Phil Castle, The Business Times
Robert Bray jots notes to himself as encouragement to achieve personal goals — to improve his organizational and public speaking skills, among other things. Bray has kept one of the notes near the desk in his office for more than four years. The one-sentence note reads: “I’m going to make a difference today.”
The admonition has not only served as a reminder for the chief executive officer of Bray Real Estate in Grand Junction to strive to help others, but also proved prophetic.
Bray is among the latest winners of national awards recognizing business leaders who go beyond professional and personal responsibilities to exert a positive influence — to be a difference.
The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy Center for the Public Trust presented Bray with a Bill Daniels Being a Difference Award. The 12-year-old awards program is named after the cable television pioneer and philanthropist who also promoted business ethics and social responsibility.
Bray says he considers a company culture of ethics and social responsibility not only the right thing to do, but also the essential thing to do in sustaining a business. In his case, it’s a family real estate firm his grandfather launched in 1946 for which the 72-year-old Bray has worked for 44 years. “If you keep the strong culture going, you can just about weather any type of storm,” he says.
The award validates that approach, he says. “It was nice.”
“It’s very prestigious,” says Morgan Bridge, an administrator at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction involved in nominating Bray for the award.
CMU submitted the nomination to a national committee that selects recipients. There were just three for 2018: Bray; John Ikard, former president and CEO of FirstBank; and Emmanuel Lulin, senior vice president and chief ethics officer of the L’Oreal cosmetics and personal care products company.
Morgan, assistant vice president of academic affairs for assessment and accreditation, says Bray was among the first people she met when she joined the university as a business professor more than 20 years ago. She says he’s always exhibited the traits for which Daniels was well known, including integrity and accountability. “I saw a lot of the same characteristics.”
Bray does more than pay lip service to ethics, Morgan says. “He talks about it. But he does it, too. It’s the way he conducts business.”
Both Morgan and the selection committee cite as an example “the Bray way” — a company culture emphasizing family, community as well as integrity in addressing problems and making things right regardless of the obstacles or costs involved.
Bray says the Bray way was formalized after consultants hired to interview agents and staff noticed some of the same values kept coming up in their conversations.
A Bray way awards program was established in 2016 to recognize employees who exemplify those values. A committee comprised of past award recipients select new winners. In addition to honoring winners at an annual ceremony, Bray Real Estate contributes to the charitable organizations of the winners’ choice.
Lynn Thompson, president of Bray Real Estate, also was involved in nominating Bray for the Bill Daniels Being a Difference Award. Thompson says he considers Bray a mentor and the Bray way one of the reasons he’s stayed at the company for 31 years. “It’s kind of neat to be a part of that.”
Robert Bray’s two sons — Kevin and Brian — also work in the family business.
Kevin Bray has served nearly 15 years as development director, but says he grew up in the business and at one point when he younger was responsible for such other tasks as vacuuming offices and pulling weeds.
Kevin Brays says he’s learned a lot of things from his father over the years, including the importance of treating people with respect as if they’re family members. “He has this deep understanding that people matter the most.”
Kevin Bray says he’s also learned the importance of acknowledging and fixing mistakes. He says his father has always been more interested in bringing people together to solve problems than assigning blame.
Robert Bray says businesses have the power to make lasting impressions and influence the way customers remember them.
Meanwhile, Bray keeps his notes to remind him of what he considers important — to make a difference.