Tuesdays with Corey interview with Christina Rudes

Christina Rudes is a licensed Property and Casualty Insurance Agent with extensive experience in customer service and sales in the healthcare industry. With her process improvement background in areas as varied as onboarding, outreach and employee and patient satisfaction, Christina enjoys providing the services, information and coverage that best fit the needs of her customers and their families.

Christina stays active and involved in the local community. She serves on two local race committees, including the Marietta Police Athletic League Shamrock Shuffle, where she sits on the Board of Directors and will act as the incoming Shamrock Shuffle Committee Chair, and the MUST Ministries Gobble Jog. She and her family also volunteer to support youth sports, veterans and the homeless.

When she’s not in the office, Christina enjoys spending time with her two children, reading, hiking and participating in water activities.

Connect with Christina on Facebook.

Intro: Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it's time for Atlanta Business Radio, spotlighting the city's best businesses and the people who lead them.

Sanjay Toure: Good morning. This is Sanjay Toure. And welcome back to another episode of Tuesdays with Corey with our host, Corey Rieck. Who do we have in the station today?

Corey Rieck: Well, Sanjay, we have Christina Rudes, who is the Designated Agency Principal of Brightway Insurance out of Marietta. Christina, welcome.

Christina Rudes: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Corey Rieck: Well, Christina, you have a great deal of experience dealing with people and helping them from a customer service perspective. Tell the listenership how you ended up becoming an owner of Brightway Insurance and sort of what the steps were for you to get to that point.

Christina Rudes: Great. I'd love to tell you that story. So, yes, I have years of experience of taking care of people customer service-wise, it actually started, believe it or not, when I was 18, I had a job at SeaWorld, and I worked in what was then the Japanese Village with the divers and everything, if anybody is familiar with that. Mostly retail, help people to pick out jewelry and things like that. And then, when I went to school at San Diego State, I got a job in laboratory, and I started taking care of patients. And it started as simply as greeting them when they came in, made them comfortable, got them prepared. So-

Corey Rieck: What kind of laboratory?

Christina Rudes: It was a medical laboratory and a hospital. When you have to go get your levels checked for physicals or if you have health issue that you're monitoring. So, I learned a lot about how to take care of people where they are in that space. So, that led to another job, led to another job. And one day, I found myself doing a lot of customer service in a call center. It translated into a sales role. And from there, it just really took off. You just learn a lot about the different types of people. And honestly, you have to to meet them where they are and take care of what they need.

Corey Rieck: So, you've mentioned this. You made the comment of taking care of people where they are. Is there any translation of your experience there into what you're currently doing it Brightway?

Christina Rudes: Yes, absolutely. So, Brightway, it's a franchise. Well, we have the Brightway, the Fitzpatrick Agency. Our office is located in Marietta. And essentially, we help customers get the very best coverage for their needs. Not everybody fits into a box. And so, in order to help people where they are, we really need to know who they are and what they need.

Corey Rieck: Oh, that's really important. So, it sounds like you take a good bit of time with people to kind of understand if you can help them. And if so, what the steps are.

Christina Rudes: Right.

Corey Rieck: I think the personalized service is really important. It's something certainly that I look for when I'm looking for something. It's important to get your questions answered, and somebody that gets her questions answered is in a much better position to figure out, "Hey, do we need these services?" or some derivative of that.

Christina Rudes: Yes, absolutely. So, I'm a big fan of saying one size does not fit all. And nowadays, people expect a choice. And it's not just a yes or no, I would need this or I want this. It's, "Do I need this specific thing, this specific brand?" And you talk about helping people where they are, and it's really about understanding who they are and where they are. And you can't make any assumptions. You really have to sit down, have the conversation, if possible, look them in the face, or at least talk to them on the phone to understand where where they're at.

Corey Rieck: How did you decide to get into the insurance industry?

Christina Rudes: Well, so, in Southern California, I spent great many years working with customers, patients, doctors' office-

Corey Rieck: You grew up there, right?

Christina Rudes: I did, I did.

Corey Rieck: Then, you left?

Christina Rudes: Yes, willingly. I left willingly. I willingly left San Diego to move across country.

Corey Rieck: I've heard that that's a great place. I've not been. Anyway, back to the question. How did you decide to start helping people with insurance?

Christina Rudes: Well, honestly, as happy as I was in Southern California, and I had a great job, and a great setup village-wise, I had friends and family and everything, and one day I just realized I was burnt out. I was burnt out on doing what I had been doing for many years.

Corey Rieck: How did you get there? How did you determine that you were burnt out?

Christina Rudes: Well, I have two young kids. They are now-

Corey Rieck: Okay, dumb question.

Christina Rudes: Yeah. So, yeah. I'm not really sure what clicked. I just realized that I didn't feel like I was making a difference. And I wanted to wake up every day and be excited or be passionate about what I was gonna be doing. I wanted to get up every day and say, "I get to do this." And what I found out was I was feeling more like, "I have to do this." And there was nothing wrong. There was nothing wrong.

Corey Rieck: It's a big difference.

Christina Rudes: There is a big difference. And when you realize that, a lot of people, you go on social media, and you see all these memes about, "Oh, Monday," or there's nothing worse than finding out ... nothing ruins a Friday more than finding out it's only Tuesday. And it's like, "No, we should be excited every day to wake up."

Corey Rieck: Well, I think knowing you for the time that I have, you seem highly engaged in your life. And I think that I feel the same way that you do about memes that you get on Tuesday saying, "Oh, I thought it was Friday but it's only Tuesday." I mean, I enjoy every day for whatever it's worth because at some point, one of these days is going to be your last one. And I wouldn't want to have wasted the day wishing it was some other day.

Christina Rudes: Correct. Absolutely. So, when I realized that that's what I was feeling, and I was trying to make small changes to see if it would actually make a difference, and I was looking, on the one side, I was saying, "Hey, do what you love. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Keep trying, try new things. Do things that you're not you're not normally doing," and then I would look in the mirror, I said, "Wow, I've been doing this for 25 years." So, I'm saying one thing, but I'm not actually trying it myself.

Corey Rieck: When did you come to that realization?

