Ernie Bray is the Chairman CEO of AutoClaims Direct, which provides virtual claims, streamlined cloud-based workflow platforms, customized data and metrics, and human touch delivery. Over the last 18 years, Ernie has grown ACD to six annual rankings on the Inc. 5000, four years on Deloitte’s Technology Fast-500, and Entrepreneur’s “Best Entrepreneurial Companies In America.” Ernie’s also the host of the podcast, Focus On Claims, where he interviews interesting people, companies, and trends from the world of insurance and insurance tech. He is a contributing writer to Forbes, Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, HuffPost, TechCo and has been featured in Inc.com.
As always, May I Have Your Attention is brought to you by captivate.ai, which turns your podcast into three months of social media content, you can find out more at Captivate.ai.
Ernie’s background [0:40]
Marketing and strategy tips to grow your business [3:02]
Have a specific goal while you’re creating your content [5:27]
Ernie’s message to fellow entrepreneurs [6:53]
Entrepreneurs isn’t that glamorous [8:34]
Get moving to handle stress [10:16]
Keep pushing can make the difference [12:08]
Bring your energy and enthusiasm to everything you do [14:17]
There’s a lot of negativity out there [15:58]
People can lift other people up [17:45]
Live the best life that you can [19:08]
Justin Nassiri 00:04
Welcome back to May I have your attention, a show about slicing through the noise online. I’m Justin Assyria. And each week I chat with industry leaders about how to get keep and monetize attention online. May I have your attention is brought to you by captivate.ai, which turns your webinar or podcast into three months of social media content? Find out [email protected] Let’s get started with today’s episode. Well joining me today in San Diego, California, my guest is Ernie Bray. Ernie, welcome to me I have your attention.
Ernie Bray 00:38
Hey, Justin is great to be on.
Justin Nassiri 00:40
So I want to give our listeners an abbreviated bio on Ernie. He is the Chairman CEO of auto claims Direct, which provides virtual claims streamlined cloud based workflow platform, customized data and metrics and human touch delivery. Over the last 18 years, Ernie has grown ACD to be a Inc Magazine, five, Inc. 5000 named company six times one of Deloitte fast 500 multiple times. He’s also the host of the podcast focus on claims where he interviews interesting people, companies and trends from the world of insurance and insure tech. And he also runs ACD Labs, which is ACDS innovation Think Tank focused on rapid development and deployment of machine learning RPA and computer vision technology for the Auto Insurance Claim industries. He is a contributing writer to the Forbes technology cats council. So Ernie, anything to add or amend there,
Ernie Bray 01:37
man, I just look forward to the conversation and talking about entrepreneurship and and all the ideas.
Justin Nassiri 01:43
Well, maybe, let’s back up 18 years, where was the company? When you started? Where did you join it? Did you found it? Where did the idea come from? What drew you to an industry I think a lot of people would overlook?
Ernie Bray 01:56
Well, I tell people the story a lot of times that I really did not even want to get into insurance. I mean, the idea was I was a college basketball player, I’m an athlete fit into fitness and sports and and last thing I thought I would be doing was be doing insurance claims out of college, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. And I kind of got some people give me some advice. And I thought I want to be an investigator, you know what maybe law enforcement say, Well, you can get into insurance claims, you get to investigate things, you get to, you know, solve problems. And so I got in and I started working in the insurance side for about seven years. And I learned the process. And I saw a lot of inefficiencies, I saw a lot of opportunities. And as me being truly kind of not really happy to sit behind a desk, I wanted to take some autonomy and kind of create my own thing. So I launched the company 18 years ago, been in the insurance for over 25 years and and really started with the idea of you know, how can I take processes that are very paper centric, antiquated and really digitize them? And it was a process that started 18 years ago.
Justin Nassiri 03:02
Wow. And one thing I’m excited to hear about is when it comes to getting attention, I feel like you’re in one of those spaces that I love that these unsexy unglamorous spaces when it’s, you know, capturing attention from basically insurance claims. It’s not it’s not the it’s not like Pepsi. It’s not like, Rei, it’s not this brand that’s gonna leap out at people, what have you found in terms of marketing and strategy, like what’s helped you grow so much in this last nearly two decades.
Ernie Bray 03:31
So in our insurance business, he in the insurance claims side, you know, we’re working with people who, you know, were in accidents, they had a loss of some type. And we’re dealing with insurance carriers a lot. So a lot of times, you know, the marketing to get clients in this business is not the same as regular business to consumer, you’re, you’re marketing to insurance carriers, TPAs, maybe fleet dealerships, things like that. So you’re not going to use the traditional type of marketing methods to get attention. And really, the thing that I focus on and I’m big believer on is you can’t just necessarily talk about your product. If you’re just talking about your product, or you’re competing with other people’s products, and you have to have a great product, don’t get me wrong, but you got to put some more personal touch to it. So I kind of go on with what I call a three pronged approach to really get visibility. I’m I’m a high energy guy, and I like to, you know, translate that to the whole staff and how we work. So one thing is you talk about your product, you got to have a great product, you talk about a great, then you got to have thought leadership, you want to show that you’re an expert in your specific field. So a lot of time I spend is writing articles and give thought leader, you know, opinions about what’s going on in the industry where it’s going beyond just trying to promote and sell our product because if you show that you know the industry well and you’re a thought leader that also builds more credibility to your potential clients. And lastly, I think it’s really important to put that personal touch of your employees out there because you know, At the end of the day, it’s really about who you have working for you. And if you can highlight those quality employees and really give them some publicity, give them that personal touch to your customers. Because when your customers are working with you, they who are the people that are dealing with your accounts. And I think it’s really important to highlight the human aspect of it. So if you hit all three different areas, you’re really bringing attention to your company. And you’re also really elevating your visibility and kind of an industry that may seem boring to people.
Justin Nassiri 05:27
I like that I like that three pronged approach because I think it’s so repeatable. And I feel like most of the people I meet with their default is product centric, and they miss out on the thought leadership piece and the humanizing aspect of spotlighting the team members, I think that’s good for the team members, it’s good for the company as well. So I love that that three pronged approach. What else have you found with with marketing, social media, any other ways that you’ve kind of sliced through the noise,
Ernie Bray 05:56
I love video, I frankly, love video, I think you got to be able to communicate in a video format these days, especially with what happened with COVID. A lot of travel, a lot of the conventions were had been canceled over the you know, the last year and a half. And I think it for people who are good was video, it was enabled, you know, obviously video meetings to happen more often, a lot of people weren’t used to that. But I’m a big proponent of a lot of video, I think you have to really do it in different ways, though you have you can’t do a lot of people attention spans are small. So you can’t necessarily go long form content all the time, you got to be able to have snippets and sound bites, and get those key messages apart and string them together, and even sort of tell a story. So I’m a big proponent of a lot of a lot of video. And I think when you’re doing content in general, you have to have some a specific goal behind it, though, not just putting out random content, but really what’s your mission you’re trying to get across.
Justin Nassiri 06:53
I love that I was just taking notes on that. I love the thought of that. You know, obviously I’m a big fan of snackable content of keeping it short keeping it brief. And I love the intentionality of like, what what is the goal here? Sometimes there’s just noise for the sake of noise, but being really deliberate on Who are we trying to get in front of and what’s our mission here. I also wanted to talk to you about your your personal website, we’ll put that in the show notes for listeners, as well as the your latest book, The entrepreneurial field manual, give us a little bit of background around what that book is about?
Ernie Bray 07:25
Well, it’s sort of a compilation of just a lot of tips, things that I learned along the way, building the company. I mean, when I started the company, I didn’t have a business background, I was a sociology degree in college. Like I said, I was an athlete and I came from that mindset, I didn’t really go and take business classes. So I had to learn a lot of things through just trial and error. I mean, one of the things I think I did it was most important was when I was working for insurance companies and I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I read a lot of books, I read magazines, books, I devoured those for years. And then when I finally took the leap, even though you read those books, I figured there’s little tips here and there that I put together, but nothing really kind of gave me kind of the whole story. So I said, You know what, when I get to the point, when I’m building my company, I made notes for years and years just scratch, you know, wrote a mound, scratch paper of things that I learned along the way. And I just, I kind of did it as just sort of a fun side project to put in document form of all the things I learned and I keep learning more and more I can add that anytime. But I think it was just sort of a It was sort of my message to just fellow entrepreneurs out there just for fun to kind of let them know the things I learned that was the mission.
Justin Nassiri 08:34
I totally respect the the I don’t want either word hustle, but the way in which you’re you’re learning and constantly growing and reading books and magazines, but even more so the foresight of writing down along the way, the thoughts of how you wanted to build a company, and I’m guessing what you liked and disliked from what you saw elsewhere. What’s what comes to mind is something people either get wrong in building a company or might not know about entrepreneurship.
Ernie Bray 09:04
I think a lot of people don’t realize the effort and the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. I mean, a lot of times entrepreneurship can be sort of portrayed as, for a while, it’s been a sort of a glamorous thing that you know, you do a little work and then you become famous and you get you know, I think what they don’t realize the majority of businesses out there small businesses have to grind, you have to do a lot of hard work. There’s a lot of things just about running the business that managing people is one of the most difficult things out there. You know, that’s beyond just running the company. And I think a lot of times people see a company run and they may look smooth from the outside, but they don’t realize behind the scenes that the entrepreneur is putting that time on the weekends late at night, they’re stressing how they’re going to make payroll, they’re stressing how they’re going to, you know, get the next client because nothing’s guaranteed. So I think an entrepreneur out there has to realize that they have to be able to be good at juggling so many different things at one time and be able to be saved at the same time and not get stressed out. And that’s the thing I think learned over the year, especially if you’re a person who’s a type A or you’re really high energy and maybe get stressed out, getting organized and staying organized is going to be one of the most important things to be successful.
Justin Nassiri 10:16
I would love to double click on two of those things. So I’ve seen I have a hunch on how you’re answered this because I’ve seen on your site how you continue to exercise but one question for you is how have you kept balance? How have you stayed stayed sane? I can only imagine the peaks and troughs that you experienced over the last two decades. And then second of all, the the organization like are you naturally an organized person or what systems or approaches or books have you read that have helped you become more disciplined and meticulous?
Ernie Bray 10:50
Well, yeah, going going to the fitness aspect and staying you know, I believe everything is grounded in you got to have your health you got to have your fitness and for me, that’s the non negotiable I am really into that massively I mean, even in my office here, wherever I’m at, I’m always cranking out push ups, I’m going for walks and I’ll tell you right now, a lot of people COVID This situation of COVID was for a lot of people was very stressful and they handled different ways. One of the ways I handled stress and handle these situations is exercise and focus on walking every day the basics if you’re taking care of yourself you’re eating well you’re getting good sleep and even though in the midst of the most stressful times if you can keep those basics and keep a schedule I mean I made sure I focused on fitness like never before and actually that helped me trance you know trance go this whole process really set you know smoothly. So I think it’s being able to have that schedule, trance you know, it goes over different parts of your life you can you can you can transfer that over to your business. Are you going to do things certain days, day in day out? How do you check your email? How do you do your day, when you have your meetings? Do you get organized, all those things make the difference. And I believe as an organized person, you can remove a lot of the uncertainty by actually having some structure some core structure to your life.
Justin Nassiri 12:08
I love that because I often think about the the unbelievable amount of ambiguity and entrepreneurship that I face day to day and people that I work with face on a daily basis. So I like this thought if I understand you correctly, it’s almost like using the structure of just a process to it brings, you know order to the chaos and you can’t get rid of that chaos, but you can at least add the scaffolding to minimize it.
