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Highlight Reel of Season 1

Season 1 Episode 12

Highlight Reel of Season 1 with Ryan Eaton

Season 1 Episode 12


Intro/Outro Speaker: Welcome to the Insurance Leadership Podcast. The podcast is designed to bring new perspectives and principles from leaders in the life and health insurance industry. We trust you will enjoy today's episode.

Ryan: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the insurance leadership podcast. This is Ryan Eaton, your host, and I am honored to be with you this morning. This month marks one year for the insurance leadership podcast. And we were sitting here laughing this morning at the office about all the different things we’ve learned this year.

And one of the main things is how little we knew about Podcasting about one year ago. And we were talking about how blessed we’ve been to have all the different speakers come to the show and all the wisdom they poured into us. It’s really been like 30-minute mentor sessions for me. And I can just say that it’s been such an honor, and we’ve just had so much fun with it at the same time.

So, what we thought we would do is take a snippet from each speaker over the course of the year and put together and make a highlight reel of season one of the insurance leadership podcast. So, sit back, listen in, and we hope you enjoy. Thank you so much.

David White 3 Types of Leaders

Ryan: Well, look, David, we were talking the other day and as you know, this podcast is built on leadership and the insurance industry. And you said something to me the other day, about the three types of leaders you see in an organization that I've never heard anyone put it like that before. Would you mind kind of starting us off today kind of hitting on that piece? 

David: Well, this is not something new. I've heard other people talk about parts of it and in my way of thinking, there are three major categories of leaders and leaders in organizations, and they're not mutually exclusive. A leader may be parts of all of them, but in my way of thinking there are starters, and some people would say what's a starter? Well, a starter is an entrepreneur who starts a business from scratch, has an idea. 

Some people may call them visionaries if they if you're a successful entrepreneur, you're a visionary.  

David:  If you fail, you're--I don't know what that is, but you're not a visionary, but these are people that have ideas that they think that the general public would like, and they can make money from that. Then there's the second category is what I call a fixer. 

And that's when a corporation has problems and someone who is a great leader that comes in that knows how to analyze what the issues are and come up with solutions that can fix those. And the one that comes to mind quickest is Lee Iacocca, who a lot of people know. They know that he took over Chrysler when it was really in bad shape and even went to the federal government and got them to lend him some money and paid it back. 

And so, Chrysler is still around today. And a lot of people think it's because of Lee Iacocca, what a lot of people don't know is what he did for the Ford motor company before Chrysler. He was the guy that came up with a Mustang and that was the first car I ever owned. And that was-- he came up with it in 1965. 

And it was sort of the poor man sports car, you know? And so, Lee Iacocca brought that to Ford and that really pulled forward out of the fiery place that they were in at their point in time. And then the last, and which I think is who most leaders really are and the ones that in my estimation are the most necessary are the maintainers. 

And those are the leaders who have a plan, and that plan could have come from the visionary or the, or the starter or the fixer, but they see that plan and they know how to organize people and they know how to communicate to the people, the plan that we're going to execute. And then they are great at executing that plan. 

So, you've got starters, you've got fixers and you've got maintainers.  

Larry Hiwiller Personal Essence of Why

Ryan: Well, Larry, tell me this. So, you've got the sales background. You've been in sales, whether you're on the insurance company side, whether you're on your own brokerage, you've always been touching the sales side. So, let's start with a few questions built around the sales side.  And I would say, what are some of the characteristics that you've seen with top producers that you've worked with top producers that are a part of American National's distribution channel? What's the common thread there?  

Larry: Sure. There's actually six of them. And the sixth point though, I'm going to cover a little heavy because everybody likes to not talk about it, but it's the reality. 

But first, off you have to be resilient in our industry. You're going to get many, many more nos than you are yeses. You've got to keep coming back for it. Second part of it is reliability. You always have to be there for the client and also the carriers that you're servicing. So, number three, empathy. Empathy goes a long way. 

