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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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Sweet Reward

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

Sweet Reward

A friend recently posted pictures from her first ever cookie exchange. If you’ve never been to one, the “rules” are simple.  Make a certain number of the same cookie—this group chose four dozen for each attendee—and swap out two individual cookies with every other attendee. With just 25 people participating, as was the case at my friend’s event, that’s 1,200 cookies! And 1,200 of the “best” cookies—the one favorite variety from everyone’s recipe box. As a result, every person in attendance went home a rock star, with delighted faces greeting them, ready to rip into the goods.

At the same time, the event gave opportunity for pause, a moment to enjoy each other’s company, catch up on everyone’s latest activities and plans, and even leave with a follow up coffee or lunch already scheduled. It was so simple. All it took was cookies.

This got me thinking. First, I need to schedule my own cookie exchange! Second, there are some real parallels to AIMS Society events, particularly the PRO to PRO Executive Retreat. These gatherings really are opportunities to share something so seemingly simple—the professional expertise we each collect gradually over a lifetime, so gradually that we often fail to see the magic in what we have. My friend said she made molasses cookies. Her kids weren’t terribly impressed, they’ve already had dozens over the years, but calls have already come in for the recipe. She was thrilled to hear she had a winner on her hands after all. Such is the case with our own professional insight—sometimes you forget or don’t realize what you’ve got till you give it away.

So if you haven’t been to an AIMS Society event recently, I encourage you to get one onto your calendar in 2015. The more in attendance, the more delightful the takeaway.  You share your recipe for success and head home with a potential boxful in return.

How sweet is that!

Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  PRO-to-PRO  self-improvement 

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Meet Oscar

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Meet Oscar

 

Keep an eye on Oscar. Not the guy, the insurance company. Billing itself as a “new kind of health insurance company,” Oscar is turning a back on old habits, and whether you deal with benefits or not, the company’s ideas may impact the entire insurance industry sooner rather than later. Oscar plans are only available in New Jersey and New York right now, but its ideas may cross state lines quickly.

Selling the notion that “Better care starts with technology,” Oscar allows online sharing of symptoms, an ability to review and choose physicians—or even talk immediately online with a doctor. Oscar tracks office visits, prescriptions and lab work for users and even puts it into an intuitive timeline, which not only helps with recordkeeping, but may uncover particular health patterns. Oscar promotes preventative care as well, with free checkups, flu shots, generic drugs, and other well care.

And the company’s newest innovation? Paying customers to stay fit. Using a complimentary
Misfit Flash fit tracker, individuals earn $1 each time a daily steps-taken goal (based on initial health assessment) is reached, up to $240 a year.

Can something so simple actually work? Depending on the resource you check, it’s estimated that for every dollar invested in corporate wellness programs, companies can expect a two-five dollar return, so it seems that Oscar is onto something.

Of course, good agents already know that proactive risk management is part of any comprehensive insurance program. It’s a trend that I believe will only intensify. There’s already trackers for automobiles to help Progressive customers lower premiums based on driving habits. Fireman’s Fund actively works with customers to reduce wildfire risk. What I find most novel about Oscar is its overall approach and how it embraces technology, simplifies insurance and presents a friendly, approachable brand personality. Take a few minutes yourself and visit
www.hioscar.com/. Let me know what you think!

 

Tags:  AIMS Society  Risk Management  Technology 

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Online Matters. How social media has changed hiring practices

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

Online Matters. How social media has changed hiring practices


You’re just one post away from losing your next job opportunity.

Fact is, your personal brand and your social media profile matters. According to Head in the Sand with Your Personal Brand? author Gerry Moran,  a job candidate can anticipate just about all recruiters and hiring companies to review their online profile. In fact, 93 percent of recruiters do so before making hiring decisions.  In addition, over half of companies reconsidered their hiring decisions after checking a candidate’s social media posts, and in 61 percent of those situations, no job offer was tendered.  What are social media red flags? Recruiters look down on profanity (63 percent), poor spelling and grammar (66 percent), and indications of drug use (83 percent).

If you’re on the other side of the hiring table, there are some definite things you need to consider.  In Employer Social Networking Checks: Guidelines for Employer Social Networking Checks, 
Alison Doyle recommends being consistent.  If you screen one, screen all. She also believes it is wise to tell applicants in advance. Also important: designate a “neutral” party as the screener for all applicants. They can provide a non-biased overview of findings without additional influence caused by preferences for a certain candidate.  Doyle also suggests that a company identify specific information being sought before going online. This prevents the screener from an endless, meandering search that loses relevance. Also, if a candidate has privacy screens in place, do not use dishonest or deceptive means to gain access to a user’s posts. Doyle’s final recommendation is to “consider the accuracy and validity of the information before making a decision.”

So the changes created by social media continue. Used wisely, it can be a great way to learn more about a potential employee. Used without regard, it can be a great way to lose a new opportunity. Whichever side of the hiring equation you land, never forget the power of online communication.

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

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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 military.com, 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.” 

Cool. 

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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