‘GETTING TO KNOW YOU’
The holiday season is upon us and as we come to the end of the year, what better time than to share good will and hope for the year to come? To close out the year, and this column, we feature someone who is best described as a gift to the industry. He is an icon and still with us after 40 great years. He has touched thousands of lives and likely saved hundreds through his work in the insurance industry. We are talking about Ray Arouesty, the Senior Vice President of Hub International and the endorsed insurance provider to the Independent Pool and Spa Service Association (IPSSA), The Swimming Pool Association of Hawaii (SPAH), and the National Plasterers Council (NPC).
Like many of us, Ray really didn’t know what he wanted to do in his 20’s. After graduating from California State Northridge in June of 1974, he packed up his car and drove to West Lafayette, Indiana to study educational psychology. He wasn’t really passionate about the field of psychology but he wanted to stay in school, and the best way to do that was to become a teacher. But after earning his Masters Degree and co-authoring “Teaching Children How To Think”, he abandoned his plans of teaching. Life in Indiana was cold and depressing, and his father suggested he return to California to take over a second office for the family insurance business so he packed up and drove home to the San Fernando Valley.
Making the transition from school to selling insurance was easy. After all, this was the family’s business. At 21 he got his insurance license, and he knew his way around the office, having worked for his father and for the Fuller Brush Company while in high school. His experience selling door-to-door for Fuller Brush taught him how to be a good salesman. And unlike his friends, whose highschool jobs paid them merely a dollar an hour, Ray was earning as much as $7 an hour at age 16.
As a teenager, Ray was an excellent salesman. His customers liked him well enough that they let him perform grout cleaner demonstrations on their kitchen counters and squirt hand cream into their palms while delivering his sales pitch.
“My father taught me that everyone is a salesman and that to be successful in life, a person has to sell themselves,” Ray said.
So in 1981, when three pool servicemen walked into Ray’s office at the family insurance business, he was ready. The men were George Peters, Don Humphrey and Frank Galvin, and they were shopping for insurance for a small trade association of pool servicemen. They were members of a group called the Independent Pool Service Association (IPSA) and they were unhappy with their group’s politics. They wanted to split off and form their own association — the California Independent Pool Servicemen’s Association (Cal-IPSA) — and they were looking for an insurance program.
“My father didn’t initially think much of the account and gave it to me to handle.”
As a broker, Ray met with one insurance carrier after the next, only to be rejected by every one of them. At every turn he was told that the account was a “total waste of time” and “you’ll be lucky if you keep it for two years.”
But Ray kept at it. And after six long months and dozens of rejections, he finally found a company willing to take on the account: American States Insurance, sending Ray and Cal-IPSA off to the races.
“In the beginning we had some pretty big claims, including a drowning on a main drain in a backyard spa,” Ray said. “But the common claims we have today, such as water overflow and plaster damage, we had then too; nothing has changed.”
Then, in 1986, after returning from a ski trip he took with a couple of lawyer friends, Ray decided he wanted to go to law school.
In February of 1988, Ray was in his 3rd year of law school when the group he had been insuring, Cal-IPSA, decided that they wanted to merge back with IPSA to be called the Independent Pool and Spa Service Association (IPSSA).
Ray Arouesty, Senior Vice President of Hub International. At the group’s initial meeting, Ray remembers sitting outside the door, waiting for his turn to speak as IPSSA considered what company was going to handle their insurance needs.
“I was going up against Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company and the insurance agent for IPSA. I was nervous because if I lost, I would be losing my whole group and everything I had worked for.”
He was about to make the most important sales pitch of his life.
Remembering his father’s message about selling himself, he strode into the meeting, took off his tie and told the board that in choosing him, they were choosing an advocate.
“I made it very personal and told them they needed an advocate, and between my training as an insurance agent, and a lawyer, they were getting just that.”
Although only one Cal-IPSA member, familiar with his work, sat on the 10-member board, the vote came back unanimously in his favor.
During those formative years, Ray took to the streets, speaking at chapter meetings, driving all over California, from his San Fernando Valley office to San Diego, Fresno, and Palm Springs.
“I went to hundreds and hundreds of chapter meetings and got used to speaking in front of these guys. I was at every IPSSA board meeting, and the group was really growing fast.”
In 1990, he passed the bar with his ticket to practice law in hand. But as he started interviewing, he discovered he really didn’t want to be a lawyer. By this time, he was truly enjoying the direction his career in insurance was taking him. He had made a place for himself with IPSSA and within the pool industry in general. He had his own monthly column in the association’s newspaper, and his years of speaking at chapter and board meetings had turned him into a gifted, talented, and highly demanded speaker at industry trade shows and events.
But he had promised himself that if a law firm offered him a full-time salary and allowed him to only work three days a week, he owed it to himself to take the job. His third interview offered him the perfect job, allowing him to practice law while staying involved in the pool industry. So he worked two jobs for 12 years; practicing law, making court appearances, depositions, arbitrations, and a few trials while, maintaining his insurance position with the pool industry.
Ray has devoted his career to the swimming pool service industry, which has provided him with his most satisfying professional experiences. Over the years, he has spoken to thousands of pool professionals at chapter meetings, banquets, trade shows, and over the phone. He continues to make himself available to pool techs and willingly shares his knowledge. He really has a special role too; where else can a service tech get so much information about the risks he bears in servicing pools and spas?
“After handling so many claims, I think I am in a really good position to educate pool techs,” Ray said. “Everyone has been interested in my message because I never really sold anything; I just wanted to tell them what they were exposing themselves to by failing to close a gate or by leaving the pool with a dangerous condition.”
His success, he says, all comes back to that meeting of four decades ago.
“When those three guys came into my office that day, 40 years ago, it started a personal relationship. In no other part of the universe would I fit in like I happen to fit into the pool business. I was really blessed that way.”
Ray Arouesty is the Senior Vice President of Hub International Insurance Brokers.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from California State University Northridge, a Master of Science in Psychology from Purdue University, and a Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School. He also held a California Contractors license and has technical swimming pool certifications from IPSSA and the NPC.