One of the highlights of the last several HawkSoft User Group national conferences is the presentation of HawkSoft’s Dick Fanazick Award to someone who has made a huge impact in the life of an agent. 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.
This year’s award recipient is Robert Mackoul of New Empire Insurance Services, nominated by agent Chris Paradiso of Paradiso Insurance. Robert and Chris were both awarded a $250 gift card from HawkSoft, as well as a $1,000 donation to the cause of their choice. Robert and Chris have both elected for their donations to go to Journey Found, an organization dear to Chris’s heart that enables adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to become all that they are capable of being while being productive members of their community. We’d like to share from Chris’s written nomination to tell Robert’s story and how he has changed countless lives.
Life & career
Robert (Bob) Mackoul was born and raised in Brooklyn, joining the Navy at a young age and serving in the Vietnam War. After he was discharged from service in 1969, he wasn’t sure what to do with the rest of his life. The Navy was the only life he’d known to that point, and he didn’t have a trade or college education with which to support himself and his wife and newborn son. When he was offered a job at Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company as an insurance agent, he quickly accepted the opportunity and began selling life and disability insurance. He soon found his own niche selling life insurance to physicians in his area. After several of his clients told him they wished they were buying their property and casualty policy through him as well, he decided to get his P&C license and expand his agency.
From there, he went on to build three successful insurance agencies, mentoring hundreds of agents of all experience levels, from those just starting out in the industry to veterans looking to better themselves and grow their agencies. Bob has served as President of the Tri-County New York Big I and has been an active member of numerous industry organizations. “His knowledge of the insurance industry knows no bounds,” Chris says. “He is a firm believer in sharing not only his knowledge with others, but his mistakes as well. He would much rather someone learn from one of his past mistakes than see someone fail, knowing he could have helped.”
In preparation for his nomination, Chris spoke with Robert’s son Ed, as well as several members of his agency. Ed mentioned that his father continually told his children (and exemplified himself) the saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” His children learned the value of hard work from him, gaining an appreciation for the fact that the best things in life require time and dedication.
“Bob is a firm believer in sharing not only his knowledge with others, but his mistakes as well. He would much rather someone learn from one of his past mistakes than see someone fail, knowing he could have helped.”
This work ethic carried over to Robert’s agency as well. When several of his children started working at the family business, he made it clear they should not expect any favors simply because he was their father. He held them to the same standards as the rest of the team, even eventually dismissing one of his sons from the company when he repeatedly arrived at work later than the rest of the team. “It shows the kind of man Bob is,” Chris says of this anecdote. “He knew that it wasn’t fair to his other employees if he played favorites by allowing his son to do something he wouldn’t accept from his other employees; he respected and valued his employees far too much to let that happen.”
Robert's sense of integrity has won him the regard of everyone who works with him. His employees observe that he is loved by everyone who meets him, and appreciate that he has created a close-knit, family-oriented atmosphere at the agency. They describe him as smart, personable, passionate about his work, creative, generous, kind, and loving. As an example of his character, one employee shared that he always chooses the smallest office space as his own, though he owns the entire building.
The spirit of service
Robert’s wife, Deborah, lovingly refers to him as Santa with an empty sack. “He leaves the house in the morning with cash in his pocket,” she says, “and on many days he returns home for more money so he can give it away to those in need.” Robert is a well-known member of his community, being an active participant in Long Island youth athletic programs and tournament teams for over three decades. He is also the main sponsor for the annual Saints and Sinners Golf Classic charity fundraiser for his local church, St. Mary's of Brooklyn, tickets for which are known to sell out each year. He supports various other local causes as well, including a local seminary for Greek and Russian Orthodox parishes, The Soup Kitchen, United Way, and St. Jude.
“Nothing I do is really about me. I like to fly under the radar—it's all about helping others, be it physically, financially, or however else. If you follow the philosophy of always asking what you can do to help others, everything just seems to work out in the end.”
“Considering the clout and reputation that this man has so rightfully earned within the insurance industry,” Chris says, “you wouldn’t expect him to be one of the most humble individuals you will ever meet. He is never one to reach for the limelight, giving the kudos to others and preferring to stay in the background. Bob will, and does, drop everything to help someone in need, whether it be through charity or mentoring someone just getting started in insurance.”
When we talked to Robert himself about the award, he echoed this sentiment. "Nothing I do is really about me," he says. "I like to fly under the radar—it's all about helping others, be it physically, financially, or however else. If you follow the philosophy of always asking what you can do to help others, everything just seems to work out in the end.” In fact, Robert was hesitant to receive the gift card for the award, and in the end took it only so he could treat his staff.
HawkSoft is thankful to Chris for sharing this touching nomination, and for Robert, whose generous spirit and thoughtful leadership has had a huge impact on many like Chris who now run successful agencies of their own thanks to his mentorship. We can all learn from Robert’s example of selfless generosity, and can only hope that we can one day influence the lives of others the way such special people have touched ours.
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.