I can't help but thinking about the past 30 years in the employee benefits space. You see, on July 11th, 1988, I walked through the doors of Prudential's Northeast Group Operations in Parsippany, NJ to begin a training program as a group sales rep. Flash forward thirty years and here I am as a Producer with Lockton.
Some of the same people that I walked through those doors with are still in this business. I've met tons of terrific people over this span. I met my wife as a group rep, befriended clients and associates, moved a few times and joined 7 different firms. My career has allowed me to grow a family, help others, travel, build a home and much more. Sure, there have been bumps in the road (and a few clowns) but I am thankful to have met incredible people and had such wonderous experiences.
In reflection over these 30 trips around the sun, I kept coming back to the same question: why? Why am I still in this business? Many people I've met along the way are not. Studies say that my generation will have multiple career changes. I’ve been in and around employee benefits since college. This is a complex business. It can be frustrating at times, is always ultra-competitive but, when done right, offers great satisfaction: literally the health and well-being of other Americans.
Why am I still in this business and why am I asking why? Well, 30 years is as good time as any for reflection (college reunions, 2nd child off to college, dad bod…) but there was something else. Earlier this year, I attended WorkHuman (#workhuman) , a fantastic HR conference sponsored by Globoforce. It was unbelievable. I highly recommend it for those interested in Human Resources, people and as says the title, Working (and being) Human. We heard from a host of terrific people like Brene Brown, Selma Hayek, Shawn Achor, Amal Clooney and many more. There was a panel with #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, actress and activist Ashley Judd, journalist and lawyer Ronan Farrow and hosted by Wharton School professor and best-selling author, Adam Grant. Wow!
The why question came from another WorkHuman session presenter, Simon Sinek. I’ve been following Simon and his “Start with Why” philosophy for a while. I challenged a sales team that I managed years back to use these techniques in their conversations and presentations. It made total sense to me. So when he presented his new book, Find Your Why, I knew I needed to buy one and as the title suggests, find my why. So here it goes…
Unbeknownst to me, I was a beneficiary of employer sponsored group benefits at an early age. I was in elementary school when the cancer that eventually stole my father was discovered during a routine dental visit to correct an ill fitting set of dentures. Over the next ten years as he battled this f*ing disease and his body withered and was cut away, health insurance paid for his treatments. Disability insurance helped fill an income gap while putting 5 kids through college. And, as you may have guessed, life insurance was there at the end. After he was gone, there was a pension, surviving spouse and children benefits as well as Social Security. I’ve experienced first hand how a comprehensive set of benefits (private and public) can literally save a family.
I can’t imagine what life would have been like without these benefits. I anguish over those in need without these policies or with less than adequate coverage. I think about our social safety nets and the need to secure, protect and invest in these programs. I know employers want to help their people and struggle to tackle these issues, particularly costs. They need all the help they can get. Health care, health insurance, retirement and the like are numbingly complex, costly, highly regulated and there are no simple solutions. Proposals for reform all carry known and unknown consequences. Too many times they are politicized by all sides. But the status quo is not acceptable either.
I believe that we can tackle these problems by working collectively and creatively to do so. I know that Atul Gawande and his team at ABC will change the delivery system for the better using technology and the power of the consumer to finally jar loose the healthcare log jam. Advancements in technology through robotics, AI, etc. are already showing positive returns and these advancements (powered by new tech like 5G) will exponentially accelerate. Humans working with technology already show better results than human or machine alone. Through this abundance of knowledge, experience, compassion, we will get it done. We can’t ignore these problems. They are life and death issues for my generation.
So that’s my why. To help others like I was helped so that they can live healthy, productive and long lives. In the day to day, let’s work together, get creative, leverage technology to ensure all Americans can live long healthy, lives and sleep better at night.
The next 30 years will be fascinating. Guess we’ll keep working and see what happens.
PS – I’d like to see you pick up Simon’s book and let us your why.