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The AIMS Society blog is designed to provide practical, timely ideas to help insurance agencies improve results from their marketing and sales efforts. Wishing you much success!!! For even more, consider joining the AIMS Society and you'll have access to a powerful network of agents and carrier personnel focused on excellence in sales!


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A Simple Thank You

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Simple Thank You

It’s the week of Thanksgiving, the holiday one friend told me is his favorite because it’s the most inclusive American holiday—not claimed by any religion, no gifts required…and of course, delicious food. What’s not to love?

But how about the other 364 days of the year? It’s those days that lead to the real payoff of Thanksgiving: a moment to reflect and be thankful. For health, family, friends, the beauty found in the world, financial security, hobbies that enrich. Regardless the situation, there’s always something for which to give thanks. So until Thanksgiving 2015, I challenge every member of AIMS to adopt an attitude of thanks throughout the year. The negatives of daily life, will never go away, but in every situation, there is a way to turn perspective. My gas bill is high, but I am thankful for a home that is warm and secure. My commute this morning was a beast, but I am thankful for a car that is reliable and safe. My kids were unbearably loud this morning, but I am thankful for their robust health.

If I have failed myself to mention lately, I am thankful for everyone involved with the AIMS Society. For your participation, input and energy—and even your criticisms, for it means you are passionate about our mission. I wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving, some bargains on Black Friday and games to remember for your favorite football team. Whether you head out to see family and friends, welcome them to your home, or enjoy a moment of private reflection, I wish you a day of grateful celebration.

And I leave you with a few thoughts from others more eloquent:

  • “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein
  • “Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.” – The Hausa of Nigeria
  • “For each new morning with its light,
    For rest and shelter of the night,
    For health and food, for love and friends,
    For everything Thy goodness sends.”  - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tags:  AIMS Society  self-improvement  teamwork 

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It's all in how you see it

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It’s all in how you see it

Yes, it snowed.  Yes, it’s cold. Freezing, actually.

But it’s also beautiful. Really beautiful. See the picture I’ve included—that was yesterday. It doesn’t take a professional photographer to highlight what I’m talking about.

Some people focus on the first fact about our winter weather. Others choose to embrace the latter.

It’s the same old half glass/half full proposition that you’ve heard about for years. People chuckle as they consider which side of the argu

ment they lie and then go about their 

lives, gruffing about the weather or embracing the season’s change.

But I challenge you to take a moment, this November day 2014, and really consider the issue. It really is all about perspective. And it impacts not only you, but everyone you work or live with as well.

There are many articles about how to go about adopting a more positive approach. In 8 Ways to Improve Your Attitude. A positive attitude make success easy; a negative one makes success pointless.

Geoffrey James offers these great tips:

  1. Always act with a purpose…Aimless activity wastes time and energy.
  2. Stretch yourself past your limits every day…Success is like athletics; if you don't stretch yourself every day, you gradually become slow and brittle.
  3. Take action without expecting results… Take your best shot but don't obsess about the target.
  4. Use setbacks to improve your skills…the results you receive are the signposts for the results you want to achieve.
  5. Seek out those who share your positive attitude…It's a scientific fact your brain automatically imitates the behaviors of the people around you. 
  6. Don't take yourself so seriously… If you don't (or can't) laugh at yourself, I guarantee you that the people you work with are laughing behind your back!
  7. Forgive the limitations of others. High standards are important, but humans are, well, human.
  8. Say "thank you" more frequently. Achieving an "attitude of gratitude" requires more than simply being aware of what's wonderful in your life.  You must, and should, thank other people for their gifts to you, even if that gift is something as simple as a smile.

Some simple, but effective sounding ideas for making a change, if needed, or maintaining a rosy outlook if you’re already there. As the saying goes, there’s not much you can control but your attitude. It’s up to you.

James lives in Hollis, New Hampshire where it’s currently 32 degrees with wind blowing at a noticeable 10-20 miles per hour. Bet he’s having a good day, regardless.

Tags:  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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How to Say Thank You to a Vet

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, November 12, 2014
How to Say Thank You to a Vet

The nation spent yesterday expressing sincere gratitude to those who have served or are currently serving our country.

