by Colton Campbell

When Benjamin Raymond was younger, he discovered a major talent as a basketball player. Now the CEO of an award-winning insurance company and a best-selling author, Raymond leveraged that natural athleticism and fierce drive to earn a college scholarship.

Benjamin Raymond
Benjamin Raymond

But earning a double degree was only the beginning of his story. He wanted to be a champion in the boardroom – not just the basketball court.

Raymond – founder and CEO of Raymond Insurance Group – visited the University of West Georgia Tuesday night to serve as the keynote speaker in the Richards College of Business’ latest installment of the BB&T Lectures in Free Enterprise series.

Students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the west Georgia community, gathered for the event, during which Raymond shared his story through a presentation titled “Playing the Game Without a Coach.”

Garnet Reynolds, BB&T’s market president for the west Georgia region, introduced Raymond, saying the speaker’s tenacity through adversity exemplifies the word “grit.”

“We are in a results-oriented world today, but what has to happen before results are realized are a person’s behavior and beliefs,” Reynolds said. “Mr. Raymond has been ingrained in his beliefs from the very beginning, and that all leads back to the world ‘grit’ – a combination of passion and perseverance in the face of hardship.”

Garnet Reynolds
Garnet Reynolds

Raymond began his remarks by telling attendees it’s OK if they don’t know what they want to do when they grow up yet.

“It’s always a humbling experience for me to speak to different groups, but being here tonight is even more special,” Raymond said. “Because I was just like the people in this room when I was your age. You know you want to do something and be successful, but you don’t know exactly how to get there. I was the same way, and a part of me still is.”

When Raymond was 13 years old, he placed himself into foster care. Bouncing around to numerous foster homes, his adolescence lacked stability. Even though he lived with three different families while he was in high school, Raymond used focus and dedication to create his own outcomes.

“My decisions, my dedication, and my desire was the difference in my destiny,” he said. “You have the ability to control your destiny – no matter what your circumstances are. Every man and woman in this room will face a defining moment in their lives. Either the moment will define you, or you will define the moment.”

Dr. Faye McIntyre
Dr. Faye McIntyre

Raymond graduated from the University of Minnesota with a double degree in business and communications and marketing. After spending several years in a corporate setting, Raymond decided to start his own business.

He founded the Raymond Insurance Group in 2007, and it has since become an award-winning company. Raymond also dedicated time to writing his book “Playing the Game Without a Coach,” the basis for his lecture.

The BB&T Lectures in Free Enterprise focuses on core values and ethical foundations of free enterprise and issues facing business management and policy-makers. Two select speakers a year are invited to UWG’s campus to provide a talk on these topics. Events are free and open to students and the general public.

Dr. Faye McIntyre, dean of the Richards College of Business, said the event is an integral part of the college’s mission.

“At the Richards College of Business, we are in the business of transforming lives through education, engagement and experiences,” McIntyre said in her welcoming remarks. “This event – which would not be possible without the support of our partner, BB&T – helps us achieve all three parts of that mission.”

Dr. Micheal Crafton
Dr. Micheal Crafton

Dr. Micheal Crafton, interim president of UWG, said the BB&T Lecture is part of the university’s overall mission, as well.

“We’re very proud to have hosted many engaging speakers in this series who have challenged our thinking and have challenged us to explore new ideas in entrepreneurship,” Crafton said. “This event is a big part of our education mission, which aims to enhance the economic development in our community, region, state and nation.”

Past speakers have included Christa Pitts, Dr. Jennifer Kahnweiler and Dr. Jody Foster.

Photography by Miranda Daniel

Posted on September 25, 2019