Christina Rudes: Probably 2016, end of 2016, beginning of 2017.

Corey Rieck: Was there a series of events or was there sort of a jumping off point where you realized, "Okay, I am at this sort of impasse?"

Christina Rudes: Yes. There were some life changes going on in my life. And again, you read a lot of books, you see a lot of things happening, I was watching people take big giant leaps and struggling for a little while, and then coming out the other side, and everything was good. And they just seemed different and different in a good, positive way.

Corey Rieck: How so?

Christina Rudes: They seemed excited about what they were doing. And even if they were trying something, and it wasn't exactly what they thought it was, other good things happened. And again, it was one of those things where I would read a lot, and I would say, "Change is good. Change is good," but then I wouldn't do anything to change. And even a small change was better than where I was at, if that makes sense.

Corey Rieck: Yeah, it absolutely does. I think that it sounds like you had a lot of very, very good experience learning how to deal with people. You're obviously very, very outgoing, very good with people. And did that help you to do what you're doing now?

Christina Rudes: Absolutely, absolutely. I say this, and it sounds a little bit simplistic, but I genuinely like people for who they are even-

Corey Rieck: Yeah, I get that loud and clear.

Christina Rudes: Yeah. Even if they're not people like me. So, when you do certain things, you want to be around like-minded people. You want to be around people who do things the same way you do or think the same way you do, but I find that I actually learn more and grow more when I'm with people who are not like me, who are either completely opposite of me or just fundamentally somewhere or something's just a little bit different. I'm intrigued because for the most part, I honestly believe that people are genuinely good. They genuinely want to do the right thing. They just have different ways of doing it.

Corey Rieck: I think you have to believe that. Otherwise, you're going to be frustrated.

Christina Rudes: Absolutely. And when I meet people, I always assume the best, and I think the best, and I'm rarely disappointed. I'm rarely disappointed, which is I think an awesome thing to be able to say and to believe. Of course, I've met a few people along the way that maybe that's not true, but.

Corey Rieck: Well, I think if you're out meeting enough people, eventually that's going to happen. It doesn't have to be anything other than, "Okay, well, hey, here's a person we don't exactly share the same beliefs. It doesn't make me right and them wrong. It just it is."

Christina Rudes: Correct.

Corey Rieck: And you decide how to spend your time accordingly.

Christina Rudes: Correct. And I find that a couple years ago, you talk about what are the things that made you get here? I had ideas of what I expected my life to be. I expected to get up, grow up, finish college, get married, have 2.5 kids, maybe drive a Volvo. And-

Corey Rieck: So, you're short 0.5 of a kid.

Christina Rudes: I'm short 0.5 of a kid. I have actually a dog. I don't know if he counts as 0.5. He's actually bigger than both my kids. So, it might be-

Corey Rieck: What kind of dog?

Christina Rudes: He's a chocolate lab. He is a-

Corey Rieck: So, he must like the hot lunch program at the Rudes' residence.

Christina Rudes: Yes, yes. He's always scooping them off the table whenever I put it out, so.

Corey Rieck: Well, those are great dogs and really a great disposition.

Christina Rudes: He is the sweetest dog.

Corey Rieck: Yeah.

Christina Rudes: Yeah.

Corey Rieck: What's his name?

Christina Rudes: His name is Rocky. Rocky Rudes Fitzpatrick. So, actually, we adopted him. He's two years old and every bit of puppy still left in him. He's really good with kids.

Corey Rieck: How much does he weigh?

Christina Rudes: Believe it or not, he weighs 110 pounds. He came-

Corey Rieck: He doesn't go buy any food that he doesn't like if he weighs 110 pounds.

Christina Rudes: Yeah. He's just a big dog. It's funny, I'll put food in his bowl, and he'll eat it when he's ready. He's not a scarfer by any stretch. I call him a mindful eater. He knows when he's hungry, and he eats. He's just big.

Corey Rieck: Yeah, yeah. Well, that's great. Great dogs. And I think that we can learn a lot from them, and how joyful they are, and how much they really like people. And I think that, yeah, just love the labs. They're really good little dogs.

Christina Rudes: Yes.

Corey Rieck: Well, your dog’s not little, but-

Christina Rudes: No, he's not.

Corey Rieck: So, growing up in Southern California, what was that like?

Christina Rudes: 72 and sunny most days.

Corey Rieck: Thanks for that-

Christina Rudes: Yeah.

Corey Rieck: ... because I grew up in Minnesota, where it was below zero, it seemed like, nine months out of the year. But I've heard great things about the San Diego area. I've not been. So, what activities were you in, and what activities did you participate in high school, and college, and so on.

Christina Rudes: So, believe it or not, life in San Diego is not all that different than life in Atlanta in certain aspects. So-

Corey Rieck: Minus the humidity.

Christina Rudes: Minus the humidity, and the bugs, and believe it or not, the traffic. The traffic, though there is a lot of traffic in Southern California, it's different. I don't know exactly how it-

Corey Rieck: What does that mean?

Christina Rudes: Well, here, traffic, you have to plan like two hours. It takes two hours sometimes to get places. Where I am from in Southern California, an hour commute is too long. So, that would be the key difference. But, aside from that, in San Diego, I did run. We biked both on the road and on the trails.

Corey Rieck: Do you bike here?

Christina Rudes: I haven't yet.

Corey Rieck: Is there a reason?

Christina Rudes: I'm afraid to ride my road bike on the road here only because I don't see a whole lot of bike lanes yet out by where I live.

Corey Rieck: That's because there aren't any.

Christina Rudes: Okay. Okay, good. I didn't miss them. But mountain biking, there's a lot of opportunity for me to do that out there. And actually, now that both of my kids are mountain biking, I do plan on mountain biking out here. And I do run out here. And in Southern California, in high school, I did marching band. I was-

Corey Rieck: What did you play?

Christina Rudes: Flute, flute and clarinet. So, I did that for a couple seasons. Honestly, in high school, I wasn't as involved as I think I would be now. If I was the person I was now, I would be way more involved than I was the person I was back then.

Corey Rieck: Why don't you think you weren't as involved as what you're thinking you would be now if you had this mindset?

