When I was assigned the task of interviewing Rich “Big Daddy” Salgado, the CEO of insurance brokerage company Coastal Advisors, LLC, I wasn’t sure what to expect or what my exact angle would be. Two minutes into getting to know Mr. Salgado, it was clear that my intended focus on this article was askew. This would be a story about a man and not his company. This would be a story that embodies and embraces the tenets of success and selflessness, seamlessly. This would be a good example of how to be a leader instead of acting like one. By the third minute of our getting acquainted, it felt as if I were having a conversation with an old friend.
“Big Daddy” is not your typical insurance executive — he sells insurance policies for the worst-case scenarios (such as life, disability, and career-ending policies) to professional athletes and celebrities. His company, Coastal Advisors, LLC, has a line-up of clients that are major stars in the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, and the MMA. His clientele also includes high-profile names from media, film and music industries.
This turned out to be an interview with a man that knows how to help others, keep it real, and is respectful to all he encounters. There also a few life lessons, courtesy of the man everyone affectionately calls, Big Daddy.
James Rothaar: Could you tell us briefly how it all begin for you in Pittsburgh? I read that a friend recommended the insurance industry. Would you say that you somewhat fell into it, or did you have an elaborate business plan to try and launch the business?
Rich “Big Daddy” Salgado: I kind of fell into it based on a recommendation from a friend in the 1990s. He felt that it could be a good business for me, a good fit for my personality. What is funny about the whole thing is that just as we were about to get started, the person with the idea, the person that was going to help launch this with me, moved on to do other things. I ended up starting Coastal Advisors, LLC on my own.
I was working with Neil O’Donnell, my old college roommate and the starting QB for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That is how I eventually moved to Pittsburgh and lived there for years.
JR: I am originally from Pittsburgh and am a lifetime fan of Pittsburgh’s sport teams, especially the Pirates and the Steelers. Is Pittsburgh a great sports town or what? Careful, I am a bit biased.
BD: And you should be! I love Pittsburgh. I am a big fan of that city and its people. And I have to admit that I didn’t feel that way at first. But the spirit of the city, and how much love and loyalty the people have for their sports teams, hooked me on this city forever.
Truth be told, if it were not for my business and where I need to be to run it, I could see myself living in Pittsburgh and being very happy there.
JR: Obviously, at 6 feet 4 inches and 340 pounds, you are a very large man. Did you have aspirations to play in the NFL? Is there any regret that you didn’t play professionally?
BD: No, I never did regret it.
JR: How come you feel that way?
BD: I always understood how difficult it would be to make it as a football player; the odds of making it are long and the average [career] of an NFL player is about 2.8 years.
JR: Does your firm, Coastal Advisors, LLC, work with a particular insurance company, or several, or is it an independent venture?
BD: My business is totally independent. I don’t work for or with any insurance company, in particular. I always tell my clients this all the time. I work for them, solely for them.
JR: Give me your mission statement in 30 seconds or less, your elevator pitch. Tell me what makes you special. What is it that distinguishes you?
BD: I find the best products at the best price, and the best value for each individual. That is a promise that I carry with me at all times. It doesn’t matter what business that you are in. I treat everybody the same. Whether you are a famous athlete, a big star, the owner of a pizza shop, or a busboy working at a pizza shop.
JR: You play no favorites…ever?
BD: Never. One thing that I know for certain is that how you deal with other people is a reflection on you and your character, not theirs. People have different jobs and salary levels. Regardless…it is important to treat everyone the same…respectfully.
JR: Athletes, like football players, sustain a lot of injuries during their careers, the kind that could linger for a lifetime. How difficult is it to secure underwriting for career-ending or disability insurance policies?
BD: It really depends on when they obtain their insurance policy. The earlier an athlete buys a policy, the easier it is to get them in at a better rate. If they wait and have multiple pre-existing conditions, it could be harder to get the best value for them.
JR: When is the best time for a pro athlete to obtain policies like this?
BD: The best time actually is before they even turn pro, if possible. Get to them before they are out of college. There are even athletes in high schools that I want to talk with.
JR: How do you prospect for clients?
BD: Since my client list is in the hundreds, word-of-mouth referrals work pretty good for my company. But I am always prospecting. I also go looking for prospects that are still in school and have not yet turned pro.
JR: Is there competition in selling this type of insurance?
BD: Yes, there is a lot of competition in it. There are many other companies that sell this same type of insurance policies as Coastal Advisors, LLC. However, I am probably the only head of an insurance company like this that is regularly featured on Fox & Friends on Fox News.
JR: I read in Sports Business Daily that the majority of your clients are NFL and NHL players. Do you plan to expand further into other sports?
BD: We are picking up more clients in other sports, such as the NBA, the MLB, and in the MMA community. Media personalities also are coming our way. Jay Glazer is the biggest sports-media personality with us, so far. There are several others too.
JR: I understand that you sell insurance policies to actors and actresses. Is there a different dynamic in dealing with entertainers than athletes?
BD: I will go back to what I said earlier about all people being the same. Everybody is people. Everyone expects to be treated respectfully. I do my best to let everyone know that that is how I treat them. Michael Strahan and Melissa Joan Hart are two of my biggest celebrity clients. Sure, these are people everyone wants to hear about. But at the end of the day, they are people too.
JR: Have you always been an outgoing, people-oriented type of person?
BD: Yes, I have been this way for as long as I have been Big Daddy…and probably before that too.
JR: What advice would you give anyone with a desire to be a successful business person?
BD: I will give my “Big Five” on doing well in business. Treat everyone with equal respect at all times. Always be willing to go that “extra mile” for everyone. Meet as many people as you can. Remember their names. And get as many business cards as possible.
JR: Anything else?
BD: Always be ready for the big moment. You got to be on it at all times.
JR: Nobody gets away from me without one off-the-wall question. Which word do you prefer, “thought leader” or “visionary”?
BD: I will go with visionary.
JR: Ah, that is my pick too. Folks that prefer “thought leader” seem to think that synonym is a flavor. Why do you prefer visionary?
BD: It is simpler and to the point. James, maybe you do need to get out of the house more often, my friend.
JR: Thank you, Big Daddy!