Eight Business Lessons Worth Learning

This is that time of year when many of us, myself included, assess how our business year went and try to get some clarity on what changes we need to make for this new year. In this past year like no other, here are some lessons I’ve learned:

  1. No matter how well we plan and how much we want to control our lives, there will be moments in life when we are forced to activate a Plan B. Now that it’s clear that the most unexpected things can happen, maybe it makes sense to include at least a framework for a “worst case scenario” plan in case the completely unexpected occurs.
  2. For years, many companies, marketers, and advisors have talked about the need to improve their technological tools, while taking only relatively minimal and cautious action. This pandemic has forced many of us to put those plans into practice and to implement technologies way sooner than we had planned. Maybe the lesson here is to stop ruminating and start executing when we know that there are steps we can take to move our businesses forward.
  3. Avoid the transaction mindset, and develop the relationship mindset. When clients are in crisis, they will turn to the people with whom they have a relationship and in whom they have confidence. In short, we can’t be a resource for them in challenging times unless they view us as a resource in good times.
  4. Sharpen our communication skills. Advising is all about communicating well, and this year has pointed out that communication extends way beyond face-to-face communication to include clear written communication, compelling emails, a comfortable online presence, personal videos, etc. I don’t believe we can afford to limit ourselves by relying on communication skills in only one or two areas. Instead, it makes sense to experiment and see what works.
  5. Take care of ourselves. I know some advisors who are so busy trying to help others deal with this pandemic (in other words, working) that they’ve neglected their own emotional, physical, and financial health. Maybe that’s what you’ve done yourself. That’s simply not sustainable in the long term, and I encourage you to take the time – even when things improve next year and we’re back to a more normal existence – to set aside the time you need to make sure that your own needs are met.
  6. Along similar lines, it seems that this pandemic has exposed some of the underlying dysfunction in our society and in our own individual lives as well. Maybe this is the time to reevaluate some of your good and bad habits – both personal and business habits – and start focusing on eliminating some unhelpful habits and building some better, more productive ones. I’ve been doing that myself. At this year’s virtual Million Dollar Round Table Annual Meeting, I heard a presentation by James Clear, and I’ve been reading his book Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. If habit building or habit breaking are on your mind, I would encourage you to take a look at his work.
  7. If you’re interested in advancing your own education, now might be the time. Higher education is in the midst of massive change, and no doubt there will be more online offerings than ever before. Maybe that MBA you’ve been considering is closer than you think, since it’s likely you will have more flexibility in achieving it than ever before.
  8. Stay connected. With so much forced isolation, it’s more important than ever that all of the key players in our “supply chain” stay in regular and close contact. If you’re a carrier, you’ve got to let your marketers and brokers know what product and market changes are forthcoming. If you’re a marketer, now more than ever your brokers and advisors need your support, knowledge, and experience. Consider beefing up your website with the information your brokers need and putting together a weekly marketing message. If you’re an advisor, let your clients know you’re there to help. A monthly email from you keeping them informed of market changes and sharing some practical ideas can make a huge difference for them, and help you stay connected at a time when people really need it.

There are a lot more lessons I could add to this list, and I feel sure you have a few of your own. Since we’ve had to live this strange, challenging experience, I choose to take away whatever positive lessons are available to me. The important thing is to keep learning and to keep growing and to keep getting stronger.

Charles K. Hirsch, CLU, is the president of Hirsch Communications Consulting, LLC, a communications consulting operation in Florissant, MO. For many years, Chuck was the editor and publisher of Life Insurance Selling magazine, and has published several of the leading life insurance industry magazines. Chuck continues to contribute articles on a regular basis to industry publications, in addition to providing a wide range of writing, editing, content development, and marketing services through his firm. He is a regular contributor to NAILBA Now e-Newsletter as well as to Perspectives magazine.