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A Man of Drive, Integrity, and Humility
ON CECIL RAY JR., ONE OF MY MOST IMPORTANT MENTORS
I remember once I was going through a real rough patch personally, but our business was doing really well. Out of the blue, Cecil called me and told me that he knew things were difficult right then and he wanted me to get away on a Caribbean vacation with the expenses on him, and if I needed someone to take care of my kids while I was gone, he would make sure that was taken care of too. He obviously didn’t have to do that; he was just my boss. But he was like that for plenty of people, not just me. He treated everyone with kindness and respect, and he lived his life with genuine compassion in the midst of his never-ending drive for success.
was a half-decent salesperson, but I was only 33 years old — I felt like I barely knew anything. But here was this really savvy businessman taking a big gamble by offering me what I thought was the opportunity of a lifetime. Of course, I took it right away. I am still extremely grateful to him for seeing something in me and giving me my chance. Luckily, we managed to pull off a turnaround that would lead to the Houston office ultimately becoming the largest and most profitable office in the group in 2012. Cecil was really a unique guy. He was extremely confident, yet consistently humble. He didn’t take himself too seriously and he was always quick with self-deprecating humor. He was the kind learn from your mistakes. The main thing he instilled in people like me was the need to take action, to always be moving forward, and to ask questions when we didn’t know something. Whenever I was stumped or struggling, I knew I could give Cecil — probably the busiest guy I’ve ever known — a call, and he’d help me work it out. He was so humble and funny that, even though he was already enormously successful, he remained easy to approach and generous with his time and resources. of leader who created an environment where you don’t fear failure, where you’re allowed to take chances and
A lot of us have a mentor that we look up to, somebody who’s guided us along our path and helped shape us into the people we are today. For me, there are a few individuals that have had an outsized influence on my life, but among all of those amazing people, one stands out. At the beginning of my career, one man saw my drive and potential and decided to give me a shot. Little did I know that this incredible opportunity would change the course of my life. That man was Cecil Ray Jr., Chairman and CEO of the second insurance agency that I worked for. Though he passed away almost four years ago, I think of him often. It was the early ’90s. I was fresh out of the military and still adjusting to civilian life. I’d been working at the Houston branch of one of Cecil’s Dallas/Fort Worth-based insurance operations for about a year, and despite persistent efforts to bring up the numbers, this particular branch was failing. It was time for new leadership. Cecil fired the previous manager of our branch, a very experienced guy in his late 50s, and mulled over what could be done to salvage the operation. Noticing my military officer background (one that he himself shared), my sales figures, and the fact that I was dedicated to my job, he offered me the job of turning the office around. I think he called it a “Hail Mary”... Really, he didn’t call it that, but I knew that was exactly what it was. Frankly, I was stunned. It’s important to note that, at this point, I was only three years into my insurance agency career and had just begun to find my feet in the field. Sure, I
He was the kind of leader who created an environment where you don’t fear failure, where you’re allowed to take chances and learn from your mistakes.”
His funeral, held in a big Baptist church in downtown Fort Worth, was completely packed. It wasn’t just my life that had been changed by the man; he had a tremendous impact on his church, on all the leaders of his various companies, and on pretty much everyone who spent any time with him. And though I certainly miss him these days, I try to live my life with the same humility, empathy, and commitment to keep moving forward, no matter what. Cecil would expect nothing less.
President, Risk Services of AR Specialized Insurance Programs for Specialized Industries. • www.insurica.com • 1
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