Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries, some humorous, some angry, hopefully all of interest to you.

Our Latest Blog Entry

February 14, 2018

A VALENTINE'S DAY THANK YOU MESSAGE:


To all of you who have stuck with me through thick and thin


Romeos Tune – Steve Forbert,


“Meet me in the middle of the day

Let me hear you say everything's okay

Bring me southern kisses from your room


Meet me in the middle of the night

Let me hear you say everything's alright

Let me smell the moon in your perfume”


This is a song about the value of reassurance, making certain that those that matter most to you know exactly how you feel, and more importantly, don’t feel that they are taken for granted or overlooked. Many of you have been with me every step of the way, some since the first grade, first year of high school, college, all of the co-workers I have had the great privilege to work with over the past forty years, friends I made living in New York, Dallas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, St Louis and Chicago, most since we first met, some with some interruptions caused by distance and my own failing to keep in touch. I wish you a Happy and Blessed Valentine’s Day.


Oh, Gods and years will rise and fall

And there's always something more

It's lost in talk, I waste my time

And it's all been said before


While further down behind the masquerade the tears are there

I don't ask for all that much I just want someone to care

That's right now


Meet me in the middle of the day

Let me hear you say everything's okay

Come on out beneath the shining sun


Meet me in the middle of the night

Let me hear you say everything's alright

Sneak on out beneath the stars and run

Oh yeah, oh yeah yeah, oh yeah”



Thank you one and all and of course thanks to my family, although to a certain degree they are stuck with me.


I know this is the second post with song lyrics in a row, and the music references seem to be getting more and more obscure. Many of you have heard of Jimmy Buffet, last week’s lyricist, but I believe only my friend in Dallas, Ed Plesnarski, is familiar with Steve Forbert. Of course that doesn’t include Frank Glaz, Dennis Lindquist, Howie Modell and Lenny Bronstein who are in the music or radio business.


Now I may be mad, or delusional, but I always thought this was a very romantic song, in its own way, speaking to me about the importance of reassuring those that you love, expressing confidence in his feelings for them and their feelings for him…


“It's king and queen and we must go down now beyond the chandelier

Where I won't have to speak my mind and you won't have to hear

Shreds of news and afterthoughts and complicated scenes

We'll huddle down behind the light and fade like magazines


Meet me in the middle of the day

Let me hear you say everything's okay

Bring me southern kisses from your room

Hey hey,


Meet me in the middle of the night

Let me hear you say everything's alright

Let me smell the moon in your perfume


Oh now, meet me in the middle of the day

Let me hear you say everything's okay

Let me see you smiling back at me


Hey, meet me in the middle of the night

Let me hear you say everything's alright

Hold me tight and love and loving's free

Whoa yeah”


So, when I heard Romeo’s Tune on the radio this weekend I knew I had a Valentine’s day theme. I sing along with the radio, but I have a terrible voice. Your only chance to hear me sing is to join me in a shower, (unlikely), be riding with me when I am alone in the car (not possible when you think about it) or hope for a repeat of the one and only time I had drank enough to actually stand up and sing live karaoke. I stunk up the joint with a rendition of Aimee, by Pure Prairie League, but I thought my back up singers were pretty damn good.


Anyway, to those that I love, and those that love me, or at least tolerate me, thank you.

Our Latest Blog Entry

February 22, 2018

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT YOUR FELLOW PROFESSIONALS BAD BEHAVIOR


I came across a post on Linked In this afternoon posted by a recruiter lamenting the fact that she was thanked profusely by a candidate for notifying him that his interview did not go well and he was no longer under consideration for the position. The candidate emailed, I think, “Thank you so much for giving me an update. I have never received an update from other agencies."


The recruiter/poster then wrote: “THAT INFURIATES ME.

Not the fact that he emailed me to thank me (that was very nice)- it's the fact that other agencies never update him when he's not selected for jobs after he invests time into the process. Notifying candidates of rejection should be a simple common courtesy.”


Of course, I agree with her. But a rather frequent and often entertaining commenter had a different message, writing, “don't let anything other recruiters do INFURIATE you... just do things right yourself who cares about others in the industry... too many people are too concerned about how other people operate in their business.


Sorry, commenter, you couldn’t be more wrong. While nothing in business, or very little if at all, should infuriate you, as a member of an industry, any industry, you should be concerned about how the industry is tarnished by bad behavior. Especially an industry like recruiting that exists mainly on it’s reputation for good will.


In a very early draft of the Avoiding the Big Mistake presentation I treated the recruiting industry rather harshly referring to many of those I had encountered as headhunters and resume aggregators. Now there are some fine recruiters, especially my long-time friend George Lonas, and if you are on the claims handling side of the business, Reena Moosa. But all too often my experience has been a recruiter seeing my resume for the first time gets all excited, calls me and just happens to have an assignment where I might be a perfect fit. After a thirty minute or longer phone interview I am left with the impression that my potential candidacy is being presented to the Company. Then I never hear from that recruiter again, which leaves me with three impressions:


1. The recruiter was interested in hearing stories about my former employers, which I always disappointed them because I never knock any of my employers. In fact, I am truly grateful for all of the opportunities I have had in the business and grateful to those that provided those opportunities.


2. My resume is being used by the recruiter to impress his present and prospective clients.


3. The potential employer is looking for someone just like me, just not me!


My advice to all job seekers has always been network, network, network even while employed and especially with your competitors because as your career progresses you are much more likely to find your next position through networking, rather than from a recruiter.


In all honesty I have never presented this part of the presentation, deeming it too harsh and maybe not accurate.


And then yesterday happened!


I came across what looked like a challenging opportunity on Linked In, sent a message to the recruiter who dutifully checked out my Linked IN profile and asked me to send in a full resume and a cover letter. That’s easy, as much as I work hard on my consulting business and the Avoiding the Big Mistake presentation and blog, there are a few opportunities out there that I find too challenging to turn down.


She quickly responded by requesting we have a phone call today at 3pm. The rest of my day went like this:


2:00pm - arrived home even though I had plenty to do outside the home.


2:15pm – printed out my four page resume, two page cover letter, body of our email chain and the six page job description. Thirteen pages printed, thirteen pages wasted, thirteen pages to be recycled.


2:30pm – Thoroughly reviewed the job description, made notes and wrote out questions.


2:55pm – Shut my office at home door, turned off the radio, made sure my phone was handy and waited.


3:00pm – still waiting


3:10pm – still waiting


3:20pm – still waiting


3:30pm - sent a quick email suggesting perhaps I had been confused about the day and time for the call


3:45pm – left a voice mail at the recruiter’s office


4:00pm – no response to email or voice mail


4:15pm – took a one hour power nap


Skipping ahead…


7:45pm – Still waiting and still no response to email


When I am frustrated I eat. Well when I am happy or sad or anything in between I eat, usually comfort food. My wife and I went out for a hamburger at a small, local fast food restaurant, which unless you live in South Jersey or visited the Jersey Shore of which you have never heard. There I encountered the short order cook equivalent of the non-responsive recruiter.


Cook: How would like your burgers cooked?


My wife: Medium rare please.


Me: Medium, please.


Five minutes later the cook takes one burger off of the grill and five seconds later takes the other burger off the grill.


My Wife: Which is the medium rare?


Cook: pointing to the burger that was taken off five seconds after the medium burger, that one.


Me: So the other one, which cooked for five seconds less than the medium rare, is medium?


Cook: Huh?


Me: Do you have some kind reverse gear on your grill that the longer you cook a burger the less well done it is?


Cook: Huh?


At that very moment a ceiling tile falls out of the ceiling and hits an elderly gentleman in the head.


Me: Never mind, you have bigger problems now, but I would love to have the marketing rights to your magic reverse cooking grill.


Cook: Huh?


My point is that it doesn’t matter whether you are an insurance senior executive, a recruiter or a short order cook you must have pride in what you do AND for whom who you do it. And if you deem yourself a professional anything, you should have pride in your profession, call out and if possible correct bad behavior lest you run the risk of being painted with the same brush as your less than professional counterparts.


And while I am on a rant, let me point out to the people who wrote and filmed that ridiculous car commercial where all but one of the young hockey players leave the vehicle, and quickly grab their bags out of the rear compartment that they need not be in any hurry. They have apparently forgotten to bring their hockey sticks. Tough game to play without a stick! Also tough the fit all those bags AND Sticks in a small SUV.


And to add insult to injury, the kid who is almost left behind because he is playing on his phone while everyone is running out of the car, leaves the car and runs into the arena without even having a hockey bag.


Oh vey!


Nest week: Don't treat the symptoms, Treat the disease!


As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.

Our Latest Blog Entry

April 6, 2018

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT YOUR FELLOW PROFESSIONALS BAD BEHAVIOR


I came across a post on Linked In this afternoon posted by a recruiter lamenting the fact that she was thanked profusely by a candidate for notifying him that his interview did not go well and he was no longer under consideration for the position. The candidate emailed, I think, “Thank you so much for giving me an update. I have never received an update from other agencies."


The recruiter/poster then wrote: “THAT INFURIATES ME.

Not the fact that he emailed me to thank me (that was very nice)- it's the fact that other agencies never update him when he's not selected for jobs after he invests time into the process. Notifying candidates of rejection should be a simple common courtesy.”


Of course, I agree with her. But a rather frequent and often entertaining commenter had a different message, writing, “don't let anything other recruiters do INFURIATE you... just do things right yourself who cares about others in the industry... too many people are too concerned about how other people operate in their business.


Sorry, commenter, you couldn’t be more wrong. While nothing in business, or very little if at all, should infuriate you, as a member of an industry, any industry, you should be concerned about how the industry is tarnished by bad behavior. Especially an industry like recruiting that exists mainly on it’s reputation for good will.


In a very early draft of the Avoiding the Big Mistake presentation I treated the recruiting industry rather harshly referring to many of those I had encountered as headhunters and resume aggregators. Now there are some fine recruiters, especially my long-time friend George Lonas, and if you are on the claims handling side of the business, Reena Moosa. But all too often my experience has been a recruiter seeing my resume for the first time gets all excited, calls me and just happens to have an assignment where I might be a perfect fit. After a thirty minute or longer phone interview I am left with the impression that my potential candidacy is being presented to the Company. Then I never hear from that recruiter again, which leaves me with three impressions:


1. The recruiter was interested in hearing stories about my former employers, which I always disappointed them because I never knock any of my employers. In fact, I am truly grateful for all of the opportunities I have had in the business and grateful to those that provided those opportunities.


2. My resume is being used by the recruiter to impress his present and prospective clients.


3. The potential employer is looking for someone just like me, just not me!


My advice to all job seekers has always been network, network, network even while employed and especially with your competitors because as your career progresses you are much more likely to find your next position through networking, rather than from a recruiter.


In all honesty I have never presented this part of the presentation, deeming it too harsh and maybe not accurate.


And then yesterday happened!


I came across what looked like a challenging opportunity on Linked In, sent a message to the recruiter who dutifully checked out my Linked IN profile and asked me to send in a full resume and a cover letter. That’s easy, as much as I work hard on my consulting business and the Avoiding the Big Mistake presentation and blog, there are a few opportunities out there that I find too challenging to turn down.


She quickly responded by requesting we have a phone call today at 3pm. The rest of my day went like this:


2:00pm - arrived home even though I had plenty to do outside the home.


2:15pm – printed out my four page resume, two page cover letter, body of our email chain and the six page job description. Thirteen pages printed, thirteen pages wasted, thirteen pages to be recycled.


2:30pm – Thoroughly reviewed the job description, made notes and wrote out questions.


2:55pm – Shut my office at home door, turned off the radio, made sure my phone was handy and waited.


