The Inspiring Story of Simon Arias, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist
Yitzi: Hi Simon. Thank you so much for your time. What is your background? What is so unique about your story?
I grew up in Youngstown, OH, raised by a single mother who worked multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Growing up in Youngstown, there is a lot of negative influences that can impact a young mind & set someone on a course for failure. I initially got distracted with this lifestyle, getting involved with drugs & guns, and spending time in a juvenile detention center.
Fortunately, with the support of family and an early exposure to some positive mentors, I was able to break away from that culture. In high school, I found my place on the football field. Being an athlete gave me the channel I needed to focus my energy. It taught me the value of hard work & dedication, and it was my introduction into the thing I’m most passionate about to this day, leadership. My high school team went on to take the state championship, and I spent my college years as a starting safety at Mercyhurst University. I was captain of both my high school & college teams & it was this introduction to leadership where I first felt like I’d discovered my calling.
I think what’s most unique about my story is the perspective that it has given me in life. From standing in welfare lines and being involved in destructive behavior, to becoming a multi-millionaire and leading others to better their lives. It’s a perspective that not many people have.
Yitzi: That is incredible. How did you end up leading this company?
After graduating college, I knew I wanted a results-based career. My competitive nature and relentless work ethic would take me where I wanted to be, I just needed to find the right vehicle to apply it to. I received a phone call from Marcus Smith at American Income Life, and that’s where I found the perfect opportunity. Once I was in the door, I became a sponge. I found mentors and implemented everything that they taught me.
At first, I set my goals on being one of the top salespeople & I quickly accomplished that. When I got into management, I fell in love with leadership. My new mission became developing others and helping them accomplish their goals. It’s great to achieve personal success, but knowing that you’ve changed someone else’s life for the better is what’s most rewarding.
Within a few years, I opened Arias Agencies in Pittsburgh and have since expanded my business to be one of the top producing agencies internationally. We currently have twelve offices spread over five states, with plans for further expansion on the horizon.
Yitzi: When you started you were the David against many Goliaths. Today you are the Goliath. What was your strategy to “slay all those giants”?
Depending on what arena you’re standing in, everyone is a player & everyone is a coach in some aspect of life. A player or a coach, a David or a Goliath, you have to know your role at any given time. I started as a player & did everything my coaches told me to. Coachability is one of the most important qualities that got me to where I am today.
There’s an old quote about standing on the shoulders of Giants. That’s what I did early in my career. Instead of slaying the giants, I stood on their shoulders. I found my mentors & did whatever was necessary to take me to the next level. I outworked others around me, stayed focused, and eventually found myself in a position where I was mentoring others.
Yitzi: What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs launching a startup?
You must understand the concept of “Pay Now, Play Later.” When I’m coaching people on The GRIND, I’m always stressing that you must be willing to sacrifice. Get up early and outwork everyone around you. You have to throw out the idea of “Work-Life Balance.” You can have average work-life balance your entire life, or you can do the hard work up front so that you can enjoy life in the long run. When you spend a few years working like others won’t, you’ll later have a life that most others can’t.
It’s just like constructing a building. In the early stages of building your business, if you’re not working relentlessly on building the strongest foundation possible, everything is bound to crumble. Sacrifice creates opportunity. Find mentors and be 100% coachable.
There will, no doubt, be obstacles. It’s your responsibility to anticipate them and push through it. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. Eventually the tough times pass and those who keep fighting find a way to stand up. If you fall down seven times, you’ve got to get up eight. Your mentality must be that you’ll fight through whatever adversity that stands in front of you.
Yitzi: How do you attract and retain high performance sellers?
- First and foremost, we create a family culture & a fun atmosphere. We as people spend a lot of our time working, so it’s important that we create an uplifting environment.
- Secondly, it’s important to take the time out to invest in your people. Not only in a business sense, but personally as well. You’ve got to add value to a person’s life outside of business. I put a strong focus on enriching peoples’ lives mentally, physically, and spiritually.