Not sympathy. Empathy. Put yourself in their place, whether it's the carrier, the client, whomever you're working with. If you can do that, then you're going to get an understanding of what they need. The fourth is discipline. It goes back to number one. You're going to get a lot of nos. Discouraged. You got to wake up in the morning, get that positive mental attitude to get out there, work every day, give it a full day's work, keep doing that,  and you're going to win over time. It's that discipline. And then the last, before I go into that, sticky one is the desire to help people. No matter what, if you don't have a desire to help people, then you're in the wrong industry. That's whatever. You can say many things. In my opinion, the desire to help somebody is what drives you. 

Now, the last part when I said helping people, jobs, you, but let's, let's speak frankly. It's about making money and the insurance industry. If you do the right things, if you're resilient, reliable, you can be empathetic, disciplined, and you want to help people. Obviously, you're going to make some money and you're going to make a lot of it. So that's one taboo thing we never want to talk about, but the reality of it is that's why you do it  

Ryan: that's true. It's that residual income that you're mentioning earlier.

Jude Thompson Blue Ocean Strategies

Ryan: So, Jude, let me ask you this as well kind of on that front. You got some wonderful people that are there by your side, helping you and pushing that dream and pushing that vision forward. How do you handle it in today's world, everyone's pulling on your time, right? You're getting emails, all throughout the day, all throughout the night, phone calls coming in, every which way I go, your buddy calling you and asking you to be on a podcast. 

I mean, you get it, you get, you got people pinging every which way, but you told me years ago that you said no is a full sentence. Right. And I love that. How do you handle that with being respectful with other people, but also valuing your time so that you can focus on the things that are truly important in your life? 

Jude: Okay. So, it's a visual if I could, but if you think of an automobile, it has four tires and I keep a paper calendar still today. I mean, we, I do accept invitations on the iPad and iPhone, but I liked my paper calendar and Gina helps to keep those because if one of my tires is underinflated, I'm going to have a bumpy ride, gas mileage is not good. 

And those four tires for me or family, faith, my work, and my health. And I'm not saying at any given time, you may have to devote more time, but if you overinflate something for four weeks and the others don't fit into those tires. You're going to get this wobbly ride, it's going to be terrible, and you just fill it. 

It'll be inside of you. So, I go back to the calendar and say where I've been spending my time. And I used to do this with salespeople. They'd say my wife just doesn't understand, you know, how well I'm doing. And I said, well, tell me about that. So, what do you do? And he goes, well, I, I work, you know, six days a week and I'm doing this and, you know, Tuesdays and Thursdays, I do go to Applebee’s, and I have two beers and I come home.  

And I said, how old are your kids? One and three. I'm like, tell me where that fits in one of the four tires. I said, buddy, you know, she will understand, but she's sitting here, she's cleaned them up, change the diaper, trying to wait for you to get home. 

And you went out and ran, let your hair down for two hours. I said I promise you if you follow these rules, she's going to tell you to go out and go play golf. She's going to let, but you've got to, that's your teammate there. That's your partner, but you've got to figure out those four things. And some people say, well, I don't care about faith. 

I said I'm not trying to push Christianity, I'm just telling you better have some time to reflect on what you're doing and whatever centers you, you do that. But you know, you're not going to feel great if your health is gone. So, you just can't do that Applebee thing, seven nights a week. You're not going to feel great. 

And your family's not going to feel great. And you know, your work's going to suffer. But you just gotta turn it around. You're in golf. You're a golfer. I love watching good golfers on TV or in person when they hit that shot and they look quickly, the first thing they do is they look for the divot because it's immediate feedback on why that shot went wrong. 

If the toes down, they just sliced it. The heel's in, they just hooked it. If it's too deep, like chunked it, you know, they look at their divots for feedback. Mine is my calendar and the imagery of four tires on that car. I'll make it down the road, but it's just going to be bumpy. And God forbid, how many times I only put air in one tire. And gonna let three of them... I mean, it's a terrible ride. I'm on the rims by then.  

Ryan: Well, we've all been there. And for your buddy, the Applebee's buddy, if I would've gotten home, I don't think my key would have worked anymore, Jude.  

Sharon Alford Building the Unicorn

Ryan: Well, you've said before as well, that kind of with technology that we're in a constant endurance race, when it comes to innovation and technology. In your words, you've actually, I've heard you call it, building the unicorn. Tell us what you mean by that.  

Sharon: Well, you really did listen to me when we were talking. I know that those, those words are kind of interesting, but they really hold true. And even when I'm in meetings today, internally, I do say it a lot. Our industry is catching up very fast with regards to technology and it has taken us a while. Other industries, obviously we always point to the banking industry, has done a lot more, a lot faster. 

And there's a lot of reasons for that. There still is a lot that needs to be done in our industry. What I have seen over and over again are companies with great ideas who actually develop and execute them and then sit back expecting the technology that they have built to work. And I have just seen over and over. 

You cannot sit back. You have to be in development mode all of the time to stay ahead of the ongoing demand and competition. It is a race. And there, frankly, to me, I don't see an end to it. Technology just does not standstill. So, with regard to my unicorn scenario, I know, that sounds silly. It probably is related back to my horses, but you know, when I was little, I always, you know, you always want a unicorn, and it didn't exist. 

But when I put my wish list together and go out to the industry to find it, which is what I consider a unicorn, frankly, it doesn't exist. You can find many varieties of it and pieces of it, but I haven't found one organization or one company that has everything that I need.

Greg Hatcher Eat the Big Frog First

Ryan: Man. I love that. Well, tell me this. You talk about business is not complicated, but obviously, there were some ditches, there were probably some hurdles that you experienced taking your shot from the, from you and your secretary. 

When you first got started to where it is today, what do you think are some of those hurdles? You know, obviously compliance, obviously HR, obviously there's different things like that, that come up and laws change. You have to learn some different things. What are the biggest hurdles you think there are in growing a business that people just don't talk about? 

Greg: Well, I like to tell stories.  So, I'll tell a couple here. When I worked for blue cross blue shield, I'd won about three salesmen of the year award in a row, and I got a new manager. And my new manager came in and he said you know, I see you've won three salesmen a year awards, you know, but your manager, you know, is saying that you know, they had a lot to do with that. 

You know that they helped you a lot. He said I'd like to just see what you can do on your own. Without so much help. And from that day forward, I never asked him another question as long as I lived. If there was a problem, I went and figured it out. I didn't come to my manager and ask, and he wasn't being mean when he was telling me that, he was just saying that I just want to see what you can do on your own. 

And so over time, because I was having to figure out all the problems and all the questions. It wasn't long before he was in my office saying, Hey, we got a problem over here how did you figure that out? It was helpful when I started the Hatcher agency because there was no one to help. So, whatever came up. And, you know, I like wrestling. 

I had to wrestle through it and figure it out. In wrestling, they say wrestle through it. When you're out on the wrestling mat and somebody grabs a hold of you and they got you in a headlock and you're laying on your back, there's no substitution. There's no time out. There's no, hey, my nose hurts. You know you got to get out of it. 

Okay. And so, I learned to wrestle through it, and I was actually telling a member of my staff, we were having a problem yesterday. You can't quit, you know, you can't quit. Cause we just ran into a tough situation. You've got to keep negotiating you got to wrestle with it and negotiate, negotiate until we get it fixed right for the customer.  

And I think more than anything, my customers know that I'm going to go to the mat and I'm going to fight till we get it right. Okay. But I'm reasonable, you know, it has to be good, you know, on both sides. So, I would say the number one thing that I had in those early years was, you know, I had good insurance knowledge from studying, getting all those designations. 

I kind of understand insurance. I don't just sell it. I understand from the underwriter's perspective, et cetera, I understand how the products actually work. And so, you have to have an attitude of we're going to negotiate through that and get, you know, a win-win I think at the end of the day, it always gets down to time managing and desire and intelligence. 