Ernie Bray 12:32
Yeah, I’ll tell you a little story real quick. Um, you know, I don’t do this anymore, because it’s stuff on my body. But I did. When I started the company, one of the things I was doing at that time, I was doing half Ironman Triathlon marathons, I was really into endurance racing. And it, you know, took a lot of training, but I was doing like, really long, you know, workouts, and I found out when I was pushing myself, physically beyond what I think I could do, it actually helped me mentally because I was actually mentally pushing beyond barriers that I thought I couldn’t do. So when I was doing some of those, you know, insurance races, I felt that man that carries over to building the endurance to have to build being an entrepreneur. And I still really, even to this day, draw back on that mentally, like, Hey, I’m pushing myself, I know, I can do a little bit more than I think I can. And if you have that mentality, and you combine that with structured training and structure, you know what, a lot of times in entrepreneurship, it’s just the fact that you keep pushing can make the difference. That’s all it is just being there and consistent day in, day out.
Justin Nassiri 13:34
I love that I feel like for me, the the physical component evokes the part of me that is competitive and resilient and tenacious. And sometimes I view it through the lens of of, can I build up a tolerance to discomfort and that the hardest one for me, the one I wish I did more of is like cold showers have been forcing myself. Yeah, forcing myself to do something I don’t want to do. Because then I know during the day when I don’t want to respond to a client, or I don’t want to do all my, you know, check ins on sales process. It’s like, okay, I got to eat my vegetables. I got to do these things. And I’m used to pushing myself to do that.
Ernie Bray 14:13
Yep, exactly. Those are the things that make the difference.
Justin Nassiri 14:17
What else? What else do you often, you know, talk about when you talk to entrepreneurs, about the people who want to be in your shoes having? I mean, how many people have successfully run a company for as long as you have like, it’s got to be fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent. What else? What other advice do you have for those aspiring to that
Ernie Bray 14:35
one, and one of my biggest things is you got to bring your energy and enthusiasm to everything you do. And that’s one of the things that I am known for and who I am as a person, and it may just be my personality, but I think you got to dive in with a passion to what you’re doing. I mean, when I started out this company, I didn’t have when I got out of college, I didn’t have a passionate hey, I want to work in the insurance industry. That’s my dream. Heck, I wanted to be in the NBA. I want to play back Basketball. I did it but But reality sets in, but whatever business you’re in or whatever you’re doing, you got to find that drive and that passion behind it and enjoy the process and bring that energy. So I would tell entrepreneurs out there, if you’re going to go in to do something, you got to look at it this way. If you’re going to go in half heartedly, and you’re just in it for the money, and you’re just saying, hey, I want to exit I want to cash out, I just want to quit, you know, and move on to something else. If that’s all your focus is, you’re going to miss out on the important part where it could actually make your company better and more valuable is the drive the energy and really be passionate about the company that you’re building. Because if you focus intently on that, I tell people this all the time, focus on great product, great service, and that then the rest will, it’ll take care of itself. Now there’s, of course, there’s no guarantees out there, there’s always risk. But if you want to set yourself up for success, you got to get yourself in that position. And you can do it with that energy in that enthusiasm.
Justin Nassiri 15:58
It’s It’s so crazy hearing this, I had a conversation this week where I was talking with someone and saying, like, Man, I’m realizing this is a decade into my own entrepreneurial journey. I’m realizing how my mindset is the most important thing I have to safeguard that because if I get off my game, I lose time I lose weeks. And and they corrected me. They said, hey, it’s not mindset, it’s energy, which is the word that you’re using. Any other advice for, you know how to maintain that energy. And I asked it through the lens of like, you know, on this journey, there’s, there’s failure, and there’s doubt, and there’s comparison, and there’s criticism, and you’re charting a new course. So there’s so many things on a daily basis seeking to pop that bubble of energy, how else have you built up that resilience and mental toughness and just high energy?
