HawkSoft cofounders Paul Hawkins (top left) and Sean Hawkins (top right), and VP of Marketing Rushang Shah (top center), present the 2021 Dick Fanazick award to Kevin Dougherty (bottom right), nominated by Marci Grunert (bottom left), via video conference.
November is a month for giving thanks, and this month we’d like to thank the 2021 recipient of the Dick Fanazick award, Kevin Dougherty of Kevin S. Dougherty Insurance Agency Ltd. He was nominated by Marcella (Marci) Grunert, an insurance broker at his agency.
The Dick Fanazick Award was created by HawkSoft’s founders in honor of an elementary school teacher who profoundly impacted Sean Hawkins and shaped the course of his family’s life, ultimately culminating in the creation of HawkSoft. The award serves as an opportunity for HawkSoft agents to recognize the mentors who have changed them for the better and helped them become the people they are today.
Kevin was announced as the 2021 award recipient in October at the 2021 HUG National Conference in San Diego, where a video clip of him accepting the award was shown. He and Marci each received a $250 gift card, as well as a $1,000 donation from HawkSoft to the charity of their choice. They have selected Sarah’s Inn, which offers comprehensive domestic violence support and services in the Chicago area.
We’d like to share a little more about Marci’s nomination for Kevin and how he changed her life by hiring her at his agency nearly 30 years ago.
In this article:
- The right woman for the job
- From assistant to agent
- More than a career
- Insurance as a social service
- The butterfly effect
The right woman for the job
In 1991, Kevin started his own independent agency in Downers Grove, IL, after spending nearly a decade working for two independent insurance agencies. He was looking to get part-time help at his one-man operation, and met Marci at one of the restaurants he insured, where she was working as a waitress.
He was immediately impressed by Marci’s outgoing personality and people skills. “She’s the kind of person everyone loves to talk to,” Kevin says. “Wherever we go, even if it’s to the grocery store where I’m a regular and she’s not, everyone remembers her and is excited to talk to her!”
Kevin knew that Marci would be the perfect fit for his new agency. He offered her a part-time job, with the potential to eventually go full-time and become a licensed agent, and she jumped at the opportunity. She was a single mother at the time, recovering from a bad marriage and struggling to work while caring for her young son, Tommy. “By the time I was 24 I had an abusive ex-husband, a child, and virtually no chance for the future,” she says. “I was in a deep hole, and I lacked the skills and confidence to get myself out.”
Kevin’s offer presented a ray of hope to Marci for her future. She accepted and began working part time at Kevin’s agency, which at the time consisted of an 8’x8’ room in a shared office space, equipped with only a banquet table, a filing cabinet, and a Smith Corona word processor.
The Smith Corona word processor Kevin and Marci used during the early years of their agency
From assistant to agent
Marci continued to work part-time at both the agency and the restaurant for about two years, until Tommy started school and she could move to the agency full-time. In the beginning, she was tasked with responsibilities like answering the phone, making calls, and setting up applications. She hadn’t graduated college, but with Kevin’s help she got licensed, first in P&C, then Life & Health.
“What’s great about the insurance field is that you can be trained based on whatever your talents are,” she says. “Is it working with people? Is it working with data? Are you a service person? Do you like sales? There’s something for everyone. You can take whatever skills you have and build on that.”
“What’s great about the insurance field is that you can be trained based on whatever your talents are... There’s something for everyone. You can take whatever skills you have and build on that.”
With Marci onboard, Kevin’s agency was able to take on more clients and move from servicing only commercial lines to an even split with personal lines. “It wasn’t always easy,” she says, noting early difficulties like the carrier who wrote the majority of their restaurant clients going insolvent, “but it was an exciting time.” Eventually the two of them were able to move into their own office in the same building, and Kevin fondly remembers using Tommy’s red wagon to transport their supplies.
“It was just the two of us at the agency, and almost 30 years later, it still is,” Marci says. “We have such trust between us that neither of us has to worry about what the other is doing. We’re both the kind of people that will do whatever it takes to get the job done. If I have a question, he always knows the answer. He’s just a wealth of knowledge. ”
More than a career
Marci credits Kevin not only for helping her develop her career, but for helping her change the trajectory of her life for the better. “Because I had this insurance career,” she says, “I was able to break free of my ex-husband holding anything over me, whether it was child support or healthcare. I was able to provide for my own home and my own things and not have to rely on anyone else for it, and that was really important to me. If there was a child care situation, I could bring Tommy to work with me if I had to. If he was sick, I could stay home with him.”
