An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Don’t forget; no matter what, you are not a big deal in the broader context of world history. Try to be cool.
As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Parker Beauchamp.
Parker Beauchamp is the founder and managing partner at Markd. A fifth-generation insurance professional with nearly 20 years in the industry, he is committed to transforming how the insurance space does business and leading by example. He is the former CEO of INGUARD, a forward-thinking insurance and risk management firm, where he managed a personal portfolio of clientele who required complex insurance and risk management strategies, such as high net worth individuals, celebrities, athletes and their companies. Additionally, Beauchamp was named one of Insurance Business America magazine’s “Young Guns’’ in 2015.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I had a great childhood. Of course, it was not a breeze or anything, but I wouldn’t change any of it. I grew up in a small, rural, yet progressively artistic, city called Wabash, Indiana. It had 15,000 people when I was born and 10,000 when I left. I was an entrepreneurial little guy. As a kid, I started companies, mowed lawns and worked on farms. I always had a project going for money or how I thought I could create good in the world.
Growing up in a community like that, I, of course, did not have all the opportunities in the world, but I did have some benefit of growing up in an area where everyone knew me, even if that came with some strings attached.
I was very fortunate that my family valued travel and we did it extensively. At a young age, I made it to all 50 states in the US, and at least as many countries. Some of my favorite trips as a kid included visits to Lloyd’s of London with my mom and dad, where I tagged along as a stowaway of sorts. Both of my parents were ‘names’ at the organization, essentially meaning they were personally, financially responsible for a portion of the losses and expenses that exceeded underwriting proceeds. As with many Americans at the time, I’m not sure that went well for them.
But, that exposure to the insurance industry, at a relatively young age, probably 5 years or younger, made an unshakeable impression on me. I got to go into the new (at the time) Lloyd’s building and ride the escalators observing underwriters and brokers going about their business. I was completely obsessed. I read all the books, even if I didn’t understand them.
In addition to that experience, my family, along with some other families, owned a small insurance agency. Very typical stuff. My great-grandfather, Ward (my namesake), had acquired our piece of it from a bank for $5,000 just before the depression. During the depression, the bank reneged on its contract and stole the clients back, but Ward was a tough guy. He had his leg amputated by a civil war surgeon, on a block of ice, when he was only eight years old. He essentially fought to keep his clients and saved the agency. It grew like so many agencies grew; brought in some sons (truly), merged with competitors, and acquired others in surrounding towns and such.
As a family, we talked about insurance and helping our customers all the time. I dreamed of making all of them proud of me. I wanted to be the best and still do. I started mowing the lawns for the company when I was around 12, I think. Then, I started working in the office on breaks in high school, until later, as a teenager in college, I started getting shipped off to insurance companies for internships.
It was at one of those, in 1999, where I came to the conclusion all of insurance was going online. And, I thought it might be soon. It would surely just be a few more years I thought, and I was determined to be the one to see to it. But, yet, here we still are as an industry, 23 years later, with all this opportunity, just barely scratching the surface with the application of technology. It will happen.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It is not my line, but it sure means a lot to me. That is; it is better to be smart…but, if you’re going to be dumb…you better be tough. Even though I was undersized, I always took anyone on if I thought there was an opportunity to stand up for someone. This was especially useful getting into neighborhood fights as a kid and wrestling for the Wabash Apaches (right). I still apply this belief every day. To me, winning comes down to what you’re made of. Rarely does anything ever go to plan. Mistakes happen and you don’t get any redoes. So, other than to learn from mistakes, what already happened is not relevant in my mind. There is only where you are now, and where you can go, so figure out a way to survive and advance. In wrestling, you could be getting beaten badly on points, banged up, lungs on fire and feel near death, but if you can just get your opponent’s shoulders to touch the mat at the same time for a split second your arm gets raised as the winner. I loved this. Some people have makeup that would never allow them to quit. This is how I want to be — always. This is a fragile mentality. Because you only have to quit once to lose it. I’d rather die or lose a limb before quitting. I am fiercely protective of this. I think of my great-grandfather. Having his leg amputated in those days put him at an incredible disadvantage his entire life. Who cares? Just keep going.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
There is not. My own life experiences and adventures have led me to the highs and lows that mean so much to me now. For me, I think it has been more important to get out there and do something myself, even if that means I could screw something up.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?