Ernie Bray 16:43
Well, I think one thing that I have a passion on and I do it for fun is like, I like to talk to help other entrepreneurs, I like giving back in a way of talking about the experiences people know me know, I like to share a lot of the information that I have and love to talk to other fellow entrepreneurs, I talk to a lot of people online and talk to a lot of people I know, in my, you know, groups that I know and you know, connections is just sort of really kind of talking about those experiences and, and giving people tips in there. And I make it a point to really try to say, hey, you know what, when I learned something I like to write about it, like you mentioned my blog, you know, I like to just write things that are coming to my mind about positivity or things to, to be able to weather the storm, because I think in a world we live in right now, there’s a lot of negativity out there. And I’ve learned to really tune out a lot of that and just focus on Hey, focus on what I’m going to bring to the world that brings positivity in my life, I’m one person, that’s it. But if I can do some things that actually can help some people out, just here and there, it’ll you know, it’ll help out, you know, and just, it just does good.
Justin Nassiri 17:45
I think what’s so powerful about that is this thought of generosity, that when you are you are, you are clearly someone who is serving and giving and teaching, I can see how you’re writing your thoughts down, solidifies them for yourselves. And I just I think that’s so I wish more people did that. Because it’s such a positive example of that you’re getting energy, you’re deriving something from helping others. And that’s just beautiful to see in practice.
Ernie Bray 18:12
Yeah, and I think I think a lot of people, a lot of people think more like that they could elevate their elevate themselves overall, because other people can lift other people up, because we’re all going through our own different experiences at different times, running companies, you know, and I think, you know, it’s great. Sometimes when I hear people that when I’m down, or something’s going tough, people give me advice, and I appreciate that. And they’re like, hey, you know, that person’s got through that, and it gives me that little boost, you know, and if I’m giving somebody else a boost like that, that kind of mindset, I think can really help a lot of different people out there. So that’s why I kind of, just sometimes when I step away from work, and you know, I say, Okay, I just want to put my thoughts down, write some ideas down, I even I’m actually keeping another journal book right now for a future book that I will write someday. I’ve just thoughts that have transcending this whole time of business uncertainty that a lot of people have experienced. And I put a lot of those thoughts down. So you know, I’m just a big proponent on writing the thoughts down and trying to learn all the time.
Justin Nassiri 19:08
This is great. I’ll give you space for last words here, because I know we’re at our time, but for listeners, you can find more at Ernie Bray, that’s br a why.com. His latest book is entrepreneurs Field Manual. We’ll have links to that in the show notes. Ernie, before we wrap up any any last words you’d like to leave listeners with?
Ernie Bray 19:25
Well, I just like to tell people out there if they’re thinking about, they want to start a business or they want to take that leap. You know what, don’t be afraid. You got to, you know, look into yourself if there’s something you’re passionate about, and you’re willing to dive in, you know what, there’s going to be risks out there. But at the same time, you want to live the best life that you can and be good to other people. If you ask people questions people are willing to a lot of times they’re willing to help you a lot of times people are just afraid to ask. And I say that all the time. You know what people ask me, Hey, I appreciate that. Because I like to give knowledge out to people so So for those budding entrepreneurs out there, don’t be afraid to take the risk. You know, do the study and put in the time realize it may be some hard work. But if you’re really passionate about something, go in and bring that energy and enthusiasm.
Justin Nassiri 20:12
I love it. Thank you so much, Ernie, thank you for the work that you’re doing. And thank you for joining us today.
Ernie Bray 20:16
Yeah. Hey, it’s great to be on.
Justin Nassiri 20:23
Thank you for listening to May I have your attention. Each episode I meet with top marketers thought leaders and experts to find out how individuals and brands can get keep and make money with attention. You can subscribe to me I have your attention on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Show Notes are provided for each episode at captivate.ai/podcast. May I have your attention is brought to you by captivate.ai, which turns your webinar or podcast into three months of social media content, find out [email protected]