- Lastly, 60% of production comes from the top 20% of the team. When you have a person making a special contribution to the business, you have to acknowledge that and treat them special. You have to recognize your top players and give them the ball.
Yitzi: Aside from bonuses, how do you incentivise strong performance among your sales reps?
Like I just mentioned, you have to recognize your top people and reward them. Beyond that, we are constantly running contests to keep the business fun & promote a competitive atmosphere. We’ve given away vacations, cars, watches, cash, you name it. We even make sure to structure our contests so that everyone, even a brand-new person who may not be performing on a top tier level yet, has a chance of winning our top prizes.
Yitzi: Your company has grown very quickly in 9.5 years. It is well known that it is important to grow a company organically. How did you know when it was time to grow? Why were you confident that it was not more than you can handle?
- I always say that if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Initially and perhaps most importantly, I built the business with a strong foundation of leaders & support staff. I made sure that we had the people in place to support the growth that would eventually come.
- Beyond that, I was financially conservative during the first few years. You have to live below your means in the early stages of business so that you have a reserve that can support any growth or expansion opportunities that comes your way. I had a financial cushion so that when the opportunity arose, I was able to reinvest heavily into my business.
- Growth comes from duplication. You’ve got to spend time with your top players so that you can delegate down the road. You can’t delegate unless you’ve properly duplicated, and you can’t grow without delegation. There comes a point in growing your business where you have to trust others to get the job done and let them fly. In my experience, you have to grow with people and once you’ve duplicated yourself, you can let go, even if in your head you don’t think it will be 100% to your liking, the job will get done if you’ve focused on duplication. Think of it this way, if you can duplicate 90% of yourself into ten people, 90% x 10 = 900%, when you’d otherwise only have 100% of yourself to give.
- Most importantly, I’ve always kept my faith in God. I work on my relationship with the Lord consistently. In business, people tend to shy away from bringing up religion because it can be so polarizing, but I firmly believe that my faith in God has greatly contributed to my success. Whatever your spiritual beliefs may be, I encourage you to embrace and develop them consistently.
Yitzi: You have been voted as one of the top places to work at, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. What have you done to create such a great company culture?
The greatest thing about the Post-Gazette Top Workplaces Awards is that they are based on anonymous employee feedback. It’s a real validation of the effort we’ve put into making Arias Agencies the unique organization that we’ve come to be.
As to what we’ve specifically done to create the culture, it all relates back to what I previously mentioned about investing into your people. If I recall correctly, throughout your life, about 35% of your waking hours are spent working. If over a third of your life is going to be invested in your career, then you should create a career atmosphere that is rewarding in all aspects of your life, not just financially.
That’s why we strive for a family atmosphere. Beyond the financial rewards & career stability, we invest in the people that make our organization thrive. All year long we have holiday parties, summer cook-outs, charitable events, gatherings at MLB & NFL games, basically anything we can do to make our environment fun and uplifting. We may spend a lot of our time grinding and growing our business, but we make sure to allot time to enjoy our lives together as well.
Yitzi: What are the best marketing strategies that you would recommend to someone starting a business?
Your best marketing strategy is, hands-down, personal word of mouth. In our current culture, that obviously includes social media. But even if social media disappeared tomorrow, what really matters in marketing is the impact you’ve had on other peoples’ lives. If you’re able to create something worth talking about, people will do your marketing for you.
Yitzi: You have been quoted as saying that you think a key reason for one’s financial success comes because one gives back to the community. Why do you think that is so?
I spoke earlier on my relationship with the Lord. I believe that if the Lord sees I can be trusted with a little, he will bless me with a lot. Can I pass the test and be a good steward?
In proverbs it says, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” It’s the giving that dictates the getting. It’s the simple concept of Karma. We’ve all heard “what goes around comes around” and it just seems that I’ve witnessed time and time again that when we give, in the long term, we end up being successful. Sometimes the success is direct, sometimes indirect, but I have personally witnessed the manifestation of good Karma and the rewards it has to offer.