Christina Rudes: [00:14:02] Honestly, I didn't really understand all that was available to me. And that's just from not knowing, yearbook committee, and well we didn't have 4-H club out there, but we had something similar, all the high school sports, and drama club, and all the extracurricular activity, I just didn't know that it was there. I say that now because I'm well aware of all the different programs that are available. So, I could see myself being more involved.

Corey Rieck: Well, and hindsight is 20/20.

Christina Rudes: Absolutely.

Corey Rieck: I mean, I think I don't think any of us are the person we were 20, 30, 40 years ago, and we have the benefit of knowing what we know now, and how we might do things differently.

Christina Rudes: Right.

Corey Rieck: And I think the reflection is important, but I don't spend that much time on it personally. Not much I can do about it.

Christina Rudes: Well, and the other thing too is, like I said, I went back to ... I was telling my kids all of these things that they would, could, should need to do, and I wasn't doing it, but I found different ways to get involved in the community now that I feel like if I had started doing it in high school, I could have maybe done a little bit more where I was, but you got to accept where you are now and what you can do now.

Corey Rieck: Well, you seem very athletic.

Christina Rudes: Yeah.

Corey Rieck: And you like sports?

Christina Rudes: I love sports.

Corey Rieck: Is there one sport that you like better than another?

Christina Rudes: Well, I love baseball. I do root for the Braves, except for when the Padres are in town. I'd-

Corey Rieck: Are they a baseball team?

Christina Rudes: Yes, yes. We're actually pretty good this year. And I love football. I love to watch football.

Corey Rieck: College? NFL? Either?

Christina Rudes: I started with NFL because in Southern California, that's really what was more prevalent. But moving here in recognizing that SEC is a thing, that's-

Corey Rieck: They play football in the SEC?

Christina Rudes: San Diego State, no, no, no. But I-.

Corey Rieck: No, I mean, there's football in the SEC?

Christina Rudes: Yes.

Corey Rieck: The Southeastern Conference?

Christina Rudes: Yeah.

Corey Rieck: This is just in.

Christina Rudes: Yeah, news flash, SEC college football. And that's actually kind of a funny story too. So, when I landed here in Atlanta, and I was warned, I was forewarned. SEC football's big down here. College football is huge, so.

Corey Rieck: It is, yes.

Christina Rudes: I learned that you can wear red, and if it's the wrong shade of red, it could start a conversation. So, I do enjoy watching a good, good college football game.

Corey Rieck: Well, there's no shortage of that here with, certainly, Alabama, and Georgia, Clemson. I mean, I know Clemson is not the SEC, but the college football here in the southeast is extremely of extremely high caliber, all kidding aside.

Christina Rudes: Yes. Yeah. no, no. And like I said, I love it. And what I love about the atmosphere is people are just genuinely engaged with their team. They know all the stats. They know the players. They know where they came from. They know what high school they came from. And the coaches, the coaches are almost movie star status.

Corey Rieck: Why? I'd say they are.

Christina Rudes: Yeah.

Corey Rieck: I'm very impressed with ... I'm a Nick Saban fan. I mean, I went to the University of Iowa. I'm a Big Ten fan. And they play very good football there. I think the SEC football is of extreme high caliber. But I do appreciate sort of being from the old school hall Nick Saban does things. He's very disciplined. Everybody has a job. Everybody has to do it. And I think probably Kirby Smart, probably, because he used to coach with Coach Saban and probably does some of the same things. But there's a reason why those guys are so successful.

Christina Rudes: Absolutely.

Corey Rieck: I mean, they work very, very hard, and they get great players. Both those programs get great players.

Christina Rudes: Yeah. You talked about Nick Saban and being very, very disciplined, and everybody has a role, and there's a program, there's a process. And he teaches that. And then, he works with his players to get them engaged and plugged in. And I think that's a lot of where the success comes from.

Corey Rieck: Well, I don't think either one of those guys struggles with delivering the bad news either.

Christina Rudes: Right.

Corey Rieck: I mean, I think that they are where they are for a reason. And they're extremely disciplined. They do attract talent. They do coach them up when they get them. And so, it's interesting to me to watch those two programs, in particular, particularly because Kirby used to coach on Nick Saban's staff. And now, they're sort of the pupil that's taking on the teacher. And that's certainly a story in and of itself. But there's four or five really strong SEC teams, it seems like, every year in the top 15 or 20 teams, and it certainly creates incredible competition there.

Christina Rudes: Yeah. Yeah, I do enjoy it. I do enjoy going into the shops and seeing the Alabama, the Crimson Tide, the Georgia Bulldogs. And it's definitely a culture down here at SEC.

Corey Rieck: What have you learned from watching sports, running, biking that you apply into what you're doing now?

Christina Rudes: I love that question. So, what I've learned is that small changes every day, the art of practicing, I know it was in one of those movies, But That's Why You Play the Game, is on any given Sunday, anybody can win. And what I've really learned from watching these sports is everybody has their gift, everybody has their talent, and when we work as a team to maximize, to highlight that talent, great things happen. Everybody has a role, everybody participates, everybody has a job, and great things happen from that.

Corey Rieck: I think on any team, you have players are the most prepared, you have players that are the most talented, you have players that are disciplined, and then you have players that are unselfish, and it's rare. Sometimes, you have players that have all of those attributes. And I think that those things are important in being part of any team. And knowing your role. We like to deliver the quote of, hey, making sure you've got the right people in the right seats, and everybody knowing what they're supposed to do. And that isn't as easy as, sometimes, it's made out to be.

Christina Rudes: Absolutely. And one of the things that I really love about baseball is that baseball is a team sport that everybody gets a chance to be spotlighted when they're at bat. So, when you're at bat, there's only one man at the plate swinging the bat. But then, when you're in the field, you play as a team. And so, you're responsible for getting the three outs. And again, there's just this if you’ve got to get a man on base, or you've got to get the man over, there are sacrifices, sacrifice bats, sacrifice hits, and things like that. Anything you need to do to score, essentially. So, that's one of the things I love about baseball is you can equally be counted as a team, but you also have your opportunity to shine. And I guess that's true in all sports, but with baseball, it just seems a little bit more defined. Does that make sense?

