As we head into the holiday season, we turn our thoughts to what we are thankful for. For me, I have become a father again. My son Jack was born just a couple of weeks ago. He’s a little Chivvis all right, there’s no doubt about it. It is amazing to see someone so small, so innocent and so alive.
And then it hit me. Maybe it’s a reminder, in the hectic age of technology and invention, that every once in a while we need to stop and assess what in our life is really the most important.
For me, it is my family—and in some sense I am also very thankful for technology. My use of technology enhances my ability to enjoy and experience life with my family.
Thankful for technology
Technology has done wonders for our business and for our families. We can record first smiles, first steps, first cars—even first marriages—with the aid of cameras and camcorders. Then we can share those priceless moments with other loved ones by posting digital pictures on websites or sending them in e-mails.
The fax machine, computers, the Internet, e-mail, websites, e-commerce and all the underlying infrastructure components have all made our businesses grow.
We are able to process information, spit out quotes, and provide a policy in a fraction of the time it used to take. For many of us, it has allowed us to expand, to reach new markets, build new locations and offer new products.
But as my dad and countless others have said, “Who at the end of their lives wishes they could have worked more?” Technology, in all of its wonder, can draw us away from what’s really important. The expedition of business transactions through new technology and new conduits tempts us to work more, to put in longer hours.
Technology should be an instrument that allows us to do our work more efficiently, not to efficiently do more work.
Thankful for independent agents
Recently, I sat in with some college students as they discussed a presentation delivered by the CFO of a major international corporation. While they were impressed at all that he had achieved and the future plans that this corporation had in the works, there was one comment that stuck with them and was relayed to me with dismay.
The executive made the comment that he had worked long hours and countless days to make this corporation what it was; yet he wished he had spent more time with his family because he could hardly remember any of his children’s high school years. That was an eye-opener, both for me and the college students.
I think that’s one reason why I really admire independent insurance agents. I’ve talked with many agencies in which two or three generations of family members work together. Sons and daughters sharing a common interest with their parents; brothers and sisters working together, spending time together.
The family theme carries throughout the independent insurance agency system as well as into the relationship with customers, the industry and the community.
I still know the name of my dad’s insurance agent of 25+ years. Mr. Pyle always made us feel at home, never pushing for business, never passing a customer off. There were times he’d share our joys and our sorrows. He was and is more than an agent—my mom still sends him a card and a fruitcake every Christmas.
Thankful for home
Until my wife has fully recovered, I am working at home. While my son and wife sleep, I am e-mailing clients and using ICQ/IRC to keep in contact with my employees. This way I can get my work done and still experience the thrill of the new addition.
“To everything there is a season” or so it goes. There are times in which we should work and work hard. I am not against that. But at the same time, the work must end; there must be time for our loved ones, friends, or even fellow employees.
So, as Thanksgiving nears with all of its feasts, fixings and football, let us remember the people who make our lives rich. Let us be thankful for those who are our customers, our families and our friends. Let us be thankful that we know them as people and not just as names, faces or policy numbers.
As I said, I am also thankful for what technology allows me to do. It’s why I enjoy writing these columns. It’s why I look forward to all the interesting technological advances that are coming our way.
But really and truly, right now I’d settle for some diaper changing technology.
Technocracy is a regular column designed to examine and explain new technology and how it applies to the insurance industry. Readers are encouraged to e-mail questions or comments to John Chivvis at firstname.lastname@example.org.