Tag Archives: cbs

Are You Still Selling Newspapers?

“Who is that guy, and what’s he doing?”

Shaun called me, laughing. He explained that he had just heard about a teenager who was at his friend’s house. As they walked through the den – he saw an older man reading a newspaper in a recliner and asked the question above.

The man’s son said, “That’s my dad, and he’s reading a newspaper.”

The next question was, “What’s a newspaper?” followed by, “Where does he get it?” The son apologized for his dad’s eccentric behavior by explaining that there are stories about news, politics and sports in the paper.

It’s like what we can read on Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram or WhatsApp, or view on YouTube. Every morning a man drives by the house and throws a paper (usually in a plastic bag) out of his window and into our yard. Rain or snow, sleet or shine, dad walks outside to get it. Then he comes in and reads it like he’s doing now.

“Why doesn’t he have a smart phone? What’s wrong with him?” the friend asked.

These questions may shock those of us who walk to the curb at 5:00 every morning, anxiously awaiting our daily delivery. The newspaper is important to me. It is more than news or journalism. It is a ritual in my life, a daily ritual I’ve enjoyed for more than 50 years.

To the teen above, my ritual probably is crazy. To me, he seems stupid. In yesterday’s world, I’m right. In tomorrow’s world, he is.

Consider the profits made by the publishers of newspapers in yesterday’s world. Consider the Big 3 broadcast channels, CBS, NBC and ABC, and their dominance in the media world.

Now recognize that they are dinosaurs – smoking around the tar pits while awaiting their demise.

Is your agency or carrier or brokerage selling yesterday’s products to a population that is the past, or is your agency a living system that is growing with the marketplace as it will be and adapting what you sell and how you sell it to the buyers of the future, or are you focused on your reminiscences?

What populations/niches will you serve in tomorrow’s world? What will they be buying? How will you deliver it to them profitably?

I can promise they will be different than I am, and you must be different than you are – if you don’t want to go extinct! Will your model be paper or virtual?

Think new! Act now!

Does College Matter Any More?

In the technology future we are headed into, the half-life of a career will be about five years because entire industries will rapidly be reinvented. Education counts more than ever. A bachelor’s degree is now the equivalent of high school, and technology skills are as fundamental as reading and writing. Given this, my greatest frustration is that Silicon Valley is regressing by encouraging children to skip college and play the start-up lottery. That approach glorifies college dropouts who start companies—even though the vast majority will fail and permanently wreck their careers. Billionaire Peter Thiel, who cofounded PayPayl and Palantir, goes as far as giving elite students $100,000 to drop out of college.

Sadly, I am on the losing side of this debate. My first defeat was in a globally telecast Intelligence Squared debate on whether too many kids go to college. With Northwestern University President Emeritus Henry Bienen by my side, I debated Peter Thiel and conservative icon Charles Murray. We lost, with 40% of the well-educated Chicago audience voting against the need to college and 39% agreeing with us. Needless to say, I was shocked.

I lost again over the weekend, on a segment on CBS Sunday Morning, which is the most watched morning news show in the U.S. CBS hyped the college dropouts without showcasing the dozens of failures and lives that have been ruined. CBS took the Thiel Foundation at its word that its fellows have started world-changing companies, created 1,000 jobs and raised $330 million in venture capital. These are gross exaggerations; even the  start-ups that CBS featured are all more of the same silly apps—and there are literally thousands more like these.

Here is what I said on the show:

“It breaks my heart when some of the most promising students don’t fulfill their potential because they’re chasing rainbows.

“It’s like what happens in Hollywood: You have tens of thousands of young people flocking to Hollywood thinking that they’re gonna become a Brad Pitt or an Angelina Jolie; they don’t.

“They don’t become billionaires. There haven’t been many Mark Zuckerbergs after Mark Zuckerberg achieved success.”

I added that there is little evidence the Thiel dropouts are doing much that isn’t already being done in Silicon Valley. “Everyone does the same thing: It’s social media, it’s photo-sharing apps. Today it’s sharing economy. It’s ‘Me, too,’ ‘More of the same.'”

You can see the full article published by CBS here, and you can view the segment here.

Keep Your Eye on the Fourth P

If you ever took a marketing class, you probably remember the four “P’s” – product, price, promotion and place. While attention to all of these is vital to business success (including one or two new ones added over the years), the fourth P, place (which really is about distribution) has been getting a lot of attention lately in the insurance industry. From traditional channels with agents and brokers to new channels like Google, Compare.com, Gobear.com, Walmart and others, the place where prospects and clients meet insurers is worth a fresh look and an open discussion.