Those are the three things. And you notice, I mentioned time management first. If you have two unbelievable salespeople and one of them is more knowledgeable, but the other one's better at time management, over time, the time management guy will win because, at the end of the day, it all gets down to, we, God gave us all 24 hours. 

And it really gets down to, after you have to really competent people, who can get the most out of those 24 hours, you know?  

Mike Sullivan Identifying Growth Potential/Acquisitions

Ryan: Fantastic.  

Well, look, as we mentioned in the intro, one digital has been a leader in the acquisition space roughly 40 last year. Will you give us a little overview into the thought process and what you're looking for in an agency? 

Mike: Look, I think that there's a lot of introspection I think that goes on when it comes to how we align, who we align with, the things that are a little different about one digital. 

We don't really do almost any of our deals through bankers, right. We spend all of our time, we've got a big team, and every single day, week, month, and quarter of the year, we're out talking to people and we're trying to understand cultural fit. We're trying to understand where people are in their career paths. 

And if there's anything I would impart, there is absolutely positively, no one size fits all for these kinds of things. There are certain markets where we're a big player already. There's certain markets we're trying to get into. There's markets where we just have benefits and are trying to find retirement. 

There's all kinds of things. But the alchemy, I think of what works is we find people and we understand whether or not we could be a good fit and by and large, we're looking for people with the right attitude, energy, and intelligence who've got gas in the tank and still want to start to figure out what's next. 

And the line sort of, I always use with folks that I ended up talking with: it's more about, do you want to sell your agency, or do you want to join a team, right? And oftentimes there is a finality to selling, like, you know what, I've had my run I'm going to pass it on to someone else versus could I really see joining a team and the next phase be better than it is today because you're part of a bigger team with more weight. 

And a lot of good folks that are trying to figure things out, getting your head around that simple construct is something we spend a lot of time trying to figure out because in our environment if people leave after the sale, we almost feel like a failure. We've failed to be the right solution set. So, it's a different approach, but it's one that works for us. 

Ryan: I like that approach. I think that's I like that. Do you want to sell, or do you want to join a team? That's a that's a great way to look at it.  

Mike: And I honestly don't think enough people spend enough time thinking about that concept of really where you're at because most people don't think like, could I actually get involved with a bunch of people, learn new things, and sort of re-scope the engine, right. And that's kind of what we're looking for.  

Jim Ballew Servant Leadership

Ryan: For those listening in, I was at Jim's office probably three or four months ago. And I can tell you that just the culture there, the energy in the rooms, the people there just, he has a wonderful team. And I know it's a lot to do with Jim's leadership there. So, man, yeah, well look, kind of before we jump into the servant leadership, why don't you tell everybody for the people who may not exactly know what servant leadership is or haven't heard that term used before.

Why don't you kind of put it in your own words to kind of get us started? 

Jim: So much over the years has been written about this subject. And I think without trying to complicate it too much. In the simplest form, I think it's serving others before you serve yourself. And it's kind of a unique topic when you're talking about senior leadership serving other people. 

Not a system of, or process of manipulating people to do what you want them to do, but actually showing a genuine desire, I think, for what is best for that person. And ultimately by doing what's best for that individual what's best for the company. And I think historically this is a concept that goes way back.

But historically most senior executives and leadership have been in the mindset of a command-and-control type of approach, which works perfectly fine in the military. But the world has certainly changed. And the more you read, the more you see and the effectiveness of various organizations.

Rockstar CEO. I started to say someone like a Lee Iacocca, but I doubt there are many people on this podcast that know who Lee Iacocca was. So, I'll say Elon Musk, folks that are just literally the entire organization. And they need to make others aware of how much they know, how much they do, how much they create instead of moving that down the organization.

So, I go back to something I read many years ago, Ryan, a book called good to great by Jim Collins. And he was talking about this very issue. And the key he had mentioned that I never forgot. He mentioned a gentleman by the name of Scott Walgreens, Walgreens pharmacies, and one of those senior executives who showed up every day, who was a servant leader, was under the radar.

