This article was originally written by Bob Castello and published in The Greenville News.
Guy Furay doesn’t wonder whether God has a sense of humor.
“It was about 1994,” said Furay,” and my dad said, ‘Guy, what do you want to do with your life?’ I didn’t want any part of that question. I said, ‘I think I want to be in sales.’ I think that ends the conversation, right? My dad says, ‘What do you want to sell?’ My answer: ‘Anything but insurance.’
“So if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”
At that, Furay, 48, laughs heartily.
Today, he runs his own business, The Insurance Source, a small company in Greer with four other employees that deals with health, life, disability and dental insurance.
“The thing I love about insurance is that it’s an abstract product,” Furay said. “It is something that is hard to understand, so I get the opportunity to explain something really complex to somebody, and when you see that light bulb go off and they get it, that’s what I get excited about.”
He’s come a long way where that’s concerned, having traveled an interesting path from the 11-year-old kid who just wanted to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings.
His father had a better idea, and the next thing Furay knew, he was caddying at a golf course near his home outside of St. Louis, Missouri.
“I was maybe 75 pounds, and at first I absolutely hated everything about it,” Furay said. “It was boring. But it was a gift that my dad gave me in showing me work, in showing me the ability to relate to people and in introducing me to the wonderful game of golf.”
Furay worked at a golf course as a caddy and doing other jobs from the age of 11 until he was 25. He paid half his tuition at St. Louis University High, an all-boys private Catholic school, and he earned a scholarship to Quincy College, then a two-year school in Quincy, Illinois.
After that, Furay said he was “at a crossroads.”
“I was either going to join the military or maybe go to the community college,” he said. “I had no idea how I was going to finish college.”
Then a local golf pro asked Furay why he had never applied for the Evans Scholarship, which is awarded to caddies.
That’s right, a scholarship for caddies. But we’re not talking “Caddyshack” here.
“You have to have caddied for at least two years and maintained an exemplary record there,” Furay said. “You have to get recommendations from members where you caddied — I had to bribe them to advance my application along a little bit. You had to have graduated in the upper quarter of your class, demonstrated significant community involvement and had significant financial need.”
Furay figured he had all of those except the academic qualification, but the golf pro reminded Furay that he had attended St. Louis U. High, where he had 37 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists in his class, an indication of the school’s academic rigors.
Furay applied and was awarded a full scholarship to the University of Missouri.
“That’s the greatest honor I’ve received in all my life and all my career, and I hope it’s a challenge, too,” he said. “I hope I show those people who donated to the scholarship that, yes, choosing me was the right thing.”
Furay graduated from Missouri in 1990. He went to graduate school, earning his master’s degree in marketing from Webster University in Webster Groves, Missouri, outside of St. Louis.
While in graduate school, among other jobs, he did an internship working in group sales with the St. Louis Cardinals.
“It was a great experience,” Furay said. “I got to walk into Busch Stadium to go to work.”
After graduate school, he went to work for McCann Erickson Event Marketing, a division of the McCann Erickson advertising agency. It was during that time — from February through November of 1995 — that Furay worked with the country music duo Brooks and Dunn on their Waitin’ on Sundown tour. He arrived a few days ahead of them at each stop to promote he show.
“It was a pretty great job,” Furay said. “What was I, 27 years old? Seeing the country? Getting paid to do it? Not too bad.”
In 1997, Furay took a job with BlueCross BlueShield in Columbia, and he was moved to Greenville in August 1997. He worked for the company for eight years.
Then Furay decided to venture out on his own.
“In 2005,” Furay said, “I went to my dad and I said, ‘I think I want to open my own business.’ He said, ‘Two things. No. 1, are you crazy? No. 2, you’re not crazy. You might do great, you might not, but just keep your focus on people. If you keep your focus on people and take care of them, they’ll take care of you. The rest will work out.’ And that’s the best advice I’ve been given.”
Furay worked out of his house from October 2005 through 2007. At that point, he hired his first employee, Kristina Williams, who serves as his Director of Operations, and they moved into an office.
“I had gotten some new accounts and it was time to hire somebody,” Furay said. “My dad told me, ‘Hire somebody who is better than you in some way.’ I met Kristina, and she’s better than me in almost every way. I hear every day from a customer about how amazing she is.”
Furay said money was tight, so the office was a little on the empty side.
“I didn’t have any furniture,” he said. “I didn’t have anything, so she came to the office for her first day of work, and she likes to tell people, ‘I think there was a notepad, and maybe there was a pen. That’s about it.’ She’s probably right.
“The thing about Kristina is she’s a self-starter. I was in a mode where I’ve got to be out pounding the pavement, knocking on doors, trying to get people to talk to me about insurance, and I needed her to be able to hit the ground running. I didn’t have the time to train her the way I wanted to, so she had to be someone who really jumps in and really cares and says, ‘I don’t know that answer, but I’m going to find out and I’ll call you back,’ and customers like that. They like the honesty.”
They’ve moved five times because of growth, and about three years ago they took up residence on Trade Street in downtown Greer. Furay has added three more employees over the years, so it’s now a five-person operation.
In 2015, The Insurance Source was recognized as a Greenville Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Month.
“There are three main things that we do,” Furay said. “We help businesses attract and retain good people. Communication and service. If people don’t understand it, it has no value, so it’s on me to make sure they understand it. And service. We believe we’re better than what the general competition is, and service is the opportunity to prove it.”
They also help with individual health insurance and personal life insurance.
“We want to make a difference,” Furay said. “In high school people asked, ‘What do you want to do?’ I had no clue, but my answer was simple: ‘I want to make a difference.’ Everybody else said, ‘I want to be a doctor,’ or, ‘I want to be a lawyer,’ or, ‘I want to be a senator.’
“I don’t care the way I do it. I just happen to love insurance, because it’s about risk. It’s about taking risk that would crumble me or my family financially and transferring it to an insurance company. I like that concept, because I can make somebody’s life better.”
Shortly afterward, the conversation returned to God and His sense of humor.
Furay, who has two sons, Jackson, 14, and William, 8, is himself one of nine siblings.
“Guy Vincent Furay is my name,” he said. “That was my grandfather’s name. That was my uncle’s name. Before my parents even met, my name was predestined to be Guy Vincent Furay in honor of my uncle and in honor of my grandfather.”
His parents had nine children, Furay and his eight sisters.
“Eight daughters and a guy named Guy,” he said. “That’s not a coincidence. How amazing is that? To me that’s a God thing, just as, ‘Anything but insurance.’ But there are so many steps along the way, and you just sit back and laugh.”
Especially knowing the variety in the steps he’s taken.