Gentle push Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2009

Kyp L. Ross doesn’t really care how successful you’ve been, he knows you can do more.

He’s not trying to downplay anyone’s success, but Ross believes that there is always more work to do and more victories to be had. In that vein, he has worked his way up at Dawson Cos., where today he serves as president of Dawson Insurance Inc. With roughly $30 million in commission, Ross has helped Dawson Insurance develop, but he has also dealt with growing pains, as he tries to constantly build a culture that helps people push forward.

“So as we grew, we knew there were times where maybe we had to bring our arms back around that culture and get it back to where we wanted it to be going because as you get 250 people, not all of them are marching to the same drum,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Ross about how he’s maximized employees’ talents by pushing them to do more and why you have to be willing to be uncomfortable to be more successful.

Show employees how it’s done. My theory is you have to lead by example. You don’t ask any of your employees to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. Your employees have to see you exhibit a desire, a dedication and a determination they feel they can buy in to.

I still handle the largest book of business from the customer standpoint in the agency, so I hope that they see my work ethic and my willingness to sacrifice myself, my own time, to make sure we do what the client needs and what the client does best. If you put the client’s interest before your own, you’ll always be successful.

When you join our organization, we give you the opportunity, and really, the sky is the limit. So if you look at me, I’m the perfect example, I came here with nothing, was in an affiliated industry, came here and worked hard, had success, enjoyed working with the other people that helped me reach those levels, and I’ve been able to promote up through.

I try to stay away from talking about myself, but I do embark them with the knowledge of how I got to where I did. I’ll bring the young guys in and I’ll say, ‘OK, what are you doing this week?’ And they’ll share with me and I’ll say, ‘I’m not telling you that this is the way you have to do it, but let me share with you how I did it.’ And, again, if you’re visibly leading by example, people understand that and they just naturally pick that up. I’ll also, from time to time, take some of those guys out with me, or if they have an appointment, I’ll say, ‘Hey, do you mind if I tag along?’

Help people stay hungry. I would say the best business advice I’ve received is to stay hungry and never get outworked, and I received that when I was very young from a regional manager of a company I did an internship with in college.

What I try to get our guys to understand is you always have to be growing, you always have to be improving, you can always work harder, you can always improve yourself, because I think in many areas of our nation people get complacent when they’re living well, and they kind of reach their own level of expectation. So what I try to do is try to get them to understand that there is always more.

Most of the people here have been here longer than me, so they’ll say, ‘How much do you need; isn’t that enough?’ That’s not really even an applicable question in my world, because people go out of business, people get bought, they get sold, so if you are resting, you’re actually declining.

We have a couple of mature gentlemen that were here before I got here, and when I first got here, they probably said, ‘Yeah, sure, he says he’s going to work hard and he says he’s going to do those things.’ ... Well, after I was here for a while, we formed a very good relationship and they had been around the same level for a number of years and one of them even said to me, ‘Well, I’m pretty much maxed out.’ So I actually challenged him in several ways and said to him, ‘If I can do this, there’s nothing special about me, you can do it, you can even exceed my numbers if we do it intelligently and we work smarter.’ I probably have the most pride in that, the one gentleman has almost doubled his book of business, and he had been in the industry for 15 to 20 years at that time.

When I came here, they were very successful, but in some ways, the expectation was this is where we can get to and hopefully what I’ve allowed them to understand, being the newer kid on the block and hitting some of these levels, is, ‘Wow, maybe our expectation wasn’t really realistic for ourselves.’ And you look in the mirror, that’s how you judge yourself every day; you look at yourself in the mirror.

Push people out of their comfort zone. We have to make more calls, we have to be out more, and we have to get outside of our comfort level. There’s a comfort circle, and most of us spend 90 percent of our life in this comfort circle, and the ones that are really successful they not only get outside that but they step way outside that to an area where they’re uncomfortable and that’s what we try to get our guys to understand today. We’ve been very successful, and we’re still doing well, but in order to reach the goals and expectations we have for ourselves, you have to step outside that comfort zone more than ever.

What I try to do is just sit down with them one on one and if I hear that they’re having some concerns maybe over the economy or maybe some of our competitors have laid off some people, you sit down and you have a face-to-face conversation, you hear some of their concerns and you’re just honest with them and you get them to understand that many times it’s not as bad as you think it is, so I try to do it one on one.

When you’re in a group, you get a lot of different distractions and a lot of different questions coming, which isn’t a bad thing, but for that purpose, I don’t know that it gets down to the core of what the person’s fear is.

How to reach: Dawson Insurance Inc., (440) 333-9000 or