Life lessons – 31 years on the ‘job’

Office pic

Lesson one – if you show up every day and do what you are supposed to do, then at least that is a starting point to have some longevity. But that’s no guarantee these days because it is well documented in corporate America that lifetime jobs have become a rarity.

Then again, so have lifetime marriages but somehow, someway I have made it 31 years with that gig too. My wife definitely deserves a medal.

It is much more than just showing up though, it is also knowing if you don’t take control of your own destiny others will and then you pretty much have to accept what you get.

Regardless, both work and the marriage have taken some perseverance, compromise, patience and a little luck.

But is it necessarily a good thing (not the marriage dear, that has been fantastic…:)?

Lesson two – a lot of water has passed under the bridge during this time but it has cultivated a lifetime of stories. There have been a lot of people who have come through the doors at Lanier Upshaw, Inc and along with that comes the highlights and heartbreaks of life.

When I first started, people were allowed to smoke in the break room and there was a roster where each woman had a week’s worth of kitchen duty; walking around the office at the end of the day picking up the coffee cups and any other dishes off the desks.

We also had no women producers at that time.

We had Christmas parties out of town where drinking was expected and then letting people drive home afterwards.

Think that would fly today?

Ultimately you have to be adaptable to change and continue to learn; otherwise, you need to be put out to pasture.

Lesson three – there is no looking back; it’s ok to reflect and reminisce but most of your fork in the road choices have been made and it’s best to continue taking advantage of the opportunities in front of you that you can control.

Whereas it would be ludicrous to think I did it all on my own, ultimately it came down to me to make the decisions that controlled my destiny.

It hasn’t always been a bed of roses, but I always knew nothing was stopping me from making a change when things weren’t going particularly well. Just like a marriage, sometimes it is best just to wait it out.

To summarize There are two schools of thought about the value of longevity. If you are enthused, stay current and bring value to the bottom line then the institutional knowledge you acquire from being somewhere for any length of time can certainly be a positive and should be worth something.

However, I see some in this position who get stale and their value is marginalized and the easy thing to do would be to replace them by bringing in fresh ideas and energy to stir things up; reading between the lines that reads younger and cheaper.

There is some balance to be had in there somewhere and I am sure a middle ground approach can still be profitable for the business.

I have had a few opportunities to explore the other fork in the road but at the end of the day the desire to start over never outweighed the bird in the hand. 

Good or bad? The lifetime employee seems to have worked for me; I guess some souls are a lot more restless but I embody the adage that southerners take root because I have certainly done that.

Y’all come back now, ya heah…..

Partners

I got (1)99 problems but a blog ain’t one

200

One-nine-nine as in one hundred and ninety nine posts preceding this one; yes, this is post # 200 from billdorman.me’s fabulous site.

And of course to reemphasize how hip I really am, the title of this post is a play off a semi-popular hip hop/rap song so yes, I can be that creepy old guy scaring girls off and who still embarrasses his kids because he never grew up.

Since this blog was birthed on March 4, 2011 that essentially puts me 38 months into this gig with the caveat I was essentially invisible most of 2013; regardless, by my simple math this equates to an average of 5.2631578 posts a month. I know there are many who average this many in a week, but based on my non-platform I have been operating off of it’s amazing to me it survived this long.

According to the stats I have 3,267 followers and have had 74,792 hits; whatever that means. Those are not gaudy numbers by any means but it just goes to show you if a big dope like myself can jump in and get some traction, then pretty much anybody can, right?

Do you want a medal, or the chest to pin it on?

Just give me something to eat; I’ll work for food.

The few, the proud, the Marines who still read this post came into the game about the same time I did. We all have cycled through pretty much the same emotions and ups and downs this kind of commitment can bring. It has been interesting to see the evolution and who dropped out, who changed, and who still just puts their head down and keeps plowing through regardless.

