GREELEY — Masoud Shirazi’s path to success may sound like the typical “immigrant makes good” story, but it still serves as a reminder that anything is possible if you work hard enough.
When Shirazi graduated from high school in Iran, he said, it became clear that his options were limited. So, without a second thought, he left his home and came to America in pursuit of higher education and the opportunities this country provided.
As one might imagine, there were plenty of roadblocks. One in particular was not speaking the language.
“I had an older brother in Denver,” Shirazi said. “So I moved there in 1970 and stayed with him in order to learn English.”
Despite being unable to hold a conversation, he landed a job in just six days, bagging groceries at a local supermarket. While the language barrier was proving to be a huge problem, he would not be deterred.
“The thing that helped me the most was watching a lot of cartoons,” he said with a laugh, “and my favorite show was the Little Rascals.”
Between his viewing habits and talking with customers at the store, Shirazi was able to gain a working vocabulary. He was also saving money for college. After visiting Greeley a few times, he decided to enroll at the University of Northern Colorado.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from the School of Business in 1974 and a master’s in business administration in 1975, all while maintaining his job at the supermarket. But it wasn’t long before another opportunity came up.
“I was looking for a job, and Great West Insurance recruited me right out of college,” Shirazi said.
Within a year, he decided to open his own agency. Things were pretty lean at first.
“When I started, it was just me,” he said, “and I was sharing a secretary and office with other people.”
But the company has experienced steady growth, and now has 16 full-time employees. While claiming a certain amount of good luck, Shirazi also noted that his location also has been a factor in the firm’s success.
“Northern Colorado is a great area to be in,” he said, “so I landed at the right time and the right place.”
There’s more to it than just luck and location. Service is the company’s top priority, which has resulted in strong customer loyalty and retention. As proof, Shirazi pointed to the fact that the average client has been with the firm for more than 17 years.
“I’m a simple man and I stick to the basics, and it has worked very well,” he said “If you take care of people these days, they take care of you.”
Shirazi Benefits has also found a niche market that’s helping the business grow, thanks to recent changes in the health-care system.
“Because of Obamacare, we have to be really up to date with all the compliance rules and regulations, which a lot of small ‘mom and pop’ shops can’t provide,” he said.
In Shirazi’s mind, there is no doubt that America is the land of opportunity.
“Sometimes when people complain about things here, I tell them if they would like to go someplace else I would be more than glad to provide them with a one-way ticket,” he said.
So far, he added with a laugh, no one has taken him up on that offer.