Here is what I shared at Al and Sue Boenker's 45th Year in Business celebration:
Tonight we celebrate 45 years of labor.
Al and Sue Boenker married in 1970 and in 1972 opened their first insurance office. They set off on the same journey as millions before them and a journey million after them will take. A couple working to build and provide for a family.
There is, however, something unique and special about their journey that would be impossible to replicate. While not replicable, we may imitate: the zeal, faith, endurance, and vision of these two. This imitation would permit us to say too, “We lived well.”
How does one start with nothing and turn it into a successful business? There are many paths, but the example Al and Sue have set, makes for a more enjoyable and rewarding journey.
Al and Sue manage billions in premium, hundreds of employees in offices across four countries and direct countless disciplines from an insurance carrier, an MGA, and an agency. All platforms - top in their class.
We are not all here today to celebrate the passionate pursuit for just more money. We are not here to celebrate the countless bodies climbed over and battled to achieve more. Nor are we here to celebrate the efforts of building an organization for the need of power.
We are here to celebrate a less traveled path to grow a business, and the two people that set that example.
Over the past ten months our company has reflected on the 45 years of continued growth of the Boenker Group of Companies and the attributes exemplified through Al and Sue that brought us to where we are today.
Let me show them to you very quickly. (Video)
While it would take too long to go over all those attributes tonight I want to focus on the top two attributes of growth for the BGOC.
The second most important lesson we learned from these two is how to be servants.
In my nearly twenty years serving the Boenker’s I have never been told to do anything, I was asked. Even when I was a twenty something kid sitting in a cube outside of Al’s office he would ask me what I thought, not demand I do things a certain way. He didn’t scold me for my mistakes, but encouraged me to count them as lessons. He invited me into his circles. Included me in conversations and meetings that were above my skills and knowledge, so I might gain those skills and knowledge.
Al and Sue were constantly doing things for me - They never forgot our kids birthdays, let alone ours.
One of the great sayings I learned from them was, “Do for those no one else does anything for.”
They trusted me with the management of millions of dollars and never micro managed one ounce of my work. The freedom they provided only made me want to do better.
I am not unique. Every manager in this room can say these same things.
The example they have set - is that of the owners serving their staff; which only has made this staff want to serve them more.
At no time have they Lorded over us. Never have they said, “Do you know who I am? Do you see my name on the door? Never have they reminded us of our position. Never have they ever demanded or taken the seat of honor in a meeting or socially. Never have they claimed their superior knowledge. Never have they expected anything because of who they are.
In every situation they rolled up their sleeves and were in the trenches with us.
When people ask Al what he does for a living he says, “I sell insurance.” Not, “I own an insurance company and many other things. “
One of those paths to success is servanthood. When success comes out of servanthood it has so much more value, because it is shared, and it reflects the eternal.
Al and Sue do not view their staff from a utilitarian point of view. They reward and provide opportunities for growth.
There is one last attribute to growth that is exhibited by Al and Sue to consider tonight. It is an attribute you won’t learn about in business school, nor will it be a part of most board room meetings. It is love.
These two love the people about them. They love the labor in which they engage. They love gaining knowledge and wisdom.
I have watched them pray for their staff, not in some generic way, but for the specific needs of individuals. They have given of their money with no expectations in return. They have cried with the sick and with those who have suffered loss, for they themselves through their own experiences can empathize.
Many tough decisions have been made and will be made for the business, decisions that sometime cause separation. Their disappointment and sadness is apparent when we dwell on these decisions and while discernment is practiced, prayer is employed to seek what is best for everyone involved.
Relationships are what they value most.
Love brings a heart to our labor. Al and Sue have taught us to make decisions that ensure opportunity and good for our staff, partners, vendors, agents, clients, and regulators.
Of the 45 attributes of growth they have displayed - the greatest of these is love.
I’ve used the term labor tonight, because these two have worked hard. Always engaged, always thinking, always trying, always present, always available, always learning, and always teaching.
Tim Keller writes in his book Every Good Endeavor,
“Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference, and all good endeavors, even the best, will come to naught.
Unless there is God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavor, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God's calling, can matter forever.”
Al and Sue it can best said with great assurance your 45-year endeavor has changed the lives of millions around the globe. Even at this moment, 400 families are sustained by the opportunities you’ve created. Millions of people have been served and indemnified when something bad happened in their lives. Hundreds of communities have prospered from your inclusion and generosity, and this list goes on.
Thank you for being a living example of how life and labor are not separated, but joined in making a good and full life.