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Personal Essence of Why

Season 1 Episode 3

Personal Essence of Why with Larry Hiwiller

Season 1 Episode 3


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

[00:00:25] Ryan: Welcome to the Insurance Leadership Podcast. I'm Ryan Eaton, your host for today, and honored to have Larry Hiwiller as our guest. Larry is a man of many talents, but has a passion for sales. So today, we'll pick his brain on sales and managing a sales team. But before we get to the main part of our show, let me give you a little background on Larry's role in the industry.

[00:00:43] Chief sales and marketing officer for American National's health division, and the president of the worksite division, Larry is an insurance industry veteran that has spent his career building lasting relationships and developing people to not only achieve their goals, but also achieve their personal essence of why.

[00:00:59] Prior to American national, Larry was the president and CEO of an insurance brokerage firm that focused on Medicare, individual life and health, investments, and a complete work site platform. After selling his company, Larry held leadership roles with combined worksite solutions known to most as Chubb, where he helped build their broker and distribution channels.

[00:01:18] He is also a published author of a motivational book named “A Father's Gift to His Daughter”. Larry received his bachelor of science psychology and master of science counseling psychology from Gannon University and his doctorate in management from the University of Phoenix. When Larry is not working, he is active in his community and serves on the board of directors and advisory boards of several nonprofits, including his church.

[00:01:41] Additionally, his greatest satisfaction comes from spending time with his wife, Amanda and their four children. So Larry has everything been going, man?

[00:01:48] Larry: Good, Ryan couldn't disagree with that at all, man. My mind's always working.

[00:01:52] Ryan: Larry and I were able to share a little dinner last night. And why don't you tell the audience a little bit about your family and kind of the crew back home?

[00:01:59] Larry: Sure. My lovely wife, she actually works in the industry as a third party administrator as a director for one of the companies out there. I can't talk about it cause they're actually a competitor, but my daughter, she lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She's 25. She stages homes. My youngest daughter, Keira, she's 20 she's investigating what she wants to do in the future.

[00:02:17] And then I got two young boys, Anthony who's 11 loves golf, baseball. And Gianni, who's my soccer wizard. He's a talented individual, but pretty close to me.

[00:02:25] Ryan: I saw the video of that boy last night. And that was pretty impressive. He's a good soccer player.

[00:02:29] Larry: He's got skills like his dad.

[00:02:31]Ryan: I love it. Larry, you've been in the business for quite a while. Why don't you tell everyone what got you into the insurance industry.

[00:02:38] Larry: So actually it was a one of my former bosses many, many years ago. I think it was like 1995. He actually bet me some money that I couldn't pass my insurance exam without studying. So I took it, passed, and he goes, "Good, now I started selling it on the part-time cause you always love residual income." and that's exactly how I got started.

[00:02:56] Ryan: Man. Amen to that. That's one of my favorite things about the insurance business and things people have told me from a residual income standpoint, there's no better business. You're selling paper with a promise. You have no inventory. It's just a wonderful business to be in.

[00:03:10] Larry: I couldn't agree with more. You just got to service your client.

[00:03:12] Ryan: Amen to that. 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.

[00:03:27] 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.

[00:03:39] 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.

[00:03:46] 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.

[00:04:05] 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,

[00:04:28] 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.

[00:04:45] Now, the last part, when I said helping people, jobs, you, but let's, let's speak frankly. It's about making money and 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

[00:05:07] Ryan: that's true. It's that residual income that you're mentioning earlier. So tell me this. So true group sales, work site sales, Medicare sales, life insurance sales. There's a difference on our pitch with each one of those. There's a difference on how we frame the need. But what would you say is a common thread in making those different sales?

[00:05:30] Larry: My thing that you and I touched upon last night, and again today . It's the consultative selling approach. No matter what you do, if you're able to be consultative. Not sell something. Find the need, then find a product that fills that need, the client is going to understand that.

[00:05:46] And if you can show that empathy that you know what they need, and you're helping them to put it there, the client is going to be happy. And the other thing with that consultative approach, if there's not a need," don't be afraid to walk away. You don't want to sell something or have a partnership or put something in place that doesn't need to be there.

[00:06:03] If it doesn't need to be there, don't worry about saying, "Hey, this isn't the right time. Right. Place, wrong product". Nothing wrong with that. You'll get more credibility, no matter what world you're dealing in.

