3 absolutes mountain biking will teach you

The hand

Tru dat…

Even though I am a flatlander living in Central Florida, there are actually some pretty decent mountain biking trails pretty close to my crib. Most of these have been created from the remnants of the phosphate mining industry and the mountainous stacks of sand and dirt they left behind. I haven’t had the luxury of trekking on any true mountain biking trails and it might be like comparing snow skiing in North Carolina vs Colorado, but it gives me all I can handle.

Mountain biking/trail riding was something I always had an interest in and even tried it a few times with a tweener bike, but if you are going to do it proper you really need the right equipment and of course it takes somewhat of a financial commitment to get there.

After using a loaner for several months and knowing this was more than a passing fancy for me, I bit the bullet and bought the real deal. It was love at first site; even though my new girl friend can be quite contrary at times.

Even though I’m just a little over a year into this thing, there are some certain truisms I feel I can share at this juncture with some authority.

The 3 truths mountain biking taught me

  1. You will wreck; not every time you hit the trail but trust me, you will crash and burn. And everybody I talk to has either crashed and burned or knows someone who has. I know people who have quit riding just because of the wrecks; hmmm, should that be a sign?

Skill level doesn’t matter either; in fact, the better the rider usually the more spectacular the crash.

The crashes can occur when you least expect it too, on areas you would think as non-hazardous. I don’t know if it’s lack of concentration or what, but my 3 nasty spills were on very nondescript areas you would normally have little to no trouble negotiating.

And maybe it is my age, but every big crash is just like a mini-car wreck; you definitely feel it for several days afterwards. And do you know how hard it is to get a tired ass adult body off the ground?

2.  Your fitness level will increase substantiallyIf it doesn’t kill you first. 

Since I have started I have dropped 10+ lbs; then again, some of that weight is from the skin I have lost skidding along the trail…:). Of course, the 100% Florida humidity and middle of the afternoon riding does its part to help too. Just make sure you bring plenty of water.

I am probably about 5-7 lbs from my ideal weight and all my vitals are in the better than average range, so for an old fart like myself, this should be worth something, right?

As long as I don’t have to look at you on the beach.

Beach? Well, between the cuts, scabs, scrapes and bruises I’m not exactly Mr Body Beautiful, but at least I am in shape. Maybe I will just plan on retiring the Speedo then if I’m asked to leave the beach.

3.  It will replace other hobbies you have.

My hobby du jour prior to mountain biking was golf; and it is not necessarily that I was looking to replace golf on my schedule, but now with two broken hands I have not been real eager to grab a club and swing it around for 18 holes. Fortunately I have just enough grip strength in both hands to still ride my bike.

That’s just crazy talk. 

How long can this last?

Who knows, I am still enjoying it and have come to realization it’s like a NASCAR race every time I go riding; sometimes you will finish the race and some times you will get tangled up and kiss the wall or flip upside down.

Personally, I feel my skill level has increased tremendously since I have started riding and truly did not expect to be picking myself up off the dirt like I have lately, but I think it’s an anomaly and not the norm. At least that is what I keep telling myself.

Or either I am just too thick headed to know when to quit; which is a very distinct possibility.

In summary

I think it’s a great hobby and diversion from the normal ways to stay fit. Yes, you can be safe and remain on the flat beginner trails or you can venture out to the more difficult ones. At the end of the day I would recommend you try it at whatever level you are comfortable with, and if you buy a really expensive bike and decide afterwards it is not your cup of tea, just let me know as I might be in the market to take it off your hands.

Happy trails to you. 

Until we meet again.

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My top 10 best comments of the week

Some bloggers think it is advantageous to re-purpose their older posts because these prior endeavors were obviously literary works of awesomeness, but for some reason maybe didn’t get the full play they deserved. Well, I looked back through mine and believe I got about as much run as I could so better let those sleeping dogs lie. However, I do have some gems from my comment section that found their way to that special folder and never saw the light of day, but obviously these people know me very well.

For your pleasure, here is the best of the best:

1 – Could you write about Physics so I can pass Science class? Obviously, this person recognized my brilliance right off the bat. 

2 – The genius store called, they’re running out of you. Once again, it ain’t bragging if you can back it up, right? 