3:00pm – still waiting


3:10pm – still waiting


3:20pm – still waiting


3:30pm - sent a quick email suggesting perhaps I had been confused about the day and time for the call


3:45pm – left a voice mail at the recruiter’s office


4:00pm – no response to email or voice mail


4:15pm – took a one hour power nap


Skipping ahead…


7:45pm – Still waiting and still no response to email


When I am frustrated I eat. Well when I am happy or sad or anything in between I eat, usually comfort food. My wife and I went out for a hamburger at a small, local fast food restaurant, which unless you live in South Jersey or visited the Jersey Shore of which you have never heard. There I encountered the short order cook equivalent of the non-responsive recruiter.


Cook: How would like your burgers cooked?


My wife: Medium rare please.


Me: Medium, please.


Five minutes later the cook takes one burger off of the grill and five seconds later takes the other burger off the grill.


My Wife: Which is the medium rare?


Cook: pointing to the burger that was taken off five seconds after the medium burger, that one.


Me: So the other one, which cooked for five seconds less than the medium rare, is medium?


Cook: Huh?


Me: Do you have some kind reverse gear on your grill that the longer you cook a burger the less well done it is?


Cook: Huh?


At that very moment a ceiling tile falls out of the ceiling and hits an elderly gentleman in the head.


Me: Never mind, you have bigger problems now, but I would love to have the marketing rights to your magic reverse cooking grill.


Cook: Huh?


My point is that it doesn’t matter whether you are an insurance senior executive, a recruiter or a short order cook you must have pride in what you do AND for whom who you do it. And if you deem yourself a professional anything, you should have pride in your profession, call out and if possible correct bad behavior lest you run the risk of being painted with the same brush as your less than professional counterparts.


And while I am on a rant, let me point out to the people who wrote and filmed that ridiculous car commercial where all but one of the young hockey players leave the vehicle, and quickly grab their bags out of the rear compartment that they need not be in any hurry. They have apparently forgotten to bring their hockey sticks. Tough game to play without a stick! Also tough the fit all those bags AND Sticks in a small SUV.


And to add insult to injury, the kid who is almost left behind because he is playing on his phone while everyone is running out of the car, leaves the car and runs into the arena without even having a hockey bag.


Oh vey!


Nest week: Don't treat the symptoms, Treat the disease!


As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.

Our Latest Blog Entry

March 14, 2018

TREAT THE DISEASE NOT THE SYMPTOM


Dunkin’ Donuts made news recently saying that to speed up their service, Dunkin’ Donuts would be eliminating about one third of their menu offerings. This is a classic case of treating the symptoms, not the disease.


Dunkin’ Donuts’ variety of menu offerings was not the cause of slow service at most DD restaurants. Slow service was a symptom of what is for DD the real disease - absentee ownership and poor management. The long lines in store or at the drive thru are symptoms not the disease. It is not that the customers had too many choices or were taking too long to decide, it is poor management that is providing the slow service.


You ‘ve seen it at most fast food outlets, five or six employees milling around while one or two handles most transactions. There is no sense of urgency among the employees because there is either no one on sight to demand it (ownership) or no one to see that service is properly executed (management).


Of course, my experience with Dunkin’ Donuts is as a customer, one of their most loyal customers, despite their service shortcomings.


My expertise lies in the management of the insurance business and I have seen many companies also fall victim to treating the symptoms, not the disease.


Case in point - a company experiences a poor audit, or a series of poor audits and not surprisingly, deteriorating underwriting results. To fix this, the company reorganizes itself to move responsibility for the underwriters from the branch managers to the product line managers, usually at remote locations, a change from on sight oversight to by and large absentee management.


Prior to the reorganization the company had a system of peer review audits which should have revealed the patterns of deficient behavior prior to the actual annual audits. But where the branch managers held the underwriters responsible for eliminating the deficiencies the product line managers decided “fixing” the files would be the responsibility of the underwriting assistants and trainees. Therefore, accountability went out the window, along with underwriting profits. And with no one on-sight to drive production, new and renewal premium income decreased, but that’s a subject for another day.


Poor audits were the symptom, losing a boatload of money, or speaking more professionally, failing to provide the shareholders with an adequate return on equity was the disease. 


The fix that was instituted failed to address the real problem, because most likely to this day, the company doesn’t recognize its real problem.


The company has created a structure that doesn’t best meet its objectives (underwriting profitability). Members of the underwriting teams report to different people within the company. For example, underwriting assistants are part of underwriting services, not underwriting, which created an us vs them culture. There was little to none cooperation between the best underwriters, the actuaries, the underwriting service team and the branch managers. Everyone had their fiefdom and co-operation was sacrificed to maintain the unworkable structure. This disjointed underwriting structure causes poor underwriting audits, (symptom) and more importantly, poor underwriting results (disease).


Well now that we have fixed that problem lets go get coffee and a doughnut.


But please don’t take too long to order, we’ve already lost the bowtie doughnut, the French roll and the tuna salad sandwich.


Pray tell, will the beloved Boston Crème doughnut be the next to go?


As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.

Our Latest Blog Entry

April 6, 2018

THE THREE-LEGGED STOOL


From our most recent blog post at www.avoidingthebigmistake.com, “Treat the Disease, Not the Symptoms” (March 14, 2018), “And with no one on-sight to drive production, new and renewal premium income decreased, but that’s a subject for another day.”


Welcome to another day!


Let’s discuss a company’s need to continue to drive new income, while simultaneously working to improve its chances of creating profit from that income. An insurance company is like a stool. With four legs fully functioning you have stability. With three legs, chaos, very likely leading to collapse. Ever try to sit on a three-legged stool?


The four legs of an insurance company stool are:


1. Underwriting discipline – from risk selection, pricing from actuaries, to a marketing plan that supports and delivers the desired submissions including underwriting assistants that assemble the policies that accurately reflect exposure and pricing. There is a co-ordination necessary among these sub-disciplines that creates a profitable return on equity.


2. Claims Handling – efficient and effective claims handling that pays verifiable losses quickly, honestly and effectively and uses the knowledge gained from paying a loss to reduce future losses.


3. Competent and forward looking administrative management, be it from senior executives from all disciplines to the heads of administrative disciplines, such as human resources, facilities management, accounting etc. Administrative management, lead by the CEO, COO or whoever, must drive the cooperation and coordinate the efforts of all disciplines if the company is going to succeed. Without strong management the various fiefdoms work to further their own interests without regard to the overall best interest of the company.


4. New and renewal business premium, income, the lifeblood of any organization. Business enterprises need revenue in the same fashion your important bodily functions need oxygen. Your body can not function when deprived of oxygen for any significant amount of time, and neither can your business.


Yet throughout history we find companies trying to do the nearly impossible…shrink their way to profitability. If that were possible or if following that route provided even a reasonable chance to succeed, we might today be celebrating some wonderful comeback stories, such as The Home Insurance Company, Phico, The A&P grocery chain, Circuit City and many other no longer existing businesses too numerous to mention.


Why?


Well it is an easy if not obviously short-sighted way to cut your losses and momentarily satisfy an equally short-sighted parent company management. I imagine that a conversation like this has occurred many times over the course of history:


Company Management: “We are losing money on (fill in the blank) so we are no longer writing (fill in the blank).


Parent Company: OK. But make sure you reduce your expenses to offset the resulting decrease in revenue from no longer writing (fill in the blank).


Problem solved?


Yes?


No, absolutely not! Problem not solved, in fact this conversation often marks the beginning of the end of the business entity. And you can blame the parent company’s bland response as much as anything else for what will likely be the ultimate demise of the company.


What the parent company should be asking is, if you have been writing this (fill in the blank) for so long, selling both our clients and your corporate supporters on your expertise in this field, why are you no longer making any money on this business? Granted external changes to the business climate at times change the likely profitability picture of (fill in the blank). But wasn’t it the responsibility of the company’s day to day management to anticipate and respond to these changes along the way, rather than throw up their hands suddenly and say, in the words of some famous boxer whose name I can’t and don’t want to recall, “No mas”!


And a declaration of “no mas!” has disastrous consequences for many people. One such company laid off about one-quarter of its work force across several disciplines. Not surprisingly, most of the marketing staff were the first ones to go. Oxygen? Who needs it? Let’s just further cut our expenses to keep the parent company happy.


Of course, it would be an over-simplification to think that companies just make one mistake. Poor choices abound such as retaining senior people who plan on stepping down soon at the expense of harder working employees who planned on staying for a much longer time frame. The senior people will retire and the talent drain, as newly hired people struggle without effective day to day leadership, becomes yet another senior management excuse for poor operating results.


I don’t blame the company’s senior management for the tepid response from the parent company. Those surviving senior managers are just extending their careers until they reach retirement age, find lucrative consulting gigs, or whatever, which has probably been their priority for some time.


I blame the parent company for failing to realize that the ineffective day to day leadership those senior managers provided, which led to creating or failing to recognize or head off a problem to begin with, makes the same people an unlikely choice to move the company successfully in a course correction.


Thinking that would work, is the management equivalent of trying to sit on a three-legged stool.


As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.

Our Latest Blog Entry

May 22, 2018

WHO LOVES YOU BABY? AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHO DOESN’T! (*with apologies to Telly Savalas)


But first a disclaimer: Nothing you are about to read should leave you with the impression that I am advocating giving your employer: past, present or future, ​anything less than your best effort. In fact, give at a minimum 100% effort, 150% or more if possible. You owe your employer, and equally as important, your co-workers and customers your best effort always, in each and every endeavor, but…


Your Boss is not your friend. It would be disrespectful to treat he or she as your friend, no matter how friendly you may be with each other. Being “friends” may infringe on what your Boss has to say to you and makes you less likely to say to your Boss what you really think. And if you have heard my presentation “Avoiding the Big Mistake”, you know how important expressing an honest, knowledge-based opinion, in a respectful tone, is to the future of the entire enterprise, and certainly to your career and future well-being.


Similarly, your co-workers and customers are not your friends. You can be, indeed should be, both friendly and approachable, but understand there is a difference between “friends” and people with whom you share a friendly relationship.


I learned this lesson the hard way, and because I am a stubborn oaf, had to learn the lesson repeatedly throughout my career. To wit:


I once had a Boss who lured me away from a Company where I had spent nearly 20 years, to hurt our mutual former Boss, and then he fired me less than two years later over a series of relatively minor disagreements.


I worked for people who encouraged me to spend a majority of my time on the road, while simultaneously eroding my position in the Company and within my Branch. Then after their most immediate problems were fixed, they stood idly by while one of their empty suit hires conspired with an underwriter I salvaged off an addiction related scrap heap to eliminate my position.


At one Company I received a glowing verbal performance review in August, only to be let go in September. At another Company I was given two promotions in sixteen months, suffered through an ill-fated reorganization, only to be told the Company concluded I wouldn’t be an effective leader in the reorganized structure. I was shown the door two months after giving my honest opinion about the reorganization when encouraged to do so by senior management, and thirty of my former co-workers were let go within months. Even in the unlikely event they were right about my ability to lead in the new structure, I still recognize a poorly conceived reorganization plan, one that would be unsuccessful, when I see one.


In all but one of the examples cited above I considered, incorrectly so, that these Bosses were my friends. Don’t misunderstand, for the most part these were all nice people, and I am never completely without fault but in almost all cases I would have placed the likelihood that I was about to be let go a couple of months before the fact, as remote.


So, who does love you?


Your spouse or significant other, your children, parents, close relatives and a small handful of friends, some of whom may have started as co-workers. Your Bosses, well, they love you until they don’t.


I’ve worked in and around the insurance industry for forty years and I can count on my fingers the number of people in the industry that will always return my call, and still have one finger free to pinky swear to something. I won’t name names, but I hope they know how important their friendship is to me.


