Chauncey Citchens of The General Insurance, Daymond John’s Black Entrepreneurs Day: 5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

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The first thing is always to acknowledge that there is a difference in the numbers, in people who have these opportunities. Before you can even solve a problem is to say this is an issue. We know that this is a problem, we know it needs to be addressed. When you have different people in the room they can tell you. It’s always interesting because we know nepotism exists. We know different things exist to where you know the right people, everybody doesn’t know the right people, so how do you go and find them? You can’t always expect them to come to you so you have to get out there.

As part of our series about ‘Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society’ I had the pleasure of interviewing Chauncey Citchens of The General Insurance at the 2022 Black Entrepreneurs Day curated by Daymond John in New York City, New York.

Thank you so much for doing this with us, Chauncey! What life lesson has enabled you to be where you are today?

I think a life lesson I have is the quote, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” That’s a life lesson I just take personally and also at work. So doing events like Black Entrepreneurs Day, we know we are giving back to entrepreneurs and helping the community feel that. Even being here, you already feel the energy. The best part of my job is when I get to do those things that really impact someone else’s life beyond just trying to sell a product or service.

What were some stumbling blocks along the way that have shaped your character?

I am originally from Mississippi and I’m a black woman. So you can imagine that the odds are already stacked against you. I think that while I had an upbringing that was pretty good, getting here is always hard because you don’t have that blueprint. I have parents who are college educated, but I don’t have parents who are in business or who do marketing. So I think the obstacles are really in how you figure out what’s next? How do you get the mentors, how do you know who to talk to, and how do you position yourself the right way to get to where you want to be.

Coming out of graduate school during a recession and not being able to find a job was the biggest obstacle I’ve ever had in my life. But it taught me that moments are just that, You can’t take a moment and make it the rest of your life. So I look back now and I see that I learned how to have perseverance, how to be resilient and that you can do everything right and that doesn’t always mean it’ll go your way. But everything falls into place over time. So I feel like those obstacles made me the person I am today, to not stress all the time, to just think that things will work themselves out one way or another.

What would you say to a struggling BIPOC entrepreneur who has failed one too many times before?

It goes back to the answer I just gave…that failure is part of life. I think a lot of times when you fail, you feel like, what I do from here, this must not be for me. You can start doubting yourself. If you are really committed to something and you think it’s for you, I would say take the failures and the lessons and when you take the lessons from failure, those eventually turn into successes. You might pivot, it might not look like the way you thought when you started, but once you get to the other side, you’ll see how those failures all make sense. So I would say just keep going, learn the lessons and use them.

Okay, great. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important for a business to have a diverse executive team?

Diversity in gender, race, age only makes a brand better because you have differences in perspective. When you have different people that means you have different upbringings, you have different experiences, you have different lifestyles. When you’re in a company, especially in marketing, when you’re trying to connect with people, if you have one person who only grew up a certain way, you’re missing out on this large diverse set of consumers you’re trying to reach. So the first point I would make is that diversity in people means diversity in thought.

Also, inclusion is important. So when you talk about diversity, we always say they play together. You can’t just have diversity without inclusion. I don’t want to just be invited to the party. I want you to engage with me. When I am thinking about how I want to market to you or sell you something, I’m not just thinking about making the sale. I’m thinking about how this helps you. I want to include you in my thinking throughout the way. So having those people in the room also helps with the inclusion standpoint.

The third is honestly because it’s the right thing to do. This world is diverse. How can you have a company who wants to operate in this country, in this world, and you don’t have employees who look like the people you serve? At The General we really want to make sure we internally look like the communities that we are interacting with and impact.

More broadly can you describe how this can have an effect on our culture?

We had a conversation about this at dinner. I went to HBCU, Historically Black College University and I talked about how a lot of times people don’t always grow up seeing what they want to be. You have an impact on culture when you employ and when you do business with diverse audiences. We move the culture forward by playing a part in it. I feel like we impact culture because we are here.

Okay, wonderful. How do you define “Leadership?” Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I’ve heard before that leadership is not just leading, it’s actually getting people to follow and be alongside you. So if I’m walking I might be in front, but if nobody’s following me am I really leading? Leadership isn’t just about I’m the person at the top, I’m the boss. Rather, it’s like how am I evoking this sense of community and team where everybody feels part of it? A good example of that would be on the team that I manage. I am not the one that knows the most about everything and I think for a long time I thought leadership meant that you have to be the one that knows everything better than anyone else. That is not leadership. I think leadership is also knowing to have the right people around you to try to accomplish whatever it is you need to do. So in the way I hire now, in the way we hire at The General, I think we always try to look for people who are collaborative in nature, who are team players, who of course are very smart and forward thinking because the best leaders make more leaders.

Can you recommend two things the community/society/the industry can do to help address the root of the diversity issues in executive leadership?

The first thing is always to acknowledge that there is a difference in the numbers, in people who have these opportunities. Before you can even solve a problem is to say this is an issue. We know that this is a problem, we know it needs to be addressed. When you have different people in the room they can tell you. It’s always interesting because we know nepotism exists. We know different things exist to where you know the right people, everybody doesn’t know the right people, so how do you go and find them? You can’t always expect them to come to you so you have to get out there.

What piece of advice would you give a budding Black entrepreneur?

I think my advice to a budding black entrepreneur would be to study and research. There is so much information out there that is readily available more than ever before. Secondly is to ask what need are you meeting? I think sometimes people get hung up in entrepreneurship because you kind of didn’t think thoroughly through what am I really trying to provide that’s going to impact somebody. So what need are you meeting? And then you have to have some grit. You are going to face a lot of no’s all the time and you have to be really committed to whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish.

Once I’ve done my research and know a need has been met, I have a solution to it. When it gets hard, that should keep you grounded to keep going back to that question. I think if you do those things, it could help keep you on the path.

How can our readers find out more about The General?

You can follow us on any social media @thegeneralauto and you can also visit our website www.thegeneral.com

This was very inspiring, Chauncey. Thank you so much for joining us!

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Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor