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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 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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