Celent recently reported that many insurers are investing in their distribution capabilities to spur growth and retention by adding or expanding channels and markets and optimizing existing channels. Celent predicted a steady market for investment in distribution management systems from 2014-2016 (“Deal Trends and Projections in the Distribution Management Systems Market,” September 2015). Gartner has indicated distribution management is one of its hot inquiry topics for 2016.

As I wrote in my last blog, distribution might also be the most tangible touchpoint to customers for product inquiries and purchases, outside of paying bills or making the occasional policy change. Interactions with our distribution channels are key opportunities to create positive customer experiences that lead to loyalty and additional sales down the road. Because only a fraction of our customers will have a claim in any given year, few will have the opportunity to experience the true value of insurance. That places the “burden of value proof” upon insurers, to continually reinforce protective messages, supplement with preventive knowledge and reiterate the comfort customers can have in knowing they are insured.

Distribution has always been the prime communicator of these messages and an extremely important part of the insurance value chain. Channels we use have evolved over the centuries, as insurance itself has evolved. (See the recent report from III, “Buying Insurance: Evolving Distribution Channels,” for a good history lesson). But numerous forces inside and outside of our industry have been rapidly transforming this important element of the insurance business model. As an industry, we can’t afford to think about distribution in the “usual” old ways.

Traditional channels are still vitally important, but having a broad array of distribution options is even more important in today’s marketplace. With consumers’ shopping/buying preferences and behaviors changing based on more progressive industries and companies, options and alternatives are critically important to capture and retain customers. While the digital revolution and fast-emerging technologies are intensifying this change, they have not replaced traditional agent channels, despite the predicted demise of the agent channel a few years ago.

Instead, consumers are using multiple channels (traditional and non-traditional) for shopping, buying and policyholding processes. In many cases, it comes down to whichever channel is easiest or whichever channel seems to fit the moment when the individual is ready to transact. This echoes a trend within all industries. For example, research by Deloitte reported by Business Insider found that consumers shop for groceries on average across five different types of stores, no longer needing a traditional grocery store when one is not convenient. Consumers are now buying groceries at warehouse clubs and super-stores like Costco and Walmart, where one-stop-shopping can save time (CBS Moneywatch). For retail suppliers, this means courting any and all potential distribution outlets.

Likewise, insurance needs to expand distribution channels beyond the traditional channel silos of direct mail, captive agent and independent agents to a new model, an omni-channel ecosystem that seamlessly interacts with and meets customers’ ever-expanding expectations. This doesn’t mean that insurers should rush out and go on a channel shopping spree. It does mean insurers must build a strategic action plan for their unique channel ecosystem using relevant channels, partners and capabilities that work cohesively together to optimize the customer relationship. The irony of this is that while insurers are doing this to make things easier for their customers, it can make things a lot more complex for insurers. Enter the growing need for effective distribution management, and systems that improve carriers’ capabilities to manage multiple channels and multiple factors. These factors include:

Compliance: Automation of key producer lifecycle processes, data capture and reporting saves time and ensures accuracy and timeliness.

Compensation: Moving from reliance on core systems and manual tracking and calculations in spreadsheets doesn’t just save time and increase accuracy, it also enables more targeted and creative programs to drive performance of your channels.

Performance: In addition to influencing producer behaviors, the right distribution management system makes available the volume and granularity of data you need to enable flexible reporting, as well as more advanced analytics like segmentation and predictive modeling. Majesco’s recent research report, “A Path to Insurance Distribution Leadership: New Channels and New Data for Innovative Outcomes,” provides some useful insights into how companies are using data to improve the performance of their distribution channels.

Self-Service: Portals for your producers and channel partners give them the transparency that’s vital for trusted, mutually beneficial relationships. Developing e-service capabilities for customers and agents was a high priority among insurers Majesco surveyed for the recent research report, “Digital Readiness in Insurance.”

You can have the best insurance products, pricing and advertising to build your market presence, but if you don’t have a distribution ecosystem underpinned by a robust distribution management system to optimize and maximize these channels, your customer growth and retention potential will remain limited. If it is difficult to effectively optimize compliance, compensation and performance of your channels, you could end up losing to competitors that can. Distribution management systems are no longer considered back-office systems; they are front-office enablers in today’s radically changing marketplace. That brings us back to the concept of place. Just like long-established retailers will remodel every couple of years, the place you meet your customers can’t remain untouched without your organization and its products losing their feeling of value.