Perhaps it is a natural part of getting older but each year I appreciate our annual get together of friends, especially with Fred Lizzi, John Raucci, and Nat DeTomaso, among the group of friends I have enjoyed since grade school in Brooklyn more and more. And I was thrilled when one of my high school friends found me on Linked In last year. Eric and Celeste Deger, and Charity and I have enjoyed several dinners this past year, where the conversation was as enjoyable as the food.


Inspired by Eric, I located another high school friend, Jim Wedick, a retired FBI Agent in California. Shortly after re-connecting with Jim I watched him on TV as a guest on Laura Ingraham’s program. Eric, Jim and I comprised three-fifths of our bowling team. A fourth member, Billy Wunder tragically died in college, and I continue to search for the missing link on our team - Nick Vitale.


If you know Nick, please ask him to give me a call.


*Telly Svalas was an actor who appeared as the lead character in “Kojack”,a TV series that ran from 1973-1978. Kojack was a “A bald, lollipop sucking police detective with a fiery righteous attitude” according to the IMBd website and my recollection, who’s catch phrase was “Who loves you, baby?”



As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.

Our Latest Blog Entry

June 26, 2018

SHOULDN’T WE ALL BE MORE LIKE CHARLES?

In a farewell note to his fans on June 8th Charles Krauthammer, who passed away last week, wrote to his fans, “I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.”

Shouldn’t we all feel like this in our last days on earth?


Compare Krauthammer’s sentiments to the two most recent celebrity suicides – Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. While I am sure that each had their personal demons, it would appear to those of us on the outside looking in that both Ms. Spade and Mr. Bourdain had found some wonderful good fortune to combine with their respective talents to live a life that should have been envied.

So why weren’t Bourdain and Spade happy?


And why was Krauthammer so at peace with his life in which he faced the misfortune of suffering a tragic accident at age 22 that left him a paraplegic?

I don’t know why Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were so distraught that they took their own lives as each had reached the pinnacle of success in their respective careers, but I suspect I know why Charles Krauthammer was so at peace with himself. Krauthammer spoke the truth, spoke his mind, after using his superior intellect to form an opinion, he wasn’t shy about stating that opinion, on the print and broadcast forums upon which he was employed. Regular readers of the “Avoidingthebigmistake.com” blog know how strongly I feel about the importance of telling the truth, rather than what your employer, or in Charles’ case, listener, want to hear.

Krauthhammer wrote, “

I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking. I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny.”

I believe that the truth, stated as Krauthammer believed, after considerable thought and weighing the arguments for and against certainly set Charles free. I believe my propensity to say things I believed to be true, for which I have paid a professional price on more than one occasion, has set me free.


But what about you?


Why aren’t you happy and at peace with the life you lead?


The psychobabble of surrounding yourself with positive people and ridding your life of negative people is certainly part of the equation. But our world has changed, in part for the better but regarding our interaction with others, not so much. Look around the next restaurant or coffee shop you are in and notice how many tables are filled with more than one person, staring at their phones or laptops rather than talking to their tablemates. Or how many people do the same, sitting by themselves, without any attempt to connect with another person.


Today, the negative influences that affect your happiness are more external. Ironically technology further insulates us in a world where we are much better equipped to connect with one another, more so than ever before. Cell phones, texts, Snapchat, Facebook, etc. make it easy to know about one another, but more difficult to really connect with one another. Make friends, real friends, reconnect with old friends, spend time with family members that brought you so many happy memories, and you will be happier.


In my opinion the media causes unhappiness as well. Not the fictional TV shows, they are what they have always been – fiction. The real news, driven by ideological inbecilles on both the left and right, bombards us daily with reasons to be unhappy. The left claims we elected an idiot as President, and if you voted for him you are deplorable. On the right, well we are always right, not really but if we keep saying it over and over again it will become fact, especially if the faux journalists in the media pounds it into your head constantly.


Want to be happier?


Turn off your damn TV!


Here is what you will be missing because underneath it all, the news today is the same as yesterday and will be the same tomorrow. The Democrats will be guilty of everything they accuse everyone else of doing, usually more so. The feckless Republican leadership will remain unable to pass any significant legislation that will actually benefit the average American. Each are fully bought and paid for by their extremists’ wings, environmental lunatics, cheap labor enthusiasts, etc. take your pick it doesn’t really matter.


The Governors of most states will have to raise taxes, even though they pledged that revenue generated by legalizing marijuana, sports betting, fill in the blank blah, blah, blah, will make future tax hikes a thing of the past. That’s funny it has never seemed to work like that before!


A number of celebrities will expose just how ignorant they are when speaking words not written for them by professional writers.


In sports, the Yankees will win, the Mets will lose. It pains me to type that; I being a diehard Mets fan.


The weather will change, just wait for it.


So turn off your damn TV. Switch your radio to sports talk or better yet music. Laugh at the funny stuff on Facebook, Twitter etc. and ignore everything else. Smile at a stranger, maybe even engage in a real conversation.


Read a book! Charles Krauthammer’s collection of essays, released in 2015 and titled, “Things That Matter”, would be a great place to start.

WHO LOVES YOU BABY? AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHO DOESN’T! (*with apologies to Telly Savalas)


But first a disclaimer: Nothing you are about to read should leave you with the impression that I am advocating giving your employer: past, present or future, ​anything less than your best effort. In fact, give at a minimum 100% effort, 150% or more if possible. You owe your employer, and equally as important, your co-workers and customers your best effort always, in each and every endeavor, but…


Your Boss is not your friend. It would be disrespectful to treat he or she as your friend, no matter how friendly you may be with each other. Being “friends” may infringe on what your Boss has to say to you and makes you less likely to say to your Boss what you really think. And if you have heard my presentation “Avoiding the Big Mistake”, you know how important expressing an honest, knowledge-based opinion, in a respectful tone, is to the future of the entire enterprise, and certainly to your career and future well-being.


Similarly, your co-workers and customers are not your friends. You can be, indeed should be, both friendly and approachable, but understand there is a difference between “friends” and people with whom you share a friendly relationship.


I learned this lesson the hard way, and because I am a stubborn oaf, had to learn the lesson repeatedly throughout my career. To wit:


I once had a Boss who lured me away from a Company where I had spent nearly 20 years, to hurt our mutual former Boss, and then he fired me less than two years later over a series of relatively minor disagreements.


I worked for people who encouraged me to spend a majority of my time on the road, while simultaneously eroding my position in the Company and within my Branch. Then after their most immediate problems were fixed, they stood idly by while one of their empty suit hires conspired with an underwriter I salvaged off an addiction related scrap heap to eliminate my position.


At one Company I received a glowing verbal performance review in August, only to be let go in September. At another Company I was given two promotions in sixteen months, suffered through an ill-fated reorganization, only to be told the Company concluded I wouldn’t be an effective leader in the reorganized structure. I was shown the door two months after giving my honest opinion about the reorganization when encouraged to do so by senior management, and thirty of my former co-workers were let go within months. Even in the unlikely event they were right about my ability to lead in the new structure, I still recognize a poorly conceived reorganization plan, one that would be unsuccessful, when I see one.


In all but one of the examples cited above I considered, incorrectly so, that these Bosses were my friends. Don’t misunderstand, for the most part these were all nice people, and I am never completely without fault but in almost all cases I would have placed the likelihood that I was about to be let go a couple of months before the fact, as remote.


So, who does love you?


Your spouse or significant other, your children, parents, close relatives and a small handful of friends, some of whom may have started as co-workers. Your Bosses, well, they love you until they don’t.


I’ve worked in and around the insurance industry for forty years and I can count on my fingers the number of people in the industry that will always return my call, and still have one finger free to pinky swear to something. I won’t name names, but I hope they know how important their friendship is to me.


Perhaps it is a natural part of getting older but each year I appreciate our annual get together of friends, especially with Fred Lizzi, John Raucci, and Nat DeTomaso, among the group of friends I have enjoyed since grade school in Brooklyn more and more. And I was thrilled when one of my high school friends found me on Linked In last year. Eric and Celeste Deger, and Charity and I have enjoyed several dinners this past year, where the conversation was as enjoyable as the food.


Inspired by Eric, I located another high school friend, Jim Wedick, a retired FBI Agent in California. Shortly after re-connecting with Jim I watched him on TV as a guest on Laura Ingraham’s program. Eric, Jim and I comprised three-fifths of our bowling team. A fourth member, Billy Wunder tragically died in college, and I continue to search for the missing link on our team - Nick Vitale.


If you know Nick, please ask him to give me a call.


*Telly Svalas was an actor who appeared as the lead character in “Kojack”,a TV series that ran from 1973-1978. Kojack was a “A bald, lollipop sucking police detective with a fiery righteous attitude” according to the IMBd website and my recollection, who’s catch phrase was “Who loves you, baby?”



As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.

Our Latest Blog Entry

August 6, 2018

WHAT DOES THE SUNSHINE DELI IN NORTH FREEHOLD NJ AND THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY HAVE IN COMMON?


(But first, a disclaimer: This is not a political blog so please don’t let the title fool you. This is a blog about the insurance business, what I have experienced in the insurance business, and my experience with other business, primarily from the viewpoint of a consumer.)


With that out of the way, the question remains, what similar trait is shared by both the North Freehold New Jersey’s Sunshine Deli and the Democratic political party?

The answer: Neither has anything on their shelves to sell to the consumer. Let me explain.


About six months ago I ran into a gentlemen who proudly announced that he had purchased and was about to re-open the Sunshine Deli. He invited me to stop by, knowing that I am frequently out of the house in the mid-day period and even more frequently become hungry and look for someplace to eat. 


I took him up on his offer about a month later and the ham and cheese sandwich, hero, hoagie, grinder or whatever how you refer to large submarine hero in your neighborhood was indeed first rate. But looking around the store, most of the shelves and refrigerated units were empty.


When I asked why, the gentlemen replied he did not have the funds necessary, or the credit, to completely stock the shelves the way his competitors could, but he hoped to be able to do so soon. I knew this was a bad plan. His many competitors, other small businesses, regional chains such as WAWA and Quick Check, and the grocery stores in the area were in fact fully stocked. Furthermore, while the hero sandwich I had in the Sunshine Deli was excellent, that product alone would not let him grow against the inferior but much better known sandwich shops such as Subway or Jersey Mike’s, which is the best of an otherwise poor lot indeed.


Sure enough, when I went back to the Sunshine Deli a couple of months later, it was closed – as in out of business!


Today’s Democratic Party has the same problem, they have nothing on their shelves. The Democrat’s one big product, their deli sandwiches so to speak, is resistance to anything favored by President Trump and his supporters. Otherwise the shelves are barren, the refrigerators dark and warm and the parking lot is empty. The Democrat party used to stand for the working man but the policies they practiced under President Obama, resulting in lost jobs and a downward spiral in wages put the lie to that notion.


While always big advocates of tax and spend policies, in practice Democrats taxed the working man or the business owner, labeling many as “the rich”, to the benefit of non-taxpayers. Today their policies are looking more and more like the failed Socialism of downtrodden places such as Venezuela and Cuba. Scandinavians are cited as successful example of socialism but the truth is much of the wealth in those countries was developed before they became Socialist states, and Scandinavians who have immigrated to North America enjoy a much higher standard of living then their countryman who have stayed home.


If you have nothing of interest to anyone to sell, how do you stay in business?


The answer is you do not. Similar to the Sunshine deli and the Democratic Party, insurance companies without significant product to sell cannot stay in business either.