Just like several hobbies I have undertaken and didn’t see all the way through, I could never figure out if I wanted to be just a writer, a teacher with a business blog, or just a big goof. Work gets serious enough and I know if used properly this platform could enhance my business efforts; but as I explore that landscape and the commitment involved it takes some of the fun out of it for me and hence, some of the appeal.

You’ll never get rich digging a ditch, you’re in the Army now. 

Where is the next WOW coming from?

Blogging was around way before I jumped in, but when I did take the plunge it was new and fresh and felt like one big party. Other than not having a paid site and some of the bells and whistles that go along with it, I considered myself all in. Personally, I feel it was time well spent on many levels and I’m much richer for the experience.

Some say blogging has run it’s course; I have certainly seen plenty who just ran out of gas or decided to change because there was just too much of a sameness permeating these halls of bloggersville.

Bloggers talk about finding your voice, but for better or worse my early posts could easily be interchangeable with the latter. At least it’s consistent, huh?

Maybe that’s why you suck and don’t have any staying power. 

Possibly, but read back about the fun part again.

So what does the landscape look like in 1 year; 3 years; 5 years? Will there be something else that’s new and we look back on this and laugh?

Let’s get this party started. 

I was never looking for fame and fortune

If something would have clicked and I found a sustainable business model that would have worked for me, I would have pursued it as hot and heavy as I am doing my trail riding right now. Other than the networking and meeting new people, I never found enough of that spark to spur me to the next level.

I know you can’t get paid on networking alone and it is usually just a means to an end; but that is what I do really well, you are getting into my sweet spot now. Can’t their be some brilliance in that?

For a 200 this was probably not too epic, but very much in line with my style so why should I try to change now…:).

The reality is, any problems I have are within my control and if I want to change the landscape then I can do something about it. That’s probably a pretty good place to be, don’t you think?

What’s your problem?

 

What do you bring to the table?

Food I hope, ’cause fat boy gotta eat.

Oh wait, this isn’t a post about food, is it?

Ok, how about this, what defines you; what is it about you that makes people trust you and want to do business with you?

Don’t paint yourself in a box

How many people have you known for any length of time have truly changed the essence of who they are? Or, once you know somebody, do they pretty much stay the course and what you see is what you get regardless if it was 20 years ago or today?

True story for me; my family moved away from the small town I grew up in between my 9th and 10th grade year in school. The town I left was a small enough town where seemingly you knew everybody. In my minds-eye whenever I would think of most of those people I only knew them as kids.

When I heard my old school was having their 30-yr reunion (yes, I am that old) I jumped on the chance to go. Upon arriving, of course my first impression was where did all these old people come from anyway; good thing I moved away or I might have looked like them too…:). The amazing thing, once I re-introduced myself to everybody, I was amazed how most were just like I remembered them; same personalities, same traits.

How can that be, none of us stay the same. Was it just because I wanted them to still be the same?

What makes you special?

Yes, we are all special in our own unique ways.

Most by now know I am in insurance sales. As the norm for most sales positions when I was initially looking for a job and interviewing there were usually some type of personality tests involved. These are not pass/fail type tests, but more to see if your personality and abilities align with the job being offered.

I came across one of those old exams and results recently and it was interesting to see how it described me then versus how I would describe me now.

My strengths were positivity – generous with praise & quick to smile; relator – thrill of turning strangers into friends; harmony – look for areas of agreement; communication – like to explain, to describe, to host, to speak in public and to write; woo – enjoy the challenge of meeting new people and getting them to like you.

Would you hire me? I’ve got woo, do you?

I guess if those traits were important for the task at hand, then maybe I’m your guy, right?

If you were to describe yourself in 5 words do you think they have held true over the test of time?

That sounds good, but what do you stink at? 

Yes, I am asking you because obviously I am Mr Wonderful and surely we aren’t talking about me.

Ha, your game has more holes than swiss cheese. 