Are you developing a distribution ecosystem? Do you have the right distribution management solution to optimize your established and newly developed channels to help you grow? Celent and Gartner are telling the industry that your competitors are considering and implementing modern distribution management systems. If you haven’t been considering distribution management modernization, now is the time to begin the conversation.

To Be or Not to Be (Vaccinated)?

For many years, Americans did not need to worry about contracting the once-widespread disease called the measles. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially declared measles eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. In January 2015 alone, there were already more confirmed cases in the U.S. than are typically diagnosed in a full year. Public health officials are very concerned and have moved to aggressively contain this very contagious, but 100% preventable, disease. The current outbreak and surge in confirmed cases of measles, most notably in California, has been scientifically linked by researchers from MIT and Boston’s Children Hospital to the outbreak that began in Disneyland in December 2014. Medical researchers believe the spread of the current measles outbreak is solely because of low vaccination rates in certain communities based on a widespread but false link between childhood immunizations and autism. International health officials have called the link between the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and autism “the most damaging public health hoax in the past 100 years.”

Just last week on April 21, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released the findings of a comprehensive study using the health insurance data base of 95,000 children and found no overall link between autism and the MMR vaccine. The study also found no link for children with an autistic sibling. The study did find a lower vaccination rate for the younger siblings of children with autism based on parents’ continued fears of a link. The JAMA study authors from the Lewin Group in Falls Church, Va., stated; “Consistent with studies in other populations, we observed no association between MMR vaccine and increased ASD (autism spectrum disorder) risk among privately insured children.”

Despite the overwhelming medical evidence that the MMR vaccine is both very safe and highly effective, anti-vaccination groups still dispute the facts and are warning parents not to be pressured into having their children vaccinated, which is the crux of this public health problem. On the same day that the JAMA study was released, CBS Evening News ran a segment on the current U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, or “America’s Doctor,” who appeared on Sesame Street to promote childhood vaccinations. CBS closed the segment with; “Vaccination critics don’t see anything cute about this video after the controversy over the recent measles outbreak.” Really? There is no controversy. It was all based on a documented hoax.

The original belief that vaccinations cause autism was based on a reported study in 1988 by Dr. Andrew Wakefield in the U.K., which has since been 100% completely discredited. His report unnecessarily panicked many parents around the world, causing a sharp decline in the number of children getting the MMR vaccine. The false claims and widespread panic began when a British medical journal, the Lancet, published Wakefield’s article. It was later determined that the author had multiple conflicts of interest, had manipulated evidence and had broken ethical research codes of conduct, including accepting funding by attorneys involved in lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers. The Lancet fully retracted the article, but not until 2010, when the editor-in-chief stated that the link was “totally false” and that the world-famous medical journal was “deceived.” The Canadian Medical Journal in 2010 went on to state that the original research included a “callous disregard” for the “carefully selected” study group of only 12 children and that “several elements of this research were incorrect and contrary to findings of an earlier investigation.” Dr. Wakefield subsequently lost his license to practice medicine in the U.K as a result of this fraudulent research.

These are the facts that parents need to know about the measles. Symptoms typically begin with a high fever, runny nose, sore throat and cough, which can easily be misdiagnosed as a simple cold or the flu. The incubation period is between seven and 18 days of exposure to the virus. It is very dangerous because people are contagious up to four days before the red rash appears and likely do not know they are infected. In addition, a room can still be contaminated as long as two hours after an infected person leaves. A single infected person can spread the disease to between 11 and 18 people. An unvaccinated person has a 90% chance of infection if exposed to the virus. The risk of serious complications and death is even greater for adults and infants than for children and teenagers. Rubella, known as the German measles, is also caused by the virus and is usually a mild form of the disease but is a very serious infection that causes miscarriages, still births or birth defects in unborn children when pregnant women get the disease.

Most people born prior to 1957 had the measles. The disease was once so prevalent that in New York City, in the first 10 weeks of 1933 alone, there were 10,000 cases and 434 deaths. The first vaccines developed began in 1958 and became widely available in 1963. Prior to 1963, there were three to four million cases of measles reported each year in the U.S., with 400 to 500 reported deaths annually.

Although many parents in the anti-vaccination movement believe the measles is not dangerous and the MMR vaccine is, the medical facts state otherwise. In fact, from 2001 to 2013, 28% of children in the U.S. with the measles had to be hospitalized. Public health officials fear that many more cases will develop from this outbreak of a very preventable disease, unless aggressive public health measures are undertaken. What is required is an extensive education campaign including widespread vaccination of the unvaccinated U.S. population, starting with infants at 12 months and a booster shot at age four to six, prior to pre-school or kindergarten. Unvaccinated adults also need to be vaccinated.