Corey Rieck: It does. I think that there are certainly lessons to be learned playing a team sport. And the lessons sometimes can be different, in my opinion if you're competing in an individual sport like track, or golf, or swimming, or wrestling. I think that a lot of those concepts are the same, but if you're out there, if you're a boxer, no one else is going to keep you from getting hit except you. In the training and all the things that you did prior to getting into the ring certainly have an impact on how well you perform. But I think that there are lessons in my experience that can be learned from being on a team, as well as being an individual, being in an individual sport.

Christina Rudes: Right. And a lot of times, the conditioning that a player will go through in order to be the best to do his or her job, the best has something to do with their individual conditioning, whether it's running, or swimming, or biking. So, all of that contributes to making that individual stronger, so that he or she can make his or her team stronger.

Corey Rieck: You said something that resonates with me because I believe this fully. There are things that you have to do every day in your relationships, personal or business, or in your business. And you may not like them, but you must do them. Otherwise, at some point, it ends up biting you. Would you agree with that?

Christina Rudes: Absolutely, absolutely. And putting them into a ritual, something short. There are three things that you do first thing you get up in the morning, and there are a couple of things you do to start your day. And then, before your workday ends, there's a couple of things that you do to sort of bring it down and prepare for the next day. Absolutely, there is, yes.

Corey Rieck: I think it's really ... if you're going to run a race, like a marathon or a half marathon, there's a training schedule you have to follow. There's cross training. And there are things that you have to do in what is normally a four-month lead up right to the race to to perform optimally. And I think the same is true in business.

Christina Rudes: Yes, absolutely. And right now, I have a very good friend who's training for an Iron Man. And so, that's the whole run, bike, and swim. And I said, "Hey, I'll help you out with a run. As I get a little bit better on the bike, I'll help you on the bike. And if I ever get in the water, I'll help you with the swim." But helping, just plugging into that and being accountable to helping somebody else has helped me in so many ways. First of all, keeps me on a schedule to do those things. And it's actually given me something to reach for, which is to swim, but the same thing with business.

Corey Rieck: Do you exercise before or after work?

Christina Rudes: I prefer to do it first thing in the morning for two reasons. One, it gets it out of the way. I can check that box and move on. And frankly, it gives me the energy I need, the motivation, clears my head, and sets the table for all the other things I need to get done that day.

Corey Rieck: Do you find that exercising before work helps you process things?

Christina Rudes: Yes, because it gives me time to think. I get up, I literally put my clothes right next to my bed, so there's no way around it. I put my workout clothes on first. I put my running shoes on. And then, I go downstairs, I drink water, I open the door so that fresh air comes in. And I have no choice. I have no choice but to go out that door and run.

Corey Rieck: And what time is this that you do this?

Christina Rudes: Usually 5:30 in the morning because I gotta get back and drive them onto the bus and get to work.

Corey Rieck: Yeah. I found, too, that it's effective to do it in the morning simply because it is a great lead into the day. I find that it provides a great forum to process things - good, bad and indifferent. And sometimes, when you're running your own company, there can be high points or can be low points and medium points. And I think that to whatever extent you can, a business owner, or an executive, or a professional has to have that regeneration. They have to have that self-resetting button, if you will. And for that, that really helps me.

Christina Rudes: Absolutely. Do you find ... because I think you you work out in the morning as well.

Corey Rieck: I do.

Christina Rudes: Do you find that it kind of sets the tone for your day?

Corey Rieck: It does. I like it. I think that things don't seem ... there's a lot of things that you have to do everyday, and they don't seem as difficult, I think, on days that I make sure I go to the gym. But that's just me personally. Plus, I think it helps me process things.

Christina Rudes: Yes, I would agree with that. And I try to mix it up a little bit. So, I will set myself many challenges. So, for 2019, I have decided that every 30 days, I was going to do one thing for 30 days in a row, and then switch it up. So, in January, I set a goal to run 5k a day, and I did it. I did it. It was in a combination of on the treadmill, outside, started in the beginning doing it whenever I felt like it. But by day 10, I started doing it first thing in the morning, and I found that I had a lot of things done, and I got a lot of things done in January. So, it really helps. And my stretch goal, and I'm saying this in front of a lot of people right now, so I gotta make it happen. So, my stretch goal is for June to get in the pool every single day and swim. For people who know me know that that's really, really difficult. But again, you've got to set those goals. You've got to not be afraid to try something new.

Corey Rieck: I think, it was Eleanor. Was it Eleanor Roosevelt that said you should do something every day that scares you?

Christina Rudes: Yes, yes.

Corey Rieck: I think it was her.

Christina Rudes: Yeah. Sounds like an Eleanor Roosevelt. It sounds like her.

Corey Rieck: Well, there's something about conquering something that you may have some trepidation about and doing it, and maybe surprising yourself, and maybe that muscle, right? Because if you encounter something else that you may have some trepidation on or some hesitation, you can recall something else that you had similar feelings about and realize, "Hey, I was able to overcome that. I was able to succeed in that." And you go back to those thoughts, and it helps you with the next thing.

Christina Rudes: Absolutely. In fact, now that you say that, there are three or four things that I had been incredibly afraid to do. And once I made it a priority on my list to do that first thing in the morning, about 75 percent of the time, I found out that what I was afraid of was-

Corey Rieck: Made up?

Christina Rudes: Yes, it was a big lie. I had no need to feel afraid of that. So, when I-.

Corey Rieck: That's true, by the way.

Christina Rudes: It is true. And for me, it was about 75 - 80 percent of the time, my fear of it was way worse than the actual outcome. And then, in the remaining 20 percent that maybe it was as bad as I thought, I found that once you buckle down and just dealt with it or handled it, I was better off because of it. And so, I can say now that I'm a whole lot less afraid of things or if I'm afraid of them, I'm not afraid of them for long. So, just learning how to deal with those head on. So, yeah.

Corey Rieck: Well, the sooner you address those things and get an outcome, you can put it behind you - good, bad or indifferent. I find that to be very helpful. And I think exercising in the morning helps for me to lend the perspective that I need that I used to have a coach that would tell me. "Rieck, you're not as good as you think you are, but you're not as bad as they say you are." And I think working out in those things helps sort of process those things and helps you sort of be more objective about those things that involve you.