[00:06:13] Ryan: That's right. So. Looking at new business, looking at retention, we all know that new business is a lifeblood of any organization, right? However, without focusing on retention, you can end up on the hamster wheel. So how do you work with your sales team? From a management perspective to drive home the new business, always bringing something new in the door, eating and what we kill, but at the same time, realizing that overall growth is key to continued success in the business.

[00:06:42] Larry: Sure. Most people that get involved want to make money, of course.

[00:06:46] Ryan: That's right.

[00:06:46] Larry: But they want to grow. They want to be a leader. They want to grow their teams. I would be surprised if you haven't had any brokers, even if they're a small mom and pop shop that says, "Hey, we want to grow our business." But the important thing is in order to grow, you have to maintain your base.

[00:07:02] It doesn't help you if you lose as much as you're bringing in. It's an endless cycle. So when you can focus on that. The third part of that is what I was getting through after the first two is that you're paid a residual for a reason.

[00:07:14] Ryan: That's right.

[00:07:14] Larry: Keep that business on the books. You're going to make more money. Over the course of five years, that residual is even bigger if you kept it on. You always boil it back to down to the person, the residual. That's what you're paid to do. Retain that and go out and find new business.

[00:07:28] Ryan: So from a sales manager standpoint, this questions comes a little bit outside of our discussion here. Just something that as you were talking, kind of hit me in the head, but a lot of sales managers,

[00:07:38]Larry: You like doing this, don't you?

[00:07:41] Ryan: I do, I like messing with you. So a lot of sales managers struggle when it comes to having right people working for us, maybe just don't hit the mark when it comes to sales, right? They're a phenomenal person. They've got a great personality, they got great energy, but they're not hitting that mark on sales and it's kind of a consistent type thing.

[00:07:57] And how do you get them to that next level while encouraging them, but also putting that thought in their mind at the same time that, hey look, we're here from a business standpoint, we got to get to a profitability standpoint on you, or we can't keep you on the team because we got to make sure the whole team's rising up and covering their own expenses. From your standpoint, how have you handled that in the past when it comes from a sales management side?

[00:08:22] Larry: Well, you and I had to talk last night at dinner. And my favorite line is, and it's in the book that I wrote that you noted is: love is love, friends are friends, but business is always business. You tried to get to the person to the next level. Your earnest approach, be empathetic to their situation.

[00:08:37] Sometimes sympathetic because they are employees. But ultimately there has to be the realization that maybe they're not at the right spot. That doesn't mean you can't put them somewhere else in your organization, but they're not at the right spot. And you would be doing them a disservice as much as your company if you're not having that discussion. Frank discussions, there's nothing wrong with that.

[00:08:55] Ryan: At what point do you finally realize, okay, I got to stop. I mean, have you given yourself in the past when you've had an employee who you've really liked and who's been there, when's finally that kind of, okay, you got to hit it by this date or we're got to call it quits.

[00:09:10] Larry: Unfortunately, you know, the fact of sales is the numbers are what the messages are. It's black and white. There's no gray there. If you're not getting your numbers, it's evident to you and to your subordinate. And if they don't see that, then I'm not sure what they're looking at. So they should be clear on exactly what's coming before it's even coming.

[00:09:29] Ryan: Yeah, that's what David has always said that in our organization, they said you gotta be clear, set, clear expectations for them. So I couldn't agree more. So thinking about it from the insurance company standpoint, from the sales side, where do you think insurance companies are missing it when it comes to developing products for agents to distribute?

[00:09:47] So do you think they're missing it from the planning side, from the preparation side, from the right side, where are they lacking the thought process and helping their sales from the company side?

[00:09:57] Larry: So in defending carriers, of course, that's where I work. You got, pricing is pricing. I mean, there are factors that play into it that many people do not reflect on and they refuse to understand that.

[00:10:08] I mean, you have a dollar, you know, a percentage of that dollar is a loss ratio. A percentage of that dollar's commission, percentage of dollar's premium tax, percentage of that are dollar's administration, servicing, claims. So pricing in itself is really not the fault of the carrier. Now, where do I say carriers may limit themselves?

[00:10:28] Because they have the belief that there are those that are not in the field of what the client needs. So they create a product based upon that rather than really knowing what the field is needing. I pride myself on being a field leader. I do a lot of administration tasks. I'm responsible for a fiscal budget, but I'm in the field almost 80% of the time.

[00:10:49] So I like to be abreast of what changes, what our competitors are doing and that helps us at least be advantageous over our competitors. And I think that's where a lot of people are missing the mark is they hear something, they create a product because they heard it, but there no validation of that's actually what the need is out there.

