tonight, my dog Jax and I are sitting her in the lobby of my office after all have gone home for the night and we’re waiting for it to get dark enough to see our sign light up the sky and I am overwhelmed and grateful to all of you who have helped me achieve my dream. To my family, my friends, my team, and my clients and even to my critics, THANK YOU. By the love, support, guidance, motivation and patience of all of you this was made possible.
I am forever grateful and honored to serve all of you.
God Bless and Good night,