Christina Rudes: And did you find that when you work out, your best today may not be as good as it was yesterday or may not be as good as tomorrow? So, really, what you need to do is do your best today or do your best right now, and understand that your best right now may not be the very best.

Corey Rieck: Well, that's part of the discipline. But it's also part of accepting the fact that a day in the office, you may have a great day, and it may be followed by a day that's not so good. I mean, that's anything. And really, the key is to exercise when you're not, when you don't want to do it. I mean, that's what discipline is.

Christina Rudes: Right. To set that time and make yourself do it. And that's why it helps for me to see the plan on paper, but it also helps to have accountability partners who will ring you, text you, come to your house and pull you out of bed if needed to get out on the trail, or get in the pool, or get your bike out. And I find that it helps me more accountable if I put out up front the excuses. So, if I say, "Well, I can't really bike because I don't know how to change my tire," somebody will say-

Corey Rieck: Actually, that makes two of us. I don't know how to change a tire either, a bike tire.

Christina Rudes: Okay. So, right. So, they can say-

Corey Rieck: But I can call you though if I'm out on the trail, and I need-.

Christina Rudes: Absolutely, absolutely. Or if you say, "Hey, Christina, I need to run three miles tomorrow. Text me at at 9 a.m. and make sure I've done it already," I'll text you at 5:00 a.m. to make sure you're up, and I'll text you at 5:30 to make sure your shoes are on. So, if you need an accountability partner like that, call me.

Corey Rieck: And knowing you, I don't see accountability as an issue. And that's obviously a great trade to have in what you're doing, having a ritual. I've heard that. Ritual could be working out. It could be sort of how you plan your day. All of those things are important in any business to experience and sustain success.

Christina Rudes: Absolutely.

Corey Rieck: What are the things that you do every day in your business? And how are you getting your clients?

Christina Rudes: What do I do in my business every single day? I make a lot of phone calls. I call a lot of people, and I ask them what I can do for them because-

Corey Rieck: And how is that received?

Christina Rudes: Most of the time, it's received very well. I think that in this ... I'm in the service industry. So, really, I feel at my best when I feel like I'm being of help to somebody else. And that's not necessarily writing an insurance policy. It could just be something. They need a cup of coffee. They need to bounce an idea off of somebody. So, when I start my day, I make a list of 10 people to call, and I ask them, "What can I help you with today?" And it might not be something I can do, but I definitely don't know that unless I ask. And I like to do that because it opens up my mind, and it puts a bookmark there, so that when I hear that when I'm out and about, I hear something. I'm like, I make a connection. So, that's one of my rituals. It's like I make a list of 10 people to call first thing in the morning and ask them, "What can I do for you today?"

Corey Rieck: Yeah, I think connecting with people is really important. I mean, I think we meet a lot of people, but, really, the differentiating point, and I've realized this after 19 or 20 years having my company, that it's very important to me to have a connection. And it's difficult to get things done effectively if there isn't.

Christina Rudes: Yes. And I can say, in the time that I've known you, you are great at connecting. And you just have a good way about you, Corey.

Corey Rieck: That really came out well. Even unsolicited. You see that?

Christina Rudes: Well, it's true. It's absolutely true. I mean, when I meet people for the first time, like I said, and I said it earlier, love people or meet people where they are. And I think I also said that I genuinely like people. I almost even like them more, I think, when they're not like me because there's some reason that we're all on the same planet together. There's some reason why we have ran each other's past. There is a reason that we met. And I look for that reason, and it might be something that I can help you with, or it might be something you can help me with, or we might have some future mission together. We just don't know it yet.

Corey Rieck: Well, I think it's important, you come off as being very unselfish. I think that's an excellent trade as a business owner and, certainly, as somebody that's in a service industry to think of others first. What kind of client is an ideal client for you?

Christina Rudes: An ideal client for me is someone who wants to take the time to understand what we're doing. So, if you're buying a home or if you're buying a car, you need to understand about excess coverage, excess liability coverage.

Corey Rieck: It doesn't seem like people really understand that and have implemented that. Tell us why you think that's important.

Christina Rudes: I think that for a lot of people, they feel like they know they have to have insurance either to drive the car or to have a house. They know they need to have it because someone told them they need to have it, but they don't really understand why they need to have it or how it protects them. And we just get wrapped up in getting things done. Everybody's busy. Everybody's got something to do. And they just want to get it done. They want to get it done on time in. And that's fine. I'm absolutely good with plugging into doing that. But I want to have a conversation and just say, "Hey, okay, I've got to write this policy for you. This is what we're gonna do because it needs to get done. We need to sit and talk about what this is, so that you know how you are covered."

So, an ideal client for me is somebody who wants to take that time. It doesn't have to be a long time. It certainly doesn't have to be a long, drawn-out process, but just someone who's willing to listen, to understand, and to ask questions. I love clients who ask questions because I know they're listening. I know they're paying attention when they're asking questions.

Corey Rieck: Well, it makes your job easier.

Christina Rudes: Yes.

Corey Rieck: You're going to ask questions. And then, I think it's advantageous for the two of you if you can see the light come on with the client knowing that they understand, knowing that they're picking up what you're putting down.

Christina Rudes: Absolutely. And one of the things that I do with all my clients is I walk them through the process. So, regardless of where that customer came from, we're going to get what they need to get done done. And we're going to get it done on time. And I'm going to tell them, I said, "Here, we're going to do this. And this is why I'm doing it." And I said, "Once this is done, and you go do step 2 or step 3, you may or may not remember everything I told you. So, here's my phone number. Here's my contact information. When you have that question or when that scenario comes up, I want you to call me and make sure that you understand me," because there's a lot of information all the time, and people need to be reminded, or they need to be checked.

Christina Rudes: So, I make sure that they understand, "Listen, when this comes up, because it will, or when you have a question about that, make sure you call me." I want them to be very, very comfortable that they reach out to do that. And then, I'll say, "I'll call you next month to make sure everything went as I thought it should." And ask for permission to call them, to contact them, but I absolutely make them aware that they should call or they should check in.

