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2018 Men of the Year: Brian Russell

Great American Title Co.

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Whether coaching kids or leading a company, Brian Russell believes everyone deserves a shot at success.

“I am about giving the opportunity, the knowledge, the teaching and the tools for someone to be a success, regardless of income, because everyone deserves that opportunity,” says Russell, vice president of operations and sales at Great American Title Co.

He faced significant headwinds in being able to continue offering opportunities to employees when the effects of the 2008 recession began hitting the real estate industry. In 2010, Russell was tasked with leading Great American Title through a time when underwriters were failing, builders were out of work and homeowners were losing homes.

“From 2009 to 2012, it was a major shift in our industry and one that very few were able to navigate successfully,” Russell says.

The challenges really hit home for Russell and the team when in 2010, he told employees that year-end bonuses were gone in favor of saving jobs.

“The face-to-face conversations I had to have with employees – their tears, their stories, the impact on their family, how much they needed it, relied upon it, planned for it, all taken away by something outside of our control (with) the economy – was the worst week I believe I have ever had in my adult life.”

But four years later, Russell experienced one of his proudest professional moments when he surprised employees with a year-end bonus as a result of their work through the recession.

“That moment stands still in my mind – the hugs, the tears, the thank you, the reality of what impact we can make in someone’s life, good or bad, is how I found ‘my why,’” he says of the 2014 Christmas party at The Old Glass Place.

At the time of the downturn, Great American Title had about 45 employees and 10 offices. Through a commitment to building a strong team, providing superior value and retaining employees, Russell says the company began 2018 with almost 120 employees and 17 offices.

“It’s our goal and privilege to be known as the best at what we do and to build our business based on providing the most value and best experience for all involved with one of the most important financial decisions of one’s life,” Russell says.

Russell also leads on the athletic field, coaching a Magic Soccer Club team where he stresses positive parental behavior.

“If you can get the parents to buy in, to support what you’re doing, the kids pick up on it without even trying,” he says.

He is committed to making sure no player is prevented from participating due to finances.

“We have raised over $20,000 these past six years … so that each player feels confident, has the opportunity and has the same tools to be a success as other more expensive teams and clubs.”

In that same spirit, Russell created the Great American Title Company Charity Championship golf tournament to benefit The Kitchen, now in its fourth year.

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