I procrastinate at times; not always having a sense of urgency, which is not a good thing in the land of insurance with drop dead don’t pass go deadline renewal dates. Fortunately I have a great team that keeps me on task.

I am not competitive enough at times; I am competitive with myself, but I have probably left some deals on the table because I wasn’t willing to scrap enough to get the deal done.

I’ve done alright in this gig and don’t really want for much. Considering where I came from I think I have far out-kicked my punt coverage, and even though I could still do so much more, it’s not too bad to be where I am right now.

So is that a good thing or a bad thing; would you hire me now?

What you see is what you get

I guess it is what it is. The key for me is to play to my strengths and surround myself with the right people and try to avoid the potholes that will flatten my tires.

We all see and know people we admire and think we want to be like them when we grow up. However, the sooner you can be comfortable in your own skin and be more appreciative of what you do have the happier, more fulfilled you will become.

I guess the moral of this story is, don’t try to be perfect just try to be good, and happy, and everything else will take care of itself.

And that’s the truth…don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Until next time…

 

My wife barely tolerates my girl friend

Bike

You thought I was going to go Donald Sterling on you and talk about how I flaunt my girlfriend in public in front of my wife, didn’t you? I will go one better, my girlfriend lives with me; albeit she has to stay in the garage.

I don’t even know her name, but I think I am in love.

Because I became semi-obsessed with her, it was my wife who dubbed her my girlfriend.

Yes, I am talking about my new trail bike.

It hasn’t been a perfect relationship however

But how many relationships are; just like any relationship worth having it takes a lot of understanding, patience and communication.

Then why did she throw you off 3 times already?

The good news is that I have been on the deck 3 times now after the broken hand incident but still back in the saddle riding; all were really rider error so I will have to shoulder most of the blame. There is a fine line in trail riding between too aggressive and not aggressive enough. In my unprofessional opinion, more wrecks occur being tentative than from being too aggressive. I mean everybody can ride a bike, right? You just have to channel your 8-years old instincts…..

Why are your shins so dinged up; it must not be all smooth sailing

Tru dat.

Apparently there are some adjustments to be made on a new bike after you have broken it in and even though I thought we were still in the honeymoon phase, my chain has slipped at the most inopportune time causing me to bang a shin and/or a knee. I have taken her to the shop twice for adjustments and even though the situation isn’t totally resolved if I keep my fat ass on the seat so the chain isn’t bouncing around as much when I hit terrain it is less likely to happen.

So why doesn’t your wife approve?

She said if I ever brought anybody home they damn sure better be able to cook and clean. Well not only does my girlfriend not cook and/or clean she is obviously getting all of the attention right now.

As I was trying to convince my wife a trail bike was a good investment for me because my window of opportunity for trail riding had a shelf life, she was quick to remind me she felt my window of opportunity for this has already come and gone.

Well I never….

Since I am the sole breadwinner in our family, it’s all or nothing. Since I am worth about 3 times as much dead as I am alive my wife doesn’t want any in between. Either I am upright and answering the bell everyday or I better be pushing up daisies…:).

Nah, I’m sure she’s just teasing; how can she not want to live with Mr Wonderful.

For better or for worse…

What is this post about?

I guess you are looking for some kind of positive take-away, huh?

Me too, so get in line.

I will close by saying if you find something you really like whether it be business or personal related; then what’s the problem with being all in, because that is where I am with my trail riding right now.

Sounds like an obsession…

Close, and I imagine there is a fine line between hobby and obsession. However, I have been all in with softball, running, weight lifting, rec basketball, reading, golf, tennis and online social at one time or the other throughout my adult life so there does appear to be a pattern.

For the athletic ones, usually injuries got me moving on to try something else, but at least it made me try other things.

This is what happens when you never grow up; maybe it’s good and maybe it’s not, but what are you going to do when your wife barely tolerates your girlfriend?

 

 

When did you stop being good?

What in the hell happened to you, didn’t you used to be somebody? 