Of course, it’s important to express our gratitude—but for those who can, it’s even more important to show that gratitude.  And one of the best ways to do that is by hiring a vet.

According to, there are four primary reasons why vets stand out as employees:

  1. Loyalty to the Team:  The Bureau of Labor Statistics show it costs just under $30.00 per employee to sustain an employee.  This doesn’t take into account what they call “soft costs”, such as mentoring.  That means when you find an employee, you want to keep them, and the investment you’ve made.  Look to a vet; they’ve already displayed remarkable loyalty.
  2. Reliable Work Ethic:  On-time, consistent high performance, professional maturity.  It’s tough to gauge if these important qualities exist with a potential job candidate when you’re limited to an interview. You can be assured that the service, training and lifestyle of veterans gives them an advantage in this area.
  3. Motivated Productivity: Self-discipline drives productivity. You want respect for your company rules and efficient work habits. The military teaches efficiency, asking for guidance when needed and self-control.
  4. Comprehensive Communication Skills: As the website states, “Military personnel not only understand workplace diversity, they know that good communication also needs to be flexible.” Many vets are multi-lingual and understand the subtle non-verbal cues others provide. They also tend to have high levels of technical literacy. They aren’t intimidated by new challenges.

Have a potential position at your firm?  Just google “Hire a Vet” and you’ll find many organizations that offer assistance with the process. Thank a vet and strengthen your company. Happy Veteran’s Day!

Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Speak Up

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, November 04, 2014
Updated: Monday, November 03, 2014

Speak Up

Dread public speaking?  You’re not alone.  There’s a Jerry Seinfeld joke that goes something like this:

According to most studies, people's No. 1 fear is public speaking. No. 2 is death. Death is No. 2. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy. 

Of course, people wouldn’t literally prefer being the decedent, but giving a speech is definitely a very real fear for many.  I recently learned the official word for this particular phobia too—glossophobia. 

If you find yourself a full out “glossophobe,” or even simply one with minor nerves, there are definite steps you can take to ease your angst. 

First of all, simply accept that you’ll be nervous and don’t beat yourself up for feeling that way…that will only make it worse. Next, breathe. Turns out that deliberate breathing exercises can have a direct impact on your nervous system. But as Mind Body Green explains: “not all breaths are created equal. A great, simple breathing exercise for calming both the nervous system and the overworked mind is a timed breath where the exhale is longer than the inhale. When your exhale is even a few counts longer than your inhale, the vagus nerve (running from the neck down through the diaphragm) sends a signal to your brain to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system and turn down your sympathetic nervous system.” 


Next public speaking tip: practice. You know it makes perfect. All the better if you can do a run through where the actual speech will occur. 

Another performance boost can come from one powerful self-reminder: you’re the expert. Let me repeat that. You’re. The. Expert. 

The speech or presentation is your topic and you were chosen for a reason. Don’t underestimate the power of this fact. People came to hear what you have to say. Own the role. 

And my final recommendation? Less is more when it comes to written words. There’s few things more dreadful that reading through a speaker’s on-screen material and feeling ready to move on before he or she has even finished the first bullet point. Bor-ing.  Instead, rely on a representational visual. If you’re talking about hiring millennials, for example, there’s no reason to list items point by point. Instead, show a picture of a group of young professionals and simply talk about your ideas. Not only does this allow you to present in a more conversational tone, but it frees you to engage with the audience directly because you don’t have to keep looking back to refer to the next bullet. If you forget a point or change the order of your material, no one will be the wiser. 

So...accept, breath, practice, believe and simply converse with your audience. Glossophobia no more.




Tags:  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Can the Pomodoro Technique Deliver for You?

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Can the Pomodoro Technique Deliver for You?

In just days, most Americans will—in theory—gain an hour, as Daylight Savings time ends November 2nd.  The question is: “How big a difference can an hour make?”  (Maybe I should wait to ask you on November 3rd, after you’ve enjoyed that extra 60 minutes of slumber, if that’s how you choose to use this annual gift of time).

Most of us inherently know that the real potential of an hour can be immense. It’s why time management remains a repetitive topic for organizations and individuals alike hoping to squeeze more out of their day.

