“Having sisters means you always have backup.” – Author unknown
If a woman is one of the most powerful forces in the universe, and who’s going to argue against that point, then Mario Garay is one of the luckiest guys you might ever meet. It’s no wonder he found success, Mario’s had some badass backup.
“I am the only boy in my family with eight siblings, all girls,” says Mario. “In fact, growing up my dad was always at work, and my mom worked from home, so that meant there were nine females in the house, my mom and eight sisters!”
Mario says because of his childhood surrounded by women, he’s learned a lot, always felt loved, and was inspired to believe he was meant for more.
“It was good being the only brother,” says Mario. “My sisters always had my back, even my two younger ones. They all helped me out a lot, I always felt a lot of support from them. I’m the third youngest in the family and even my two younger sisters were there for me. I also definitely learned to have a lot of patience. My best advice is to anyone when it comes to girls is to listen, just listen,” he laughs.
Listening well and a ton of patience have served Mario well – for he currently finds himself as a Field Sales Leader with USHEALTH Advisors in the Phoenix, Arizona office. In a little more than three years with USHA, Mario has sold more than $2.5 million in individual policies and led his teams to nearly $14 million in production. Those are numbers to be proud of and Mario says he is grateful since he knows he nearly became just a number… a statistic from the streets of Los Angeles.
“One of my greatest challenges in life is I grew up in south-central L.A., a pretty tough part of town,” says Mario. “The majority of my cousins, unfortunately, became part of gangs and ended up in prison. A bunch of my old friends also got into a lot of trouble. By the time I was 14 I was headed for trouble too, but that’s when my parents said, ‘we’re out of here.’ “So we moved to Yuma, Arizona. But even then I still joined some gangs in Arizona, but as it turned out I’m not the right person to be a gang member because I love to talk to everybody, even rival gang members. I couldn’t have enemies because I was trying to talk to everyone!”
Mario says between that personality trait, trouble at a few high schools, and pressure from his parents, he finally found a new crowd. He started hanging out with them and things changed. Then again, so did Mario’s life, since he and his girlfriend became parents… at the age of 18.
“When I became a teenage dad I really had to cut out all of the BS,” says Mario. “As soon as I graduated, I had to look for a job. Lucky for me my girlfriend’s dad was a general contractor and he hired me to work with him in construction, and we did it from the ground up, building houses for several years.”
Mario says trying to make money in the small town of Yuma, was tough. So he and his girlfriend took their son and moved back to the west coast, back to California for a short time, before her father came calling, asking Mario to move back to Arizona to help him. “But I didn’t see the money I was expecting when I came back,” says Mario, “and so I started looking for an electrical company to work for, which I did for two or three months and was then offered the opportunity to start my own business as an electrical contractor.”
It was a serious wake-up call. While Mario certainly got a charge out of running his own show as an electrical contractor, owning his own company and being in business for himself, was a road he had never taken and one riddled with obstacles. That’s the life of an entrepreneur. But Mario wasn’t so sure he could navigate that road and experience the success he wanted.
“I went from being an employee, never having been a manager or a supervisor, or anything like that, and the next day I ended up owning my own business! Being 21 or 22 and running your own deal, I thought, ‘what do I do now?’”
What Mario decided was to go back to school, enrolling in college at the University of Phoenix, to earn a degree in business management.
“I have no idea how I did it,” laughs Mario. “It was tough, it was tough running a business and going to school. Being a business owner there’s no clock in or clock out. I did a lot of courses online but then would have to leave my jobs early and get into my classes, get my homework done and then get up at 3-or-4 am to get to the job sites. It was really rough.”
But the hard work was paying off and Mario was cashing in, albeit without a lot of foresight about what he would do should the inevitable strike. It’s never a matter of if, but when a “tail event” might happen, an event nearly impossible to predict, but changes the course of many lives.
“I was not prepared for the worst,” says Mario. “Here I am a 23-year old kid, getting 300-or 400-thousand dollar checks, and for me, it was party time, instead of putting money back into my business. Then the 2008 recession hits. About 15 general contractors were subbing me out, but as soon as the recession began all the clients went away and I had to shut down my business, no one was hiring.”
Mario turned to his center of influence, a person he went to high school with who just happened to become the mayor of Yuma. Mario’s high school friend said he has just opened up an office and told Mario to feel free to drop his name for an interview. Mario got the job, not realizing what it really entailed until they brought him in to start working. “They open the doors and I’m like, this is my worst nightmare ever,” says Mario, “apparently I had applied to work at a call center, I never wanted to work there. I knew nothing about it. But then they told me they were hiring me on as a recruiter and I thought, ok I’ll somehow find a way to make this work.”