Her career in insurance also helped her hone valuable people and relationship skills. She says, “I gained confidence and self-esteem by working with clients and learning how to provide great service, while also handling ones who were tough to deal with. I learned how to maintain healthy relationships and stand up for myself. It didn't happen overnight, but because I was working a solid job in a fantastic industry, I was able to be a better parent and raise my son in a stable home.”
“I gained confidence and self-esteem by working with clients...I learned how to maintain healthy relationships and stand up for myself. It didn't happen overnight, but because I was working a solid job in a fantastic industry, I was able to be a better parent and raise my son in a stable home.”
Insurance as a social service
Kevin approaches each client with the same genuine desire to help that impacted Marci’s life so greatly. “His dedication to his clients and service is an inspiration to all,” Marci says. “He is selfless to a fault. He puts every client and the people he loves in front of his own needs. The customer always comes first. If he needs to make a call at midnight for somebody, he’ll do it. We’ve gone out and changed tires for people who didn’t have coverage. That’s the kind of guy he is. It’s just in his DNA to help people.”
Kevin attributes his approach to the way he thinks about insurance. “We think of ourselves as a social service, not a sales organization,” he says. “It’s not just about sales, or the shortest way to get from A to B. It’s about understanding the needs of the insured and providing them with the policy that will be the best for them.” The most important thing to Kevin is that his clients trust him. “When we talk to clients, we do it the way we would treat a family member or dear friend. If someone ever said that I wasn’t trustworthy, that would be the biggest blow they could deal to me.”
“His dedication to his clients and service is an inspiration to all. He is selfless to a fault. He puts every client and the people he loves in front of his own needs...That’s the kind of guy he is. It’s just in his DNA to help people.”
Marci echoes the same sentiments. “We really try to be part of people’s lives,” she says. “We’re not just there when something bad happens. We call our clients just to see how they’re doing and check up on them. The other day I was driving for a while, so I called up a client who lost his wife about six months ago, and just asked him how he was doing. He just started crying, and I was able to be there for him just by listening to him. We care about people and want them to know we’re in this together. We’re not just going to talk to them at policy renewal.”
Marci (center) with Kevin (right), receiving the Quality CSA reward from Erie Insurance for the state of Illinois
This approach has gained Kevin’s agency many lifelong customers, and even extends across generations. “We have clients that have been with us since day one,” he says. “It’s so great to get to see and help them through the birth of their kids, to their kids graduating from school and getting their own policies, to them having homes and families of their own.”
For Kevin, nothing beats being there for people when disaster strikes. “We never want a claim to happen in the first place,” he says, “but when it does and we can tell people that they’re covered, that’s the best moment for me. Their life is being turned upside down, and seeing their relief that things are going to be okay is what makes all the work we do worthwhile.”
The butterfly effect
The Dick Fanazick award was created to honor those who have impacted the lives of HawkSoft agents, and Kevin has certainly done that not just for Marci, but for so many of his clients. “To say I’m honored and humbled to receive this award is an understatement,” Kevin says. “There are so many people who deserve to be recognized for what they do, so many times people in the periphery contribute small actions that might end up having large consequences in a person’s life, whether it’s a pat on the back or a piece of advice. It’s the butterfly effect—we don’t know what will be the end result of our everyday actions.”
“There are so many people who deserve to be recognized for...small actions that might end up having large consequences in a person’s life, whether it’s a pat on the back or a piece of advice. It’s the butterfly effect—we don’t know what will be the end result of our everyday actions.”
Marci is thankful her nomination was selected for the award so that Kevin could be recognized for all he does. “Kevin changed my life,” she says, “and he changes other people’s lives every day. I’m lucky to have worked with him for so many years, and to run a successful agency with him. He’s a guardian angel, and the world is a better place for having him in it.”
HawkSoft adds our voice to Marci’s to thank Kevin for his dedication to making the lives of those around him better. We are grateful to support countless agencies like Kevin’s that selflessly serve their communities and change more lives than they may ever know.
Learn more about the Dick Fanazick award
Learn how Dick Fanazick changed the life of Sean and Paul Hawkins, resulting in the birth of HawkSoft, and see previous award recipients.