Have you heard of the
Pomodoro Technique? More than 2 million people have already read the book, and individuals nationwide swear by the immediate impact they saw in their own productivity. The basic premise requires a person to divide their bursts of work into 25 minute increments. To help you track your time, they even sell a cute red tomato kitchen timer, or pomodoro, if you want to go all-in. But any old timer will do. The goal is to dedicate each 25 minute session to intent focus on the task-at-hand with no interruption—no phone, no external conversation, no email, no texts…you get the idea. With practice, you’ll learn how many 25 minute pomodoros are required for a typical project and understanding this will help you better plan each day. Breaks between pomodoros allow you to refresh and refocus, further adding to your success. Follow the recommended technique fully, and you can even consider yourself a Certified Pomodoro Master or CPM—yep, they have their own designation!

I’m not certain the Pomodoro Technique is completely earthshattering—we all know uninterrupted work sessions can be incredibly productive—but as is often the case, even simple shifts in habits can lead to tremendous results. This technique simply makes you more aware of project management and forces you to focus. It also recognizes the equal importance of balanced workloads and planned breaks. Want to learn more?  Click on the link above and watch the introductory video to see a more complete explanation of the suggested steps. If you give the Pomodoro Technique a try or become a CPM, be sure to let us know and share with everyone at AIMS why it was or wasn’t effective for you.


Tags:  Agency Management  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Winterize Your Business

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Winterize Your Business

Gardeners nationwide are cleaning out their gardens, getting the space ready for winter and the subsequent spring growing season. Homeowners are checking gutters, door seals and windows.


Before we know it, the holiday season will be upon us and we’ll be busy with get-togethers, shopping and cards. Now is the time to winterize.


Have you considered going through a similar exercise with your business? Before the holiday rush and the New Year craziness, let’s get our business houses in order too.  Some ideas:

  • Clean out your files, email inbox and contact lists. If you can’t bear to part with things, at least move files to a thumb drive or separate hard drive. Once complete, check with IT about having your computer defragmented and scanned for errors too.
  • Unsubscribe from unwanted mailing lists, follows or page likes.
  • Are you still a paper junky? If you need motivation to break the habit, consider not only the impact of all that paper on the environment, but this statistic from Your Office Isn't Big Enough for Clutter and Productivity“It costs nearly $25,000 to fill up a four-drawer filing cabinet. It also costs $2,100 each year to maintain it. That is a lot of lost money just to keep some papers on file.”
  • Read that last bullet one more time. 

Once your computer and paper files are in order, consider these ideas as well:

  • Once your computer and paper files are in order, consider these ideas as well:
  • Schedule annual client risk assessment meetings or simply a coffee together to close out the year.
  • Update your corporate Facebook page with a new photo or two. Double check that your profile is still accurate.
  • Review Linked In and Twitter profiles also.
  • Have a new headshot taken. Get it over with while you still have a glimmer of your summer coloring left.
  • Go through those desk drawers and throw away all the accumulated junk.
  • Consider changing the photos in your office—a new version of your favorite smiling faces is a guaranteed pick-me-up.
  • Add a plant or something fragrant to your office. It will add some perk to gray winter days.
  • Bring in a sweater and hang it on your door. You’ll be happy to have it that first chilly day.

Every task listed is certainly not mandatory—but a clean slate feels pretty remarkable. Just do one thing a week and you’ll be ahead of the game once the holidays hit. Happy Winterization!


Tags:  Agency Management  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  Leadership  self-improvement 

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Work Wallflower Power

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Work Wallflower Power

Not everyone loves being front and center. But being quiet doesn’t mean you don’t have ambition, right?  Here’s a few ideas that should be easy for anyone to get ahead:

  • Find an advocate. Your co-worker who feels more comfortable speaking up will naturally shine more light on you as well. Share your ideas with them and present as a team. They can lead while you play the equally important wingman role.

  • Take credit for your work. “Oh, it was nothing” or a mild mannered “thank you” won’t bring you glory.  This doesn’t require bragging, just adding detail. Consider this simple sentence:  “Thank you, I really enjoyed putting together the charts after I interviewed those seven clients and summarized their annual reports. It was pretty interesting I thought.”  Sounds like an engaged, thorough employee, doesn’t it? 
  • Hang around after the meeting ends. This more relaxed atmosphere may give you a better opportunity to interact with those who may seem more intimidating in a board room.

