Sapoznik on being a team player

Rachel Sapoznik’s life has been rich with life lessons. She realized as an adult that the team sports she played as a youth helped her build better executive teams. She learned after the birth of her second child that careers can change quickly – and being self-sufficient is a key to success.

Today, the president of Sapoznik Insurance & Associates finds herself teaching others – about the value of good health coverage, the importance of wellness and the perils of taking either for granted. Her mission for the insurance agency she launched in 1987 is to educate customers and provide customized employee benefit programs for national retailers, municipalities, manufacturers and other sectors.

Along the way, she’s been recognized as a leading regional insurance agency, a Top 10 woman-owned business, and among the Top 100 minority businesses.

The Business Journal held its inaugural South Florida Ultimate CEO Awards on Sept. 29 at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, where more than 350 were in attendance to celebrate 15 of the tri-county region’s top executives. Click here to see photos from the event.

Health care is undeniably challenging. Any challenges unique to South Florida? The biggest challenge is educating people about personal responsibility. Now that we have the Affordable Care Act, people feel entitled to health care. Unfortunately, when there is an entitlement, many times there’s not personal responsibility, meaning there’s abuses. Those abuses end up increasing costs, instead of reducing costs. I have a real mission out there, which has been a core of my business, of educating employees on the best way to use their health care so they are healthy and their claims costs are contained in a proper manner. Because that’s the only way we’re going to be able to sustain affordable health care. If not, we’re going to be looking at a future of rationed health care, which is a very scary thought to me.

A high-school-aged girl is hoping to become an executive or entrepreneur. What’s your advice to her? Join a team sport. I [had] volleyball, basketball and [was] a catcher for softball. I find that being involved in team sports as a woman has helped me incredibly. Most athletes understand the whole concept of the team. That’s where men have a real advantage over women. Men understand if they’re playing pick-up basketball, they’re going to pick the best people on that team who are going to help them win. They learn the whole concept of team. Girls, I find, play individual sports – tennis, ballet, swimming. They don’t really participate in team sports. So when they have to pick a team, there’s a lot of “I have to make sure I look good.” That’s why I tell all young girls: “Join team sports because that’s going to be your greatest lesson and it’s going to help you in the future.”

What would Rachel of today tell 18-year-old Rachel to change? Rachel of today would tell Rachel at 18 it’s OK to ask questions, to say “I don’t know how to do something,” it’s OK to fail. Because you can only learn from your failures. Some of my greatest failures have been some of my greatest lessons, and when we’re 18 years old, we’re so afraid and “I don’t want to fail here.” But you do want to fail because that’s how you’re going to learn.

If you could ask one executive one question, who and what would that be? Steve Jobs: How did you leave us so early, with all the access to brilliant health care you had available? Why didn’t you take care of yourself? You changed the world, but you didn’t use that energy to help yourself. He did not take care of himself from a health standpoint. He had bizarre eating habits, sleep habits. Was it all these things that shut down his immune system and then allowed the cancer to come in? We don’t know. Had he lived, he maybe could have found out what caused his cancer through the research. But he got diagnosed late in the game. He left too early; there was so much more for him to do.