3 – For the love of God, keep writing these articles. Now we are calling on a higher power so maybe I better stay in the game, huh? 

4 – Hey would you mind stating which blog platform you’re using? I’m looking to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a hard time selecting between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique.

P.S Sorry for being off-topic but I had to ask! And everybody chided me for having a free site; this will show ya. 

5 – Impressive brain power at work! Great answer! So obvious, will someone please tell my wife. 

6 – Clear, informative, simple. Could I send you some e-hugs? I’m a hugger, I guess e-hugs are good too. 

7 – Howdy my family representative! I want to state that this particular article rocks !, awesome composed you need to include approximately many considerable infos. I’m going to view additional discussions in this way . Have you ever considered about including a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is important and all. Nevertheless think about if you added some great pictures or video clips to give your posts more, “pop”!

Your content is excellent but with images and clips, this blog could undeniably be one of the greatest in its niche.

Amazing blog! I would include more pictures of me, but every time I try to take a good pic this old cat keeps showing up and ruining the shot; maybe one day I can beat him to the punch. 

8 – An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who had been conducting a little homework on this. And he actually bought me breakfast because I found it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this matter here on your web page. See, I’m bringing some value; I’m feeding my followers now. 

9 – Hey there! This is kind of off topic but I need some advice from an established blog. Is it difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about creating my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any points or suggestions? Thank you – My friend Carolyn would be impressed, they are asking me for ‘techincal’ advice; maybe they know me too well. 

10 – Your honesty is like a beacon. See, I told you what you see is what you get. Other than the fact I look much better in person, this is really who I am. 

Top 10 indeed

Well, there you have it. I made the mistake of letting my spam folder accumulate too many of these gems before I tried to clean it out. I think I’m going to start releasing them as regular comments to keep my popularity numbers up.

I was a little disappointed though; it seems back in the day I had some really spicy ones but those seem to have gone by the wayside. Oh well, my friends now joke we are at the age that not only do the girls not see us anymore when we are out, they can’t hear us either.

Say what? 

What are you gonna do; we’ll see who will be diggin’ on me when I win the lottery, won’t we?

Scoreboard.

Is your cheese still being moved?

Is it ever, make it stop; this is an edited version of my original post from February 6, 2012; back when I used to be somebody…

If you are familiar with the bestselling book, ‘Who Moved My Cheese‘ you know it deals with change and how to deal with it in work and life. Sometimes too much change and turmoil makes me want to cut some cheese, that’s for sure. One thing I have come to expect, and that is don’t get too comfortable, whether it is life or business these days because change is just around the corner.

Most know my day job is commercial insurance sales; this is an old-school traditional job if there ever was one. The original model was you work extremely hard your first 3-5 years, ‘grow’ a book of business and put it on cruise control from there.

If you plan on that being your model today I would advise to not even bother because you might have a better chance of taking care of your career by picking a winning lottery number.

Change can be good

Change, because it has an element of the ‘unknown’ typically brings about a certain level of stress. And whereas too much stress might not be a good thing, it can actually work for you.

Although relaxation ought to be, um, relaxing, stress management has somehow become yet another pressing item on our to-do lists. We’re made to feel like failures if we can’t live in a state of balance. But some stress is good; great, even. The discomfort of stress is a sign that you are tackling life’s problems head-on. Stress also improves productivity and performance – at work, the gym – and your body will be stronger if you alternate periods of calm and heart-pounding excitement.

Some know of my trail bike riding exploits these days and you certainly have enough oh-shit, heart-pounding excitement moments just about every ride.

How it has worked for me

Some of you might also know I have been doing this ‘insurance gig’ for 30+ years……….all at the same place. Talk about a breeding ground for complacency. The good news is we have forward thinking management and try to be pro-active and relevant in a fast-paced information overload society. This means don’t get too comfortable in your chair, because you might have to move soon if they even let you keep your chair.

I certainly don’t want to be the ‘that’s the way we always did it‘ guy but try to set the example and lead the charge if I truly think it will benefit the corporation. We are an ESOP (employee owned – employee stock option plan) corporation so everybody’s performance impacts not only our success, but our ‘retirement’ account as well. If everybody has some skin in the game it’s a lot easier to hold everyone accountable.

