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Lighten Up

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Updated: Monday, October 6, 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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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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