PHICO, from my personal experience, is an example of a company failing because it had literally nothing to sell. Owned by the Pennsylvania Hospital Association as it was then known, I was astounded to find when I joined the Company that not one of its owners insured their facility with PHICO - The insurance company that they owned. The Company management at the time rejected my suggestion that we cajole its owners to also be customers and/or that we expand to insuring other medical facilities. PHICO was left with its ham and cheese hero, insuring Physicians, in large groups who specialized in using their potential numbers of clients to ratchet down the rates beyond what was needed to pay claims. Not surprisingly, PHICO was declared insolvent about two year after I departed.


When I started American Marketing Center of Pennsylvania I learned from the lessons of PHICO’s demise. We easily could have rested our laurels on a growing book of nursing facility business for which we had an exclusive program, but we did not. I brought in a gentlemen who specialized in auto dealers, a woman who had a lot of experience with small accounts and binding authority business and brought over a large book of New York habitational business with which I was familiar from my days running Landmark Insurance Companies NY operation. With multiple revenue streams, AMC of PA thrived and we were able to flip it, along with the three other AMCs to CRC/BB&T four years later.


A more recent example is Brian Dupperault’s challenge to rebuild AIG. Previous management sold off many of AIG’s alternative revenue streams, leaving Commercial P&C as the lion’s share of its business. Too narrowly focused AIG continues to report losses and decreased revenue. Dupperault, who I know by reputation only, is too smart not to develop additional revenue streams for AIG, and I would bet on his success.


I would not bet on a reinvented PHICO, having another sandwich at the Sunshine Deli or the current path of the Democratic Party, unless they stock their shelves with 

products for which people will pay fair value.


Anyone else getting hungry? 


As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.


WHO LOVES YOU BABY? AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHO DOESN’T! (*with apologies to Telly Savalas)


But first a disclaimer: Nothing you are about to read should leave you with the impression that I am advocating giving your employer: past, present or future, ​anything less than your best effort. In fact, give at a minimum 100% effort, 150% or more if possible. You owe your employer, and equally as important, your co-workers and customers your best effort always, in each and every endeavor, but…


Your Boss is not your friend. It would be disrespectful to treat he or she as your friend, no matter how friendly you may be with each other. Being “friends” may infringe on what your Boss has to say to you and makes you less likely to say to your Boss what you really think. And if you have heard my presentation “Avoiding the Big Mistake”, you know how important expressing an honest, knowledge-based opinion, in a respectful tone, is to the future of the entire enterprise, and certainly to your career and future well-being.


Similarly, your co-workers and customers are not your friends. You can be, indeed should be, both friendly and approachable, but understand there is a difference between “friends” and people with whom you share a friendly relationship.


I learned this lesson the hard way, and because I am a stubborn oaf, had to learn the lesson repeatedly throughout my career. To wit:


I once had a Boss who lured me away from a Company where I had spent nearly 20 years, to hurt our mutual former Boss, and then he fired me less than two years later over a series of relatively minor disagreements.


I worked for people who encouraged me to spend a majority of my time on the road, while simultaneously eroding my position in the Company and within my Branch. Then after their most immediate problems were fixed, they stood idly by while one of their empty suit hires conspired with an underwriter I salvaged off an addiction related scrap heap to eliminate my position.


At one Company I received a glowing verbal performance review in August, only to be let go in September. At another Company I was given two promotions in sixteen months, suffered through an ill-fated reorganization, only to be told the Company concluded I wouldn’t be an effective leader in the reorganized structure. I was shown the door two months after giving my honest opinion about the reorganization when encouraged to do so by senior management, and thirty of my former co-workers were let go within months. Even in the unlikely event they were right about my ability to lead in the new structure, I still recognize a poorly conceived reorganization plan, one that would be unsuccessful, when I see one.


In all but one of the examples cited above I considered, incorrectly so, that these Bosses were my friends. Don’t misunderstand, for the most part these were all nice people, and I am never completely without fault but in almost all cases I would have placed the likelihood that I was about to be let go a couple of months before the fact, as remote.


So, who does love you?


Your spouse or significant other, your children, parents, close relatives and a small handful of friends, some of whom may have started as co-workers. Your Bosses, well, they love you until they don’t.


I’ve worked in and around the insurance industry for forty years and I can count on my fingers the number of people in the industry that will always return my call, and still have one finger free to pinky swear to something. I won’t name names, but I hope they know how important their friendship is to me.


Perhaps it is a natural part of getting older but each year I appreciate our annual get together of friends, especially with Fred Lizzi, John Raucci, and Nat DeTomaso, among the group of friends I have enjoyed since grade school in Brooklyn more and more. And I was thrilled when one of my high school friends found me on Linked In last year. Eric and Celeste Deger, and Charity and I have enjoyed several dinners this past year, where the conversation was as enjoyable as the food.


Inspired by Eric, I located another high school friend, Jim Wedick, a retired FBI Agent in California. Shortly after re-connecting with Jim I watched him on TV as a guest on Laura Ingraham’s program. Eric, Jim and I comprised three-fifths of our bowling team. A fourth member, Billy Wunder tragically died in college, and I continue to search for the missing link on our team - Nick Vitale.


If you know Nick, please ask him to give me a call.


*Telly Svalas was an actor who appeared as the lead character in “Kojack”,a TV series that ran from 1973-1978. Kojack was a “A bald, lollipop sucking police detective with a fiery righteous attitude” according to the IMBd website and my recollection, who’s catch phrase was “Who loves you, baby?”



As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.

Our Latest Blog Entry

October 4, 2018

YOU RING, WE BRING*

How working at Eddie’s Fruit Exchange shaped much of my personality.


I was born at Maimonides Hospital, in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn. I know the correct spelling of the word borough is indeed borough, but in Brooklyn, Boro Park is spelled Boro Park. The first home I remember was on 56th Street, between 12th and 13th Avenues. We lived on the first floor of a multi-family house. Our entrance was around the back, through the driveway. I remember sitting on top of a radiator, looking out the window, when the heat was off. In the days before air conditioning, the window would be open with a screen in front of it. In some respects, the screen blocked my view, so I quickly figured out how to open it when no one was looking. One day, while leaning over to see something beneath the window I fell out of the window onto the ground. It could have been a great escape, but truthfully, I had nothing to escape from. The door to get back into the apartment however, was locked. I had to ring the doorbell to get back inside, which quite shocked my Mother when she opened the door, and there I was! 


Before I was born, my Father, Eddie, and my Uncle John, one of his four brothers, opened a fruit store on 13th Avenue, between 55th and 56th streets, called Eddie’s Fruit Exchange. Boro Park was a great place to own a fruit store, the neighborhood split pretty much between Italians and Jews, both nationalities being hardy consumers of fruits and vegetables. Alas owning a fruit store was neither my Father or my Uncle John’s lifelong ambition and they sold the business to their youngest brother, my Uncle Albert, and two young men who worked for them, Anthony Petrosino and Gerard Contino. This trio, Uncle Al, Gerard or G-Man as his friends called him, and Anthony owned the fruit store form the early 1950’s throughout much of the 80s and in my family they have always been referred to as “the boys”. My Uncle John opened a trucking business and my Father became the buyer, wholesaler in other words, that supplied fruit to Eddie’s Fruit Exchange, and other fruit stores in Brooklyn. That was good because it meant that my Dad, my Uncle John, another one of my dad’s brothers, Uncle Chris who was a bus driver and later became a NYC Fireman, my Uncle Joe Maggi, Rudy’s Dad, and many of their friends all gathered at the fruit store from time to time, giving me the opportunity to spend time with all of them. In fact, I spent countless hours with these gentlemen and in ways too numerous to count, they influenced the person I was to become, and to the extent that I have some good qualities, the person that I am today.


Getting from our house to the fruit store was easy. Make a right at the end of the driveway, walk to the corner of 56th St and 13th Ave, cross the street at the corner, walk past the pizzeria on the opposite corner, and next door, the second store on the block was Eddie’s Fruit Exchange. You never needed to go into the store to know it was a fruit store as the wide sidewalk in front of the store was filled with fruit stands and homemade display cases, usually made from the wooden boxes that most everything came in, in those pre-plastic days. Crossing the street at the corner of 56th St and 13th Ave was a challenge, especially the first time I remember doing it by myself. My first attempt was nearly my last. I was riding my little peddle powered red fire truck outside, remember this was in the early to mid-50s, when kids were still allowed to go out and play by themselves or with their friends, when I got to the corner and decided to visit the fruit store. I waited for the light to change, peddled half way across the street, saw the light change again, and froze. Horns were blaring, drivers yelling, and I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Gerard”, who somehow heard me above the commotion and in his unflappable manner, retrieved me and my fire truck from the middle of the street and brought me inside the store. Disaster averted for that day, but my parents knew I would continue to want to go to the fruit store, so they came up with a plan, which no longer included my red firetruck. I would walk to the corner, call for Gerard, or Anthony or Uncle Al and they would tell me when to cross the street.


Shortly thereafter we moved from 56th Street to 73rd Street and then to 75th Street, but I never missed an opportunity to go to the fruit store. As I got older, and bigger, I was a husky kid, the boys put me to work. I would sweep the floor, sometimes rake the store because fruit stores traditionally put saw dust on the floor, for some reason I do not understand to this day. I soon progressed to separating the 50-pound sacks of potatoes into 5 pound bags, entering each of the two walk in box freezers to bring out whatever was needed to restock the displays, helping to unload the truck, which at that point was usually driven by my Uncle Al, and later by me when he had hernia surgery, and anything else that needed doing. I overcame my typical young person’s shyness by waiting on the customers and to this day I have an uncanny ability to do math in my head because Uncle Al taught me how to read and calculate the prices based on the old-fashioned scales, not electronic, a line for each of the 16 ounces in a pound. String beans were my favorite because they were usually 19 cents a pound, so half a pound was 10 cents, a quarter was 5 cents and each ounce was either 1 cent or 2 depending on how it looked to me that day. Watermelon, 5, 6 or 7 cents a pound was my least favorite because it was hard to figure out how many times the five-pound scale went around to tell if it was 9 pounds or 14 pounds or 19 pounds. 


But more to the point, here is what I learned from each of the men mentioned above:


G-Man, Gerard Contino, taught me that it was “OK” to kid around with the customers. My favorite of his bits was when a customer would ask him to pick out a nice, sweet melon for Sunday dinner and in all seriousness, Gerard would ask the customer, “What time”? The customer would think for a second and say, two o’clock. Gerard would then slap a few melons until coming up with the perfect melon for 2pm Sunday dinner. As I was suppressing my laughter, Gerard would give me a knowing wink that said, how in the world could anyone choose the perfect melon for a dinner at a precise time, one, two or three days in advance. To this day I am not sure if any of the customers knew of the game, or how many thought G was a melon picking savant.


Uncle Albert taught me strength in times of personal tragedy. He and my Aunt Bella’s third child, Vincent, was diagnosed with Leukemia when he was two years old, eventually passing away after being frequently hospitalized a couple of years later. I made sure to go straight to the fruit store after school to make it easier for my Uncle to visit Vincent most afternoons. My Uncle’s attitude, cheerful, optimistic, friendly, never changed but I know spending all day thinking and answering questions about Vincent had to be a burden equal to spending about 15 hours a day at the fruit store. Through it all he fulfilled his obligations to his family and his partners without fail.


Anthony Petrosino was one of those people whose presence dominated the room, without trying.

He was young, tall, handsome and a great story teller. Yet he was one of those people who when you were talking to him, made you feel like you were the most important person. He showed me how to share the spotlight with everyone else and that success was a team effort. He could be sarcastic, yet his quick grin let you know he was kidding. And he was generous, buying everything I was selling through the years - chocolate bars, ads in our high school yearbook to insurance on the store.


From my Father I learned compassion. Not the first impression you would gather from a man with a very sarcastic bent and who often referred to people as imbeciles. Gerard had a gambling problem and on one of his Sunday morning visits to our home he came to say goodbye because he was about to abandon everything to go on the run. My Dad spent hours talking him out of running and together with some of the low-level mafioso who frequented the fruit store, worked out a way for G-Man to pay off his debts.


