One Year...and No Fear!
Hesitation is the general idea behind why someone may, or may not, go down the road that I have traveled in the last year. But what is truly behind hesitation? Fear is the neck-whip reaction that most will find at the root of that hesitation. Fear of the unknown, basic business practices that an individual has to follow; fear of a financial step-back; fear of losing clients, becasue of a change in how you are conducting business; and fear of being the little guy, trying to scratch and claw for every scrap of income that you can snatch. Hesitation is a symptom of fear.
The Wood Insurance Network Group, LLC is being built one client at a time, and one insurance policy at a time. Fear does not build a business, but it motivates on a daily basis. I am the one steering this roller coaster. But Chris, how do you steer a roller coaster, when it's on rails? You don't!! But you have faith that, if you stay positive, and do the right things, that you will reach the end of the ride. That's what we go through on a daily basis.
Every day your wig is blown back by the different experiences that you encounter. Gone are the days of only worrying about your personal production. There is a business to be nurtured, and guided. Writing checks and making deposits is only a small part of what is motivating now. Cultivating clients, traditional and non-traditional marketing to generate opportunities, and answering emails and the phone are a start. But the meat on this bone is the short and long-term planning and goal setting. 15 months ago I put, in writing, my 1, 3, and 5 year goals, not only for the production of business, but for all the other critical components of growing a business, a brand, and a future for my family. Without this, I don't think I would still be opening my doors everyday!
I have met a lot of people in the last year trying to do the same thing. Starting your own business is tough. Many factors go into the success of 'surviving' year one. It is sad for me to say, but quite a few of them are not doing what they intended to do in 2012. Long-term vision is a quality that needs to be believed in. Getting on a roller coaster has many different outcomes, but seeing it through to the end, is the only option for myself and my company. Fear and hesitation never leave completely, but I have tucked that influence away where it needs to be...in the back of the roller coaster, while I'm riding in the first car!
There are many ways to express the long-term nature of one's quest in life. Whether it be sports, music, art, education or, simply, your business career, you will have a commitment of more than just a few days, weeks, or years. I refer to this as the 'Grind', and it's more than your typical, coffee house reference.
Grinding is a way of life. I love to grind. Day in, day out...getting better at something because you have put the time and effort into your goal. That's why video games are a passion of mine, and have been since I can remember. Repetition, monotony, patience, and finally reward, are words that generally describe this task. Do you get a shiny medal when you succeed in a video game? Not really, with the exception of a virtual one. Do you earn money when you beat the computer, or a competitor? Usually not, with the true elite of Major League Gaming being the tiny minority. So why do it?
Video games, along with playing tennis, going to college, getting your Series 7 license, learning to drive, and earning a living through your career, are all grinds. Many of which have no reward, except personal satisfaction and growth. Money can come and go, but the process of generating revenue is a set process, a skill, a template, and a connect-the-dots, paint-by-numbers formula. If you have done it once, you will probaly know how to do it again. The results may differ, but the grind is the same.
My business career choice is a grind. Insurance is not a sprint, but a marathon. Short-term thinking gets you short-term results. And in the insurance world, that means you will run out of opportunities before you want to, because scores, statistics, and achievements take time to develop. That's why I am a fan of the term 'Organic Growth'. It takes time to nuture your 'garden of opportunity'. You need the right fertilizer (marketing). The growth and strength of what you are cultivating doesn't materialize at your pace. Organic Growth has it's own pace, and for some that is simply not fast enough.
Grindin', and allowing my growth to come with patience, poise, perception, positivity, and persistence is my path in this real life's, gaming quest. I choose my own adventure. I decide how I want my foundation to be built. You should too! Don't let the dictators and haters become a negative drain on your mode of influence. Remember that pressure is a blessing, because there is something at stake. That's why people disregard, discredit, disagree, and dissolve your pool of ideas. They can't take the intensity of the grind. You're following Pharrell's advice...stay Grindin'!
Ahh, the beginning of May! Spring has arrived, or is just around the corner. The weather is getting warmer. Everyone has shed the heavy, Winter clothes for the lighter, Summer versions. Energy is high! Go out and make something happen! Wait just a second, wait just a second, please. Before you are ready to run out and blaze your sales path, remember that there is wake and fallout behind those aggressive, bold steps.