Corey Rieck: So, it seems like education is a very, very important part of your process. Is that a fair assessment?

Christina Rudes: Absolutely. People don't know what they don't know. So, if they can't ask the right questions, they don't necessarily understand, they might not have been exposed to it. So, when we sit down, I say, "Hey, tell me what you know. And if you don't know anything, that's okay." And we even when they say, "Oh, yeah, I bought 12 houses before. I know all about homeowner's insurance policy." "Okay, great. Let's talk that through for a second," just to make sure that what they know and what I know is indeed the same. We're on the same page. And then, we go from there. And then, it's a conversation.

Corey Rieck: Well, people that are educated, I think, make better decisions. And I think maybe our better long-term clients, better long-term care fits because, then, everything is sort of out on the table, there's no rushing, and you're able to really spend the time with them that you need to in order to do what's best for them.

Christina Rudes: Right. And understand that sometimes, people's needs change, or what they thought, or maybe even what I thought they needed was not exactly accurate. And the only way to get that out on the table is to talk, to have a conversation. Tell me what you want to know more information about because if I don't know it, I will find out for you, and I will put you in touch with those people because informed consumers are happier. They're more comfortable, and not only are they better clients or they're just in a good spot. They need to know. They need to know the choices that they make and how it will impact them later on. They need to know that. And so, education, absolutely.

Corey Rieck: What is the most challenging thing about what you do?

Christina Rudes: Trying to get people to understand that value is not always cheap, honestly. I'm a broker, so I'm gonna find the best policy for the best coverage for you all for the best price all the time.

Corey Rieck: Why is being a broker in your business relevant?

Christina Rudes: Because I'm not beholden to any one company. I, truly, am acting on the best interests of both the consumer and the carrier. Not everybody is a great fit for a carrier. Not every carrier can provide the best coverage for the customer. So, essentially, I'm looking out for everyone involved. I have no ties to any one company. That's the biggest advantage of working with a broker.

Corey Rieck: So, it seems like it would be fair to say that you're a conduit between the client and whatever carrier best meets their needs. And you don't really have any sort of preconceived ideas about where the business may go. Every carrier is probably a little bit different about what they're comfortable with. And you're able to connect the client to the right insurance carrier. Is that accurate?

Christina Rudes: Absolutely. I spend a lot of time talking to carriers, both the underwriters and the product managers, and helping them understand what's going on in our particular community but, also, to understand where they're competitive, what they're looking for right now, what services they've got coming down the pipeline that might be a good fit for a customer. So, it's just an exchange of ideas, and products, and services. And I think that when you've got that kind of competition, and you've got somebody looking out for you, you'll always have the best of both worlds for both the carrier and the end user.

Corey Rieck: What do you like best about what you do?

Christina Rudes: Honestly, talking to people.

Corey Rieck: Gee, I never would've picked up on that.

Christina Rudes: Yeah. I know it's shocking, right? I genuinely like helping people. I'm in sales. I've been in sales for a really long time. And insurance happens to be the vehicle in which I help people right now, but honestly, at the end of the day, I know it sounds a little heavy handed to say, but you want somebody like me looking out for you because I do genuinely care. Not to say that nobody else cares. I'm just saying that I treat everybody like they're my best friend, or my next-door neighbor, or somebody in my family. That way, I can always feel good that I know that I did the best I could. But really, it's helping people understand what they don't know because I didn't know a whole lot of insurance before I came into the business. I didn't-

Corey Rieck: Did that matter?

Christina Rudes: In hindsight, no, because I ramped up quickly. It might have even worked to my advantage because I didn't have any preconceived notions. So, I understood what it was supposed to do. And so, now, I can move forward with, "That's what it's going to do."

Corey Rieck: Well, I think that that's advantageous. To me, all of the time that you spent in customer service, to me, lends itself to being a great factor in how you go about your day. Certainly, having the business experience, having worked for someone else, having the experience there, and having made mistakes on someone else's dime before you got to yours is advantageous. But really, how you are with people, I get loud and clear that you really care about people. You're unselfish. And I think you genuinely like people. All those things in the service industry add up to being very good at what you do.

Christina Rudes: Thank you. And I do have ... it's funny, at my desk, I have hanging on the wall opposite of me is actually an apron, and it's a branded apron. You know, it says Brightway, the Fitzpatrick Agency. And we use it when we go to events. But really, I keep it there to remind myself that I'm in the service industry. So, when a customer comes in or somebody refers somebody to me, they're not doing me a favor. I mean, I'm not doing them a favor. I have the opportunity to help and serve. And so, whatever I'm doing, whether it's insurance, or if I'm hanging out with the kids, or helping somebody coach their team, or pitching in for a service project, or setting up a cocktail party, I'm here to help. Just, I wake up every morning and say, "What good can I do today?" I know that sounds kind of Pollyanna-ish, but it's true. It's like, "Okay, what good things can I do today?"

Corey Rieck: Actually, I don't think. I don't think it does. I think a lot of people that are out on their own, that's one of the first things ... that may be one of the first things they think about is, "Hey, how can I get better today?" I think if you're getting better in your business, I think you're probably helping more people.

Christina Rudes: Right, right. So, yeah, Yeah. So, I think that's the biggest part for me is to just be able to get up every day and say, "What do I get to do today? It's not, "What do I have to do today?" It's like, "What do I get to do today?"

Corey Rieck: And that's a differentiator too because, obviously, there are things you have to do every day. But I think if you frame it in your head as, "Hey, what do I get to do today?" I think it helps establish that gratitude early on and helps you to get through the day and be more effective.

Christina Rudes: Right. And I'm a list person. So, I get up every morning, and I tell myself three things that I'm grateful for every day. And then, I review my list of the…

Corey Rieck: What were you grateful for today?

Christina Rudes: I was grateful this morning for beautiful weather. I don't know if anybody else noticed it out there. It was like 73 with a nice little breeze going on. It wasn't too hot.

Corey Rieck: No humidity.

Christina Rudes: No humidity.

Corey Rieck: No rain.