I am every one of my nephews and nieces favorite Uncle. I learned the value of spending time with my nieces and nephews from my Uncle Chris. When he was a bus driver, and his route passed the fruit store, he would invite me onto the bus to ride back to the garage with him, before driving me home. We went crabbing together in Jamaica Bay, the one in Queens NY, not the island. My Mother made a killer crab sauce and when Uncle Chris and I went crabbing there was pressure to catch enough crabs to feed the hordes who would descend on my parents’ home when we returned. I must confess there were a couple of occasions where we fell short and had to stop at a seafood store on the way home to supplement our catch.


My Uncle John taught me how to not take everything so seriously, sometimes it was good to just spend a couple of hours doing what you felt like doing, rather than working. One of my favorite days occurred during the Mets miracle pennant race in the summer of 1969. Uncle John and Uncle Joe Maggi dropped by the fruit store to pick me up and the three of us went to an afternoon Mets game against the Cubs. I also learned that ticket sellers often held back the best tickets, but a discreet $10 bill would open a whole new world of seating options. 


I’m pretty sure I said thank you many times to these gentlemen, role models before the term became common place. If you are all reading this in the afterlife, thank you again.


*You ring, we bring, the title of this post was the marketing slogan that appeared on the store awning and every page of every order book at Eddie’s Fruit Exchange. My Father claimed he made it up, but I didn’t believe him. But now that I think about it I have never seen that slogan anywhere else. Good work Dad!



As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.


WHO LOVES YOU BABY? AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHO DOESN’T! (*with apologies to Telly Savalas)


But first a disclaimer: Nothing you are about to read should leave you with the impression that I am advocating giving your employer: past, present or future, ​anything less than your best effort. In fact, give at a minimum 100% effort, 150% or more if possible. You owe your employer, and equally as important, your co-workers and customers your best effort always, in each and every endeavor, but…


Your Boss is not your friend. It would be disrespectful to treat he or she as your friend, no matter how friendly you may be with each other. Being “friends” may infringe on what your Boss has to say to you and makes you less likely to say to your Boss what you really think. And if you have heard my presentation “Avoiding the Big Mistake”, you know how important expressing an honest, knowledge-based opinion, in a respectful tone, is to the future of the entire enterprise, and certainly to your career and future well-being.


Similarly, your co-workers and customers are not your friends. You can be, indeed should be, both friendly and approachable, but understand there is a difference between “friends” and people with whom you share a friendly relationship.


I learned this lesson the hard way, and because I am a stubborn oaf, had to learn the lesson repeatedly throughout my career. To wit:


I once had a Boss who lured me away from a Company where I had spent nearly 20 years, to hurt our mutual former Boss, and then he fired me less than two years later over a series of relatively minor disagreements.


I worked for people who encouraged me to spend a majority of my time on the road, while simultaneously eroding my position in the Company and within my Branch. Then after their most immediate problems were fixed, they stood idly by while one of their empty suit hires conspired with an underwriter I salvaged off an addiction related scrap heap to eliminate my position.


At one Company I received a glowing verbal performance review in August, only to be let go in September. At another Company I was given two promotions in sixteen months, suffered through an ill-fated reorganization, only to be told the Company concluded I wouldn’t be an effective leader in the reorganized structure. I was shown the door two months after giving my honest opinion about the reorganization when encouraged to do so by senior management, and thirty of my former co-workers were let go within months. Even in the unlikely event they were right about my ability to lead in the new structure, I still recognize a poorly conceived reorganization plan, one that would be unsuccessful, when I see one.


In all but one of the examples cited above I considered, incorrectly so, that these Bosses were my friends. Don’t misunderstand, for the most part these were all nice people, and I am never completely without fault but in almost all cases I would have placed the likelihood that I was about to be let go a couple of months before the fact, as remote.


So, who does love you?


Your spouse or significant other, your children, parents, close relatives and a small handful of friends, some of whom may have started as co-workers. Your Bosses, well, they love you until they don’t.


I’ve worked in and around the insurance industry for forty years and I can count on my fingers the number of people in the industry that will always return my call, and still have one finger free to pinky swear to something. I won’t name names, but I hope they know how important their friendship is to me.


Perhaps it is a natural part of getting older but each year I appreciate our annual get together of friends, especially with Fred Lizzi, John Raucci, and Nat DeTomaso, among the group of friends I have enjoyed since grade school in Brooklyn more and more. And I was thrilled when one of my high school friends found me on Linked In last year. Eric and Celeste Deger, and Charity and I have enjoyed several dinners this past year, where the conversation was as enjoyable as the food.


Inspired by Eric, I located another high school friend, Jim Wedick, a retired FBI Agent in California. Shortly after re-connecting with Jim I watched him on TV as a guest on Laura Ingraham’s program. Eric, Jim and I comprised three-fifths of our bowling team. A fourth member, Billy Wunder tragically died in college, and I continue to search for the missing link on our team - Nick Vitale.


If you know Nick, please ask him to give me a call.


*Telly Svalas was an actor who appeared as the lead character in “Kojack”,a TV series that ran from 1973-1978. Kojack was a “A bald, lollipop sucking police detective with a fiery righteous attitude” according to the IMBd website and my recollection, who’s catch phrase was “Who loves you, baby?”



As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.

Our Latest Blog Entry

January 1, 2019



SOMETIMES LEADERSHIP INVOLVES BELIEVING IN PEOPLE MORE THAN THEY BELIEVE IN THEMSELVES.


I would like to start my first blog post of 2019 by wishing you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. As some of you know my 2018 ended with a thud, literally, as I suffered numerous injuries as a result of a fall, face down, onto an unforgiving concrete floor. So, while the emphasis will always be on the happy and prosperous, I know first hand that to have a real good 2019, you need to be blessed by good health, as I hope to be in a couple more weeks.


You also need something else that I have always been blessed with – good friends, of which I have many. I have been struggling to find a way to say thank you on this forum, but the post would go on forever, and probably dissuade anyone not on the list from ever turning to this page again. I toyed with the idea of publicly thanking many of the people who have hired me through the years, and while appreciative, some people used me until I no longer served their purpose, so goodbye.


Those of us on Linked In seem to be obsessed with leadership. While trying to pare the list of people down to a reasonable number I discovered something I hadn’t thought about before, hence the title, “sometimes leadership involves believing in people more than they believe in themselves”.


My insurance career began when I was fortunate enough to enroll in an insurance course on Staten Island’s Wagner College where I met Bob Helbock, or as I often called him, the professor. A very large man with a personality even larger than his body, Bob had that confident outgoing personality that allowed him to make wearing a polka dot shirt with striped pants look like a fashion statement. I had no intention of taking the State Insurance Broker licensing exam until Bob convinced me that it may someday prove helpful. I disliked school in general, and tests in particular but Bob Helbock said I would pass the State exam and he was right.


Bob was also right about the insurance license someday proving itself to be helpful. It was only six weeks later when that day came, like a lot of fortunate, unplanned events, came seemingly out of nowhere. I was driving a school bus, had time to kill in the mid-day period, and needed to purchase car insurance. I was in Manhattan and at the advice of my cousin Rudy, walked into any building on John Street, found a name I thought would be interesting and had the good fortune to meet the second of the insurance people who had more faith in me than I had myself, Michael Orrei. Mike had just left his longtime employer and started his own agency, so when I went to see him, Mike had lots of time to talk to me. In passing, I mentioned that I had a broker’s license. We struck a deal, I would fill the school bus down time working for Mike. He would teach me the business and pay me commissions on any business I brought into the Agency, and occasionally, lunch. A year later I was in the business fulltime and a couple of years later ran Mike’s business when he became ill, purchased it before he passed away, and sold it when I joined AIG.


If I hadn’t met Bob Helbock and Mike Orrei, and if they hadn’t convinced me that I could and should consider a career in insurance, I might have spent my entire life driving a school bus, never reaching the potential I truly possessed.


In the corporate world, very little happens in a one-person vacuum, therefore the next two gentlemen are a tandem, as are those that follow. I was a non-descript insurance broker in NYC, one of thousands, making a good living but I wanted to work for an insurance company. Warren Benn ran the NY location of a division of Lexington Insurance Company, called Midtown Risk Specialists. Roland Manozzi was in Boston and managed the brokerage operation of the Risk Specialist Companies, nationwide. I interviewed with each individually, and surprisingly was called back for a second interview with them together. I would like to tell you that I wowed them, but I probably did not. Years later Roland confided that they hired me because I honestly answered the question, “Do you know many brokers?”, with the answer, “No, but I know where they are at and I am not afraid to cold call”. I had never cold called in my life, probably never used the phrase before, but Warren Benn and Roland Manozzi each had more faith in me than I had, followed a gut feeling that I would succeed, and thanks to them, I did.


I had a great career, and a great time at AIG in general and at Midtown Risk Specialists, today known as Risk Specialists of NY. I was the number two person in the Company and in 1986 was given the opportunity to move to Texas and run Southern Risk Specialists for four years before being called back to NY to take over the top job at Risk Specialists of NY. Warren Benn retired, and unfortunately passed away a short time later. Roland was laid off during one of those periodic, cold hearted purges that have become somewhat characteristic of any Kevin Kelley run organization, and I was passed over for a promotion to run all of the Risk Specialists Companies nationwide. I was pissed, and I decided ten years in essentially the same job was enough. Joe Weidemann, was Lexington’s President who had moved me to Dallas had taken over as President of American Home. Joe wanted me to run his program department. Kevin Kelley convinced Jeff Greenberg that I was not ready, and Jeff’s response was, “than find something for him that he wants to do, because I don’t want to lose him”.


Walter Mooney, who at the time ran Lexington’s Property underwriting was about to move from Boston to NYC to take over Commerce and Industry, an AIG Company that is now known as AIG Environmental. When Walter got wind of this exchange he said, “I want to take someone I know and trust with me, I’ll take Joe”. So, I moved from RSO/NY to C&I as the Director of Marketing and confident of Walter Mooney. A year later, Jeff Greenberg was struggling with his idea for a middle market, cross discipline underwriting team for middle market business, which he had named AI Express. Jeff had kept a copy of a memo he had me write about a year earlier on why the original version of AI Express wasn’t working and how it could work and named me the National Director of AI Express.


AI Express was, and remains to this day, the best job I ever had in the business, which is ironic because many of my AIG co-workers thought it would be the worst job and I would be out the door within a year. And without the support of Jeff Greenberg, who supported me when the occasional dispute with a Company President or RVP arose, they probably would have been right. And without Walter Mooney’s faith in me, that I could lead the marketing effort that converted C&I into AIG Environmental, although the actual name change happened after I had moved on, I probably would have left AIG.


Jeff Greenberg, Walter Mooney, Roland Manozzi, Warren Benn, Michael Orrei, Bob Helbock – I can’t thank you enough. As leaders you had more faith in me than I had in myself and gave me the opportunity to grow into the roles you selected for me. Instilling confidence, going with your gut feelings, taking chances and supporting your choices my friends, is an essential component of leadership that needs to be emphasized in any conversations about leadership.


There needs to be a part two to this blog post, and there will be soon. Thanks for reading. Check out the entire blog page archives at www.avoidingthebibgmistake.com and once again, my best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.


As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.