The insurance industry is not like most other sales cultures. YOU CANNOT sell in this industry without an understanding of the consequences to doing things the wrong way. The wrong way is the mentality that this is a 'one and done' sales industry. Your clients need to stay with you for at least one, 12-month renewal, for whatever insurance policy or product you handle for them. If they don't, you have essentially lost money on the entire transaction. Even for a one-man operation like myself, it is not profitable to have to replace old clients with new clients every 12 months. You will gain no traction or credibility.
I have been in and around this industry for as long as I can remember. My grandfather and his partner started an agency from scratch in the 1950's. My father took over that small agency, in the 1980's, and grew it into a much larger, innovative, and successful business. Now I am on my journey to start an agency from scratch. I should have done this years ago!
Rules are made to be broken, and walls are meant to be knocked down. Many, and by that I mean infinite, theories about 'how to achieve sales success' have been thrown around my neck like an itchy scarf. My 'industry knowledge' for years was crammed down my throat like a burger and fries from your favorite fast food joint. My head was filled with so much nonsense that I'm surprised my hair hasn't succumbed to the pressure, and fallen out. LISTEN TO ME. You know how to do things right. So why are you listening to all the wrong ways to achieve greatness? Pressure, sales quotas, immediate results-driven managers, and a laundry list of other items. You choose the scenario.
In the insurance industry, long-term vision and a fresh Kleenex to keep your nose clean, are about all you need to succeed. How do you like to be serviced when you go to a restaurant, stay at a hotel, walk into a retail store, or have a service-based industry come to your house? You can vividly paint the picture in your mind. You can hear and see the negative. You can recognize and duplicate the positive. YOU KNOW what you like. So transition it into your own sales theme and brand. You will not win a marathon by sprinting the first mile. It takes poise, precision, persistence, polish, and positivity. The NEW P's of marketing!
My advice to you: Stop listening to everything you aren't doing, and start listening to what you already know inside. Success is derived by how you block out the noise, and then you can hear your innner whisper. 'You know you can do this!'
I don't remember when my friends and family first started to use Facebook. I don't recall when my business colleagues and associates chose to use LinkedIn. I don't visualize when the world around me selected Twitter as a way to converse back and forth.
It's happened though. The different ways to communicate these days are so varied that you can't help but be overwhelmed. Trust me. I have been!
I remember when the epiphany of the Social Media evolution branded me. It was a solution to save time, and not a selection to waste it. I was interested in finding out more about another professional that was referred to me. Learning more about how to maximize my time, and to separate myself from the stereotype that my industry creates, was all I wanted to achieve. This individual's public, LinkedIn profile immediately gave me a direction about who this person was, and where they had been. Previous schooling, past job positions, current sources of income, and a hobby or two, gave me the power to smash through the initial, introductory ice field.
Within five minutes, we were recalling where we went to school, what our friends were doing, and what we had been doing since college. Without this information, we might have spent five minutes saying 'you look familiar' or 'where did you go to school?'. Thankfully, we were already past that by some clever, but not necessarily new thinking on my part. I had innovated a better way to interact with my referrals, prospects, associates, and peers. Use of technology through Social Media! Cue the laughter...This was 18 months ago.
Fast forward to 4 months ago. I decided it was time for me to finally start my own business. I knew that I would have to innovate and create a different approach to how someone in my industry does business. The insurance industry is very conservative, and most of time, predictable. How could I be unpredictable, but still stay within a traditional framework? Social Media would have to be my great equalizer. It could level the playing field. A one-man operation can't compete, in the traditional sense, with other established companies. But, with a fresh and creative business model, I could eliminate my 'can't do's', and replace them with 'can do's'.
My technique to show the world my 'virtual store front' would be Social Media. Websites are fine, but add ways to interact with friends, acquaintances, and people you don't know, and a marketing system is created that can rival any large company in any industry. I needed to foster the willingness to change. My own stubborn thoughts and negative opinions were getting in the way of me truly innovating, and adapting to change.
How will you utilize the opportunities that are available right now? Will you find ways to hack and slash through the predictable tools? Or, will you allow YOU to get in the way of true inspiration? Social Media is the technology you have been dreaming of. Wake up, and brand yourself differently than your competition!