  • Use small networking.  If big groups feel overwhelming, work on creating connections one-on-one.  Meet for coffee or strike up a conversation during breaks. Nothing major, but it can create lasting results.

  • Get online!  The internet is tailor made for timid people. You can speak up without ever opening your mouth.  How great is that?

  • Mentor someone.  Find a kindred soul and take them under your wing. They’ll be grateful for the help and won’t even realize they’re helping you break out too.

  • Play to your strengths.  Offer to help with project tasks that don’t require as much face time.  You’ll look like a team player who steps up and no one will ever realize you’re trying to sidestep more public facing tasks.

  • Practice. Presentations, proposals, simple requests.  If it makes you nervous, never go in cold.

  • Relax. It’s likely many people around you feel just as intimidated and awkward as you do. And they’re probably too busy worrying about themselves to notice any of your missteps. One of my favorite sayings: You wouldn’t worry so much about what people thought of you if you realized how infrequently they do.


Tags:  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Lighten Up

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, October 07, 2014
Updated: Monday, October 06, 2014

Lighten Up


Between to-do lists that are too long and timelines that are too short, stress happens.  It’s part of the job, and there’s no avoiding it, right?


Avoiding it, no.  Surviving it, yes.


One study by Subha Imtiaz and Shakil Ahmad quotes estimates of about 100 million workdays being lost due to stress and nearly 50-75 percent of diseases related to stress. Makes stress pretty serious, doesn’t it.


So, what’s little ol’ you supposed to do about such a big issue?  Well, here’s just a few ideas. Maybe one will grab your fancy or trip an idea for something similar.

  • No Meeting Fridays.  Or Wednesdays, if that works better.  The point is to claim one day to work on projects without distraction.
  • Refocus and Refuel.  Provide a healthy midday snack to employees from a rolling cart manned by management.  A great way to beat the midday blahs.
  • Morning Music.  Just ten minutes to welcome them each day. Pick a theme and have some fun. My kids’ school has “music in the halls” on Fridays during class changes, and it’s remarkable the charge they get from this simple perk.
  • Walk-in Office Hours.  Make top management consistently accessible at a specific time on specific days when employees are free to drop in with any question or issue. Throw in some lemonade or easy treats.
  • Travel perks. Beyond frequent flyer miles, think of ways to reward employees—and their families—when there have been significant travel hours logged.  Perhaps you have a bouquet of flowers waiting for a manager to take home following a long trip.  Or a gift card to enjoy a dinner out with family.  Anything that recognizes the sacrifices being made.
  • Block party.  Set a specific time each day for employees to get up and literally walk around the block as a group. Good for their health and their comradery.

Spend a few minutes adding your own ideas to this list and try a few out, starting this month—because when you and your co-workers can lighten up, it’s a truly a good thing.  Seriously. 

Tags:  Agency Management  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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The Greatest Think Since Sliced Bread

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, September 30, 2014


The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread

Eighty-six years ago, Otto Rohwedder invented sliced bread.  Hard to believe what’s happened since.

Take last Friday. That’s the day DHL, the logistics company, used a pilotless aircraft, or drone, to make a delivery to a small island off the coast of Germany. Sure seemed like an impossibility just a decade ago—actually, seemed pretty farfetched to me just a mere year ago. Little packages dropped at your doorstep seem more like a fanciful idea from the world of The Jetsons or Jimmy Neutron.

Except they’re not.  Drone deliveries are real.  So are driverless cars, hologram images rising out of tables, solar powered flight, and touch sensors that read keystrokes on a tabletop instead of a keyboard. In fact, these (and other hard-to-imagine inventions} are on their way into our lives—and our clients’ lives. Are we ready?  Have you even begun to consider the implications? While you’re not likely to write related policies in the next year, it may happen sooner than you think.

As insurance agencies, we owe it to our clients to keep an eye out for what’s coming…and what’s already here. Speaking of which, this includes 3D printing (which presents a host of risks, including defective and counterfeit product exposures), bitcoins (for which there are already endorsements available for crime policies), and genetic engineering (presenting a host of liability issues), among other new market products.