WHO LOVES YOU BABY? AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHO DOESN’T! (*with apologies to Telly Savalas)


But first a disclaimer: Nothing you are about to read should leave you with the impression that I am advocating giving your employer: past, present or future, ​anything less than your best effort. In fact, give at a minimum 100% effort, 150% or more if possible. You owe your employer, and equally as important, your co-workers and customers your best effort always, in each and every endeavor, but…


Your Boss is not your friend. It would be disrespectful to treat he or she as your friend, no matter how friendly you may be with each other. Being “friends” may infringe on what your Boss has to say to you and makes you less likely to say to your Boss what you really think. And if you have heard my presentation “Avoiding the Big Mistake”, you know how important expressing an honest, knowledge-based opinion, in a respectful tone, is to the future of the entire enterprise, and certainly to your career and future well-being.


Similarly, your co-workers and customers are not your friends. You can be, indeed should be, both friendly and approachable, but understand there is a difference between “friends” and people with whom you share a friendly relationship.


I learned this lesson the hard way, and because I am a stubborn oaf, had to learn the lesson repeatedly throughout my career. To wit:


I once had a Boss who lured me away from a Company where I had spent nearly 20 years, to hurt our mutual former Boss, and then he fired me less than two years later over a series of relatively minor disagreements.


I worked for people who encouraged me to spend a majority of my time on the road, while simultaneously eroding my position in the Company and within my Branch. Then after their most immediate problems were fixed, they stood idly by while one of their empty suit hires conspired with an underwriter I salvaged off an addiction related scrap heap to eliminate my position.


At one Company I received a glowing verbal performance review in August, only to be let go in September. At another Company I was given two promotions in sixteen months, suffered through an ill-fated reorganization, only to be told the Company concluded I wouldn’t be an effective leader in the reorganized structure. I was shown the door two months after giving my honest opinion about the reorganization when encouraged to do so by senior management, and thirty of my former co-workers were let go within months. Even in the unlikely event they were right about my ability to lead in the new structure, I still recognize a poorly conceived reorganization plan, one that would be unsuccessful, when I see one.


In all but one of the examples cited above I considered, incorrectly so, that these Bosses were my friends. Don’t misunderstand, for the most part these were all nice people, and I am never completely without fault but in almost all cases I would have placed the likelihood that I was about to be let go a couple of months before the fact, as remote.


So, who does love you?


Your spouse or significant other, your children, parents, close relatives and a small handful of friends, some of whom may have started as co-workers. Your Bosses, well, they love you until they don’t.


I’ve worked in and around the insurance industry for forty years and I can count on my fingers the number of people in the industry that will always return my call, and still have one finger free to pinky swear to something. I won’t name names, but I hope they know how important their friendship is to me.


Perhaps it is a natural part of getting older but each year I appreciate our annual get together of friends, especially with Fred Lizzi, John Raucci, and Nat DeTomaso, among the group of friends I have enjoyed since grade school in Brooklyn more and more. And I was thrilled when one of my high school friends found me on Linked In last year. Eric and Celeste Deger, and Charity and I have enjoyed several dinners this past year, where the conversation was as enjoyable as the food.


Inspired by Eric, I located another high school friend, Jim Wedick, a retired FBI Agent in California. Shortly after re-connecting with Jim I watched him on TV as a guest on Laura Ingraham’s program. Eric, Jim and I comprised three-fifths of our bowling team. A fourth member, Billy Wunder tragically died in college, and I continue to search for the missing link on our team - Nick Vitale.


If you know Nick, please ask him to give me a call.


*Telly Svalas was an actor who appeared as the lead character in “Kojack”,a TV series that ran from 1973-1978. Kojack was a “A bald, lollipop sucking police detective with a fiery righteous attitude” according to the IMBd website and my recollection, who’s catch phrase was “Who loves you, baby?”



As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.

Our Latest Blog Entry

February 2. 2020

BLOCKING AND TACKLING


I wanted to post this before the Super Bowl, when in my mind the football season mercifully ends and baseball’s spring training begins in less than 15 days. The idea, and title, came to me while watching an early season Monday night game between the then struggling Philadelphia Eagles, and my New York Football Giants, whose struggle lasted all season. The game was brutal, missed tackles, missed blocking assignments – it reminded me of what Casey Stengel asked about the team he managed, the 1962 New York Mets. Casey’s statement, which became the title of a book about the season was simply to ask, “Can’t anyone here play this game?”

In my career I have taken over responsibility for one under-performing underwriting unit after another. But what I learned was simply this, just about every underwriter could do the basic blocking and tackling required to properly underwrite a risk, but without an explanation of what else blocking and tackling consists of, they were somewhere between clueless and unwilling to fully invest themselves in the task at hand.

I lead every first meeting with a new underwriting team with a simple but seldom expressed message – forget everything you think you know about why you are here and let me explain to you why you are here. The Company invests money and capital on you; Your job is to return to the Company an above average return on equity. The fact that you can underwrite, evaluate risks and offer terms and conditions that one would expect to provide the Company with a better than reasonable chance to produce an underwriting profit is a given. Internal and external audits, peer reviews, casual conversations, etc. convince the most skeptical managements of your underwriting ability. Guess what! That is only the blocking function for production underwriters.

The tackling function is where the Company gains a better return on equity, premium growth which when combined with tackling produces a growing underwriting profit and swells the bottom line. And when you produce those results for the Company, you gain income, raises, bonuses, promotions, those elusive perks we all crave.

Unless I am even more unusual a person than most people think I am, I always believed it was the tackling, the relationship building activities, sourcing new leads, new prospects, attending events, lunches, ball games etc. that was truly the fun part of the business. But it is more than just fun. It was work, it was the mission, it was the right time to answer the producer’s unspoken question - who are you and why should I do business with you.

I’ve had the pleasure, and frustration, of twice working for Kevin Kelley, former head of Lexington, Iron Shore and now a senior executive at Liberty Mutual. While some of our disagreements are legendary, especially on what really constitutes acquisition costs, we always agreed on one thing, that in order to select the best risks you had to see the best risks, as many as possible. Kevin approaches this with a multi-channel distribution model, retail brokers, wholesale brokers, MGAs, all in competition with one another. My approach was different. After explaining to a producer what we wanted to write, I want to see every risk that might remotely fit our wheelhouse.

The President at one Company for whom I worked vehemently disagreed. But the culture of that Company was based on maintaining the senior managements level of comfort, not accomplishment. A culture, which I busted in my office of, “do just enough to keep your job”. And his sycophantic VP of Marketing fell right in line, making new appointments difficult and constantly querying about which producers were unproductive. At that Company wasting the Company’s time was a bigger problem then giving the Company business that cost the Company money.

If you do not think that your ability to add to the Company’s bottom line, increase the Owners’ return on equity is important to your future, consider this. Early in my career I promoted a less tenured underwriter into the property Manager’s role, bypassing a much longer tenured underwriter. To his credit, the senior employee asked me why and I explained to him – Bill you probably have forgotten more about property underwriting than Rob will ever know, but Rob does something you do not do. Rob adds business to the books that we have a reasonable expectation of being profitable. Your very profitable book of business hasn’t grown in years.

Enjoy the Super Bowl folks!




As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.


WHO LOVES YOU BABY? AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHO DOESN’T! (*with apologies to Telly Savalas)


But first a disclaimer: Nothing you are about to read should leave you with the impression that I am advocating giving your employer: past, present or future, ​anything less than your best effort. In fact, give at a minimum 100% effort, 150% or more if possible. You owe your employer, and equally as important, your co-workers and customers your best effort always, in each and every endeavor, but…


Your Boss is not your friend. It would be disrespectful to treat he or she as your friend, no matter how friendly you may be with each other. Being “friends” may infringe on what your Boss has to say to you and makes you less likely to say to your Boss what you really think. And if you have heard my presentation “Avoiding the Big Mistake”, you know how important expressing an honest, knowledge-based opinion, in a respectful tone, is to the future of the entire enterprise, and certainly to your career and future well-being.


Similarly, your co-workers and customers are not your friends. You can be, indeed should be, both friendly and approachable, but understand there is a difference between “friends” and people with whom you share a friendly relationship.


I learned this lesson the hard way, and because I am a stubborn oaf, had to learn the lesson repeatedly throughout my career. To wit:


I once had a Boss who lured me away from a Company where I had spent nearly 20 years, to hurt our mutual former Boss, and then he fired me less than two years later over a series of relatively minor disagreements.


I worked for people who encouraged me to spend a majority of my time on the road, while simultaneously eroding my position in the Company and within my Branch. Then after their most immediate problems were fixed, they stood idly by while one of their empty suit hires conspired with an underwriter I salvaged off an addiction related scrap heap to eliminate my position.


At one Company I received a glowing verbal performance review in August, only to be let go in September. At another Company I was given two promotions in sixteen months, suffered through an ill-fated reorganization, only to be told the Company concluded I wouldn’t be an effective leader in the reorganized structure. I was shown the door two months after giving my honest opinion about the reorganization when encouraged to do so by senior management, and thirty of my former co-workers were let go within months. Even in the unlikely event they were right about my ability to lead in the new structure, I still recognize a poorly conceived reorganization plan, one that would be unsuccessful, when I see one.


In all but one of the examples cited above I considered, incorrectly so, that these Bosses were my friends. Don’t misunderstand, for the most part these were all nice people, and I am never completely without fault but in almost all cases I would have placed the likelihood that I was about to be let go a couple of months before the fact, as remote.


So, who does love you?


Your spouse or significant other, your children, parents, close relatives and a small handful of friends, some of whom may have started as co-workers. Your Bosses, well, they love you until they don’t.


I’ve worked in and around the insurance industry for forty years and I can count on my fingers the number of people in the industry that will always return my call, and still have one finger free to pinky swear to something. I won’t name names, but I hope they know how important their friendship is to me.


Perhaps it is a natural part of getting older but each year I appreciate our annual get together of friends, especially with Fred Lizzi, John Raucci, and Nat DeTomaso, among the group of friends I have enjoyed since grade school in Brooklyn more and more. And I was thrilled when one of my high school friends found me on Linked In last year. Eric and Celeste Deger, and Charity and I have enjoyed several dinners this past year, where the conversation was as enjoyable as the food.


Inspired by Eric, I located another high school friend, Jim Wedick, a retired FBI Agent in California. Shortly after re-connecting with Jim I watched him on TV as a guest on Laura Ingraham’s program. Eric, Jim and I comprised three-fifths of our bowling team. A fourth member, Billy Wunder tragically died in college, and I continue to search for the missing link on our team - Nick Vitale.


If you know Nick, please ask him to give me a call.


*Telly Svalas was an actor who appeared as the lead character in “Kojack”,a TV series that ran from 1973-1978. Kojack was a “A bald, lollipop sucking police detective with a fiery righteous attitude” according to the IMBd website and my recollection, who’s catch phrase was “Who loves you, baby?”



As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.

Our Latest Blog Entry

April 27, 2019

The Tyranny of State Sponsored Vices and Why It Matters to Your Business


Isn’t it ironic that the very people we elect to protect our interests have decided instead to prey on our vices?


State governments, always searching for new revenue to (for the most part) waste have found a bonanza or two in recent years – legalized recreational marijuana and legalized sports wagering.

I am in many ways a Libertarian. If you want to smoke pot, smoke pot. If you want to gamble, go ahead. But when State governments get involved by growing new legions of pot smokers and gambling addicts, I object!


And I don’t mean I object in a trivial way, you know the way the entire city of Denver, Colorado smells like the seventh night of a Phish concert at an inadequately ventilated Madison Square Garden. Nor do I object to fantasy sports, Super Bowl box pools, bracket pools and legalized and highly regulated horse racing. In fact, except for fantasy sports, I participate as well. And I’m all for people trying to relieve persistent and chronic pain resorting to marijuana.


But I object when people compare pot smoking to drinking, especially when driving. There is an accurate sobriety test to arrest those driving while intoxicated. No such test exists at this time for driving while being wasted on pot. Should you, your family, your employees, your company vehicles and other assets be put at risk because you are now sharing the road with drivers who are impaired by smoking legal pot?