With some training, a stroke of luck, and the kindness of one of his clients, Mario ended up in a special group at the call center. “I ended up in a group where all of the leaders were females, every single one of them.” From his experience as a boy growing up with all girls, Mario knew he could put the life lessons he learned to the test and had found a place to call home. “I told all the ladies, I’m going to fit in very well here!”
It was a better fit than Mario could have imagined because it was at one of those early call centers where he met Maude. The two have been together since 2010.
Mario’s success actually earned him a promotion, and a new experience in life he never could have predicted.
“I ended up moving out to Phoenix and was given the opportunity to manage a different type of call center – working with inmates and ex-convicts,” says Mario. I ran that team, and then the company saw the success we were having, so they decided to move me over to customer acquisition in Yuma, hiring and firing more inmates and convicts. It worked out for me because I grew up around people like this, and though they were tough, they had a lot of respect for me because of the way I would talk to them. They like to test you, but as soon as you show them the respect it’s a whole different world.”
After five years in the trenches with the inmates, Mario says he started looking to see what other kinds of sales opportunities were out there and he stumbled on USHEALTH Advisors on the Glassdoor website.
“I went in for the presentation and heard a pitch from Division Leader Murph Lauer, he was open and honest, saying this is not something you are going to break big in two-or-three months time, but you can make it happen the first year and earn over six figures, I said ok, I will try it.”
It took Mario a few months to pass his test and get licensed but he got it all done and was ready to go by May 1st, 2018. There was just one problem. “I saw there was a lot of training,” says Mario. “And even though I had worked in call centers for 10 years, I had never picked up the phone and made a call myself!”
“Now it was a whole new world, and I thought how am I gonna do this? I pulled out all my old training stuff and said, ‘bro you are doing this, doing it for yourself to get through the training. Even better I took all that I learned from working with the inmates – you couldn’t say no to them because they always had a rebuttal – so it taught me how to get through the calls where I heard, ‘I’m not interested‘ or ‘don’t call me anymore‘. It helped a ton, I knew how to handle it. Then I started using social media, just like I had done to promote a small online business and the USHA opportunity started taking off as well. I hit my $100,000 income goal in my first year.”
Now, as a Field Sales Leader, it’s Mario’s responsibility to not only personally produce, but to build up his team as well, help manifest their success through helping and serving.
“A typical day for me, I show up at 7 am,” says Mario. “I get in there, set up my computer, then go fist pump all of the agents, thank them for showing up. I have agents and Field Training Agents who show up at 6 am. My early morning leaders leave before I do and I stay late – I love the late shift. A lot of my business is here in Arizona, so I keep dialing into the night. We do training throughout the day. I like to do huddles. We get all the team members involved and do it right in the middle of the office, so even those on the phones can see what we are doing and listen to our biggest producers talk about how they handle rebuttals and best practices. We hold raffle contests every week and it’s set up in a way that anyone, not only a top producer, has a chance to win.”
Mario realizes that as much as what he is doing is about business, it’s really about people. USHEALTH Advisors is on a mission of HOPE and is powered by purpose for a reason, to make a positive difference in the lives of other people.
“Back when I worked at the call centers they never let me sit at my desk. So even here at USHA, I might make a few calls but then I get up, walk around, and see what everyone is doing. I follow up and inspire them throughout the day. If someone is struggling that day, maybe making a ton of calls, but hasn’t talked to anyone, they need to hear the motivation that the next call could be the one where they get an appointment or close a deal. It’s so important to have a people conversation with them, not just to talk about metrics or the business, but talk to them and listen to what kind of day they are having.”
That’s running your business like a 21st-century leader: human to human.
We all come from somewhere and we are all heading to a destination, the question becomes how do you get there and who do you become in the process? For Mario, he says it’s about servant leadership to help others become who they were meant to be, and for that to happen, people need to see it in action.
“There is the person that in his mind says, ‘Hey I’ve been promoted, and I have this many people under me and I’m a leader now cause I have the title.’ “Then there is the other guy who works hard, leads from the front, coaching others, motivating them, and driving their behavior. That’s who I want to be.”
“If there’s one thing I want to share it’s to never take the word leadership for granted. You can walk around and act like a leader or you can walk around and be a leader.”
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.