Christina Rudes: Absolutely. I was grateful that I woke up, and I felt good and healthy.

Corey Rieck: Yeah, waking up beats the alternative.

Christina Rudes: Yes, yes. I always laugh when people say, "Oh, I'm getting older every year." And I said, "What's the alternative? Getting older is better than the alternative."

Corey Rieck: Well, and I think getting old now doesn't have to be the way it was 20, 30, 40 years ago. I think with all of the information out about nutrition, and hydration, working out, everybody is in a position to live their best life.

Christina Rudes: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, nutrition, and rest, hydration. One of the things that I had to get used to being a business owner is I have to send myself to bed early. I have to send myself to bed early, so I can get up early, and be productive.

Corey Rieck: And what time is that?

Christina Rudes: 9:30. That's early-ish.

Corey Rieck: No, Actually, I am in touch with that emotion.

Christina Rudes: Okay.

Corey Rieck: And it's funny how early on, back when I was a rugrat some time ago, when I used to sort of discuss with my parents, which really entailed them saying, "You will be home by 11:00," and I would always try to shine them into, "Come on, mom. 11:30." "No, 11:45." "No, 11:00. You can stay out as long as you like, as long as you’re home by 11:00." And now, it's kind of a luxury to say to my wife, "Hey, can we go home?" "Oh, yeah. I totally want to go home," and it'll be 9:15. And people are looking at us like, "What's wrong with you, people?" But it's funny how that changes over time, sort of going to bed early as opposed to staying out late.

Christina Rudes: Yeah. No, I welcome a night in whenever I can get it. And I just find that when I'm well rested, if I go to bed early, I'm well rested in the morning, it makes getting out the door to…

Corey Rieck: Well, you perform better.

Christina Rudes: Absolutely. I perform way better when I have sleep and rest.

Corey Rieck: What charities do you feel strongly about?

Christina Rudes: Well, when I got here to Atlanta 18 months ago, I really didn't know where to plug in, but one of my ... I'm passionate about a couple of things. I'm passionate about helping the underserved, the homeless. I'm passionate about helping veterans. But mostly, right now, I'm passionate about kids. I think that when you invest the time and energy into the kids, it makes for better adults, it makes for just a better society in general. So, I feel like, okay, let's grab them when they're young, and let's teach them how to do some of these things. So, right now, I'm working with the Marietta Police Athletic League, the PAL program.

Corey Rieck: What's that?

Christina Rudes: The Police Athletic League, actually, is nationwide. It's all over the country. But Marietta PAL, it's an after-school program. It's a summer camp that serves the kids in Marietta City schools. They do boxing programs, and cheerleading, and track, and all these programs are coached by volunteer police officers and teachers, so.

Corey Rieck: Yeah, I know the way those two folks give back.

Christina Rudes: Yeah, yeah. And what really drew me to it was, actually, I was at a Marietta Business Association launch in 2017, and they were recognizing all the different programs in the city. And Marietta PAL came up, and they had a 5K coming up. And so, being a runner, and liking the kids, and having them run was something that I could really get involved with. And that was something I could plug into. I felt like I could contribute. Didn't matter how many people I knew or didn't know at that point, it was just something that we could do to plug in. And I was really blown away by the dedication of the coaches and the staff. Really, their involvement with the kids is awesome. And you had to start somewhere. You have to start somewhere.

Corey Rieck: It's interesting. I look back on my growing up and playing organized sports, and I look back, my sister and I speak about this repeatedly and think about the three or four people that have impacted your life. And in my case, they were teachers that happened to be coaches and the people that ... you mentioned that were dedication, and I think that athletics, organized athletics really is a great vehicle to develop. And I think if somebody is coachable early on, I think that lends itself to being coachable later on.

Christina Rudes: Yes, absolutely. And being coachable is one of the things that I think is so important. And I didn't really understand the importance of being coachable until maybe a year or two ago really.

Corey Rieck: What led you to that?

Christina Rudes: Well, a couple things, actually. I'd never had any formal training running. I literally just got up one day, put my shoes on, and started running. So, I didn't run track. I've never had any training. I've never had a running coach and all those other things. And it coincided. I started that 15 years ago. And so, I found that when I had people who could help me, who would share their experiences of track, or their running coaches and stuff, when I employed some of those things, my running did actually get better. So, that was the difference, being willing, being able to listen, but also take on what was being advised.

And then, coincidentally, my son started playing T-ball right around the same time. And you got to hand it to the people who volunteer their time to coach little kids because you get 8 or 10 five or six-year-olds together, whether it's with a bat, or a soccer ball, or a football, or a basketball, it's a little bit chaotic, and you find out quickly who the coachable kids are and who aren't. And I think that the number one lesson that people should teach is make sure your kid's coachable. And if you didn't have the benefit of being able to do organized sports as a kid, when you go into the workplace, or when you go into something new, hey make sure your kid's coachable.

And even today, when I assess what I'm doing, or I'm about to take on something new, I have to remind myself, make sure you're coachable. Even if you know your stuff, even though you've done it a thousand times before, I've got to leave a door open to make sure that I'm coachable because I certainly don't know everything. And you can't possibly learn grow if you're not willing to be coachable.

Corey Rieck: Well, don't you think a lot of that starts at home-

Christina Rudes: Yes.

Corey Rieck: ... with the parents and the siblings? And I think if you have enough experience competing, it lends itself to not taking things that happen on a day-to-day basis personally.

Christina Rudes: Yes, yes. And I'm seeing that now with school sports and in such now or even science fairs and things like that, it's like you're not going to win them all, and it's okay. And in fact, you don't want them to win at all because if that's all they know, then there's no room for growth there.

Corey Rieck: Yeah, I think if someone as coachable, then I think it's really a question of ... it's interesting. I watch how people say, "Do you have the will to win?" Well, everybody I know has the will to win. But what separates people is if they have the will to prepare. And a lot of people are not willing to do that and whatever that involves. I love in the NFL, if you look at how Walter Payton prepared, you look at how Jerry Rice prepared, and those guys hit all their weight lifting in their training, and they came to camp in shape in a time when a lot of guys used camp to get in shape. And so, that's one of the reasons that, in my opinion, why they were so successful is what they did when people weren't looking.