But I thought I still was…

Signing your first big contract

Now I can put it on cruise control.

When you see athletes at the top of their game finally break through and sign the mega-deal only to have their performance dip afterwards, do you think it’s because they lost their edge?

Is a contract based on past performance more of a disincentive, or a justified reward for your previous results?

Is that how we should reward our leaders in business, for what they did or what they potentially are going to do? Potential…ha, now that’s a loaded word, right?

What is the right call? If it’s performance based only, what if you have a bad year, bad two years?

What I see in my industry

Yep, still insurance sales; two things I know all too well, me and/or my J O B…:).

Run for the hills if you must.

I have been doing this insurance gig for 30+ years. For the most part, nothing was given to me nor did I inherit anything so my survivability was solely based on somehow figuring this whole thing out. That is not to say I did not have mentors and/or help along the way, but at the end of the day I still had to make it happen.

Ooohhhh, aren’t you special….

My greatness is only surpassed by my humbleness.

In the beginning

I had the education (Risk Management/Insurance degree) and a fantastic mentor who helped create some opportunities for me.

And I was young, eager and hungry.

Over time and because insurance and the renewals that go along with it are sustainable income, I was able to build a book of business. Meaning, if I didn’t stink it up too bad some were actually going to hang around for several years and I would get paid every year they remained with me.

Also along the way, I was motivated enough to continue my education. I have several initials behind my name but the one I am most proud of is the CPCU (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter) designation which is a masters level course that at the time was 10 parts and I did it all self-study.

And I never stopped learning; so my accumulated knowledge is still very relevant in today’s insurance environment so that should be worth something, right?

And then I cracked the code

When I first started out I was paid a minimal salary that was just enough to allow me so survive, but also keep me hungry. I knew the real money was after you validated and were paid directly on what you killed sold and brought in the door.

If I recall, I think it took me 3 years to validate and I haven’t looked back since.

Oh, there have been challenges as some years will be better than others and for some unknown reason people would fire me (even to this day) or sell out or just go out of business.

The nerve…who keeps moving my cheese?

So what’s the problem?

Over time it’s easy to get complacent and lose some of your focus; at some point you just want to build a fence around what you have and rise above the scrappers.

But as soon as you do that you start going backwards.

You can’t fire me, I am a CPCU…

Oh yes they can, and they will; especially if your price is too high.

What I am trying to say from the knowledge side I am as good as I ever was, if not better because now I have years upon years of accumulated wisdom; book smarts and street smarts. Some lessons learned were harder than others, but learn I did.

However, since I get paid on commission only and theoretically was able to sign my big deal, other than losing an account here or there and not having enough in your pipeline to replace it; how deep do you do you have to keep digging to stay sharp all the time?

Is this only applicable to a sales industry or is it prevalent across the board?

Why isn’t my phone ringing?

Energy and enthusiasm wins out

Maybe; is that why you see big corporations terminate highly paid upper management with all that accumulated wisdom and hire younger (and healthier) and cheaper replacements?

It was inevitable social commerce would grow with the way the social platforms were evolving, but how many of our compatriots have given this a try because they were forced to be an entrepreneur before they were ready?

The million dollar question is then, if energy and enthusiasm win out, how do you keep that light burning brightly so you remain the rainmaker you are capable of, always bringing above average value to the job; day in and day out regardless of the challenges you have to face?

If it was too easy I suppose everybody would be trying to do it, huh? At times, it seems like everybody is though.

What is your secret sauce?

If you are not independently wealthy and you kind of have to work because others are dependent on you; how do you keep it not only fun and interesting, but do it day after day, rain or shine?

I never stopped being good, but do you have to take the blue pill or the red pill to keep your game on so people remember your name?

Sounds a lot like the hamster wheel, huh?

No selling please, I’m just looking

Dorman office - Ryan

I’m just looking thank you, I don’t need want your help.