[00:11:07] Ryan: Right. So get out of the ivory hour and learn your market.

[00:11:11] Larry: Yeah, I mean, there are, there are quality people that can do that. I mean, it happens all the time, but you often see another carrier come out with another accident plan and it's the same as another accident plan.

[00:11:22] But, you know, they didn't add any bells or whistles that maybe is a current, you know, need right now. Like COVID, there's a couple carriers that came out with some COVID coverages. I applaud them. I mean, they're not a lot reimbursements, but it's unique. It's a niche. So it'll help them sell. It will help create the pathway for their employees.

[00:11:40] Ryan: And I love it. What would you tell to the new guy just getting into the business? I say this because I had a guy call me last week for some advice he was looking to get into the Medicare side of the business. I know y'all touch the Medicare supplement side. What would you suggest to the guy just getting into the business from a sales perspective, what would be your best piece of advice to give?

[00:11:58]Larry: If you take those six principles first live by those and then always.. And you and I talked about this earlier... look for a mentor. Look for someone you can trust because this is a daunting industry. When you first get in, you say, "Oh my gosh, I can sell Medicare. I could sell dental. I could sell vision. I could sell voluntary, can sell worksite. I could sell health insurance."

[00:12:17] Like, and then you sit down and say, "Oh, my God. I thought about what I could sell, we didn't sell anything," because you don't know where to go, what direction to take. Find a mentor. If you can't find a mentor, find a good company to work with, that's going to partner with you, educate you, and teach you.

[00:12:30] Ryan: So kind of getting into that relationships and talking about mentors. That's something that I know you and I both firmly believe in mentors, firmly believe in having relationships, getting out of the office, meeting with people. That's where a lot of the different ideas come from. What would you say has been the biggest impact that a mentor has had on your life?

[00:12:49] Larry: So I told you that gentlemen, that challenged me to take my insurance examination.

[00:12:53] Ryan: Correct.

[00:12:53]Larry: He really set the standard for being a mentor because number one, he was significantly wealthy. So, you know, his opinion in my mind, I had a lot of respect, but he always said, you know, and I learned this from a movie and I live by this.

[00:13:08] I never lie. I never cheat. And I very rarely bluff. And if you live by those three things, People know how you are. And sometimes they may not like what you're saying, but at least they know in their heart, that what you're saying is honest.

[00:13:21] Ryan: I respect you.

[00:13:22] Larry: That's correct.

[00:13:23] Ryan: So for the guy or girl, who's just getting into the business, where would you suggest them to start in getting to know more people in our industry to getting to learn more about the industry? Is it conferences? Is it the [unknown acronym]? Is it the ICMG's? What would you suggest to them?

[00:13:41] Larry: Aye, Ryan, that's a great question. So depending on what they want to sell, there's there's many industry meetings I would suggest they go to. If it's pure worksite, you know, check out the worksite mania, worksite benefits, the health and benefits conference and benefits pro.

[00:13:54] Now, again, those are not limited, so I'm not sitting up here preaching that you should go to these. So you know, I'm not getting any cash for these. For Medicare, you know, you got the Medicare conference expo every year, the Medicare National conference. And then for the supplemental stuff, you've got [unknown acronym], AHIP.

[00:14:10] Those are always great. You got the AHIP institution as well. And then for property and casualty, those you want to probably stay local though. You want to kind of do the chambers of commerce, little different cell there. But those were, I suggest that's what I learned, a lot of the relationships that I gained today from those.

[00:14:26] Ryan: And look, I can say if Larry's recommending anything from a work site perspective or a Medicare's perspective, listen to it. The guy knows what he's talking about on that front big time. So what advice would you have to carriers, TPA's because we have a lot of different people listening to these. What would you suggest the carriers, TPA's, maybe haven't gotten out of the office,

[00:14:46] maybe their home office has shut them down. I know different carriers that we work with have kind of been on a travel ban and they're just now kind of starting to get back into the industry and get back into the market. Some of them still can't go to conferences right now. We talked several this week, they couldn't go to one here recently. What would you suggest to them from getting back out standpoint and getting those relationships back fired up?

[00:15:06] Larry: I think everybody's eager to get back out.

[00:15:07] Ryan: Right.

[00:15:07] Larry: Sales is a face-to-face thing. We don't like to admit it. No matter what level Medicare, worksite, you know, individual supplemental, property, casualty: it's all people person game.

