When Karl Marshall is not hitting us with music, he manages a successful insurance brokerage firm, Marmac Insurance, and is also our Insurance Expert on ByBlacks.com. Meet Karl Marshall.
For the past eight years Marshall has called Canada home. Initially migrating to Canada from Jamaica to be with and support his girlfriend, who had been diagnosed with cancer, and needed treatment in Canada.
“Notwithstanding the challenges with relocating to a new country, it was a seamless transition for me and I think it’s because I have an incredible support system of friends. One of the major things that hits people that immigrate is getting back into the field they were trained in. But I got back into my field in less than 60 days of landing in Canada. I started working at State Farm before I even received my OHIP card,” Marshall laughed.
Though he works extremely hard, he explains he could not have gotten to where he is today without help.
In 2004 prior to coming to Canada, Marshall called his old friend Greg McKnight and told him that his girlfriend was arriving in Canada before him, and needed a little help to get started. What happened was more than he had expected. Not only did Greg pick her up at the airport but also got her registered at the hospital and found her an apartment.
“When I landed and started my job search Greg told me he was not going to help me find a job, he said that the best thing he could do for me is point me in the direction that could open opportunities for what he thought would be the best career path.”
He pointed Marshall to the three top insurance companies that had an independent agency structure: State Farm, Allstate and The Cooperators. Greg said, “If I got you a job, they would either fire you or you will quit within 90 days because you like to run your own show"
“Richie B, a prolific Jamaican Radio Disc Jockey called his friend Delroy Gordon (Delroy G from G98.7FM) and said my little brother Karl is migrating to Canada, take care of him. That was all Delroy needed to hear to jump in and show me the ropes of how things were done in Canada.”
“When I came to Canada, Delroy G paid for my TTC bus pass for two months, and told me to save my first four cheques towards a deposit to buy my first car. He also made sure I had dinner every day, and he even treated me to drinks at parties until I got my first job, telling me "you can't spend Canadian dollars on liquor until you start earning Canadian dollars"
After working an overnight shift, Delroy called at 7 a.m. and asked Marshall where he was. “At the time I was leaving the hospital, trying to get home on the subway with my girlfriend who had surgery the day before.” He said, “You can’t take her on the train after doing surgery and said "I’m coming for you”.
Struggling in the initial months, Karl expressed his frustrations about not finding the perfect job, and struggling financially, to long time friend Roger Dundas. “This too shall pass. In two years we are going to be sitting back, remembering this day and laugh about it. I know you are going to be successful, it’s in your DNA,” Dundas told him.
At the time he was at Dundas’s condo borrowing DJ equipment to play at gigs the upcoming weekend. “Up to this day, Roger has never asked me for a cent for all that time I used his equipment to make money as a DJ" Marshall remarked. “I have never forgotten it. Having people believe in me strengthened my desire to do my best”.
Similar advice came from Greg McKnight who told him “Pardy, the same God you praise a Jamaica him deh yah in Canada,” in his Jamaican patois.
The alter ego - Karl “the hitman” Marshall
Karl attended a “day fete” at Queens High School for Girls in Jamaica, where sound system Soul Sensation Disco (run by Christopher Nelson and Rohan Persaud) was playing. He and his brother Jeff were hypnotized by the two DJ’s. After the fete ended they offered to help them pack up the equipment. Christopher later dropped them home and spoke to them about their interest in the business.
At the tender age of 12 Marshall started learning how to string up a sound system, from turntables, mixer, to cross fader, equalizer and amplifiers, including lifting the heavy speaker boxes, and of course mixing. “Our parents were strict, we were not allowed out after 8pm so we could only participate in the day events,” Marshall explained.
Years later, with experience in mixing now under his belt, Christopher Nelson showed up at his house and asked Karl’s father if he could come and play that night. “He introduced my brother and I to Hol Plummer, and we played live on air for the first time in 1986. I was a guest DJ on the Hol Plummer show (aka Discomania) until I got my own show on Fame FM in 1993. The rest is history.”
“I joined G98.7FM in January 2012, two months after they launched in November 2011. Being on air to me is like being the kid who gets to go to Disneyland every Saturday,” jokes Marshall.
Delroy G, who Karl refers to as his big brother, was instrumental in making the connection with G98.7FM to get Marshall the Saturday night spot, something which he can't thank Delroy too much for.
Have a passion for what you do. Dont let money be the thing that motivates you!
“Christopher Nelson got me into selling insurance at age 23. Before that I was working as a management trainee at Royal Bank, heading down the path of being a bank manager, and I was bored,” said Marshall. “The current bank manager had worked in the system for 14 years and had just gotten promoted. There was no way I was going to wait that long to get to where I wanted to be.”
“One day over lunch Chris asked me if I would be interested in selling insurance. I laughed at him because I had never sold anything in my life.” But I did it anyway, and ended up opening a branch office for Chris’s company in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I got my first taste of running an Insurance Brokerage, which was something I was reluctant to do at the time, because of how the compensation system worked.” (As a manager I stopped earning commissions, and as a salesman I live for unlimited income potential)
“In Canada my most influential mentor is Allen Wong, owner of Allen Wong Insurance.
Allen has impeccable integrity, and believes that doing the right thing for the client guarantees that everything that I want as a broker will fall into place, including making a lot of money” said Marshall.
What are some of the craziest things you have been asked to insure for a client?
“Clients have asked me to do unethical things, which I refuse to do. They want to circumvent the rules which I am never prepared to do.”
But the craziest thing I’ve ever been asked to insure is a ferret. It was a client who insured his home and car with me and one day he came in arguing that his ferret should fall under his home policy. He said the ferret was his personal property like a dog or a cat and if his dog bit someone then the home policy would cover the liability so why wouldn’t it extend to his ferret. He not only wanted liability coverage but also for sickness or death of the ferret. We had to tell him that we don’t provide pet insurance and companies who do, only insure dogs and cats for death or sickness. He argued with us about discrimination, it was really something else. But in the end, he got the point. And still kept his legitimate insurance business with our company.
What advice do you have for someone just starting out in the insurance business?
“Dont let money be the thing that motivates you. You have to be passionate about helping people because that's what insurance is all about. I get up every day and I have fun, and get paid well to do it. When people see your passion and know that you care, they will believe in and trust you. People aren't stupid they know if you are about helping them or not”
Marshall quotes Allen Wong, “You can actually be very successful doing the right thing for people. So do the right thing and the right things will happen for you”.
How can people get in touch with you?
Facebook - Marmac Financial Services Limited
LinkedIn - Karl Marshall
300-123 Commerce Valley Drive, Thornhill ON L3T 7W8
Toll Free: 1 877 884 5275