Has all this change made me uncomfortable at times? Absolutely, but it has also kept it interesting, challenging and fresh. I feel my eagerness to learn and adapt also keeps me young at heart and always growing.

Other changes I see

There are quite a few of us in my community who entered the ‘social’ journey at about the same time. When we jumped on the hamster wheel we were led to believe more followers and more comments are how you succeed. There is nothing wrong with that per se, but you do have a tendency to ‘chase’ under that model; and it’s circular.

Just about everybody I know has varied from that model now they are deeper into their journey, and some have just given up. We are all smart enough to copy and emulate what we perceive as ‘success’ in here, but I feel we have come to the realization there really is no ‘right way’ or ‘wrong way’; it’s ultimately only ‘our way’.

Just like life, if you are going to be a survivor in here don’t get too comfortable in your seat. What is working for you today could be totally different in 30 days…or less; that is how fluid social is.

This is what keeps me going

Numero uno – it has to be fun; fun is a great motivator for me. I work plenty hard in my day job. In my ‘spare time‘ I’m a volunteer Guardian ad Litem and sit on several boards; all non-paying positions. Therefore, it’s important to find a fun factor in all, even if there is hard work involved.

The jury is still out for me if I have the motivation to take any of this social stuff any further than I already have. Not that I made any lists in the first place, but I don’t expect to make many in the future as well unless somebody is doing a ‘whatever happened to‘ list.

What about you?

Has traditional blogging run it’s course? Do you feel there are greater opportunities to be successful with a social platform now or has the newness worn off and most are on the other side of the curve right now?

Is the continual moving of cheese the new norm, or will we ever get back to being able to take a deep breath and actually enjoy the fruits of our labor before running off to the next big thing?

At the end of the day, what is important to you?

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

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…:)?

 

 

You can’t listen yourself out of a deal

Who likes to talk?

I do and when I get on a subject I am passionate about I get animated too. I’m in sales, insurance sales to be exact so you might think this would be a good trait to have. Not so much so…

It’s annoying when it is obvious someone is not listening and I know I am that guy at times; just ask my wife. So make it stop….

However, if you ask the right questions and take the time to listen, really listen you will be surprised how much you can learn about someone or what makes them tick. It makes the person you are talking to feel like what they have to say is important. Sometimes paying attention to the little things first have the biggest impact on a potential relationship.

Personally, it’s not always easy for me to laser focus in on a conversation and what makes it even worse, I try to be Mr Funny guy so my mind is always ready to pounce on the opportunity to take something serious and funny it up. Ask my wife how funny she thinks I am, “not very” would probably be her reply and I can’t seem to help myself; fortunately I don’t verbalize every funny thing I am thinking.

In other words, I am letting myself be distracted when I should be listening.

The annoying non-listener, don’t be one of these

There are always distractions to contend with, but these types take non-listening to a higher level:

1. The daydreamer – they pay very little attention to the conversation, usually drifting in and out and obviously distracted.

2. The aggressive – they wait (sometimes) for you to take a breath and then jump in with whatever they want to say. If you ask them a question, you will get an answer but it might not be the answer to your question.

3. The lack of eye contact – especially in a room full of people; their eyes are everywhere  but on you and they are constantly acknowledging others as they pass by.

4. The impatient – continually interrupts to ask a question, express an opinion, or interject something witty (hey, don’t look at me).

But you really aren’t that interesting

Yeah, and you aren’t that clever either…

First of all I will confess I am an ok listener at best; kind of like school, just an ok student. But that’s not to say we all can’t improve, right?

Just as there are classes for speaking, I do believe there are resources to make us better listeners as well. My north of the border friend Ralph Dopping referenced it in one of his posts and maybe now I will get the book. I tried to recall which post it was before I had to search for it, but I must not have been listening real well when he tried to tell me the first time.

The count of two…

Most salespeople get uncomfortable with dead air; going as far to ask the question but when the response isn’t immediately forthcoming, blabbering some more.

One of the methods I try to employ in these situations is to take two slow deep breaths, but you can basically use anything to squelch the urge to jump in before it’s time. It’s amazing what you can find out if keep your yap shut and give the other person the opportunity to talk.

