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Thoughts on 20 Years with BGOC

It was a Saturday, and I wanted to get into the office and start setting up my cubical so I called the owner, Al Boenker and asked if it were possible for someone to give me a key. He told me to drive out to his ranch and he’d give me one.

The following Tuesday would be my first day on the job at the Al Boenker Insurance Agency in 1998. I could never have dreamed twenty years later Al would build not just a leading insurance agency, but a managing general agency, three international BPOs, and an insurance carrier and that I would get to come along on the adventure. Al is a visionary and a man of action, and I was fortunate to be included in these additions from their birth.

When I arrived on a hot Texas day at Al’s ranch there was a man in a straw cowboy hat throwing some hay bales up on a trailer. He had a long-sleeved shirt and gloves. Al had employees on the ranch so I was confident this man would point me in the right direction. I pulled up and asked where I could find Al. When he looked up, it was Al. That first moment in my service to Al Boenker, the Boenker family and the Boenker Group of Companies would define the character of the owner in all interaction over the next twenty years. Al lives out Max DePree’s definition of a leader in his book Leadership is an Art,

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”

Don Owens Managua Office

Grand Opening of Our Managua Office

My initial responsibility to the organization was in marketing. After ten years in the radio industry I knew a little about marketing and nothing about insurance. I was 28 years old and had grown past the immaturity of pretending I had the answers to everything. I took the job because I believed there was much to learn from Al, and indeed, the education would prove priceless.

Al and Sue Boenker focus on what is important. They are the antithesis of the many leaders I served prior to my time at the BGOC who were pretentious, overbearing, lording, rude, demanding, and unforgiving.

The Boenkers weren’t attempting to be original, they were working to make something good.

C.S. Lewis wrote of originality,

"… no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth without caring two pence how often it has been told before, you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. Give up yourself and you will find your real self."

They are originals. Building one of the largest personal lines independent insurance agencies in the United States, developing one of the largest auto managing general agencies in Texas. First in our sector to build and execute three business processing centers in three different countries, and currently executing the fastest growing Texas insurance company. Hundreds of people were part of the journeys, but without their vision, and above all, their servant leadership, none of us would have followed.

Celebrating Successes with Agents and Friends

Not once did they remind me of who they were or my position. Not once did they Lord over me. Not once did they ask of me anything intrusive or restrictive. Not once did they micromanage my activities. The opposite: they elevated me, gave me authority, encouraged me to run with ideas.

This style of leadership was a part of my education, and while I know I have not reflected at times what I was shown, it remains the pattern I work hard to imitate.

Over time I looked for more to take on within the organization: from marketing to sales, from sales to service, from service to software, from software to financials, from financials to claims, from claims to underwriting, from underwriting to reinsurance, and back through disciplines again and again. Going through these disciplines I learned from those willing to help me gain knowledge and much from those unwilling as well.

Celebrating Successes with Agents and Friends

In my twenty years, I’ve kept a reality before me. “This is not mine, but respect it as if it were.” The BGOC is not my legacy, that legacy belongs to the Boenker family and their willingness to take risk and to pour sweat, blood and tears into building a business. They built a business to care for their families, and with deep concern, they care for the hundreds of families represented by their employees. I am privileged to be one of their employees.

Being an employee is a great blessing. An individual, board, or shareholders give us the opportunity to influence what they own for a time. Timothy Keller says it best in his book, Every Good Endeavor,

“A job is a vocation only if someone else calls you to do it for them rather than for yourself. And so our work can be a calling only if it is reimagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests.”