He was there to do what was right for his team and extremely successful. So that's really what we're looking at as how can we help others, and in the process, we're helping ourselves and the organization. 

Ryan Eaton Self-Leadership

Ryan: You know, from a marriage standpoint, take it a little bit personal. Most people want a good marriage, but they don't do but maybe one date night. Most people want to be healthy, but they work out on thing on average once a week and eat fast food two to three times a week. Whatever's important to you has to become intentional or distractions will creep in and keep us from reaching our potential.

Not only for this year, but the following years to come. First thing we have to do in our self-leadership is we have to know our purpose. We have to know our mission. We have to know our goals for the year or whatever desired outcome we are looking for. Right? You don't go house shopping without an idea of what you're looking for.

You don't go furniture shopping in the outdoor section if you're looking for a bed. And you probably don't need eight internal meetings a day if you were an outside sale. If you do, it will probably be a very bad quarter for you, but we have to know what we want to accomplish, what our numbers are, what states we're looking to expand and what territories we're looking to impact what our income needs to be and multiple variables of this type of nature and layout where we want to go.

If we don't do this first step though, again, I'll repeat it. Our priorities and our distractions can start to look alike. So, what you need to do is you need to think about what you want your life to look like 12 months from now, what you want, your business, your family, your spiritual walk, your financial life.

All that laid out, and this is the first step to figuring out what it should be. You need to write it down. Everyone's different. I'm personally a bullet point guy. I'm not a paragraph format, but you can lay it out whatever you need to and write down the specifics they say to put them in a smart format, which is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

But lay it out. So, you have clear priorities for 2022. That's going to help you be able to know what you need to do to focus on where you need to go and what you're driving forward. The second thing once, you know your purpose, once you've written out the things that will help you get there, you need to ask yourself, what are the activities?

What are the actions that will help develop the outcome I'm looking for? If your goal is to grow sales, You are looking for activities that generate more opportunities, right? So, meetings that bring out proposals, marketing on social media, maybe email blasts, exploring new products or strategies in your market, SEO, IP targeting, prospecting more asking yourself what territories are low on penetration.

And so, you can go after those. These are the type of things that you have to do and layout to be able to fulfill your purpose. Right? You got to know the activities that generate that, but at the same time, You have to look at it from another standpoint. And this is the third point when you're talking about setting priorities, you have to learn to kill the suckers and kill the distractions in your plan.

Eugene Stark Industry Outlook & leadership Lessons

Ryan Eaton: Now I like that. Well, so let me ask you this: with hundreds of thousands of agents in the employee benefits based across the country, there's a lot of different perspectives on kind of the future of the industry. Obviously, we had ACA years ago and you know, people talked about a single-payer system and the other different things. What's your perspective on kind of the future? What do you think it looks like? 

Eugene Starks: Yeah, well, and you know, you know my opinion and about that... About $3.50 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks, right.

But I will say I'm optimistic about the future, you know, based on the work that we're doing, based on what we see, you know, this, you know, single-payer, you know, while it's talked about a lot in the more liberal segments of parties you know, political parties, there's really not a consensus in DC to move that forward.

I often say that we, some of the regulations that have been put on us is because we, as the benefits professionals and we, as the providers, haven't been far enough ahead. You know, we could have created, you know, all providers could have been posting their prices for years and they just haven't. So now there's federal regulation that you have to provide it.

Same thing with all brokers disclosing their fees, you know, so there's federal regulation about it, but you know, based on the lack of consensus for single payer, I think it gives us a window of opportunity to do the things we need to be doing. Continue to lobby. Each person, each person in this business takes personal responsibility to create the best customer experience.

And you know, this is one of the values of NAHU. I mean, all the things I learn and do, I've learned from other people in NAHU and, you know, go to those meetings, whether you're local meetings or the national meetings and take time, the most valuable thing that happens, there's great learning and teaching going on.

But the value, all the takeaways, when we talk about what we heard and how we're applying it, and we do that and just an exchange of ideas around the bar, you know, the coffee shop. So, in that respect, I'm optimistic, but we have to be the centuries on the wall. We have to be vigilant. 