I guess what I’m saying is never say never. Keep current; stay curious. Consider the impossible, because it’s probably not that impossible. There’s some truly remarkable inventions right around the corner, and as risk experts, we have to understand them to provide the right protection.  Hey, who says insurance isn’t interesting?


Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  self-improvement 

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Carlos Vargas, CPIA, Elected to AIMS Society Board

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, September 23, 2014



Donna Gray, AIMS Society: (877) 674-CPIA /

Amy Skidmore, Aartrijk: (614) 582-6902 /








Carlos Vargas, CPIA, Elected to AIMS Society Board



RICHMOND, VA (September 23, 2014) – Carlos Vargas, CPIA, partner at Vargas & Vargas Insurance Agency, based in Dorchester, Mass., with an office in nearby Stoughton, has been elected to the board of directors of the American Insurance Marketing & Sales (AIMS) Society, a professional organization dedicated to building insurance sales, marketing and technical expertise. He has been an insurance agent serving businesses and individuals in the greater Boston area since 1980.


Vargas is active in his local church, as well as numerous civic initiatives. He also is the founder of Boston’s Best Neighbor program, now in its sixth year. The purpose of the annual Boston’s Best Neighbor Award is to honor an individual who has demonstrated special care, concern and volunteer hours to make their neighborhood a safer, more pleasant and more friendly community for all the residents.


“As independent agents, we have a tremendous ability to serve our communities and to influence them for the better,” Vargas said. “When the AIMS Society offered me an opportunity to help other growth-oriented insurance professionals, I jumped at the chance.”


AIMS Society President June Taylor, CPIA, CIC, CPIW, DAE, principal at Wilkinson Insurance Agency in White House, Tenn., said, “Carlos is terrific example of how independent agents can engage their communities to build their business. We’re pleased to have him join our board as we work to enhance insurance sales and marketing excellence throughout the country.”


“We work in an amazing industry,” Vargas added. “I want to do whatever I can to help fellow independent agents grow their businesses and their careers and make a positive impact on their own local communities.”


Vargas also serves on the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance (MAHA) Board of Directors, the Massachusetts Property Insurance Underwriting Association (MPIUA) Agents Advisory Board and the Stoughton Redevelopment Authority. In 2012, he received the University of Massachusetts-Boston Chancellor’s Award for Longstanding Community Commitment and Service.


Other AIMS Society board members include: Vice President  Jim Mansfield, CPIA, of Mansfield Insurance Agency, Lawrenceburg, Ind.; Vice President Craig Most, CPIA, CIC, of Most Insurance Agency, Tampa, Fla.; Secretary Michael Herzak, CPIAL, CIC, CRMCS, of Insurance Systems Group, Cleveland, Ohio; Treasurer Martin Lebson, CPIAL, AAI, ARM, of The Capacity Group of Companies, in Mahwah, N.J.; Immediate Past President Curtis Pearsall, CPIA, CPCU, AIAF, ARM, AU, of Pearsall Associates, Whitesboro, N.Y.; Michael Grace, CPIA, of Bancorp South Insurance Services, Inc. , Baton Rouge, La.; Robert Klinger, CPIA, LUTCF, of Klinger & Associates, Germantown, Md.; Chris Paradiso, CPIA, of Paradiso Financial & Insurance Services, Stafford Springs, Conn.; Jeffrey Rounds, of Libke Insurance Associates, Wenatchee, Wash.; Keith Savino, CPIA and Richard Savino, CPIA, CIC, of Warwick Resource Group, Warwick, N.Y.; Joyce Sigler, CPIA, CPIW, CISR, NcAM, NcSA, of Jones & Wenner Insurance Agency, Fairlawn, Ohio; and George Zelhof, CPIA of United Assurance, Fair Lawn, N.J.


About AIMS Society: Founded in 1968 as The Firemark Society , the AIMS Society ( is a national, member-driven organization that provides training, information and networking services designed to increase the personal and agency sales production of property and casualty insurance agents. AIMS Society was the first organization to honor property and casualty agents for sales excellence and to establish the industry’s only sales-based insurance designation—the Certified Professional Insurance Agent (CPIA). Completion of the CPIA designation requirements is not necessary to qualify for membership. Lifetime CPIAs are recognized with the initials “CPIAL.”


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Tags:  AIMS Society 

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