It Takes a Crisis to Make You Change Your Game

Jon got the mail as he pulled up into the drive. There was a thick envelope from the credit card company. Jon opened it, and the balance was much bigger than he’d expected. Jon and his wife had a bad habit. They used their credit card to buy whatever they wanted. Making minimum payments was driving the balance owed to new and scary heights.

Jon has two kids, a house, two cars and a stay-at-home wife. Taking care of a family is expensive, so charging things on the credit card was almost necessary.

Jon was heavily influenced by his dad growing up. His dad was half hippie, half businessman. His dad’s life was shaped by Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Buffet, and Jimmy Page. Live and let live was his dad’s motto.

Weekends were meant for letting loose. Jon’s dad would buy a case of beer on the way home from work and invite a few neighbors over. They’d crank up the barbie and turn on the Jimmy’s.

It was an unwritten rule for Jon when he was younger. If you can sneak a beer or two from the cooler without anyone seeing you, I won’t have to tell your mom.

Jon was surrounded by the freedom to be and do what he wanted to. Discipline wasn’t exactly in his vocabulary even though he knew what it meant. It meant having to do things he didn’t want to do when he didn’t want to do them.

Jon was smart. He made decent grades without having to study. His college experience was less about education and more about being social. When he graduated from college, one of his dad’s friends made him a job offer.

It was an insurance agency. Honestly, it was the last thing Jon would ever consider as a professional choice. But it beat having to go on a bunch of interviews with uptight, white-collared professionals. The agency offered him a salary for the first year and said they would train him.

Jon made a couple of trips to Hartford, Connecticut, for training. He said it reminded him of his college days: work half a day and party all night. The executives treated him like a king, saying, “Want a beer? Want another beer? How about another?”

After a couple of weeks of training, he learned everything about Hartford’s bars and pubs, not to mention how to work the system. He also learned a bit about coverage. All in all, a promising start to a new career.

But he never learned how to use the phone to make appointments. No one else at the agency did either. If you asked Jon, he’d say he was never taught how to sell, only how to quote. After 12 months in the business, things weren’t looking too good. His salary hadn’t changed, and there was no sign of his income increasing.

After a decade of missed opportunities and woeful new business years, Jon was almost broke. Financially, he had enough money to pay his bills on a good month. Emotionally, he was tired of the rat race. Quoting his regional carriers never got easier. Winning some and losing some, there was no real method to his madness.

By this time, he had a lot of small accounts just wearing him out. The future was anything but exciting. It seemed like a survival camp where he just had to make it through one more day at a time.

On the drive home one day, he heard Dave Ramsey on the radio. Ramsey’s philosophy was simple: Pay cash. Don’t get into debt. Throw away your credit cards.

It was only a few days before that he opened his credit card bill and knew he was in trouble. Something had to change, and it needed to change fast.

So, Jon bought the $60 program on his credit card and blew Dave’s first rule of success to stop using your credit card. But there was no other way to get the program.

Jon sat with his wife and went through all of Dave’s exercises on money. They agreed on a money strategy that started with cutting up the credit card.

Their first goal was to pay it off. The second goal was to build an emergency account that would get them through six months if everything went bad. The third goal was to start saving for their kid’s university tuition. And the last goal was to build a retirement nest egg.

Great goals, but to do this, he needed to increase his income. He needed to double how much money he made immediately.

Jon’s research turned up a sales program. It taught him how to make cold calls and set appointments. The program taught him how to build differentiation without relying on price and coverage as the primary source. He learned how to win new business by BOR. He quit quoting accounts. He won more often and on accounts that were four and five times bigger than what he’d been writing the previous 10 years.

Jon’s boss sent him a lovely little card in the mail. “Jon, you’re doing an admirable job, but you need to slow down. We can’t service all this business.”

Jon didn’t slow down, and fortunately, his boss found a way to keep up.

It was 20 years ago that Jon started in the insurance business. And like most who tell their story, he never intended to be an insurance agent. But as he looks back on his career, he’s surprised most people aren’t clamoring to get in the business.

Now, as the president of his firm, he’s stepping back from growing his million-dollar book and more involved in recruiting new producers and developing the business. He wants to give his newbies the benefit of his underground playbook for growing a million-dollar book.

The moral of the story is to get real about your situation. If your finances are in a mess, get a financial coach. If your ability to grow your income is stagnant, get a growth coach. If you’ve mastered both by now, mentor others.