[00:15:17] We all want to get back out there. And for those great salespeople that do it every day, they're yearning. And I'm telling you, I am because you know, I'm starting to travel now. But just rekindle those relationships, number one. Number two, I wanted to go over this when we were talking about the carrier stuff.

[00:15:30] Think about reshaping the industry. I mean, COVID really threw us a curve ball. It made many people do things differently. We've got to be prepared for all changes that come up in the future. So, hence I think we need to kind of reshape the way we do business. What does that mean? I'm not sure yet today, but I know that we started doing some new things, trying to be creative.

[00:15:50] Ryan: Oh, that's good. We actually just recently had an ice storm here in Mississippi, and I know you had it in Texas as well. We all got pounded pretty good by it. And it was the first time our offices ever shut down for more than a day and a half due to weather. And it made us go back and have to, we have all these emergency plans we've had in place for the different departments of insurance and, you know, for our clients and TPA type stuff.

[00:16:12] But when the rubber hit the road this week and no one can even get to the office, cause the rubber couldn't hit the road, right? Cause that's right. We had to tweak a lot of things when he came back into the office and start putting those action plans into place. I think that's great advice, Larry.

[00:16:28] And what would you suggest for the people I don't know about you, but my phone has rung more over the past, probably 12 months with COVID because more and more people are trying.. You're not out in the different people's offices as much. You're at the office, and more people are calling constantly and trying to expect different phone calls. But if you're anything like me, you have more telemarketers calling too about different products.

[00:16:52] How would you suggest from trying to utilize those relationships and with more people calling now, instead of saying face to face and being stuck at the office more, how do you pair that on who you give your time to in this type of environment? Because I know you're probably like me. We have about 15 Zoom meetings a day that are all scheduled for an hour and it's like, I can't do all these.

[00:17:12] How do you fit that in from a relationship side and keep those relationships strong with the people you really care about?

[00:17:17] Larry: I actually, that's, that's a situation, no matter what level you have, you're going to be overwhelmed with that all the time. Whether it's if you're an agent or you go all the way up the ladder, you're still always evaluating your time.

[00:17:28] So the first thing I always say is, assess the current risk. Somebody calls me? Okay, it's X, Y, Z. What's the current risk there? Is that high, important, mid important to low important, you know, do we have things boiling now? Do we have things boiling coming up? I don't know. Maybe you can call them back in another hour.

[00:17:43] Second thing is you always work to determine what is urgent and what is important. Urgent, immediate callback. Important, we'll get them 24 hours or less. So that's, that's the second thing I would do. The third thing is, mesh your strategies with who's calling. So you and I both have goals within our company.

[00:18:05] So we know what those goals are. Person calls in. Does it fit this need A, B, C, D, our top five. If it doesn't, unfortunately they need to be tabled. Timeframe wise, not sure, you evaluate that, but that's how you would. Ultimately there has to be a commonality of goal existence in order for a call to be moved from important to urgent. So, those are kind of the three things I would do.

[00:18:27]Ryan: Aw, I love it. So Larry, your relationships have obviously given you a lot of success in the business and you've seen a lot of different things happen. And with American National, you've kind of moved to new levels. I mean, you're just, you're doing some amazing things over there when it comes to product developments and everything else. I'm serious, so you've done a great job.

[00:18:43] Larry: Appreciate that.

[00:18:43] Ryan: What decisions or habits have you implemented that have driven the most success in your personal career?

[00:18:50] Larry: So it's going to blend in my personal career as well as what I do as a leader. So I don't know if you've ever heard of this term, it's called the personal assets of why.

[00:18:57] If you haven't, you have today because it's actually my term. So, you know, what it means is personal is basically what's important to you. What drives you? And then essences is the hearts of doing something. Like, why do you do this? And then the why is, is the cause or intention of why you're doing it. And everybody understands first off, you're sitting there vague,

[00:19:17] I bet listening to this and Ryan staring at me, but what that means is, is why am I doing this? Why are you doing that? Why is everybody doing a position they have? So when I sum it up and I say, my personal essence of why is my wife, Amanda, my two daughters-- rachel, Kira-- my two sons-- Anthony and Johnny.

[00:19:36] That's why I get up in the morning. That's why I teach my people the personal essence of why. When they come work for us, if you're a captive agent for us, we don't give you a goal. We ask you for your goal because that's your personal essence of why. You need to know why you're driving after it. If you don't know why you're driving after me telling you that you need to sell 300 K does nothing.