While I don’t object to marijuana for pain management, it is increasingly obvious that smoking pot becomes a gateway drug to other more lethal drugs, and anti-social behavior. Scientists, physicians and psychiatrists know this, but their warnings are drowned out by extensive, and expensive, lobbying campaigns. As Alex Berenson writes in the January 2019 edition of Imprimis, “Almost everything you think you know about cannabis, almost everything advocates and the media have told you for a generation, is wrong.” Two examples:

1. Research on individual cannabis users consistently shows that people who used cannabis in 2001 “were almost three times as likely to use opiates three years later (American Journal of Psychiatry, January 2018). So much for the “use of medical marijuana to reduce opiate use” ruse.

2. And Berenson writes in the same Imprimis article, “After an exhaustive review, the National Academy of Medicine found in 2017 that cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychosis; the higher the use, the greater the risk.” 


Writing in a recent New York Post article, Betsy McCaughey, former New York State Lt Governor and healthcare advocate said, “Legalizing marijuana for adults leads to more teens and preteens using, too, University of Washington researchers report. More teenagers use marijuana daily than smoke cigarettes or drink booze, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Adolescent pot users have trouble in school because they suffer memory impairment, loss of learning ability and reasoning skills and possibly a permanent decline in IQ, the institute reports. No wonder it’s called “dope.” 


Marijuana damages the hippocampus area of the brain, which impacts memory. Scientists who tracked nearly 4,000 young adults into their 40s confirmed that marijuana use does lasting damage to memory, according to research in the Journal of the American Medical Association published in 2016. Chronic teen marijuana users have dismal futures, reports the American Public Health Association. They stop their education sooner, are less likely to have full-time jobs as adults and have lower socio-economic potential. The politicians pushing legalization are mum about that.” 


It doesn’t portend well for the future of our workforce!


New Jersey and Pennsylvania are now inundated with “legal’ sports betting parlors - at casinos, at race tracks and online. The advertising “come-on” is tempting - $500 to 1 odds on your first bet with the a no risk guarantee. Bet a dollar and win $500. The catch is the $500 is deposited in your now active betting account and can not be withdrawn until you have bet in excess of $500. The only thing you can do with your winnings is lose, and the bookmakers hope, become hooked on gambling in the process. 


Ask yourself these questions:

Going forward, do you want a work force consumed by sports gambling, lack of focus, poor memory and schizophrenia?

And how much longer will you be able to decline to employ, or terminate employees who fail drug tests when the most commonly used gateway drug is made legal?



As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.


WHO LOVES YOU BABY? AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHO DOESN’T! (*with apologies to Telly Savalas)


But first a disclaimer: Nothing you are about to read should leave you with the impression that I am advocating giving your employer: past, present or future, ​anything less than your best effort. In fact, give at a minimum 100% effort, 150% or more if possible. You owe your employer, and equally as important, your co-workers and customers your best effort always, in each and every endeavor, but…


Your Boss is not your friend. It would be disrespectful to treat he or she as your friend, no matter how friendly you may be with each other. Being “friends” may infringe on what your Boss has to say to you and makes you less likely to say to your Boss what you really think. And if you have heard my presentation “Avoiding the Big Mistake”, you know how important expressing an honest, knowledge-based opinion, in a respectful tone, is to the future of the entire enterprise, and certainly to your career and future well-being.


Similarly, your co-workers and customers are not your friends. You can be, indeed should be, both friendly and approachable, but understand there is a difference between “friends” and people with whom you share a friendly relationship.


I learned this lesson the hard way, and because I am a stubborn oaf, had to learn the lesson repeatedly throughout my career. To wit:


I once had a Boss who lured me away from a Company where I had spent nearly 20 years, to hurt our mutual former Boss, and then he fired me less than two years later over a series of relatively minor disagreements.


I worked for people who encouraged me to spend a majority of my time on the road, while simultaneously eroding my position in the Company and within my Branch. Then after their most immediate problems were fixed, they stood idly by while one of their empty suit hires conspired with an underwriter I salvaged off an addiction related scrap heap to eliminate my position.


At one Company I received a glowing verbal performance review in August, only to be let go in September. At another Company I was given two promotions in sixteen months, suffered through an ill-fated reorganization, only to be told the Company concluded I wouldn’t be an effective leader in the reorganized structure. I was shown the door two months after giving my honest opinion about the reorganization when encouraged to do so by senior management, and thirty of my former co-workers were let go within months. Even in the unlikely event they were right about my ability to lead in the new structure, I still recognize a poorly conceived reorganization plan, one that would be unsuccessful, when I see one.


In all but one of the examples cited above I considered, incorrectly so, that these Bosses were my friends. Don’t misunderstand, for the most part these were all nice people, and I am never completely without fault but in almost all cases I would have placed the likelihood that I was about to be let go a couple of months before the fact, as remote.


So, who does love you?


Your spouse or significant other, your children, parents, close relatives and a small handful of friends, some of whom may have started as co-workers. Your Bosses, well, they love you until they don’t.


I’ve worked in and around the insurance industry for forty years and I can count on my fingers the number of people in the industry that will always return my call, and still have one finger free to pinky swear to something. I won’t name names, but I hope they know how important their friendship is to me.


Perhaps it is a natural part of getting older but each year I appreciate our annual get together of friends, especially with Fred Lizzi, John Raucci, and Nat DeTomaso, among the group of friends I have enjoyed since grade school in Brooklyn more and more. And I was thrilled when one of my high school friends found me on Linked In last year. Eric and Celeste Deger, and Charity and I have enjoyed several dinners this past year, where the conversation was as enjoyable as the food.


Inspired by Eric, I located another high school friend, Jim Wedick, a retired FBI Agent in California. Shortly after re-connecting with Jim I watched him on TV as a guest on Laura Ingraham’s program. Eric, Jim and I comprised three-fifths of our bowling team. A fourth member, Billy Wunder tragically died in college, and I continue to search for the missing link on our team - Nick Vitale.


If you know Nick, please ask him to give me a call.


*Telly Svalas was an actor who appeared as the lead character in “Kojack”,a TV series that ran from 1973-1978. Kojack was a “A bald, lollipop sucking police detective with a fiery righteous attitude” according to the IMBd website and my recollection, who’s catch phrase was “Who loves you, baby?”



As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.

Our Latest Blog Entry

June 19, 2019

I Am Always Reminded How Fortunate I Am On Father's Day


I have been extremely fortunate in my life, a great wife, three wonderful children, surrounded by loved ones, relatives and friends alike, good health, and a career of which I am very proud despite its many ups and downs.

I was never prouder of my personal life than this past Father’s Day, when one of my children gave me a card that read on the outside. “There once was a dad who had a daughter. Swung her. Spun her. Chased her. Caught her. Hugged her. Loved her. Praised her. Taught her. Oh what happiness he brought her!” 


On the inside the card read, “Happy Dad’s Day from that Daughter. Love you Dad.”


More touching was the personal note she included with the card that read, “You are one of the hardest working people I know and continue to be an inspiration to me. I’m so lucky to have a dad like you!.”


As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.


WHO LOVES YOU BABY? AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHO DOESN’T! (*with apologies to Telly Savalas)


But first a disclaimer: Nothing you are about to read should leave you with the impression that I am advocating giving your employer: past, present or future, ​anything less than your best effort. In fact, give at a minimum 100% effort, 150% or more if possible. You owe your employer, and equally as important, your co-workers and customers your best effort always, in each and every endeavor, but…


Your Boss is not your friend. It would be disrespectful to treat he or she as your friend, no matter how friendly you may be with each other. Being “friends” may infringe on what your Boss has to say to you and makes you less likely to say to your Boss what you really think. And if you have heard my presentation “Avoiding the Big Mistake”, you know how important expressing an honest, knowledge-based opinion, in a respectful tone, is to the future of the entire enterprise, and certainly to your career and future well-being.


Similarly, your co-workers and customers are not your friends. You can be, indeed should be, both friendly and approachable, but understand there is a difference between “friends” and people with whom you share a friendly relationship.


I learned this lesson the hard way, and because I am a stubborn oaf, had to learn the lesson repeatedly throughout my career. To wit:


I once had a Boss who lured me away from a Company where I had spent nearly 20 years, to hurt our mutual former Boss, and then he fired me less than two years later over a series of relatively minor disagreements.


I worked for people who encouraged me to spend a majority of my time on the road, while simultaneously eroding my position in the Company and within my Branch. Then after their most immediate problems were fixed, they stood idly by while one of their empty suit hires conspired with an underwriter I salvaged off an addiction related scrap heap to eliminate my position.


At one Company I received a glowing verbal performance review in August, only to be let go in September. At another Company I was given two promotions in sixteen months, suffered through an ill-fated reorganization, only to be told the Company concluded I wouldn’t be an effective leader in the reorganized structure. I was shown the door two months after giving my honest opinion about the reorganization when encouraged to do so by senior management, and thirty of my former co-workers were let go within months. Even in the unlikely event they were right about my ability to lead in the new structure, I still recognize a poorly conceived reorganization plan, one that would be unsuccessful, when I see one.


In all but one of the examples cited above I considered, incorrectly so, that these Bosses were my friends. Don’t misunderstand, for the most part these were all nice people, and I am never completely without fault but in almost all cases I would have placed the likelihood that I was about to be let go a couple of months before the fact, as remote.


So, who does love you?


Your spouse or significant other, your children, parents, close relatives and a small handful of friends, some of whom may have started as co-workers. Your Bosses, well, they love you until they don’t.


I’ve worked in and around the insurance industry for forty years and I can count on my fingers the number of people in the industry that will always return my call, and still have one finger free to pinky swear to something. I won’t name names, but I hope they know how important their friendship is to me.


Perhaps it is a natural part of getting older but each year I appreciate our annual get together of friends, especially with Fred Lizzi, John Raucci, and Nat DeTomaso, among the group of friends I have enjoyed since grade school in Brooklyn more and more. And I was thrilled when one of my high school friends found me on Linked In last year. Eric and Celeste Deger, and Charity and I have enjoyed several dinners this past year, where the conversation was as enjoyable as the food.


Inspired by Eric, I located another high school friend, Jim Wedick, a retired FBI Agent in California. Shortly after re-connecting with Jim I watched him on TV as a guest on Laura Ingraham’s program. Eric, Jim and I comprised three-fifths of our bowling team. A fourth member, Billy Wunder tragically died in college, and I continue to search for the missing link on our team - Nick Vitale.


If you know Nick, please ask him to give me a call.


*Telly Svalas was an actor who appeared as the lead character in “Kojack”,a TV series that ran from 1973-1978. Kojack was a “A bald, lollipop sucking police detective with a fiery righteous attitude” according to the IMBd website and my recollection, who’s catch phrase was “Who loves you, baby?”



As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.

Our Latest Blog Entry

May 11, 2020


Avoiding the Big Mistake Covid 19 edition


I had suspended publication of new Avoiding the Big Mistake blog posts figuring that the world was consumed with the Corona Virus Pandemic and my little blog, by comparison, seemed trivial. But this morning I decided that there were some big mistakes that could be avoided that relate directly to the pandemic.


First a disclaimer, well actually four disclaimers:

1. Everyone should, and most have, taken this virus seriously.

2. Every death is a tragedy.

3. If you are comfortable continuing to self-quarantine, do so.

4. Our healthcare workers, and other folks deemed essential, have done a tremendous job keeping us afloat.


Unlike most of my blog posts and my “in person” presentations I am going to break with tradition and tell you upfront which big mistake I am urging you to avoid – do not count on the government to save, help or even alleviate the pain of this pandemic. What Ronald Reagan proclaimed in the 80s remains true today, “Government is not the solution, in many ways, it is the problem.