There are a number of myths associated with the measles vaccination that keep some parents from protecting their children. The controversy surrounding the anti-vaccination movement is based largely on parents’ philosophical beliefs against the vaccination. Dr. James Cherry, a pediatric infectious disease expert at UCLA, believes that the recent outbreak in California is “100% connected to the anti-immunization campaign.” He went on the say that there are “some pretty dumb people out there.”

Medical researchers from MIT and Boston Children’s Hospital documented that the rapid spread of measles from the Disneyland outbreak, beginning in mid-December 2014, indicated a significant percentage of the population exposed had low vaccination rates. These researchers determined that the exposed population rate might have been as low as 50% and likely no higher than 86%. These rates are well below the 96%-99% level known as “herd immunity,” which is required to prevent future outbreaks.

The anti-vaccination movement includes those parents who believe that there is no medical risk from not vaccinating their child, that the disease is extinct, that doctors and drug companies push vaccinations for their own profit, and that you can get the measles from the vaccination. Still others believe the false and discredited link to autism. For the parents who are against vaccination, they not only put their own children at risk, they dramatically increase the risk for the general population who are unable to get the vaccination, such as infants under the age of one, and children and adults with weak immune systems, including people with cancer and other diseases.

Measles is still widespread throughout the world. Travelers from overseas continue to bring the disease into the U.S on a daily basis. The anti-vaccination conspiracy movement belief that doctors and insurance companies promote the vaccination to increase profit is absurd and is negated by the fact that health insurance companies pay for the vaccinations at no cost to the patient. Similar to the flu shot that is a dead virus from which someone cannot get the flu, it is almost impossible to get the measles from the MMR vaccine.

The CDC states there is a 1 in 3,000 chance of a mild allergic reaction to the MMR vaccine but a 90% chance of infection if an unvaccinated child is exposed to the virus. Parents should do the math. In addition, a blood product containing an immune globulin is available for people who are medically unable to immunize with the MMR vaccine for any reason.

What parents need to know is that the scientific community has found no evidence whatsoever of a link between MMR vaccine and autism or any other childhood development disorder. In addition to the just-released JAMA study, large epidemiological studies conducted by the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the U.K. National Health Services all found no link between MMR and autism. This original false research has done significant damage to the field of public health and has done serious harm to children of parents who were misled by this report, which resulted in unnecessary deaths, severe impairment and permanent injury in unvaccinated children. Because of wide dissemination of this discredited link, there were many lawsuits by parents with children with autism, but a special court convened by the National Vaccination Injury Compensation program denied all compensation claims in U.S. federal court against manufacturers of the vaccine in 2009.

The recent measles outbreak in California is what has spiked the “controversy” over vaccinations, which has made the national news in 2015 including; CNN, the New York Times and Time Magazine. There have been 178 documented new cases of the measles by late March by the CDC, including five unvaccinated Disneyland workers in Orange County, and the outbreak is now spreading across the U.S.

Although traditional public health issues are typically rooted in poor or rural areas of the country, this current measles outbreak is concentrated in wealthy neighborhoods in California and surrounding states. Although it is reported that only 3.1% of parents in California refuse to vaccinate their children, for health or religious reasons, this number is misleading. In fact, many areas within California have double-digit exemption rates from vaccinations, with some areas as high as 50%.

The MMR vaccination is the best way to prevent disease both for the individual and the general population. It works by making the body produce anti-bodies against the virus. The measles vaccination is recommended for all people 12 months of age or older, and especially people traveling overseas. MMR vaccinations are supported by the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Mayo Clinic, to name just a few.

An extensive education campaign is required to overcome false and unfounded fears among parents of unvaccinated children. Legislation is needed to strengthen immunization laws requiring all school-age children to receive the measles vaccination, except for those with a medical exemption certified by a licensed physician. Public health officials should also track and verify both statewide and local immunization rates and should mandate that schools maintain an up-to-date list of pupils with exemptions so they can be excluded quickly if an outbreak occurs, temporarily exclude unvaccinated students and teachers from attending school and offer measles vaccinations for unvaccinated students and teachers.

The MMR vaccine is 99% effective and provides immunity for a lifetime. It was once considered one of the major public health campaign success stories. Now, health officials fear the potential for a public health crisis based on blatantly false research and unfounded fears. The CDC points out that people who refuse to vaccinate usually live in the same community. “When measles find its way into these communities, outbreaks are more likely to occur.” Consumers and parents should confirm with their doctor that they or their children do not have any allergic reactions to other medications. They should also verify that they do not have an immune deficiency condition, which may cause side effects and decrease the vaccine’s usefulness.