Christina Rudes: Right, right. I agree with that. I was gonna add Philip Rivers in there, but only because I'm a Charger fan, but watching these people get ready to play and compete. Tom Brady, that's another one. Watching the film and doing the things that they don't have to do because they've earned the right not to have to do it anymore, but they do it every day. They show up every day.

Corey Rieck: And I think Tom Brady would say, "I haven't earned anything. I want to earn it every day." And I think that I'm a big fan of his for obvious reasons but, also, because I think he was 199th player taken in the 99er 2000 NFL draft, and there was five or six quarterbacks taken ahead of him. And in fact, there was something on ESPN. I think they call it the Brady Six. Then, it talks about the lives of those six quarterbacks who were taken before him. And he's 41 or 42 years old, still playing in an extremely high level, but he really works hard.

Christina Rudes: He works hard, and his dedication hasn't wavered, and his passion hasn't wavered, and he brings it every day. And that's really what it takes. Even when you don't feel like it, you got to bring it every day.

Corey Rieck: And I think he is also very unselfish. I think that he could command more money. It would be difficult for me to pay an NFL player more than him. But he says, "Hey, if I take less money, I can get better players around me." And I think he may be unique in that assertion.

Christina Rudes: Yes, you're right. I never really thought about it from the unselfish standpoint. I've always been really focused on his passion, and his dedication, and the work that he puts in. But you're right, he is unselfish because he knows that he can't protect himself on the line if he doesn't have good players around him.

Corey Rieck: Well, and I think he's worked incredibly hard. But love talking about the sports references. And I think that there is crossover - preparing, the discipline, the basic blocking and tackling, the basic things you have to do everyday. You mentioned calling 10 people, but I think having sort of a servant mentality, which I picked up that you have, I think that's advantageous. Being neutral in how you help people, I think, is a differentiator. You've been selected to be on the show because of your expertise, but also because you're different. What do you think sets you apart from the next person that does what you do?

Christina Rudes: Well, I know a lot of people who are doing what I'm doing, and I've had the privilege of meeting other insurance agents and brokers and things. And honestly, I don't know that I'm really different. I think most of us come with the idea that we're gonna help somebody today or we're going to provide a service. I think it really makes me different, not just in this but in general, honestly, has been my mindset. I get up every day, and I know I've said this earlier, but it's worth repeating. I get up every morning and every moment, even in the tough times, I say, "I get to do this." And it could be something as mundane as I get to pick my kid up off the bus at 3:00 every day, but I get to.

And if you stop in just that moment and recognize that, gosh, I wonder how many other parents would like the opportunity to do that, but they can't for whatever reason it is. And you take that with everything you do. So, I've got a couple tough things on my desk right now, and I could easily just say, "I really don't know if I can do this today," but I don't think that way. I think, "I get to do this today. I get to take this on today. I get to make phone calls to find out how to get this done today," and have to do it quickly, because if I can't do it, I have to make that phone call to say, "Hey, we might be better served doing it somewhere else."

So, I would say, really, it's my mindset. I get to do it every day. And frankly, I love being where I'm at, wherever that is, whether it's here in Atlanta or in San Diego, I just enjoy being where I'm at and doing what I'm doing.

Corey Rieck: I think, also, what I would add to that is that you're very much about serving others, and my experience with you, you really like people. Your customer service experience comes through loud and clear. I think the fact that you're grateful for the opportunity to do this, as you have said, and "Hey, I get to do this," that's a much different position than, "Hey, I have to do that." And I get that loud and clear with you. If you could give the younger version of Christina some advice, what would that be?

Christina Rudes: I would say to a younger Christina, don't be afraid. Don't be afraid. Even if you fail and fall on your face, at least, you're falling forward. That would be the first thing. And then, the other thing I would tell young Christina is progress over perfection. So, to fight my OCD tendencies, to make sure everything looks perfect, I would just say progress over progression. And I'm sorry, progress over perfection.

Corey Rieck: Incremental improvement.

Christina Rudes: Incremental improvement. And just this morning, I was talking to somebody. I said, "Listen, if you want to move mountains, you gotta move stones every day. You gotta move a stone every day," and that would be it.

Corey Rieck: Did you get better today?

Christina Rudes: Yes, yes. And I know I get better just by being with people who are better than me. If I'm the smartest person in the room, I am in the wrong room. So, that's definitely something that makes me different. I want to be in the room where I'm not the smartest person in the room.

Corey Rieck: If there was a young lady that wanted to follow your arc, your career track, what would you tell her?

Christina Rudes: I would tell her, figure out who you are and go find your people. So, in our business and in any of our businesses, we need to know people. We need to meet people on a regular basis. We need to meet new people. We need to get to know them. And all of that's fantastic. And what I would say is figure out who you are, and then go find people like you. And then, that way you can do great things together.

Corey Rieck: Well, Christina, congratulations on all your successes. I think that you've done a great job of applying what you've learned and carrying it over into your business. And certainly continued success. You've been a great guest for the show. If the listenership wanted to get a hold of you, how would they do it?

Christina Rudes: They should call my office. My phone number is 770 ... I'm sorry, I just went blank. 770-863-8463 is my direct line. They can do that or they can look us up on the internet, Brightway, The Fitzpatrick Agency.

Corey Rieck: Or is there an e-mail address or a website?

Christina Rudes: Yes, yes. My email address, if you want to get a hold of me, my email address is christina.rudes@brightway.com.

Corey Rieck: Well, Christina, thank you again for being part of the show. You've been a great guest. And continued success. Thanks so much for being on the show.

Christina Rudes: Well, Corey, thank you so much for inviting me. And Sanjay, thank you for doing all the soundcheck stuff.

Sanjay Toure: Of course.

Christina Rudes: But I really, really appreciate being a guest on your show.

Corey Rieck: Thanks so much.

Sanjay Toure: And that wraps up another episode of Tuesdays with Corey with your host, Corey Rieck. The show is brought to you by our great friends at Long Term Care Planning Group. Thank you, Christina, again, for joining us today on the station. And that'll be it.

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