When we hear of people living their dreams, sometimes, we think of “Little Johnny” playing Little League who grows up to play professional baseball for a living, or a very young Beyoncé who won her first talent show at age seven and was recently crowned the highest paid woman in music by Forbes. Rarely do we hear of those dreams, which were developed over time from pure will and an ambition to win that may have been sparked from a nightmare! Well, such was the case for Bob Blake, of Bob Blake and Associates, a titan in the insurance industry.
After failing as a stockbroker and being fired from his first insurance sales position, Blake made it his mission to keep well-defined goals and never give up. Insurance is not an easy business and when Blake started there weren’t as many options for people of color or women. Subsequently, role models who looked like him were rare. However, he landed a job at an insurance company in Columbia, South Carolina and within 12 months, became the company’s top sales representative and was offered a managerial position.
Though he excelled in his first year, it was also a time that tested his resolve and restraint as he came face-to-face with the ugliness of racism. Right after Blake’s promotion, one of his fellow executives who, apparently, had more than a few drinks, directed a racial slur at him during a company dinner.
“He began a response to me with, ‘Listen, Buckwheat,’” Blake recalled. “Every -one waited for me to react, most were anticipating a verbal and/or physical explosion. My first instinct was to strike out. But, assessing the scene, I simply rose and said calmly, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I need to go work on my homework.’”
Exercising restraint over reaction was practical because Blake had a family to support, goals to meet and he “wasn’t going to let some racist make [him] react and mess up [his] life.” And, this is what helped catapult him to weaving his dream into a reality. Shortly after the unfortunate dinner interaction, the same company offered him the opportunity to manage his own agency.
The agency provides a comprehensive menu of benefits for organizations with 401k medical, dental and flexible spending accounts. A highlight of his company’s service offerings is The Benefits Communication System™, which is designed to disseminate all employee health and welfare benefit information, visually and verbally, in a format that is easy for employees to use and understand. For many organizations, personnel and time constraints make it difficult to consistently deliver accurate and reliable information to employees. The Benefits Communication System™ resolves this issue in a highly efficient manner.
The largest expense when running a business is the human capital and retention of employees. Blake believes that “by having effective benefits communication delivered accurately and reliably, [it] frees personnel within organizations to handle other duties.”
During the early years of his agency, Blake honed his recruiting and training skills and developed hundreds of top six-figure earning agents, producing more “Rookies of the Year” than any other agency in the history of the company, at that time, and changing the lives of clients and agents alike.
“The problem I see in life is that people lose their dreams. Most of the people who come to work for me, I have to work with resurrecting their dreams,” Blake said.
Blake has an uncanny ability to spot, recruit and nurture talented people and instill in them a sense of unparalleled service in the industry. He finds those that have hit the glass ceiling elsewhere, “but demonstrated a high level of success in their prior career and got burnt out and/or wanted to be in charge of their own destinies.”
Blake believes in dreams and knows that a dream can change a life. “The reason I still do what I do is because I can offer people of color and women an opportunity, environment and system in which they can succeed.”