But you still have to ask for the order

Somebody once shadowed me at a networking event. We probably met 7-10 new people while we were there. As we mingled throughout the room, we introduced ourselves and made light conversation. At the end of the evening, they remarked to me they thought I asked really good questions.

I had not really thought about it, because I don’t think I intentionally set out to do that, but to me that was one of the highest compliments someone could pay me.

If you are asking the right questions and truly listening to the answers, more times than not the deal will close itself. The only ask you have to make is for the opportunity to meet with them.

But you still aren’t that smart

But I am well read and that opens the door for me to ask those really good questions. You can certainly make yourself smarter just by hanging around the right people and asking those questions.

So, if you can connect the really good questions with superior listening skills you will be rich beyond your wildest dreams; or not, but it will give you a better opportunity because I truly believe you can’t listen yourself out of a deal.

Can you hear me now?

 

Throw this dog a bone…

Bow wow yippie yo yippie yay…

Dude, you already walk around with your hand out every where you go; what do you want now?

Show me some twitter love

I have never actively tried to grow my twitter base. My efforts have been very passive indeed and pretty much only pulling the trigger after somebody shows up and then decide from there. Essentially, if you look human, have a reasonable amount of tweets I’ll probably let you in the house.

As a result of those efforts, after hanging around this joint for approximately 3-years I only have 2,990 followers. However, that is only 10 from 3,000. Therefore, I’m giving out a $100 billy dollar each to my next 9 followers and will send 5 $100 billy dollars and a DM for a great business opportunity for number 3,000.

How can you resist?

The reality is…

Unless someone is hanging on my every word in twitterville it doesn’t really matter. I still don’t do a good job of following streams, so even as twitter has become more mainstream I still mainly just broadcast blogs of others on my tweets.

The other thing about those 2,990 followers, I only really know about 150 of them. So I suppose it could be 3,000 or 300,000 for the way I use it. Somebody might look at that and think at 3,000 you are not much of an influencer so I don’t get the free stuff like some others, but even at 300,000 or 3,000,000 if nobody is really looking at your stuff, does it really matter?

However, my tweets are certainly worthy because I am sharing the works of some really talented people and if you were to take the time to see what is linked to my tweets, it might give you a ‘wow’ moment or two.

Twitter’s days are numbered

Mark my words; after twitter and other platforms (FB) become too mainstream and manipulative something new, shiny and different will come along and everybody will jump the ship.

And that begs the question, how much stock do you put into building a network on a particular platform knowing you don’t own it and it’s not going to be permanent? I guess that means if you want people to find you, you better have your own house in order with a welcome mat out front, and just rent your ride to get there, right? It doesn’t really matter how they get there, as long as they show up.

That’s what I’m going to do

For what it’s worth, if someone were to tell me they were thinking of getting in sales, I would recommend they look into insurance as a career. At least in my world it’s not a one and done, but building relationships and a book of business that pays you year after year. This might not sound too glamorous, but I can assure you the pay’s not bad and EVERYONE will buy insurance.

The downside of this model is after a while you get tired of scrumming and just want to hold onto and protect what you have. However, you do have competition, relationships change, businesses are sold and as soon as you put it in neutral you will be going backwards; you lose an account here, lose one there and then it’s hard to get the machine all cranked up again with an overflowing pipeline.

But what if your customers are your best advocates?

If I had to do it over again

I would have been more niche focused, picked a specialty type of coverage or a specific industry class and rode that horse until it had no life left whatsoever in them. It’s not a bad thing to be known as the expert in an industry.

Putting all your eggs in one basket can be dangerous, but can also be very lucrative; you just have to maintain flexibility and know when to fold them if necessary.

With a niche I think it’s much easier to communicate a social branding message in the world we live in today, and if you become known as the guy it sure makes it easier to open those doors; and standing out certainly helps.

Look at me, look at me; it’s not bragging if it’s true, right?

What do you think?

Are you better served trying to be all things for everybody, or just identifying your ideal customer/prospect and being the best you can be in that arena? I think we know the answer and if you become the best, then your customers will sell for you. How cool is that?

It might require you to get out of your comfort zone and actually have to walk away from opportunities, but at the end of the day you will be much better off.

That’s my story for now; until next time…

And my fighting weight is….

