President and CEO
Poms & Associates
Woodland Hills, California
He spent two years at the gym befriending the spinner beside him before learning, by accident, that his friend was diver Greg Louganis, four-time Olympic gold medalist. Soon after, Poms joined the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, serving four years as a trustee and eight years on the board. It was just another chapter in a life devoted to helping others.
YOU HAD NO CLUE?
He was Greg, the dog trainer who brought well-behaved dogs to the gym. We became super good friends and talked about his book, Breaking the Surface. He’s part of a large community of gay athletes who wanted the support of the Olympic Committee. I wanted to help the committee think more progressively.
Yes, to some degree. I supported the development of SafeSport, a federally authorized nonprofit organization that works to end abuse in sports. Its mission, unfortunately, shifted dramatically with the sexual molestation claims that began with Larry Nassar in 2016.
THE STORY BEHIND YOUR AGENCY?
The privately held, large brokerage firm I’d been with for about 10 years became public, and overnight the emphasis of my job changed from providing the best service to making the most profit. Disenchanted, I asked myself what I’d do differently. I established my business in 1991, with no expectations or real plan. We hire great people and let them do what they do best.
HAS COVID-19 CHANGED YOUR FIRM?
We were one of the first organizations to go remote in response to the pandemic. We ordered laptops, computers, and printers and delivered them to employees at home within 24 hours. Who would ever expect our entire world would change overnight? But you know you have great people when they stick with you during the good and bad times. Our employees are ethical, knowledgeable and responsive to their clients.
YOUR ADVICE FOR INDEPENDENT AGENTS?
Remain independent, be mobile and flexible, and try to become an expert in a few industries.
Large brokerage houses have large bureaucracies, so independent agents have distinct advantages over them: They’re informal, taught to provide personal touches and can answer clients in seconds. Take advantage of that. If clients have to wait for answers, they might as well be with a large firm.
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU?
One motivation is to make sure that employees enjoy their jobs and want to come to work. That’s a big part of our organization, because employees become part of your family.
And helping others, especially children, through work, is a big motivation in my life. We’ve been involved with nonprofits that have seen more child abuse cases than almost anybody. You get involved with the claimants, attorneys on both sides, and you see how much damage abuse causes boys and girls. There are lifetime scars that don’t go away. The cases are gut-wrenching, and they involve every type of industry, church, school, or sports organization—anywhere children are.
PHOTO BY ANN JOHANNSON