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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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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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It's Monday!

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, September 23, 2014
It's Monday!

AIMS got more likes and re-tweets yesterday than many other posts we’ve put out there recently. What was the item?  A simple photo of a dog halfheartedly attacking the start of the day. It clearly struck a universal chord—and it got me thinking. 

What is it that makes Monday, or any other day for that matter, so difficult? Are there simple things each of us can do to change the trajectory of our day, to add a little umph to our work?

Turns out the answer is “Yes”—and it’s simpler to do than you might think. 

Here’s what I found online.  (Please note that I’ve refrained from nagging by leaving the “eat right, exercise and get more sleep” tips off the list. You’re welcome.)  While some ideas included may already be on your radar, if they’re yet to be adopted, they probably bear repeating:

  • The most common reason for fatigue?  Dehydration. Simple fix?  Water.  Drink more.
  • Take a 10-15 minute sun break every day. You’ll get more than Vitamin D; you’ll get a mental/emotional boost as well.
  • Turn down the temperature. Multiple studies, including one by, show a drop in office temperature leads to an increase in productivity.  Ideal temperatures? 76 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, 72 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.
  • Schedule your tough tasks when you’re mentally toughest.  For most people, that’s in the morning.  But it doesn’t matter what works for most people, only you, so block out time when you feel most alert.
  • Rely on lemons…scented oils, hand lotion, candy drops…whatever provides a jolt of lemon fragrance. Turns out citrus, but particularly lemons, boost neurotransmitters in the brain which amp up energy and mood.

By my calculation, what we’re talking here is a 10 minute session of sitting in the sun, while drinking some water and sucking on a lemon drop only to return to your ideally cooled office just as you hit the peak of your mental day. Sounds like it might just be worth a try. Anybody else in on my grand energy experiment?  

Tags:  AIMS Society  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Lost & Never Found

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lost & Never Found?


There are arguments happening in dorm rooms across the country about it right now.

Spouses are yelling.

Kids are getting grounded over it.

What’s the problem?  Messiness.

But disorganization causes more than discord.  It causes profit loss.


Brother (the company that makes the P-touch labeler…kinda’ experts at this organization thing) conducted a survey on the very topic.  They found that an estimated 38 hours are lost per employee every year as a result of time spent looking for misplaced items in the office. That’s a week of hide-and-seek per person!  And if you have 10 employees in your office averaging $30 an hour, that equates to over $11,000 chasing after things that shouldn’t be lost in the first place.

Interested in evaluating your personal organization skills and how they might compare?  Brother actually has a short survey to calculate your own Work Disorganization Index (admit it, you want to know).  How about setting up a friendly competition between co-workers while you’re at it—loser buys lunch.  

To get started, simply visit and you can answer questions related to meeting preparation, record keeping, lost items, and the appearance of your workplace.  It’s a fun way to help you address a relatively serious issue.  The site will also help you calculate the cost of disorganization at your own company and will provide some tips for improvement from a Certified Professional Organizer (Yes, there’s designations for every field!). Of course, many ideas include P-touch labelers—it is their website after all--but if each of us were able to turn just one or two of their simple suggestions into habit, it could make a genuine difference.  Want to join me in turning over a new leaf?

Now if I could just find my pen…


Tags:  Agency Management  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Back Off Boss

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, September 09, 2014
Updated: Thursday, September 04, 2014

Back Off Boss

I just read an article in The Washington Post titled How helicopter parents are ruining college students.  It got me thinking…what harm results from helicopter bosses?

According to the Post article, a study published in Education + Training found that helicopter parents—those who watched their kid’s every move, fought their child’s battles and coordinated every detail of daily life—actually created more harm than good.  The study revealed that these sheltered kids “had a hard time believing in their own ability to accomplish goals. They were more dependent on others, had poor coping strategies and didn’t have soft skills, like responsibility and conscientiousness…”

So, are you constantly running interference for your direct reports?  Do you tweak projects endlessly, even when it’s more about style and doesn’t really impact the potential outcome?  Are you providing a constant stream of advice, explanations or check-ins…even when no one has asked for your help?


If so, you might be a boss that hovers.  And that may have more to do with your own issues than any potential problems with those you supervise.  Some of your helicopter tendencies may have to do with your own insecurities—it’s my job to oversee everything…what if they fail?  If I’m not doing this, what WILL I do with my time?  Or, it may be inherent in your nature to “take care” of people.  Regardless, a little less hovering is good for everyone.  Not only will you be freed up to grow professionally yourself, but you will be doing a favor for those who need to learn their own way in the work world.  I’m not talking abandonment, just a redirection of oversight.


All it takes is a little refocusing of support.  Work to provide proactive training and development for your employees. If you see an issue with a project, ask for their ideas for improvement instead of offering up the solution at the get-go.  Be sure to review job performance and compensation at regular intervals and never overlook the power of public recognition.  You can even provide support by ensuring workplace comfort—the right lighting, temperature and supplies. 


So back off boss. Provide support without smothering. It’s the best way everyone learns to fly on their own.



Tags:  Agency Management  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Breaking Through Roadblocks

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, September 02, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Breaking Through Roadblocks 

You’ve done this before--hundreds of times, maybe more.  So how do you keep ideas fresh when you hit a roadblock at work, when you feel less than inspired?

Federico Einhorn has some excellent ideas in 5 Practical Ways to Overcome ‘No New Ideas’ Syndrome.  Although his ideas are specific to content generation, his suggestions are helpful to anyone struggling with a project at work.   

  1. Relax. If it’s time to come up with new ideas or see an issue from a new angle, stress is your enemy.  As Einhorn says about pressure: “Think of it as falling into quicksand: The more you struggle, the faster you sink.”  Focus on anything but the task at hand for a few minutes until you can “unclench your brain”—take a short walk, talk with a coworker, finish a simple item or two from your to-do list.

  2. Let ideas come to you. There’s an incredible network of experts freely sharing their own ideas out there. Take advantage of that. Take advantage of the AIMS Society!  Chances are someone else has a fresh take on things or has faced the same issue and can provide a new route to consider.

  3. Take it to the crowd. As Einhorn says, “If you’re tired of racking your brain for new ideas, talk to other people and see if they can come up with something for you.”  Pose open-ended questions, find out what they suggest. Discover what keeps them up at night. Float a few ideas of your own and see how they’re received.

  4. Recognize there’s nothing wrong with re-using old ideas. Einhorn points out something our ego may not love to hear: Not everyone was paying attention the first time around.  If it was a good idea once, it will be a good idea again. Of course, if there is something you can do to improve or change it up a bit, so much the better.

  5. Go out there and experience things for yourself. Put down the smartphone; shut down your computer. Attend conferences, take a client to lunch just to see what’s up. When you have more casual conversations, new ideas invariably bubble to the top. What you learn may be your next great idea.  

Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  self-improvement 

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