Welcome back to another episode of the playbook, today, Jason and Craig are joined by the amazing Gary Cooper, who shares his life’s journey that is nothing short of remarkable.
Facing many adversities and challenges, Gary talks about how adopting the infamous “fake it till you make it” motto and lifestyle helped him.
Delving into his personal struggles, Gary talks about his transformation and turning point, which required a lot of commitment and room for personal growth and development. The discussion further emphasizes the crucial transition from being an operator to an owner and eventually a chairman, shedding light on the challenges of relinquishing one's identity tied to a specific role.
Join us to learn valuable lessons in resilience, decision-making, and achieving lasting fulfillment.
📻 Tune in to begin your journey of Pro Insurance Success.
The Insurance Dudes are on a mission to find the best insurance agentsaround the country to find out how they are creating some of the top agencies. But they do not stop there, they also bring professionals from other industries for insights that can help agents take their agencies to the next level.
The Insurance Dudes focus on your agency’s four pillars: Hiring, Training, Marketing and Motivation! We have to keep the sword sharp if we want our agencies to thrive.
Insurance Dudes are leaders in their home, at their office and in their community. This podcast will keep you on track with like minded high performing agents while keeping entertained!
About Jason and Craig:
Both agents themselves, they both have scaled to around $10 million in premium. After searching for years for a system to create predictability in their agencies, they developed the Telefunnel after their interviews with so many agents and business leaders.
Taking several years, tons of trial and error, and hundreds of thousands of dollars on lead spend, they’ve optimized their agencies and teams to write tons of premium, consistently, and nearly on autopilot!
LEARN MORE BY Registering for TUESDAY’s LIVE CALL With The Insurance Dudes!
Bio of Gary C. Cooper:
Gary C. Cooper is the Executive Chairman of Palmetto Infusion Services which provides home healthcare, medical equipment, nursing, hospice, and Ambulatory Infusion Clinics to thousands of patients across the Carolinas. Gary is also the Founder, President, and CEO of The Carolus Group, a healthcare consulting firm which serves the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Dedicated to helping businesses thrive, the focus is on guiding organizations and leadership teams to maximize their potential. This involves providing financial insight and sharing methods to prioritize company missions over personal ego. The ultimate goal is to assist individuals in reaching their personal and professional aspirations. Collaborating with co-author Will Wilkinson, a recent book titled "The Success Paradox: How to Surrender & Win in Business and in Life" explores the importance of letting go for success.
So I'm 28 years old, the founder of my company and business partner dies, the business. He dies. Yeah. Oh, man. Oh, he's also my dad. Oh, no. A month later, 911 happens. And then a month later, the banks come in, I'm 28 years old. The banks come in and call all of my loans do and full eight and a half million dollars worth of loans. So what do I do? I'm like, the only person that could sign my loans would be my mother, who's a widow. And I have 500 employees, payrolls.$500,000 a month. Oh, I'm 28 have two kids. And I have a Buick Regal. And I don't have a pod to focus in. And so what do I do? I don't know anything about mergers and acquisitions, legal strategies. I don't have a human resource department. I don't have an accountant. I'm doing $25 million a year in revenue, and I have nothing. What do I do a work. I go insane with work. And I live seven hours away from Atlanta. I hire an Atlanta law firm. Hire the biggest law firm Alston and Bird in Atlanta. You know, they say fake it until you make it? Well, that's what the hell I did. I faked it until I made it and and a lot of miracles happen. I ended up getting it. The most amazing HR guy was introduced to me. And he brought an IT guy. And he brought in an CFO and a controller. And he brought an entire team. And then within a year and a half, we basically put a whole management team together to support the size company that I had. And we refinanced the company. But that meant driving 80,000 miles a year, going to all kinds of fancy dinners. I was a good operator, but I had no idea how to run a company. But I had to learn how to learn real quick. So my name is Gary Cooper, and I'm honorary insurance guy.Craig Pretzinger:
Insurance dudes are on a mission to escape be handcuffed by our agencyJason Feltman:
by uncovering the secrets to creating a predictable, consistent, and profitable agency Sales Machine.Craig Pretzinger:
Hi, I'm Craig Pretzinger.Jason Feltman:
I am Jason Feldman. We are agents. We are insurances. Boom. That's right. Yeah. Well, Gary, welcome to the show. That is an incredible story. What kind of business was it?Gary Cooper:
It was home health care, home health care where we send nurses and therapists out to people's homes.Craig Pretzinger:
Always demand for that, huh? Yeah, it is.Gary Cooper:
I grew up in nursing homes. And as a kid, that's a pretty strange childhood. Yeah. You know, I decided when I was in grad school, I wanted to keep people out of nursing homes. Yeah. And what a cool, what a cool thing to do. You know, I get paid to take care ofCraig Pretzinger:
that. Cool. Yeah, I had this total on related side story I had I had this job delivering medicine for the pharmacy. Yeah. In high school. And so it was funny how a bunch of the high school guys had this job. And, and we'd have to go to the old folks home sometimes. Yeah, there were multiple times that I went in there. And there was somebody on a stretcher with a tag on their toe. Oh, and I was like, I don't know, I don't want to go there. Like I did not like go there.Gary Cooper:
So that I spent, I would spend 10 hours a day as a kid in those places. Yeah. So you know, it was my dad started a pharmacy that was exclusively his customer. And so that's all we did. And so as children, there was four of us. So we delivered to those places exclusively. Wow.Jason Feltman:
Wow. So when did you start that business?Gary Cooper:
So that was 1996. So we're going on 30 years now.Jason Feltman:
Wow. And then how long did it take you to get to the size you were when you were 26?Gary Cooper:
That was a so that was really only three years, man. So it was blowing and going, you know, at a very early age, at a very early age. So you know, I love that saying we all stand on the shoulders of giants. So my dad was a giant, and he was a really cool giant. He was a very quiet spoken, soft, spoken, generous. He didn't have all the trappings of materialism. You know, he drove hammy down cars. He was just truly a giant. So we were able to build on that very rapidly. But it also Matt, you know, this young 24 year old punk was out, busting his ass. You know, it wasn't like, he could open doors. But that doesn't mean they stay open. Right? That meant somebody was out there busting their butt. So I averaged about 60 to 70,000 miles a year in my car. And then I would run 50 to 60 miles a week to stay in shape. And then we were having we were starting a family at the same time. And so it was just all out, you know, and still, I was a young guy, and we were still partying and hanging out and going to football games on the weekends. And so life.Unknown:
Yeah, wild. That is crazy.Craig Pretzinger:
So you're you were partying back then? That was this is way before when you decided that it was time to in that career. Right? Yeah. So what was the what was that turning point? When did that happen? Because that's always exciting, right? The the crash and burnGary Cooper:
the crash and burn story? Sure. Oh, gosh. So 10 years of running the business like after, after my dad passed away, we quadrupled the businesses. And just the American Dream story. You know, it was just truly the American Dream story. And it was, I would call it you know, for the topic we're discussing today, I would call it total self sufficiency. You know, I was relying on me, or others, I didn't really realize how much others were helping. But I felt in my mind, I felt everything was on me. And so I would work my butt off and take it home and leave a notepad beside my bed. I don't know if you guys ever did that. Leave a note that was on my bed. I'd wake up in the middle of the night, and I'd be scribbling stuff down. And, you know, alcohol was a very useful tool for me, because it will keep me up longer. You know, I had to do a lot of entertaining at night with bankers, buyers, sellers, because I was buying companies through I was selling companies. It was private equity companies, there was people buying me. You know, there was pharmaceutical companies there was, you know, there's always dinners Monday through Friday. Wow. So that included, you know, wining and dining. And then on the weekend, by that time, we had four kids, and I would come home. And my wife would be like, I don't care how much you've been out. I've been stuck here with four kids. We're going out. And I'd be like, okay, so man. So so, you know, it became a lifestyle? Yeah, you know, at least six days a week. Yeah. You know, there was dinners. And so, I don't know, it just kind of slowly crept up on me. Yeah. Yeah. So it was just always this grind Monday through Friday, and hotel rooms and all that stuff. And then Friday was like, my wife needed to get out. She needed. She needed relief. You know, raising four kids is harder than what we do, in my opinion. And so I called myself in the book to a Holic because I always had to be doing something. Yeah. You know, that was my first addiction was freaking doing stuff, man. Yeah, you know, I was the biggest fundraiser for the governor. I was always doing stuff. And so alcohol never really interfere with my life until I had back surgery. And then I think depression came in because that first thread, I was talking about self sufficiency. I couldn't be self sufficient when you're laying in the bed for at least six months. Wow. It's pretty damn depressing. And then I went back to the doctor, and I'm like, I'm more miserable after the surgery than before. And he said, no wonder because you have to have both of your hips replaced. I'm 44 years old. And I'm like, You gotta be kidding me. And I didn't take the pain medicine, like a lot of people. I was really scared of that. I think growing up in the pharmacy, and see and all that stuff in my lifetime. So I just drank more, you know, because alcohol was such a good tool for me. Until it wasn't Yeah. And so I drank more and then I mean, what would really pain alcohol well then the tides which are alcohol was causing the pain. Right and, but I didn't realize is like, well, I'll call I'll just drink more. Maybe it'll go away and then I'll drink more. It was kind of like I just kept going deeper and the most justCraig Pretzinger:
the cycle is vicious. Yeah.Gary Cooper:
I call it like a drug dealer loans you, you know enough fun until it starts reeling you back in as like bait. Yep, yeah. So alcohol did me like that it was like that creditor that lent me enough money. Until finally it started reeling me Baggins like, alright, you owe me one times, all these fun times are coming back now and pay me back. Right. And so at three, two more hip replacements, and then one went bad. And so I didn't even get the chance to do the right IP. In between those is when I'm like, Alright, that's enough. I had heard enough people. I embarrass myself, I embarrass my family enough or embarrass my business partners enough, was like, alright, that's a part of my life was done.Craig Pretzinger:
Like that moment when when the clarity comes that you realize, holy crap, I gotta end this thing, because it's just it. You come up with every excuse beforehand, right? Like, oh, well, well, maybe I'll just drink on the weekends. You know, all the different things that come up. And, and then it's just finally, it's so clear and so obvious that the only answer is to no longerGary Cooper:
do what? Yeah, well, I don't know how it worked for you. But you know, I ran out of laws. Yeah, I ran out of runway. And I wasn't the person that I ever intended to be in my life. Yeah. And I certainly wasn't the person that others intended me to be. That's kind of the, that's kind of the landing spot. Sure. And so that was going on seven years ago. And when things started reversing, for me, I had never invested in myself, right. I had invested in businesses I had invested in, maybe skills that I needed, like, I didn't know how to run businesses. So I learned how to run businesses. But I never invested in me, like taking time to understand why I do the things I do. Or I don't know about you guys, but I used to wake up when my hair on fire, I wouldn't be late. And, you know, I would just jump in the shower, no time to like, even think about what my day was because my day was already I was already late. Or jump in the shower. And then I'll go into the office on two wheels, go into meetings late, be disruptive, you know, and had to learn like, Alright, get up an hour earlier than you even need to, and spend about 30 minutes or more own you and quiet time and figure out how to get out of your own way kind of thing. And that calmness. I didn't realize I was giving that as a gift to others when I went through my day. Yep. And so I started doing that, and about a year and a half into it. My relationships with others changed. My relationships in my business changed. I fired myself. We say I fire myself as a CEO, but really, I started acting as a chairman rather than taking over the CEO role. Right. And our business is metamorphosis, in my family metamorphosis, and I can give you statistics to back all that up. And then our burden, our best friend's kid killed himself. In the statistics. The statistics are the last day of my family's chaos. Two of my kids miss 37 days of school the next year, and two of them are struggling in college. The next year, the youngest was the president, not of his class with the young, the president of the entire school. Wow. They didn't go to the doctor at all. Not once. That's I mean, that's evidence. The other two did amazing in school in the other one got in any college that he wanted to go to. Yeah, our business went from a valuation of 20 million to 90 million.Jason Feltman:
That's just evidence. Yeah. And my third hip replacement, you only have two hips, but three upper placements. Most people only have to six weeks later I'm in the Galapagos Islands jumping in and out of sailboats. Yeah Oh,Jason Feltman:
it's bananas. ItCraig Pretzinger:
is good. Hip is the easiest. Yeah.Gary Cooper:
Right? Absolutely. Yeah.Craig Pretzinger:
Well, that that is that's so remarkable. And I love the transition from operator to pseudo owner to actual owner, right chairman is like owner status that's that now you're just, you know, helping when you want or you know, doing, doing the things that you find enjoyable and being called on at the amount, we probably set the boundaries and you just do what you need to right. You don't have to be dependent, your life isn't controlled by that business anymore in the way that it was in your younger years.Gary Cooper:
I think that's right, I think what I decided to do was serve them. How can I make them more successful? Right? And we actually put dollars behind, you know, how can we make them more successful in their career, we hired a business coach, we changed our mission, vision and values, and I was uninvited to the meeting. Nice, you know, so their voice was actually heard, we, we put in crazy incentive and stock option plans and things like that, where the people that were doing the work get rewarded for the work. And so we did things like that where, you know, ownership of the work a game actually, in the company. And then we we partnered with a private equity firm, that still our partner today, and me and the CEO are still hanging out. That's not normal. No, these are the kind of normally you're put to pasture quickly, and we're still hanging out and I'm talking to you guys, that's awesome. As honorary insurance,Craig Pretzinger:
they actually follow through with the promise that they said at the beginning, right? Because they all say a lot of them will say that, Oh, nothing's gonna change. And IGary Cooper:
think they mean it. I think a lot of times is the owner won't change either. Right? Yeah. I think like, this is my baby. And what are you doing? Why are you changing this? And it's like, because you have to let go of it.Craig Pretzinger:
You gotta let go. Yeah. Yeah. YouGary Cooper:
know, which is like agents and agencies, my brother in law as a, as an agent. Yeah. And he's grinding every day. Yep, he's a producer. And it's hard to go from producer to manager to, you know, that's a grind every day, major, major grind. And I have a friend who was a veterinarian, and he sold his business, and now he's doing multiple veterinarian clinics, and he's having a really hard time, not going into 37 treatment rooms. And being on that, that treadmill, you know, and I imagine producers have a hard time with that, too. Yeah,Jason Feltman:
it's hard to step up. And when you do, it's hard to not get in your way, when you make that jump into whatever level it is, that's higher. It's hard to not, because it's like that whole, like, what made you good, what got you here, is not going to get you up there. And then when you get up there, and you make that jump, you still want to do the old things that you did, because that's what I mean, that's your identity, right? It's like, you have to shed that old identity, whether it's a producer or manager or owner, or you know what I mean, to go up, you have to shed that old identity. And it's, you do have like a sense of loss a little bit. Because your identity, I mean, that was who you were, and that's who you were proud of, you gotta shed it. And then you have this new identity and sometimes the new identities a little tough to put on at first because it's new territory. You might not be 100% competent, like you were at the old, you know, your old identity and everything.Gary Cooper:
I think you're so right. You know, to be quite honest, I had to grieve the change. Yeah, I really did. And I know that sounds weird. But you know, I don't know if women do it as bad as US idiot men. But, you know, I'm one of the dumbest men in the world. And that was who I was. What I did was who I was, and that was really, really hard to let go of and, and I tell people this story quite often, and I hope it's helpful. It's not that fun to tell people this, but like, I went on the beach, you know, we live near the beach. So I don't know People go out on the lake or they go out on the mounds or whatever. I sit on the beach for like a couple of days and multiple times cry. And what I've figured out is I needed to be needed. Yeah, that's, it sounds so lame. You know, I'm 51 years old, and I'm sitting out there. And it's like, why did this happen to me? And I'm so blessed, you know, right. And then I'm like, some wimp out there, and our business coach was like, You're being a P word. And she said that to me. Wow. And I am grateful to her. She's like, aren't you bigger than that? Aren't you a father? Aren't you a son? Aren't you a community leader? Aren't you? Aren't you investing in other businesses? Kanchi. Sir, serve your company, Archie denying people the dignity for them to grow. If you don't go grow into your new role. 100%. And I'm like, holy crap. Yeah. So she kicked me in the midsection first, and then open my eyes.Craig Pretzinger:
Yeah. But I think it's still good to process those feelings, too, right? Like you, you went through that you don't like to share it, but you did. You got vulnerable, and you shared it. And thank you for doing that. I think that's an important piece too. Right? You have to work through it. If something isn't comfortable, and you you identify a name that is not comfortable, then move right? And then but it is very helpful to be surrounded by the people that are gonna lift you up. And I think to Jason's point, a lot of times, one of the things that will hold us back are those also the relationships that we had, when we got to that level, sometimes those people are playing great at that level. But if we want to get to the next one, we have to surround ourselves with different folks. And that's really hard, right? Because sometimes the people that may have been supporting you, or got you there are going to say the things to prevent you from getting to the next one. Not not maliciously, but just because they don't see it. They don't see the same vision. They don't have the same driveJason Feltman:
in certainly in the case of alcohol.Gary Cooper:
They didn't quit the alcohol like like, yeah, so. Yeah, and org structure. Jason, you're spot on. You know, when you're a producer and you go into management, what what share and redact you told me is that when we're stressed, we go back to what's comfortable? Yes, yeah, I'm the manager and ship sailing, and it's all smooth sailing. But when the shit hits the fan, I go back down to the producer. Yeah. And she said, that's where you have to really focus on not going back to what feels natural. And that takes a lot of effort. It's like, I do the opposite. Like, my first instinct is to do X ray and, and I'm like, Alright, here, your first instinct is to the opposite. Right? My first scene, my first instinct is to flip somebody off when they cut me. But then my second instinct, like, just maybe they're in a hurryCraig Pretzinger:
to see Gary, you and I are about the same age, Jason is a little bit younger. But like it, it took me 50 years to get to, like everybody said that forever, right? The you got to stop or think before you act all that, but actually doing it and actually being aware of it and actually catching it is a whole nother thing, right? Like just to be able to get to that that level of awareness where you can see it as it's starting to happen. is game changing? And it's certainly not something that I'm very good at yet. But something that needs to be worked on. Right, asGary Cooper:
I totally agree. I think age has something to do with it. But I think that's a learned skill. So like, Yes, I wish somebody would have told young Gary that. So like, since I'm an honorary insurance guy today, dude, like insurance, dude, insurance. Cool. Yes. So much freakin cool.Craig Pretzinger:
You said.Gary Cooper:
And I didn't know I could wear a t shirt either. Oh, yeah. I got dressed up for you clowns. I wasJason Feltman:
like, Oh my gosh, how do we get out of this interview?Craig Pretzinger:
We normally have good cameras, but the apple messes that up.Gary Cooper:
So, you know, somebody would have told me that, you know, I think I've got to learn it. What if I'm an insurance manager that used to be a badass producer? I wish somebody would have told me Wait a minute. When you get stressed, don't go back down to what feels normal. Right? And don't compare yourself to the producer. Because no reproducer likes to hear well, when I was back in my day, you know, nobody likes to hear that shit. Yeah,Jason Feltman:
it's funny that like, to go back a little bit when you talked about, like, you know, shedding the old identity, we do fall back into our ways, there has to be a lot of intention behind what we're doing. And it's like constant intention. Otherwise, whatever we're not paying attention to, we will backtrack, and I mean, it goes with drinking or anything else, right? Like, you have to be like, put a ton of intention behind all of your actions and like, where you want to go, what you you know, your mission, your, your new mission, if it's leveling up in a company, or, you know, shedding the drinking, or anything like that, or drugs or anything, it's like, now I have to be highly intentional about everything I do, to change that identity and become that new person. Because it on, it's not on autopilot, yet you look at other people, and you're like, dude, do they have it's so easy, but it's like they, they've done it a lot. You know, like any action that's repeated over and over and over again, eventually does become easy. It but we're not there yet. Because it's our new, you know, venture or, you know, your person that we're becoming,Gary Cooper:
once again, I think you're spot on, you know, I heard this, I heard this quote, that most people in business, or in their, in the workplace, do more planning for their vacation than they do their career.Jason Feltman:
I don't doubt that at all.Gary Cooper:
Right, is funny, but it's true. And I've gone around our office, we have 560 people that work in our company. And I've asked a lot of people that near like, probably, you know, and I knew I wanted to be I don't know that I wanted to be successful. But I don't know about that. I thought about that as an option of not being you know, I just, I just was a very driven person. And so, but I didn't think about whether that was right for me. You know, I didn't know whether that was like that compass that drive if that that insatiable desire to be successful. I didn't know if that was right. For me. And so six years ago, I read Jack Canfield as a book called The key to living the law of attraction. And I read that book, and it's pretty cool. And it gives you like, almost like how to create a bucket list. And then when I was doing it, I was like, I don't really want to bucket less, but I'm better at running my businesses than I am my life. So I created what you're talking about, I created a mission, vision and values for Gary. I love them, then a one year, three year and seven year plan for my life. And I tell you, the most important thing that's come out of it that I wasn't expecting is it allows me to say no. Like if things aren't on that list, let's say an investment in a business. Somebody comes up with this hot investment. Hey, man, you need to get in this thing. It's so sexy. It's the sexiest thing. And I can look on that list and say it doesn't meet any of my core values. It doesn't meet the mission and vision of my life is gonna distract me from my one year and three year plan. It's gonna take me away from my family. It might interfere with my mental health. I can't do it. Like I had no idea that would be the benefit