People like to buy, but they don’t want to be sold to.

Except for insurance and then they just want to run….away….fast….

Whoa, that could be bad news for me because that is how I put food on my table…

Bummer.

I would rather just buy it online

Yeah, at least online I can put the brakes on in case somebody tries to sell me something extra.

I get it, I am an insurance consumer too and sometimes it’s tough writing that check for a promise to pay for a future event that might or might not occur. However, I have been in this gig long enough where I see people trying to get by on the cheap or because of incomplete information, and when it’s needed they were highly disappointed in the outcome and of course blamed the insurance company and/or the agent.

But I am a gambler risk taker, nothing bad is going to happen to me; stuff like this happens only to other people.

Guess what; this is what the other guy is saying about you.

The government will take care of me then

There ain’t no free lunch and there is also something to be said for social responsibility as well. Unfortunately, too many people already have their hand out because insurance wasn’t in their budget.

It’s not perfect, and sometimes it is expensive, but it sure is nice when someone shows up with a check because you took the time to provide the appropriate information to ensure the proper amount of coverage was available; no more, no less.

I’m here to provide you with money when you need it most.

Stop it; insurance still sucks

If you put lipstick on a pig….

I am not trying to glamorize it, but if you are going to buy it (and yes, most of you will) then you might as well do it right; get what you think you are getting and make sure the expectations are established up front to minimize any chance of disappointment if and when the time comes you will need to use it.

My arena is the business world so there is less resistance here because most consider it the cost of doing business; still, most don’t relish stroking that check every month, or every year.

Well then, what good are you

Plenty good; if you want to treat us like a vendor and think the whole lot of us are interchangeable regardless of years of service or credentials or capabilities, then have at it but we probably won’t be doing business together.

I’m only interested in making your business more profitable and driving dollars to the bottom line, not having you pay the insurance company too much. We do this by helping you be as safe as possible, assist you in having sound hiring and training practices, and guiding you efficiently through the claims process if and when that calamity occurs; we make sure the risk management program you have is the program you need, not some off the shelf product that might or might not be a good fit.

My main objective is to make the business owner look good; the best of the best. This allows him/her to attract the best talent and always have a competitive advantage over the owner who thinks shopping each and every year serves them best and never takes into account the soft costs and dollars they are losing out the back door.

Why doesn’t everybody do this?

Beats the heck out of me; I guess that’s why one size doesn’t fit all and it behooves us to only work with customers who are savvy enough to understand this and walk away from those we won’t be able to help anyway.

As an industry, we have trained business owners to think shopping their insurance serves them best which ultimately turns us into only a vendor. But if your employee turnover is 2 1/2 times your competitor because your wages and training suck and you have to build at least 5 more widgets just to break even every time you have to replace an employee; if you don’t see that as a true cost then maybe you just need to keep shopping your insurance anyway.

Seriously, did you just do a whole post on insurance? 

Apparently so, huh?

Our biggest challenge is getting in front of enough people to tell our story and be able to show them why we are different. If we can get that first meeting, we establish quickly if it’s going to be a good fit or not. Sometimes however, if you are patient you can convert the shoppers and eventually turn the renewal into a continuation process and greatly reduce the stress, time and money surrounding just this event alone.

The second biggest challenge is getting the business owner to fire who they currently have so we can come in and work for them. Business owners have egos and most can talk a good game, but when it comes time to pick up the phone and tell somebody you have been working with a long time you have decided to go in a different direction; that can be a tough call to make.

Yep, there are a lot of us insurance guys and gals out there and some think this is an easy business because of all the fun that goes along with being in sales; it is what it is, probably no harder or no easier than most businesses, it just happened to be a good fit for me.

I will close by saying there is good and bad in any industry and like to think we are the good guys at Lanier Upshaw, Inc. We are not perfect and as shocking as this might sound, I too have taken that phone call where my services were no longer needed. But we are always trying to get better and we always want to do what’s best for our customer, not our pocket book; because when we do this, everything else will take care of itself.