[00:19:58] Because if it's not your personal essence of why, and you don't know why you're going after it, then we got a little bit more work to do. And that's something I lived by my whole life. And that's what I always tell the people I hire. In fact, when they get hired at American National, they go through a 10 minute session of personal essence of why. We asked them to put why they're doing this job.

[00:20:18] Oh. And it stays there and we don't give those people goals. They give themselves goals based upon what they want to make.

[00:20:25]Ryan: It's your passion, it's your drive. It's what you want to have an impact on. It's what you want your legacy to be. It's that drive, so to say, that kind of has got you to your levels of success that you feel that personal essence of why.

[00:20:39] Larry: So mine is I want to give my family everything that I never had. That's my drive. That's why I travel 80% because we take vacations together for two weeks. We get to do those things that I never did. And when we hire somebody, we asked him, how much do you want to make? Why do you want to make that? Why do you want to work here? Why do you want to sell insurance? Because if they can't answer it, I think we had a little bit more work to do than just get out there and sell.

[00:21:07] Ryan: So that's your personal one, Larry. What would you say is the perfect blend from people getting into the business that you've seen success through? Obviously we all know hard work is one of those things that whatever business you're in will kind of lead to success. But what are the other characteristics that you've seen be a good blend for success and people that you've worked with over there?

[00:21:26] Larry: Well, like we were mentioning earlier, you know, you gotta be committed.

[00:21:29] Ryan: Yep.

[00:21:30] Larry: You got to show some signs of empathy. Those are the basis of being in any position, I think. You know, have the discipline to do the job every day. Come in, work a full day, go home. Have empathy. You know, you and I were talking about different companies in different areas of our own company, having frustrations. Well, we try to put ourselves into those places. You know, understanding what they're going through and then being reliable.

[00:21:55] And then it boils down to all again. You're making money, but why are you making that money? And I know I keep sending them back on that personal essence of why, but it's different from everybody as long as they can keep that centered focus, they'll be on fire.

[00:22:12] Ryan: So I got it in my house, I'm one of those guys who has a vision board in his closet. And so every time I'd walk in to go get my socks in the morning, I got it right there in front of me where I see the different things. I got pictures on one side of the wall, and then I have it taped up of all my goals and vision for my life on kind of the other side where no matter what--

[00:22:28] Larry: So in essence, it's your personal lessons of why.

[00:22:30] Ryan: That's exactly what it is. And that's what I'm kind of thinking to kind of how you blended that. So let me ask you this kind of last two questions I got, Larry, is from--

[00:22:37] Larry: By the way everybody, he says that all week, there'll be more.

[00:22:39] Ryan: I got seven more. They can come back and edit this for me. We got... so what leadership lesson have you learned that has impacted the way you manage people, the way you lead people, the way you kind of cast a vision, so to say, for the people underneath you, what has been the leadership lesson that you've learned that's kind of helped you in business more than anything?

[00:22:59] Larry: It's both a leadership lesson and a life lesson. My second favorite saying other than the one I repeated earlier, personal lessons of why, is eyes wide open. When people get involved with me, my company, any of my partners, their eyes need to be wide open. They need to know what the expectation is. What our goals are. So there's no hidden agenda if we fail it's because of unilateral failure, it's not because somebody didn't know something or I didn't, I didn't tell somebody something. It's eyes wide open.

[00:23:28] If you can do that effectively, on any type of relationship, whether it's personal or business, you're going to have an increased chance of winning rather than losing.

[00:23:37] Ryan: I love it. So, Larry, last question I got for you is what has been the best sales experience that you've ever learned being in the business?

[00:23:46] Larry: So, Ryan, I treat it, as a kid, as a young man, I was an athlete. Not now. I'm kind of overweight, fat, but back then I was, and today that competitiveness rides with me today. So I treat sales, business, anything like sports. I have a drive to win.

[00:24:03] Ryan: I love it.

[00:24:04] Larry: If my clients win, I win. If my company wins, I win. I don't like to lose. I like to win.

[00:24:11] Ryan: That's a big one. That's for anybody in the sales industry in any form or fashion right there, I love it. Well, Larry, I can't tell you how much we appreciate you coming on today.

[00:24:20]Larry: Well, Ryan, I appreciate it very much. It's an honor to be here.

[00:24:22]Ryan: Thank you everyone for listening today, that was Larry Hiwiller, chief marketing officer of American National, wonderful friend, but that wraps up our episode for today.

[00:24:31] And I thank you for listening to us at the Insurance Leadership Podcast, where a good plan today is better than a great plan months from now. Please subscribe at your favorite podcast app or stream on our website at Thanks so much for listening.

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