Not your ESPN’s 30 for 30

Lanier Upshaw 2

In 30 days it will be my 30th anniversary at @LanierUpshaw. Hence, the 30 for 30 tag…pretty clever, huh?

Dude, that’s old.

No kidding. I do remember being the young guy around here and was always nominated to move furniture when someone changed an office. After several dings in the wall and burns on the carpet, they finally wised up and started hiring professionals to do this job. I had to laugh however, because the first two guys who showed up were both missing at least one finger where they had pinched them off moving heavy objects.

No, we didn’t solicit their insurance…

What were the early days like

Well, we had 3 channels on the black and white TV…..just kidding, but not by much and yes I am old enough to remember that too.

Lot’s of cold calling. And if you knew how few cold calls I actually converted into customers it would be laughable. But what it did do was provide training in being able to think on my feet and drop into low risk practicing when all was lost and you had absolutely nothing else to lose. And it got me out of the office…

For starters, back in the day we had no computers, cell phones or fax machines; and now fax machines have even come and gone in my work lifetime. Skype? Webinars? Fuhgetaboutit…and during breaks at insurance meetings, there would be a mad dash to the pay phones to call the office and check messages. My agency never would accept my collect calls…doh…

There were definitely clackity clack typewriters….and carbon paper. And paper files, tons and tons of paper files that you had to keep forever.

I remember we were one of the first agencies who went paperless. Some of the old timers back then just about had a cow. If they couldn’t go to the file cabinet and pull the customer’s file with all the history attached inside, they were going to be dead in the water.

Of course we all know however, paperless is a misnomer, but our paper files are definitely a thing of the past.

And the thing about insurance is everybody has an expiration date to their policy, so once we obtain that valuable piece of information we hold onto it forever…and a day. Many times in sales, timing is everything, so if you make the call at the appropriate time it might help your chances.

Fortunately, my niche now is more performance based programs that don’t necessarily go off an expiration date, which allows me to talk with a prospect at times other than renewal because that is when everybody and their brother is trying to get in the door.

What about the middle years?

It was interesting to say the least. This was the time most of the old timers had already retired but we still had a president on his way out. Since he held a significant amount of stock, we had to make a decision to absorb this purchase internally or seek buyers from the outside. It was a close vote and some top end guys would have made out quite nicely if we had decided to sell, but ultimately we were committed to internal perpetuation and found enough buyers among the partners.

This decision however changed the dynamics of our leadership structure. Whereas before it took at least 3 partners to have a majority vote, now we had a single individual with a majority interest. My way or the highway…

This is when I knew I would never be that guy; the stars would never align for me at @LanierUpshaw to run the show. So it was decision time; go out and start my own gig and control my own destiny, or always be at the mercy of someone else.

For me, the challenge was I had already built a decent sized book of business and had a wife and two young children who were totally dependent on me. I did not relish the thought of starting over with no money to speak of.

I guess it’s not too hard to tell what decision I made and will tell you my middle years were some of my most challenging under the ownership model that evolved. But I didn’t bitch and moan (too much) and always knew where the back door was if I had had enough. Somehow I survived, and can now look back and know I made the right decision.

Where are you now?

Would you believe it took 20+ years to finally feel secure in this industry? My associates joke about the cardboard box being placed outside of your door as a sign you were getting ready to get the pink slip…or your key quit working. There were certainly times I felt like it could be me.

Sales can be very fickle.

Sales can also be very rewarding, but it’s not a profession you get to let your foot off the gas. Because of this, and I am not exaggerating, I could name at least 30 salespeople who have come and gone through these doors and for whatever reason couldn’t find the magic formula to make it stick. With the exception of 2 or 3, I thought all had the same if not more capabilities than me.

30 years in marriage, 30 years with the same employer; doesn’t sound like I ventured too close to the edge of that cliff, huh?

What can I say; I take my commitments seriously and is it a bad thing to be loyal?

Believe me, I admire the people who were able to throw caution to the wind and figure it out all on their own. It would have been a much easier decision as a single man, but as the sole breadwinner I did tend to be conservative.

I have no regrets and can assure you, it’s still good to be Billy D.

Thanks for joining me on my trip down memory lane. And in case if you are curious, I do plan to make it to 40 years…

Then you can say, “that’s old.”

