University of Pittsburgh

Insurance Consultant Dives the Seven Seas

On a recent vacation, Jon Persky (MBA '83) was in scuba heaven, otherwise known as Indonesia. Divers like him travel halfway around the world for the chance to explore ocean waters teeming with such vibrant aquatic life.

"Comparing the coral reefs of Southeast Asia to Caribbean reefs is like comparing Ruth's Chris Steak House to McDonald's. It's something that everyone needs to experience," Persky says.

When not suiting up for memorable dives, Persky is often on stage in front of an audience for a business management seminar for insurance agency professionals. He is the owner of Optimum Performance Solutions LLC in Tampa, Fla., a niche consulting firm dedicated to advising insurance professionals. The firm's service expertise covers a vast spectrum of management issues including strategy, training, marketing, workflow, agency valuation, compensation, and mergers and acquisitions.

"We are one of 10 companies in the country that do what we do. There are maybe 100-120 people in the country that do what we do. It's great that people seek us out rather than us having to look for business," Persky says.

Fortunate as he is now, there was a time when Persky didn't have it all figured out.  After earning his Katz MBA, which he credits for giving him a strong background in finance, Persky went to work as a temp in a large insurance agency in Pittsburgh. Inside of a week, they made him chief financial officer. He decided to move to Florida in 1993 to escape the North's bitter cold. Once there, he took up scuba diving. As a kid, he watched the diving adventures of Lloyd Bridges on the 1960's TV show Sea Hunt. Within six months after moving to Florida, Persky became certified as a Divemaster.

"I've met a lot of great people and been all over the world. I've seen many different cultures while exploring the world of scuba diving. It is a passion," Persky says.

Since 1993, Persky has lectured to tens of thousands of insurance professionals in every state of the U.S. He travels to about 25 speaking engagements each year. He is a Certified Insurance Counselor, a Certified Public Accountant, a Professional in Human Resources, and a national faculty member for the Society of Certified Insurance Counselors. He has spent the majority of his career in the insurance industry in such positions as controller, chief financial officer, and personnel director. He has been associated with agencies that range from a large commercial lines only agency to a 35-location non-standard specialty auto agency.

"I travel three to four days every week. I'm constantly traveling, traveling, traveling and am a 'million miler' on both American and Delta," Persky says.

It is not lost on Persky that he is afforded the opportunity to travel so extensively and pursue his scuba passion with such vigor because of opportunities from his line of work. Few professions offer the necessary compensation and schedule flexibility that Persky has. But Persky has made the most of it. He has dipped his fins into the waters off Australia, the Caribbean islands, Hawaii, the Maldives, Fiji, Indonesia and Thailand.  He has visited places few people have heard of.

During one of Persky's visits to Indonesia, he met a retired doctor, who gave him some unforgettable advice. Their conversation was the epitome of a chance encounter — here Persky was, 10,000 miles from home, at a remote dot on the map, accessible only after six airplane rides and two travel days. "She said to me, 'You work for yourself, set your own schedule, earn a good living, and you only take two weeks of vacation a year. Do it now. You never know if you will make it to 77 like me to start traveling.'"

Persky now takes six to eight weeks of vacation each year. On many trips, colorful schools of fish flash by his scuba mask. It is in the here and now, not in retirement, that Persky is having the time of his life.