You don't have to be perfect

Hey, who said I was a fighter? I know you think I’m probably an American Badass but Billy doesn’t do fisticuffs….I don’t want anybody messin’ up my grill.

Even though that could be a reasonable facsimile of me lounging on the beach, it’s kind of how I feel these days. Having a broken hand over the holiday season and still eating like each meal might be my last sure made my clothes shrink up. You know you are in trouble when you use a knife to punch one more hole in your belt instead of buying a new one.

Hey you old fart, nobody cares what you look like anymore; you’ve been invisible for sometime now. Ha, even though there is some truth to that, it’s a good thing I am fairly active and like doing athletic endeavors that allow me to indulge in tasty food.

But that’s not the point of this post, it’s actually about habits and routines and is it possible to get too comfortable? Change can be hard, but if you are not willing to get out of your comfort zone how can you possibly grow and thrive?

Look out below

When I crashed my bike, it was an accident in the truest sense; it happened so suddenly I had zero time to prepare. Subsequently, my hand took the brunt of the fall. Whereas I thought I’d be a fast healer and maybe down 6 weeks at the max, it is now 3 months and I still can’t grip a golf club (but can still grip a bike handle…:). Being right-handed, fortunately it was my left hand that was injured, but it still tilted my universe just enough to discombobulate me (how do you like that word Josh?) and I have felt off kilter the entire time my hand was in a cast.

In my working world, January 1 is a common renewal date for business insurance so December is always a very active time for me; add all the parties and social events, it can be a very busy end of the year indeed. Trying to get through it just felt like they were sending me into the fight with one hand tied behind my back.

I know, call the whaaaambulance like anybody cares, because my ills were incredibly minor in the big scheme of things. 

But on the other hand…

I have been feeling stale because it felt like my life was becoming too routine and wondering if it was holding my awesomeness back? Routine can make you lazy and predictable and not want to get out of your comfort zone; for some that’s ok and the more routine the better but then you end up sitting back on your heels waiting for something to happen and can only react instead of making something happen; and then you just have to take what you get, good or bad.

What is the happy balance; I don’t want to be that guy? But I also don’t want broken bones to shake my world up either.

Who cut moved my cheese?

Most know my chosen profession is commercial insurance sales. Yes, I said it, sales. If I don’t form a relationship where somebody is paying me, then mama don’t eat; and if mama don’t eat she’s not a happy camper and if she’s not a happy camper, then trust me, nobody is…:). 

Lanier Upshaw Inc has been and still is a somewhat tradtional and conservative insurance agency. We do a lot of things from a service platform that many of our local peers do not do which helps us stand out, but at the end of the day you won’t see us dancing in the streets with our party hats on.

Up until a year ago neckties were part of our dress code with a long sleeved dress shirt…in Florida no less. Allegedly, it can get pretty toasty and muggy in August in the F L A.

We do a pretty damn darn good job of taking care of our customers at Lanier Upshaw, Inc and we have some really talented people who routinely perform at a very high level. However, it seems like it’s a lot harder getting those new opportunities in the door and I’m definitely seeing a changing of the guard where my peer group is either retiring, or starting to think about it.

So, where do I fit in? I did lose the tie and now we call it professional casual but keep a sport coat handy because you never know when it’s going to be 98 degrees with 100% humidity, huh? Easier to dress down on the fly than to dress up I suppose.

I do see this as an excellent opportunity in a land where a lot of us insurance types are treated like vendors, to stand out and create an awesome brand and using a social platform to accomplish this. I’m still a big believer in the face to face networking, but is that becoming a thing of the past; is that too going the way of my necktie?

So who’s with me; who thinks this social platform is going have some legs and be around for awhile? Do you think this is a sound strategy, and if so, does anybody want to do this for me? I promise, I can show up with the best of them, and I can look really good when I just show up, right?

It’s kind of embarrassing to have been in social as long as I have and finally come to this conclusion, huh? I just didn’t think this stuff was going to stick and I certainly didn’t want to be a bandwagon type…:).

If I have to work too hard, I might change my mind but who knows, stranger things have happened I suppose.

Don’t worry, when I become Big Time I will still make eye contact and say hello.

Until next time…

 

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…:).