BTW, if you couldn’t pick Billy out of the lineup, he’s the one with the 80’s porn star mustache…:).


15 thoughts on “Not your ESPN’s 30 for 30

  1. What a great trip down memory lane Bill. Typewriters, pay phones, carbon paper…to sing a tune, “thanks…for the memories”:) Congrats on your upcoming anniversary: you’ve come a long way baby:) And that’s quite the ‘stache – and hat! Were you guys in the oompah band? Cheers! Snowshoes

  2. Holy smokes; as in smoke signals – I know many folks who worked 30+ years for the same company and even have the same wife!

    You don’t see that so much these days. However, folks who go down this route build incredibly successful, rewarding, fulfilling lives… And can bank some good cash if they manage money right.

    I was just speaking to a friend of mine from Canada last night, a retired school teacher who has managed to save $8 million dollars for his retirement. What the heck is wrong with that?

    I’ve had to borrow some cash from father in-law a couple of times; he’s retired 30 years from the U.S. Postal Service and enjoys an awesome retirement! He has zero debt, owns his house and cars, has a bank full of cash and a nice monthly retirement income.

    Sometimes I shake my head and wish I would have just done the same thing. I would have risen to the top and provided huge value to any company I dedicated myself to. And it would have much easier than the path I went down! 😮

    My mom told me the doctor dropped me on my head when I was born, so I think that is where some screws came loose. Dang doctor!

    Cheers, Bill!

    • I was probably dropped too, but I guess I wanted to be like my dad who had an ‘office’ job with Minute Maid for 40+ years. It’s funny the different ways our parents can be role models, huh?

  3. Hey Bill

    Niche tache!

    My word, 30 years is a long time to work for the same employer. I think I managed 7 at most before I left my last employer.

    There’s nothing wrong with being loyal though and if you enjoy what you do and where you work, there’s nothing better. It keeps you happy, keeps you alert and keeps you out of mischief :-).

    My dad is coming up to 65 in January which means for him, he can receive his State and Private Pensions and take retirement. He’s been with the same employer since he was 16. He’s not going to retire though because he enjoys working there and it keeps him busy.

    • It certainly has had it’s ups and downs and there are still days it can be so confounding you are ready to just hang it up, but my attitude is in a much better place now and I want to help an promote others at Lanier as much as I can. Sometimes you have to be a survivor just to figure out how good you really have it.

  4. Hey Bill,

    My dad put 38 years into his job before he retired. In concept if an organization still offered the sort of compensation package and retirement benefits he had I could see possibly trying to do something similar, but who knows.

    I am mid career now and retirement isn’t a foreign concept, but in my twenties…

    Anyway, 30 years is something to be proud of, not many people can say that.

    • The good thing is we do have a 40lk and an ESOP, so that coupled with my stock ownership I should be in a pretty good place when I decided enough is enough. A lot of firms don’t offer the benefits package we do, and for that I’m thankful to be here.

  5. How many folks can say the same thing? I am on my 7th firm in 24 years the longest of which was 10 years. I thought I was doing well until Billy came along.

    Congrats is definitely in order. So, think of me when you down that 30th beer and Ralph all over your shoes. I took that joke a lot when I was younger. Toughened me up.

    Cheer my friend. Here’s to the next 30. Hope there is more golf than work in it.

    • Unless it’s a family business, it is definitely becoming a rarity. Somehow I’ve made it this far, and just like my marriage, at this point I might as well settle in and enjoy the ride, right?

  6. Nice picture. Is it true that they’re “magically delicious”?

    I guess you’re trying to impart some kind of old timer wisdom or something but you really undercut yourself with all of this talk of cold calling. Didn’t you know all you need is a Facebook page and a Twitter account and prospects automatically come to you? I think you should have figured that one out after 30 years.

    Seriously though, this might be one of my favorite posts of yours. 30 years in insurance sales is not for the feint of heart. It’s an impressive accomplishment and you should be proud!

  7. Keebler called. They want their elves back…

    Congratulations on your impending anniversary. What an accomplishment, Bill! You should be very proud of your tour of duty there. Your firm is incredibly lucky to have had you aboard for so long.

    Best wishes to make it to 40, Bill!

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