Definitely. I think most ideas are generally good. They’re just ideas after all and those are free. I think the hardest part about getting a good idea to become a business is shepherding it through all the naysayers, doubters, jealous people and cranks. Most people haven’t started a company, and never will, so what authority are they to tell you what’s wrong with your ideas? Take their feedback, but don’t let them kill off your dreams. Just keep going. Think of all the good ideas that never came to be because of someone talking another person out of it.
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
Well, I don’t know. Maybe someone has, maybe someone hasn’t, but who cares. Google wasn’t the first search engine. Tesla didn’t invent the car, not even the electric car. Apple didn’t invent a mobile phone. Amazon wasn’t the first bookstore. Netflix wasn’t the first rental company. One doesn’t have to be first. It is a great big, complex world that has a lot of needs — I think there is enough space for you so do your homework and go for it.
For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.
I am sorry. I just can’t. There are so many ways to go about it. One has to find their own way. Above all else. Just start.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?
- Go for it. Starting is the hardest part. I never had trouble with this, but it does not mean I ever started without fear; fear of failing, fear of hurting me or my family, fear for my reputation. Embrace these feelings for what they are, feelings. These make life worth living.
- Raise hell. My grandfather told me this every time I said goodbye to him. “Okay man, raise hell,” he would say. It didn’t matter what we were doing. “Teach the teachers a thing or two,” was another. You can’t start a company by being afraid to put yourself out there. It’s unnatural. So be confident. Shake off the losses and just keep going.
- Have tons of fun. If you’re going about something. It might as well be fun. Most people will never start a company. Take pleasure in being one of the few that have or might. I try to walk the line of being excited AND terrified at the same time. I think that’s a good place to be.
- Be a fair dealer. Soon your time on earth will end so don’t cheat folks. What’s the point if you do? You’ll be liked more and have more success if you don’t.
- Don’t forget; no matter what, you are not a big deal in the broader context of world history. Try to be cool.
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
I’d socialize it. Talk about your idea to as many people you trust that you can. After that process, do you still think you have something? Then, keep going. Involve some other professionals in the space, or investors, attorneys, analysts, etcetera. Your people will likely lead you to the next set of people, and the next and the next. If you love what you’re doing, keep plugging along.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
Personally, I’d strike out on my own. No offense to consultants. They have their place in the world, and I love some of them, but that is not where I would go to start a company. I would probably go to someone that has started a company (and not a consulting company).
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
Geez. Unsure. I think it depends. I’ve definitely done both, and also taken on reckless amounts of debt to see my ideas through. One trap I think many get caught up in are old adages about ‘being debt-free’, or obsessing over profit and loss while ignoring value creation. If you are focused on creating value quickly, I think having money to invest in your ideas and companies is the way to go. Having started with nothing, or maybe worse, starting with debts, today I’d side on raising venture money. That money is extremely important, and can be helpful to grow value quickly, but perhaps even more meaningful is that if you’re strategic, you’d have the potential to pick up some really great partners that can give you a second set of eyes, ears and ideas, networks, encouragement and such. Business is hard and can be an emotional rollercoaster, which is great. This makes you feel dead and alive so sometimes it helps to have a buddy or two with you along the way.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Well, I hope that I have. I don’t think that you can ever stop trying. One of the few great wealth creators in the world, if not the only true version, is just that — creation. Creating businesses, for example, can do good in the world and can also create wealth. With this comes a voice, influence, money and power for one to use as a source of good. But none of these are necessities. Don’t wait around for success to try to help people. There are a lot of folks we interact with all day long that we can help. Maybe it is as simple as a hello, or opening a door, telling someone you are proud of them, that you are cheering for them, or that you are sorry. There is so much to be happy for. Don’t let the details get you down. Smile.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Neil Armstrong. So many questions. So many. Gosh I want to walk on something other than Earth, and I will forever be jealous he got to do it first.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Making Something From Nothing: Parker Beauchamp of Markd On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.