Becky Patel Overcoming the Enemies of Growth

Ryan Eaton: Hmm. I love it. And that's important.

That's probably the goal of every health insurance agent across the country. Right? How do you deliver and educate your client to the best of your ability while also making it as cost-effective for the group, for the employee as possible? I had a good model behind there. Well look, let's go ahead Becky and jump into some of the questions for today.

And I mentioned to you earlier that we're going to be talking about the kind of defeating the four enemies of growth. And there's a guy who I love his name's Craig Rochelle, huge leadership guy across the country, and he says that there's four pillars of growth. And that's kind of what I built these questions around and wanted to frame them from the insurance side of thing.

And he says there are four things. One is unnecessary complexity. Two is unscalable processes, threes, unhealthy mindset. And four is undeveloped leaders. And, you know, as you look at different businesses, you can see that these are killers of growth. You think about larger organizations and how they, you know, they can process things to death where nothing ends up happening.

Right. And so I wanted to build these around AmWINS and kind of throw these to you and just kind of see how your business looks at this. So, my first one is how do you fight to keep simplicity in the day-to-day processes across your organization?

Becky Patel: Fantastic question, Ryan. And I just want to say that the questions that we're going to be talking about today we're like almost a roadmap to all the things that you should be focused on when building your plans for, you know, 1, 2, 3, 4, or five-year plans, because it is at the heart of everything we're working on today. And so. You know, I came back to this and especially when you are now not a singular organization, but you're integrating other organizations, other cultures, other processes, right?

Like how do you keep that simplicity? Because all of us have our legacy stuff that we carry. Right. And so how do you get rid of some of the baggage and make sure that what is essential comes with you on the journey, right. And I was thinking of like, how do you articulate this? Cause at the end of the day, it's exactly what you said, which was that mindset, right?

Like how do you make sure that everyone is focused? And so, what we did is we came back and said, what do we do every day? And we call that the core. And we said, like, forget all the fancy, forget everything that's going on. What is the core? And let's define the course of that. Every employee in the organization understands what we do day in and day out.

Right. And so that core for them is aligned with what does the brokers and carriers want? Cause see Ryan, we're in really a two-sided market where the broker is our customer, but the carrier is who's paying us. Right. And that's a very interesting proposition, right? Like, and so actually understanding that really that mindset.

And so in part of that, what we decided and what we said is that we have to serve both sides. Right. And in understanding what that is so many times I'll go to the insurance company and say, what is it that you want me to focus on? Well, the insurance company is always going to say we want members, we want members.

Okay, easy enough. Then you go over to the broker side and you say, all right, what are your pain points? What are you focused on? And one of my philosophies is the market will always tell you if you're listening, right? Like what it wants and that is where you have to be able to drive scale and align your organization.

So, part of this is also what we translate to our employees is that right? Here's the identification of what we do day in and day out. Once we understand that we want to know what would be enhancement. What are you hearing? What are the brokers telling you? Now, the critical part is not to put the enhancements or the additional services that are being asked of you in your core line, because that's what starts to create confusion, right?

When everyone's building towards that. Third part of it is there are no sacred cows in our organization, right? Like we are constantly learning and improving the process. And in order to do that, you have to empower and engage the person that's on the front lines to be able to articulate what they are seeing and to put it in a way where they understand their input is so valuable.

We're not going to be able to work on everything. Right. It is really their responsibility to lift up because we're all listening and they have a voice in this of what the customer is asking so that we can actually come back and start to evaluate, you know, what is needed, but really, it's the focus on the core.

How do we bring the enhancements in? Who's the voice of that enhancement? And then how do you ultimately have that litmus test to make sure that it is aligned with how we know we are never going to dilute the value we're bringing to the marketplace.

Intro/Outro Speaker: Thanks for listening to today's episode of the insurance leadership podcast. Make sure you subscribe on your favorite podcast app so you'll be notified of future episodes or stream online at