The myth that childhood vaccinations lead to autism was based largely on a completely discredited medical research hoax. This myth is still being widely perpetuated today not only by the anti-vaccination conspiracy movement led by Hollywood celebrities but also by the mainstream media.

My heart breaks for the parents of children with autism, including a close family friend. But it breaks my heart even more knowing that thousands of children are unnecessarily exposed to unimaginable consequences of birth defects and death from something so preventable. Parents need to listen to the Surgeon General, the CDC, the Mayo Clinic and the American Academy of Pediatrics and not Hollywood celebrities with zero background in public health.

I would like to thank my research assistant and co-author Ms. Chandler Berke who is a public health/science undergraduate student at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

Management by Wandering Around: A Workers' Comp Lesson From Television

I once saw an episode of the television show “Undercover Boss” that offered a good lesson for employers everywhere. 

For those of you not familiar with it,  “Undercover Boss” is a CBS show where a CEO who is completely unaware of what actually happens within his company dons a cheap and unconvincing disguise and spends a week working undercover within the organization. He meets employees along the way who, while turning out to be the bedrock of success for the company, have every possible malady and crisis occurring in their personal lives. The CEO learns that her company does not train, supply, support or develop employees at any acceptable level. One CEO actually found that his female employees had to urinate in a can when on the job. Ironic when you realize his company was Waste Management. The program ends every week with the CEO revealing himself to said employees, giving them each a bazillion dollars, a paid vacation to Disneyland, new teeth and a promotion to head a new department designed to do whatever they happen to be good at, like peeing in a can. I personally think the employees are being paid off to keep quiet about the CEO's inability to actually perform any job within the organization.

If you haven't guessed, this isn't my favorite show. However, my wife and I are a typical married couple and have to have something to watch, or risk having to “talk,” which always gets me in trouble, so we load up the DVR.

I have often joked in the office about doing a spoof video of “Undercover Boss. The joke, of course, being that, in our small office, everyone knows me and is already aware that I am incapable of performing any job within my organization. In the real show, we always see the CEO's palatial home(s), fancy cars, private jets and drop-dead-gorgeous families. In my version, you would see a modest home with a lawn in desperate need of new sod, a Hyundai Santa Fe that hasn't been washed since 2010 and our four cats, one of whom is blind. The highlight of the home portion would likely be my mopping up the occasional accident when blind kitty is in the box but doesn't know his fanny is over the side. You would not see my wife, as she hates having her picture taken. Even our wedding photos are just of me. They came out okay, but frankly the one of me throwing the bouquet just looks staged. 

I suppose I could wash the Hyundai before we commenced filming, or try to borrow my wife's Mercedes, but she requires a hefty security deposit.

But, as usual, I digress…..

The episode about which I wish to opine featured Jose Mas, CEO of MasTec Industries, an energy transmission construction company. The company builds pipelines, transmission lines and other energy infrastructure. The company was founded by Mas' father, a Cuban immigrant who passed away in 1997, at the age of 58. By Mas' own account, his father was a “hands on” businessman, involved in every facet of the operation. This really became apparent in one segment of the show. 

Mas junior was in Oklahoma, where he had just demonstrated his complete inability to run a piece of heavy equipment while working with a field supervisor named Rich, who was from Georgia. Rich had been with the company almost 15 years and was preparing to retire. At one point, Rich said he “got hurt real bad” while working for MasTec. With the show's history of featuring employees who willingly rip the bejesus out of their employers while standing in front of multiple camera crews, I braced for the worst, but it didn't happen. Rich explained that he fell in a hole and crushed his ankle, the treatment of which involved surgery and multiple screws. He followed up by saying, after a significant pause, “MasTec treated me real good on that deal.” 

And what was it that made Rich feel that way? The CEO at the time, Mas senior, personally contacted both Rich and his wife to express his concerns and offer any assistance they needed while Rich was off the job. It was a small gesture that resulted in a huge long-term benefit. MasTec likely did other things to make the process a positive outcome, but it struck me that it was the outreach to his wife that so impressed Rich.  

Communication with an injured worker from a high level of the organization is great. Communication with the worker's family and loved ones is pure gold. What a brilliant concept.

The story is even more remarkable if you do a little basic math. The accident happened while Mas senior was still alive, so more than 14 years earlier. Rich was not yet at his 15-year mark with the company when he told his story, so he was a relatively new employee when the accident happened. MasTec was a very large and successful company when the accident happened–yet the CEO made the effort for a relatively new and unknown employee.