So when can I see you; next Tuesday at 10:00 am or Thursday at 3:00 pm, I won’t waste your time…:)?

 

 

4 ways mountain biking mimics your day job

Take one guess what my newest hobby is; and it’s not bowling?

I have been interested in mountain biking for quite sometime. Even though Florida has no mountains they do have some interesting terrain where phosphate mining occurred at one time. However, it wasn’t until a friend loaned me his old trail bike after he purchased a new one that got me hooked.

And yes, you can roll out there with an off the shelf bike from Walmart for about $300 but I will attest, having the proper equipment makes a big difference. Therefore, it took a lot of research until I found the right deal and the right bike for me, but very happy with my new rig.

Yes, I have already crashed and burned once causing a broken hand but that was on the loaner; the silver lining, it also gave me plenty of down-time to properly search for the right bike however.

And that leads me to the topic of this post; how many times have you crashed and burned in your business life, what did you learn from it, and did the experience help you grow?

You have to walk before you roll

Trees, roots, rocks, sand, mud, hills, turns and sometimes critters are all objects you will encounter on the trail. Some of it is pretty benign and some of it is oh crap

How often in life, particularly in business do you have to deal with real obstacles and how do you handle them?

Since I have taken a hard fall once I am still somewhat cautious, especially on new, unfamiliar terrain; but at some point you just have to throw caution to the wind and let ‘er rip. That is where practice and training comes in because it will give you the confidence to take on more technical trails along the way.

How many of you practice for your job? Professional athletes train and practice all the time, they don’t just show up and play. How about you, are you really practicing and growing, or are you just showing up to play?

If someone is paying you to play (even if it’s yourself), don’t you think you should do all you can to be the best player on the team?

But it’s just a job…

4 lessons from trail riding you can use in business as well 

1. Confidence – the more I ride the more confidant I become. Each time pushing myself a little bit more, I find that confidence breeds confidence. The training and practice makes me better each and every time.

2. Perseverance – Yes, there are times I fall down, bang a tree, slip a chain; but each and every time I get back up and keep moving forward. If I decided to quit because of one setback what kind of message am I sending to myself? How many times are you willing to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep on going?

3. Growing – It gets me out of my comfort zone; when you crest a hill and see the path go straight down with roots and rocks along the way, it’s your moment of truth because once you commit to it that back brake becomes virtually useless. Yes, it takes my breath away at times but it is a good kind of scary. Sometimes you need that good kind of scary, a feeling of accomplishment when you step out of your comfort zone, to grow and succeed in your business life. At times, it feels like you are jumping off a cliff as you try to build your wings on the way down.

4. Handling adversity – you fall down and break your hand, skin a knee, break a pedal, snap a chain, run out of water, get eaten by a gator, get stung by a bee; and a good chance most of those will happen at one time or another, just hopefully not on the same day. Your attitude and how you handle adversity in dealing with these minor situations could go a long way for preparing you when similar calamities occur in your daily life. Tough lessons at times, but hopefully a learning lesson if nothing else.

We’re talking about a bicycle here, right?

Yep, just a bike; probably your primary source of transportation at one time in your life. As I told my wife (while I was trying to convince her it made sense for a 70 yr-old guy to invest in a new trail bike at that age) I could have picked a much worse hobby like dirt bike racing or professional hot dog eating or something like that; at least it is mostly healthy and gets me outdoors.

There are many activities where parallel life lessons can be learned and I chose this topic as my case study because I did crash and burn and it would have been very easy to take up couch potatoing at that point. But as Andy Dufresne so eloquently said in Shawshank Redemption, Get busy living, or get busy dying; I think I’ll choose living, especially if it involves fun too.

What do you think; what activities outside of work are you involved in that parallels every day living you can draw lessons from?

Until next time…