With Father’s Day approaching, I thought I would take the opportunity and write a little piece about my father who suddenly passed away earlier this year. As a father, he taught me a lot about life growing up, and as a business partner, he taught me invaluable practices for our business. Although he is no longer physically here with us, I think of him often, and even hear him echo a variety of Ferris-isms during the workday.
After serving in the Air Force for four years, Ferris had a 41-year career in employee benefits, gaining expertise and experience unparalleled by most in our industry. He was highly technical, a constant student of his trade, and loved to educate and teach clients, often equipping them with knowledge to excel in their own roles. While conducting meetings, he always managed a way to make clients smile and laugh, which is quite challenging to do with employee benefits….trust me.
By the time I joined his company, Grooms Financial Group, in 1999, my dad had already provided me with plenty of personal guidance, advice, time, and, yes, discipline. I knew things would be a little different between us as father and son, and so we made a pact that our business relationship would never come before our personal one. And to help separate the two, my father was Ferris during the workday and dad any other time.
My dad was always intent on teaching his children. Fortunately for me, this love for teaching continued, but this time in a professional setting. I knew ZERO about employee benefits when I joined the business, but that changed rapidly. The first days working with him feel like yesterday, as he brought out an easel and walked me through employee benefits 101 and spent the majority of the days teaching me. I was a sponge for his knowledge and unique experiences, as I knew I was being taught by one of the best. He quickly allowed me to begin working on complex client projects, and we began a 16-year business relationship.
As I get a bit nostalgic about those 16 years we worked together, Ferris taught me invaluable lessons that became the core values of our company. Below are four principles from my father and business partner that were commonly said in the first few years of working together…and boy are they still true and critical to who we are today:
“Always do what is in the best interest for the customer” – this is one of the main reasons why my dad jumped from the carrier side of the industry to the consulting side of our business. He always wanted to help deliver what made the most sense for the customer, providing objectivity, independence and a constant focus to the needs of the client.
“Preparation is the key to a successful meeting” – further, Ferris would tell me that if you properly prepare for the meeting and establish framework and goals, then the meeting will almost conduct itself. He was the king of agendas, detailed supporting materials, and a generous list of questions for clients. In fact, he typically started meetings off with a healthy joke to set the tone. (…oh, Ferris.)
“Be educated and educate others” – Ferris took joy in sharing tips, ideas and his expertise with clients and even vendors. And although he shared these things with me as well, Ferris was the primary reason why I have my CEBS (Certified Employee Benefit Specialist) designation, as he inspired me to have an advanced understanding of our industry, knowing this would help equip me with the ability to educate others. (Thank you, Ferris.)
“Pay attention to the details” - now this was a classic Ferris quote, and perhaps used the most out of the above. He never had his eye off the ball, focusing on the details of proposals, performance guarantees, and 80-page contracts. We all know that the ‘devil is in the details’, and he made sure our clients were well protected.
I appreciate the opportunity my dad gave me to not only join his practice, but learn from him. The Ferris-isms will continue to be a part of Grooms Benefit Solutions, and I cherish the opportunity to continue his legacy and endeavor to make him proud. I miss you, dad.
G. Scot Grooms
President & CEO
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