Most folks accept that their funeral is not a good place to do a deal. Nonetheless, they don’t plan!
Twenty years ago, at a PIA convention at the Grand Hotel we were having a discussion about the future of agencies, maximizing their value, planning for contingencies and timing an exit strategy. I was being provocative. One business owner stated proudly that he had made so much money in his agency through the years that, even if he didn’t get $1 for his book, it didn’t matter because he and his family were fine.
I believed him because his agency was his wife, him and one administrative person effectively managing a large book of marine business. I didn’t doubt his description of his agency as an “asset” – it had and continued to throw off more cash than needed.
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I asked: What if you and your wife were killed and the agency had to run itself for months? Could “legal problems” (read E & O) result from these complex accounts being unmanaged following your deaths. He realized that both his assets and liabilities need professional management.
With an audience including more agency owners comfortable with “yesterday” than agency leaders and managers right for “tomorrow,” I asked the Big Question: “Would your death, disability or retirement increase or decrease the value of your agency?
The oldest agency principal in the room said, “Boy, you’ve done gone from preaching to meddling.”
Our comfort zone is a most dangerous place. We are lulled into a false sense of optimism. We start to read our own press clippings and financial statements. We believe we are in control. We are in control until we are not. Unfortunately, we don’t know when the merchant of misery will visit us and if we can recover.
Don’t assume your own readiness – until after you have recovered from a challenge. Changing others is hard – changing yourself is often impossible!
In 1996, the nationally syndicated columnist Robert Novak was speaking at LSU. He told about a friend of his who was furious with Bob Dole because he wouldn’t change, and his inability to be flexible was going to cost him the 1996 presidential election.
Novak asked his friend, “Are you married?” His friend replied, “You know I’m married.” Novak inquired further, “How long have you been married?” The friend said, “50 years.” Novak asked if he loved his wife. The friend answered, “Of course, I love her. We’ve been married for 50 years.”
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Novak asked, “Can you change your wife?” His friend quickly said, “NO.” Novak closed the discussion with this simple advice, “Love Bob Dole.”
For most of us, change is difficult. Maxine (the cartoon character) says it best, “Change is good as long as I don’t have to do anything different.” Love your friends who live in the past but don’t stake your future on them.
If you’re one of these “yesterday dwellers” – take action now, even if it scares you to death!