Mark Rafail came from humble beginnings. The Houston, Texas-native was raised by parents who had immigrated to the United States from Egypt making Rafail a first-generation American. From an early age, Rafail was taught a strong work ethic by his mother and father, and it is that diligence that has helped him become one of the premier insurance agents in Houston.
Not only is Rafail a top-rated insurance agent, but he is an entrepreneur that built his agency from the ground up. While other insurance groups focus on making profits, Rafail has had his eye on making personal connections. It is this attention to detail that has made Rafail Insurance Agency the home to over 3,200 insurance policies.
Rafail began the company with his wife Sylvia in 2009. Since then, the couple has watched the company grow like it is their third child. With a strong work ethic and determination to succeed, Rafail continues to take his company from strength to strength.
Mark, you opened Rafail Insurance Agency in 2009 along with your wife Sylvia. Can you tell us about founding your own insurance firm alongside your wife?
It has been wonderful to work alongside my wife, it has definitely made us stronger and we somehow don’t get tired of each other!
What led you to establish Rafail Insurance Agency and what had your career been like up to that point?
I was laid off from the oil and gas industry in 2008. I had got my insurance license in 2007 and worked under another agency but could not sell a thing. I was cold calling and not getting anywhere. I was able to take a loan out in 2009 and start the agency from scratch with my girlfriend (now wife). I hit the streets going business to business pitching how I own a business and know how to insure businesses. We wrote over 400 policies in year one and won Farmers Insurance Rookie of the Year and have been able to gain momentum each year. We are currently the No. 1 Business & Life Insurance Agency out of 75 offices in Houston and consistently rank among the top all-around agencies with Farmers Insurance in the country.
The agency works with over 3,200 policies. How did the company grow initially? Were there many growing pains in those first few years?
We now service over 3,200 by growing with our clients. Many started renting small office space but then eventually grew their employee count, purchased office buildings and grew. Same for newcomers that move to Houston for new employment opportunities, many came renting apartments until they decided where to buy their home and decide to bundle all of their insurance with us. We have also grown by acquisition. We have purchased three insurance agencies and starting December 1st, we will be acquiring and merging the Edward “Rusty” Landry Agency with ours. We will retain the agent, Mr. Landry and his wife Donna Landry who also worked in the agency. They will be on our customer service team. Their combined 48 years of experience in combination with our current 65 years combined experience is great. We will grow by another 800-plus policies to total approximately 4,000 policies we service. From commercial to personal to life insurance.
Can you tell us about the wide range of clients you service and how each can benefit from working with the agency?
We insure professional clients to blue collar businesses. Our goal to protect our clients who own businesses and those that own assets like a home, automobiles, rental properties and we cover the life insurance needs for family and estate planning purposes. Physicians, engineers, accountants, teachers, lawyers and business owners are who we work closely with, however, we treat all of our clients with the same respect no matter their background.
Over the years, Rafail Insurance Agency has worked hard to give back to the community. One of the local organizations that Mark and his staff are proud to work with is Soaring Kidz. After getting their feet wet by simply volunteering, Rafail Insurance now works more in-depth with the great local charity to help special needs kids experience organized sports.
Mark, you love to give back to the community and in August, Rafail Insurance Agency hosted a 3 on 3 basketball tournament for the Soaring Kidz charity. Firstly, how did the tournament go? Secondly, why is working with charities like Soaring Kidz so important to you?
Soaring Kidz is dear to us and was started by our client and friend Mina Iskander. We started by volunteering but now sponsor and raise funds for this great organization which helps special needs children from 4-14 years of age have the freedom of playing organized sports like basketball, tee-ball, gymnastics and more.
Along with charities, you are an active member of your local community in Houston. There are a lot of companies that don’t give back to the community. Do you find this to be a civic duty that needs to be fulfilled by businesses?
Absolutely, not only is it a local businesses duty to support their community, but it is because of the community that we are in business. When a client is passionate about an organization and asks us to support, we always say yes.
In 2013, Mark co-authored his first book with Bryan Tracy. The duo collaborated on the book “Change Agents: The World’s Leading Experts Reveal Their Secrets for Successfully Changing the Status Quo to Help Their Clients Lead Better Lives and Run Better Businesses” and it was an immediate success. The book was published by CelebrityPress.
Not only are you a leading insurance agent and agency owner, but you are a best-selling author. Can you tell us about your book? Are there any more books planned for the future?
In 2013, I was asked to Co-Author a book with the world-famous Bryan Tracy. Other top agents in the country were asked based on their credentials. I couldn’t pass on the opportunity and decided to discuss our story of how my parents immigrated from Egypt, worked blue-collar jobs and taught me my work ethic. I also discuss how we have tailored our agency to support commercial and residential real estate brokers. We sponsor the Houston Association of Realtors and even titled the chapter “Referrals, Relationships and Real Estate” without these relationships we are not in business.
After 11 years in business, how has the insurance industry changed since launching the agency?
One thing has not changed, this is a relationship business and we still do the “old-school” things of meeting as many clients as we can at our office, their business or their home. While some products like home and auto are getting more commoditized, it doesn’t mean people are better protected without a real agent. One thing that cannot get commoditized or done online is reviewing corporate/business insurance and life insurance for family, business and estate planning needs. Like WebMD, that is a way you can figure out things but having a real doctor is similar to having a real insurance agent.
How will Rafail Insurance Agency change over time as the world becomes more digital and new technology changes the day to day lives of clients?
Whoever communicates the best wins. We respond to all website/emails inquiries promptly. The phone never goes to voicemail during business hours and our social media and reviews prove the clients really appreciate our service, knowledge and advice.
Can you share some of the highlights you have had as a business owner and entrepreneur?
Everything is on you. Are you asking for the business, talking to enough clients, getting enough prospects, are you marketing to the correct audience and are you a great leader and respected by others. All of these items are important and ultimately, I am not only for my family but our staff and their families.
Mark, what is a day in your life?
I typically meet with three clients per day, and a lunch meeting is pretty standard. I also sneak in a workout at the gym across the street when I can, shower and get back for a final push. I try to have a balance. I work Monday to Friday 9 to 5:30 pm and will do one networking function every week. Once I get home, it is my two little girls, Hannah and Leah, and my wife Sylvia that get my attention.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I started the first Houston Egyptian festival in 2016 and 2017. The idea was to unite my Egyptian-American community and raise money for nonprofits. I was on the news locally and in Egypt for this event and we had over 8,000 total attendees. Ultimately, it was a part-time job and I decided to stop. I learned a lot and met a lot of people and now have credibility for it. www.EgyptFestHouston.com has a gallery section with info.
Can you share your favorite quote with us?
“You only get out what you put in.”
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world what would it be?
Homelessness is sad. Sometimes people have bad luck but people treat them all the same and they get neglected. I wish I could give funds to the nonprofits that need it and do good things, Soaring Kidz is one of them.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I always felt like I came from very little but I have a dream and goal to do big things. Fund nonprofits, help those in need and take care of my family, parents and wife’s parents. That gets me going.
Mark continues to grow his business and like his parents, is instilling a strong work ethic into his children. With times changing and the world of business evolving, Mark has stayed true to what has helped build his insurance agency from the start. It is that old-school approach and the personal touch that he will continue to provide customers. With a growing number of policies held by Rafail Insurance Agency and growth through acquisition, the sky’s the limit for the entrepreneur who came from humble beginnings.
For more information on Mark Rafail and Rafail Insurance Agency please visit https://rafailinsurance.com
Journalist and author. Contributor