Business Q & A

Five questions with Brian Martin, Vice President, CIG Insurance

A nomadic lifestyle during 10 years as a professional basketball player prepared Brian Martin for the business world.

After all, being flexible is a key part of succeeding in business.

Martin certainly was pushed to the limit. He and his wife, Jodi, have moved 23 times in 26 years of marriage.

A large chunk of those moves came while he played for 12 pro teams — from the NBA to Europe to the Continental Basketball Association — over 10 years.

He returned to his hometown of Wichita in 2002 to begin a career in the insurance business and has been a vice president for the CIG Insurance agency the past two years.

After graduating from Northwest High School, where he met Jodi, the 6-foot-9 Martin played for the University of Kansas and served as a captain during his senior season.

He was selected in the ninth round of the 1984 NBA draft by the Indiana Pacers, then split the 1984-85 season playing for Seattle and Portland.

He had stops in Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy, all intertwined with minor-league stints for six CBA teams.

He was working for Allied Awning and Sign in Salt Lake City in 2002 when his wife convinced him they needed to return to Wichita to be closer to family.

“I resisted it for about a year and a half,” the 47-year-old Martin said. “I told her, ‘I don’t have a job in Wichita.’ And the economy wasn’t good.

“But she talked me into it. It was the right thing to do. No question.”

With a connection assist from the late Ron Heller, then head coach at Friends University, Martin started his insurance career with IMA.

1. What lessons did you take from playing sports into business?

“Sports teaches you discipline, teamwork and independence.

“When I was playing basketball, I had to work out and push myself in the off-season. Same thing in sales. You push yourself, but within a team environment. At the same time, you have to be able to do things on your own.”

2. Is there more pressure in sales or standing at the free-throw line with seconds left and the score tied?

“Sales and the business world is real life. I’m trying to support my family. There’s way more pressure in this environment than I ever had in a sporting event.

“I’ve stood at the free-throw line trying to win a game. I’ve also looked for a job. I know the difference.

“You can make a lot of money in sports. So if you miss a free throw, you’re going to be OK. There’s going to be another game tomorrow. In life, you miss a sale or lose a job, it’s not so easy.”

3. You played for Ted Owens at KU, then in your final year for Larry Brown. Any lessons learned there that carried over to business?

“To be flexible. (Owens and Brown) had two different styles and personalities. Brown brought in a type of game we all wanted to play, but it was a tough transition. Coach Brown was such a perfectionist. I can remember practices that would go on for four hours. Two of those hours would be spent on one play, and then he’d kick us out of practice because we couldn’t do it right.

“As many different places as I’ve been, you learn to be flexible. That has carried over into my work where I’ve worked with different personalities, different management styles.”

4. Did your visibility in sports help you network, make business connections?

“I was gone from Wichita for 20 years. Out of sight, out of mind kind of thing.

“As an athlete, you meet a lot of different people, and you learn to hang on to those connections. It’s the same in business.

“But in business you have to find places you can go to meet people all the time. That’s a little different than sports. You’re in front of people in sports, so people come to you. In business, you have to go to groups of people to try and meet them.”

5. Do you still play basketball?

“With my kids a little bit. I broke a leg about eight years ago, playing softball, of all things. I have a screw in my knee. I can’t jump over a Pepsi can.

“But I was working with my son the other day at the Y, and I just had to make sure I could still dunk it. Nothing pretty, but I dunked it.”