Through Gary’s eyes: A Q&A with President and Owner Gary Knight
You’ve been with ProBenefits for a long time, and you worked your way up to the role of President and Owner. How did you discover the company?
I was a fledgling college student at Wake Forest at the time, and I met the founder on a mission trip to Antigua over spring break. As we talked, I asked him a lot about his work. I wanted something different and meaningful for a career, and here was an entrepreneur on a mission trip! I thought that was an impressive combination. A year later, I reached out to him about a job. He didn’t have any openings, but he said, “Do you know much about all of this new computer stuff?” Then he hired me as a part-time tech support specialist. A month later, he asked me, “Would you be interested in a job?” I think the tech support work was a trial position. That was 1994, and here I still am. It’s a great place to be with great people around me.
Tell us more about the founder, Wes Morgan.
Wes had two professions — president and rainmaker for the company, and also his volunteer work, which was equally full time. He was incredibly dedicated to mission work in Haiti. He went to Haiti like I might go to Raleigh or Durham. He was there a lot. I always deeply admired that and the way he involved his business associates in his mission work. He would take them for long weekends and show them the work that was being done. He called them ‘vision trips,’ and there are several people still deeply involved in Haiti because they accepted the invitation to spend that first weekend with Wes in Haiti.
Wes was a family man, a driven entrepreneur and a driven missionary. He was doing something all the time in one of those three areas. As he spent more time in Haiti, he began to lean on me more, and put me in a leadership role.
We learn a lot about a person by watching how they live their lives. How did Wes face his cancer diagnosis?
After his diagnosis, Wes spent as much — honestly, probably even more — time in Haiti. He fought for two years, and he fought hard. In fact, on one of his trips, he was kidnapped and ended up paying his own ransom! He pushed through any obstacle he could to carry out his work with integrity. That’s a big reason why integrity is such a large part of the ProBenefits culture to this day.
What do you think Wes would say about the company if he saw it today?
Wes would be pleased with the growth we’ve had. We’ve grown from 15 to 33 employees. And he would be pleased with how we’ve grown — by hiring quality people and putting them in quality roles. We’ve grown the Wes Morgan way.
ProBenefits is a values-driven organization. What does that mean to you?
You can be very successful and still do a lot of good in the business world, and the business world needs it. We want to serve as an example for how to integrate a strong set of values into the day-to-day business environment. We appreciate one another here. We help people whenever we can. We go out of our way to acknowledge that people have lives outside of work. We commit to doing things right. That’s who we are. It’s in our DNA to treat people the right way and do what we can to help them.
What is the culture like here?
We are team players and we get along very well. When people go through life changes, we care for one another like family. Whether they are getting married or having babies or going through an illness or death, we naturally are there for one another. We enjoy socializing and eating together and having a good laugh. I think that comes through in the video spots we recently made. That’s who we are — genuine, caring, and comfortable being ourselves. I guess you could say that being human is one of the things we do well.
What makes ProBenefits different?
For one thing, we do not believe in over automating. We are relationship driven. We believe in giving you a single point of contact and answering every phone call, which makes us very responsive. Accessibility is a key differentiator. We are also excellent at helping our clients manage compliance. We seek to make difficult subject matter easy for people, and that saves them time and aggravation. Our clients love that about us.
Other than company values and culture, what are you proud of?
We have amazing brain power here. Our team as a whole knows exactly what our clients need. We administer a small piece of the human resources piece, but we understand the full landscape. We either have the answers or will figure them out to help our clients and give them confidence that we have things handled for them.
Do you imagine your vision for ProBenefits shifting in any way in the future? How?
We are trying to be more intentional about where we are going and trust that where we are going is right. We want to always commit to doing things better or smarter and making things more efficient so we can focus more on the personal side of client relationships.
What will always remain true?
As long as I am at ProBenefits and we have a great team of great people, we will treat clients, employers and employees with respect and be personable. That includes how we treat one another here, internally, because without that, you cannot be there for your clients the way you should be. No matter what, that’s always our goal and it’s why our tagline is, “The benefit of trust.” We’re always working to give our clients the benefit of trusting us to handle benefit programs and compliance. They can relax and know they are in the very best hands.