“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine…” – Marianne Williamson
Success is never as sweet as when you climb up from the bottom, from a place where hope and purpose seem like a distant star. That’s when you reach back for something more, or as in the case of George Priovolos, you don’t reach back, you run right through it.
George knows what it’s like to walk in, or walk on, and go from obscurity to that moment where everybody knows your name.
“I played football in high school and I got an offer from Illinois State as a walk-on for their football program,” says George. “There were three different groups of linebackers trying out and seven people in each group. I was so far down I wasn’t even in the groups, they had a place for me all by myself. Out of 21 players, I was number 22!”
But the position is all in your perspective, and dead-last wasn’t George’s idea of being great. “I had some ability,” he says. “And if you were at the bottom you could accept the Challenge Program. If after practice you challenged the number one player at your position and you beat him, you could have a shot. So here I am as the scab, running the fullback position, but I accepted the Challenge Program and I ran right over the number one guy. No one could believe it. The coaches made me do it again… and again… and again, like ten times. Suddenly I went from last on the list, to the 2nd string starting fullback at Illinois State.”
Perseverance and persistence will beat talent every time. It’s a mindset and work ethic George says he learned from his dad and one which has served him well throughout life, including his current role as a Regional Sales Leader for USHEALTH Advisors. Leading and serving is something in which George takes great pride and is in perfect alignment with the company’s mission of HOPE: Helping Other People Everyday.
The everyday grind of doing hard work is what George says he learned a lot about early in life, watching his father work incredibly long, hard hours building up his own business. “I grew up in and around south Chicago,” says George. “My father had come over from Greece to this country with no money and didn’t speak the language, but he ended up running multiple steak houses in Chicago. Looking back, the time and effort my dad put in was an absolute blessing because the one thing he taught me was the value of hard work.”
George’s father Ted also taught him some lessons in tough love. “It wasn’t easy living with my dad for the most part,” says George. “My parents divorced when I was nine and because my father ran the restaurant, many times he wouldn’t get home until 4 am. I still remember the time when he drove me to college. My dad dropped me off at my dorm, got out of the car, grabbed my bag out of the trunk, hugged me and said, ‘I love you, son’ and took off. I went up to my room while all the other parents got their rooms ready for their kids, got their books, etc. Years later, when I was an adult I asked my dad if he remembered that day. I said, ‘why did you do that?’, he said, ‘you were being such a jerk, I had to teach you a lesson. But, I cried all the way home.”
Tears, sweat and the value of doing great work. All lessons from his dad that George took to heart.
For more than 50 years, George’s father’s restaurant, Al’s Steak House in Joliet, Illinois has been a Chicago icon. For a time, George also sought to follow in his father’s footsteps, first by working at steakhouses while attending college and then opening up a couple of his own. But George quickly realized the process of putting “meat in the seats” at the steakhouse restaurants – meaning attracting customers – and managing the people that worked there, was an all-consuming proposition. He worked nearly 24-hours-a day, seven days a week.
“Running the restaurants is a hard life,” says George. “You are so vulnerable to everything, and it’s so precarious. You have to order the food, prep it, deliver it to the table and then they, the customers, have to like it. The day I opened the first restaurant I treated myself and got a nice new suit. I was seating people for about 30 minutes when one of the employees came up to me and said, ‘you know those two dishwashers you’ve got, they just quit.’ “So the suit came off and I started washing dishes. It was like that all the time. But we were actually successful enough that I opened a second restaurant. The problem was I was working 110 hours a week, nights and weekends. My wife Suzi and I started talking about starting a family and so things had to change.”
So soon George turned from restauranteur to answering an ad to be a health insurance agent. “I’ll never forget the interview,” says George. “They said if you can work 40 hours a week, you can make $80,000 a year. I thought, ‘heck that’s easy, I can put in 40 hours by Tuesday!’”
George experienced success, but when outside influences led to a change in leadership and the opportunity shifted downward, George left the insurance business, moved his family to Florida and started buying investment properties and fixing them up. But then the 2008 housing crash reared its ugly head. The family lost everything.
Luckily for George, Troy McQuagge came calling.
George had worked for Troy at his prior company and Troy was in the process of getting the band back together, molding a leadership team from those he had worked with before to create USHEALTH Advisors. While it was tough going early on, George says whatever money he was making he kept reinvesting into his business, and by his third year, he crossed over into earning a multiple six-figure-income by building a great team.
“I love to build,” George says. “I love building teams and helping others become successful agents, more than my own success in this business. The great thing about USHEALTH Advisors is anyone can do this. I don’t care what your story is, you can make it. We see successful people from all types of backgrounds and challenges, people going through tough life situations, people with medical issues, single moms with three kids… it doesn’t matter. I believe anybody can do this. I don’t care what your background is, if you put forth the effort we can show you how to be successful and we have such a great culture, believe me, that makes a huge difference. If you invest the time, we’ll invest in you. The first secret of success is simple – show up.”
A few years ago, George also learned a secret that has led to success for nearly every agent at USHA and it’s the reason the company has continued to flourish even during the COVID-19 global challenge… helping and serving can be accomplished just as well virtually, as it can face-to-face.
“We are fortunate here,” says George. “I still remember a few years back when Regional Leader Andy Montague in Tennessee, (back then a Division Leader), was just killing it in sales. I told Andy I was going to come up and see him and attend one of his meetings.”
“I got there about an hour before the meeting was supposed to start and I see one of his agents walk in early as well. The guy sits down and opens up one of the smallest laptops I had ever seen. He asks if the person he is speaking to on the phone can see his computer screen… then completes a presentation and application, closes it up, goes out takes a break and comes back in and does the same thing again with another client. I saw two sales in one hour. The next week I came back to my team and told them I had seen the light and the future of this company – work in the office and help people all throughout the country right from our computers.”
The USHEALTH Advisors’ mission of HOPE has become a real-time virtual game-changer for clients and for agents all across the nation. Before the middle of the last decade much of the business was conducted face-to-face, today the majority of help comes from the virtual connection – allowing thousands to gain the help they need through a screen share and helping the company to produce back-to-back billion dollars sales years.
“I think one thing that’s really important in all the life lessons that Troy taught us is to live a life of giving and serving,” says George. “There is not a better feeling than that and teaching those same principles to other people. It’s amazing to see a new agent going down one path and then picking them up and helping them go in a different direction – literally changing their lives.”
While George has been a part of helping USHA through its exponential growth, he has also witnessed the same growth in the greatest blessings of his life, his family. George and his wife Susie are the proud parents of four children Olivia, Joey, Max, and Ava. He considers his marriage to Suzi one of his best breaks, ever.
“Other people will tell you, and I’d have to agree, that one of the greatest accomplishments in my life was somehow convincing Suzi to marry me,” laughs George. “We’ve been married for almost 20 years now. She’s such a good person. She’s so nice, so kind, such a great wife, mother, and such a hard worker. She’s been an agent with the company for eight years now. She’s a very good one too, with a great taken-rate, and is really, really good with clients. They just love her.”
So does George.
George says he met Suzi while she was his neighbor back in Illinois. “I like to tell people that she picked me up in a bar,” laughs George, “because I was running a bar at the time. She came in there and then told me to call her sometime, of course, I called her that same evening. The truth is I actually asked her out on a dinner date. We went to a steakhouse and there was a blizzard that night, so we were the only ones in front of the big window in the restaurant watching the snowflakes fall, alone, but together. It was a great dinner.”
And now, it’s a great life. It’s living proof of what can happen when you just show up.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.