A couple of videos which I hope to post on the website www.AvoidingtheBigMistake.com hilariously illustrate the point. In the first a young lady reads through the different directives coming from the government, each ensuing directive somewhat contradicting the previous directive. The second video is called the Corona Virus Horse Race and within the race caller’s play by play you can see how various government entities and individuals had at one point led the pack until overtaken by another until the surprise winner at the finish line. Spoiler alert: the horse named “My Bank Account” finishes last.


In all seriousness, let us look at how the government response, federal, state and local and the political and media elite has let us down. First the virus was nothing to worry about. Recall how President Trump’s moratorium on Americans travelling to and from China in January was called drastic and xenophobic? Do you recall Nancy Pelosi urging San Franciscans to attend the Chinese New Year celebration or Dr Faucci as late as March telling us it was perfectly safe to go on a cruise? How about New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio urging people to attend a Broadway play or a movie, eat in a restaurant and then shutting down the city the following week. And my personal favorite, the Mayor of New Orleans saying she did not cancel Mardi Gras festivities this year because no one in the federal government told her to do so! 


Go out! Stay home! What day is it?


Anything the government has told is likely to be changed within days. Other examples include the “mask” fiasco. First masks are only effective for healthcare workers, the proper mask properly worn. Then, no, everyone needs a mask or face covering. God forbid you try to enter a business establishment without one. Taking things to extremes today it is common to see people walking alone or driving in their otherwise empty vehicles wearing a mask.


Partisan bickering delayed aid to taxpayers and businesses. Schools were closed and remain so in many states, although there is ample evidence that children and otherwise healthy adults are not seriously at risk and sun light, fresh air and mingling with others helps us to develop our natural immune systems and herd immunity. Remember, New Jersey’s Health Commissioner said that everyone is going to get the virus, and so far, no one has credibly disputed her assertion.


Government solutions are sometimes just flat out wrong, sometimes with lethal consequences. In a number of states Governors and Health Department officials, in an effort to keep the hospitals from being overrun, mandated that nursing homes had to accept residents who tested positive rather than treat them in the much more appropriately equipped hospitals. In New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Washington State, upwards of 25 to 50% of the deaths from the virus were among nursing home residents. Financially, some would argue that including a $600 per week bonus to those on unemployment because of the pandemic serves as a disincentive to return to jobs when the business re-open.


Government projections, based on models when no actual experience can be computed, are flawed. And those miscast models led to panic and waste. It turns out we did not need a gazillion ventilators, a hospital ship in the harbor and the conversion of convention centers and open spaces into makeshift hospitals. 


The government cannot even reliably tell you how many victims have died because of the virus. Numbers of infections come from sources too numerous to mention, leading to double and triple counting the infected. And a system that financially rewards medical facilities for labeling any death as a Covid 19 death is ripe for fraud.


Any response from the government, especially state and local governments is going to be late. Seven weeks after the shutdown, New York City officials decided to disinfect the Subway system. Seven weeks after the shutdown New Jersey’s Department of Labor decided to open another call center and hire 130 additional claims examiners – in the next two weeks.


Lastly, this is an election year so accept nothing at face value. The Administration wants to be reelected. The opposition wants to take control. The media is in the tank for one side or the other. Journalism died with Tim Russet. Network and Cable news organizations, and formerly well-respected news publications have been caught fabricating and misrepresenting stories. The corrections are buried in the seldom read back pages. Newspapers win Pulitzer Prizes for nonsense IE the NY Times 1619 Project. Misinformation abounds.


Signs proclaiming “heroes work here” have sprung up in front of essential businesses and rightly so. Meanwhile the US House of Representatives has stayed home. “Cowards work here” should be posted at the US Capitol Building. Governors have usurped our rights while State Legislatures are either silent or complicit. Cowards work there too!


The phrase “I’m from the Government and I am here to help you” should make you shudder. The big takeaway, avoid the big mistake of thinking the government is going to save you. Save yourself. Take care of yourself and your family especially regarding your health and financial wellbeing. Accept help from the government, sure. When it happens. Seven weeks later over 30% of New Jersey taxpayers who applied for Covid 19 unemployment have yet to receive a dollar.


Check out the entire blog page archives at www.avoidingthebibgmistake.com and as always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.


As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.


WHO LOVES YOU BABY? AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHO DOESN’T! (*with apologies to Telly Savalas)


But first a disclaimer: Nothing you are about to read should leave you with the impression that I am advocating giving your employer: past, present or future, ​anything less than your best effort. In fact, give at a minimum 100% effort, 150% or more if possible. You owe your employer, and equally as important, your co-workers and customers your best effort always, in each and every endeavor, but…


Your Boss is not your friend. It would be disrespectful to treat he or she as your friend, no matter how friendly you may be with each other. Being “friends” may infringe on what your Boss has to say to you and makes you less likely to say to your Boss what you really think. And if you have heard my presentation “Avoiding the Big Mistake”, you know how important expressing an honest, knowledge-based opinion, in a respectful tone, is to the future of the entire enterprise, and certainly to your career and future well-being.


Similarly, your co-workers and customers are not your friends. You can be, indeed should be, both friendly and approachable, but understand there is a difference between “friends” and people with whom you share a friendly relationship.


I learned this lesson the hard way, and because I am a stubborn oaf, had to learn the lesson repeatedly throughout my career. To wit:


I once had a Boss who lured me away from a Company where I had spent nearly 20 years, to hurt our mutual former Boss, and then he fired me less than two years later over a series of relatively minor disagreements.


I worked for people who encouraged me to spend a majority of my time on the road, while simultaneously eroding my position in the Company and within my Branch. Then after their most immediate problems were fixed, they stood idly by while one of their empty suit hires conspired with an underwriter I salvaged off an addiction related scrap heap to eliminate my position.


At one Company I received a glowing verbal performance review in August, only to be let go in September. At another Company I was given two promotions in sixteen months, suffered through an ill-fated reorganization, only to be told the Company concluded I wouldn’t be an effective leader in the reorganized structure. I was shown the door two months after giving my honest opinion about the reorganization when encouraged to do so by senior management, and thirty of my former co-workers were let go within months. Even in the unlikely event they were right about my ability to lead in the new structure, I still recognize a poorly conceived reorganization plan, one that would be unsuccessful, when I see one.


In all but one of the examples cited above I considered, incorrectly so, that these Bosses were my friends. Don’t misunderstand, for the most part these were all nice people, and I am never completely without fault but in almost all cases I would have placed the likelihood that I was about to be let go a couple of months before the fact, as remote.


So, who does love you?


Your spouse or significant other, your children, parents, close relatives and a small handful of friends, some of whom may have started as co-workers. Your Bosses, well, they love you until they don’t.


I’ve worked in and around the insurance industry for forty years and I can count on my fingers the number of people in the industry that will always return my call, and still have one finger free to pinky swear to something. I won’t name names, but I hope they know how important their friendship is to me.


Perhaps it is a natural part of getting older but each year I appreciate our annual get together of friends, especially with Fred Lizzi, John Raucci, and Nat DeTomaso, among the group of friends I have enjoyed since grade school in Brooklyn more and more. And I was thrilled when one of my high school friends found me on Linked In last year. Eric and Celeste Deger, and Charity and I have enjoyed several dinners this past year, where the conversation was as enjoyable as the food.


Inspired by Eric, I located another high school friend, Jim Wedick, a retired FBI Agent in California. Shortly after re-connecting with Jim I watched him on TV as a guest on Laura Ingraham’s program. Eric, Jim and I comprised three-fifths of our bowling team. A fourth member, Billy Wunder tragically died in college, and I continue to search for the missing link on our team - Nick Vitale.


If you know Nick, please ask him to give me a call.


*Telly Svalas was an actor who appeared as the lead character in “Kojack”,a TV series that ran from 1973-1978. Kojack was a “A bald, lollipop sucking police detective with a fiery righteous attitude” according to the IMBd website and my recollection, who’s catch phrase was “Who loves you, baby?”



As always, thanks for viewing this blog post and your comments are always welcome.

Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

"Someday I Will" – Jimmy Buffet

February 7, 2018

“I see a white sail

skipping cross a blue bay

and I say Someday I Will

I see a young man

strumming on a green guitar

and I say Someday I Will

I don't have a plan

It's not that kind of thing

I'm not Martin Luther King

I don't have a dream

It's just sometimes I know

That's the way I'm supposed to go

I see a flying boat

and I get a lump in my throat

and I say Someday I Will

Someday

So whatever thrills you

Anything you love to do

Just say someday I will”

My life has been filled with “Someday I Will” moments.

When I was a child I enjoyed listening to the radio, not just rock and roll, all styles of music, all types of radio stations, all kinds of formats. It wasn’t until I attended Brooklyn College and found they were just starting a radio station that I developed a passion for broadcasting. I announced, Brooklyn accent and all, that “someday I will” be a radio announcer. Lo and behold, with the help of my good friend Dennis Lindquist and my first broadcasting boss, Jim Macris, a couple of years later I was hosting a morning radio program in Albany NY, rising to the position of Program Director, and I did some fill in work on country and other stations in the area.

While in Albany I was an unpaid volunteer on a public television station’s Saturday evening broadcasts of RPI hockey games and I knew I wanted to do play by play of ice hockey games. With the help of my friend Jeff Elliot and his production company, I was able to do play by play and color commentating on USA Hockey events, including Flyer’s Cup broadcasts from the old Spectrum in Philadelphia.

In our teen age years, while everyone around us was enamored with football and basketball, my cousin Rudy and I traveled to Brooklyn every weekend to play hockey. No, neither one of us ever said “someday I will” be an NHL player but we were able to convey our passion for the game to the next generation, his son and mine became high school varsity hockey players, we coached and, in my case, became a pretty good referee and spent five seasons as the Commissioner of high school hockey in Central Pennsylvania.

I’ve written about my insurance business career extensively both on Linked In and on my professional Facebook page and website www.Avoidingthebigmistake.com. My career is filled with successful “someday I will” moments, some quite surprising to people who thought of me as a quiet and sometimes modest person. Gary Conway,who went on to have a very successful career as a retail broker in Ohio, is a friend who knew me as a young teen growing up in Staten Island. Recently, Gary said he was astounded when he learned in the 1980s and 90s I was a senior executive at AIG.

I said “someday I will” be in position to rebuild some broken Risk Specialist Companies and with the help of a team of people develop Jeff Greenberg’s idea of AI Express into a business development model that has been emulated throughout the industry.

More recently I said “someday I will” be a major player in turning around the wholesale dedicated underwriting team at Ironshore, and the troubled Chicago Branch at WR Berkley’s Vela Insurance Services.

Well been there, done that.

I said, “someday I will”, while in between insurance positions, that I will work for a major league baseball team and a major sporting venue. Well I was at Citifield everyday for the Mets when they went to the World Series in 2015, and at Madison Square Garden, commonly referred to as the “world’s most famous arena”.

And I’m not done yet.

“Someday I will” lead another insurance team to unprecedented growth as a team and produce yet another generation of insurance leaders.

“Someday I will” be doing play by play for a professional baseball team. I wonder, shoutout to the owners of the Lakewood NJ Blue Claws, are you listening?

And perhaps most relevant of all, “someday I will” be traveling around the country helping up and coming business professionals have rewarding careers by avoiding the big mistake.

I wouldn’t bet against me!

Don’t need to know who

May help you make it come true

Just say someday I will

Don't have to work it all out

Don't have to tear it all apart

All you need's a place to start

And if it never worked before

Try it just once more

That's what your heart if for

Whether it's big or small

If you have a passion at all

Just say, someday I will

Someday

Someday I will

Someday I Will