This might sound familiar to many in this industry: Where are the business builders of tomorrow going to come from? How are we going to develop competent and responsible workers and managers? And perhaps most important, who will light the fire of entrepreneurship in the next generation?

These questions drove me crazy as a business owner. They really raged whenever we posted a job opening. Not only did applicants not have the skills or the drive to do the work, but they also didn’t even know how to present themselves at an interview. And these were well-paying jobs for creative types. I got a sense that people thought they were entitled to a job just for being them.

I have heard the same thing from agency owners lamenting that they had nobody to take on the business they worked so hard to build.

Here is my challenge to you: Do something about it.

I am trying to do my part by helping out Junior Achievement. When I started volunteering, the kids I met were bright and enthusiastic, but it was apparent they had nobody teaching them the real things they will need in the world after graduation. Teachers might be experts on teaching, but few if any have ever run a business (let alone a successful one). They didn’t know the anguish of facing a month when you didn’t know how you were going to make payroll.

Sometimes it takes a trip to a new place to find clarity. For me, it was BizTown.

That was where I saw “Henry” light up with excitement and at the same time become a little nervous at the thought of being a CEO. (I’m not using his real name here.) BizTown is a Junior Achievement project where the skills young people learn come together in a one-day simulated town. It really is where it all finally makes sense to them.

ja1Henry was a little shy, a bit nerdy. Smart and nice, but tentative. I was the advisor to a real estate firm that helped other tenants in our fictitious business park occupy their space and manage their energy costs. Privately, I was a little unsure of the prospects of our “success,” especially because our business was understaffed and we weren’t the coolest business in “town” (though we were the most important).

That impression changed soon enough when the pressure was on to make this enterprise work. Henry came out of his shell and loved every minute of it.

It brought me back to when I was a couple of years older than Henry. I was an unusual 17-year-old because I knew I wanted to be in business. What made me even weirder was that I knew it would be in insurance, just like my dad and his dad before him. While my peers were busy being teens, I was reading my first Tony Robbins book. It’s funny to reminisce back to those days, because I got made fun of. While we didn’t have the three letter acronym “WTF?” back then, that was basically the feedback I got from my peers at the time.

Unfortunately, where I grew up, there weren’t any Junior Achievement programs. I took quite a few stumbles on the way to my first stable and successful business. I look back and wonder what life would have looked like if I’d had some successful mentors outside of my family. I wonder if many years and heartbreak could have been avoided. I was reminded of this in BizTown.

I had the likes of Tony Robbins to inspire me, but will these kids get their vision from people like Tony? Most likely not. That’s where you step in.

What are you giving back?

In my case, I looked back at 2014 and was pretty proud of the things I did with Junior Achievement and of my donations to a few charities. But the hard question I asked myself was “Did I do enough?”

Then, on Dec. 30, I received an email from Tom Russell, the president of our regional Junior Achievement, asking for year-end help.  Apparently, our region was short on volunteers and short on money to purchase the kits required for classroom instruction. Being on the regional council, I am well aware of some of the difficulties the organization faces – but for our region, our challenge was demand. We’ve had more teachers and classrooms requesting Junior Achievement instruction than ever before.

So, my answer was “Now is the time to do more. No complaints, no whining – now is the perfect time and I am going to put both my time and my money where my mouth is.  Now is my time to step up.”


For me, I am focusing primarily on Junior Achievement because that is where I feel I can have the biggest impact on my community and industry.

After all, they have a program called Real Life that teaches young people the skills not just to manage their finances for their family and business, but also to be responsible, productive members of their community. Heck, it even features a game called “Insurance Jeopardy” that shows the value of auto, home and life insurance. For me, it was a no-brainer to get involved!

All too often we know we “should” do more to give back, but those “shoulds” are easily ignored and forgotten when we are in the throes of life. Unfortunately, people in this world live a life of “should,” and end up “should’ing” all over their life’s dreams.

Our industry is based on giving more than we take, and I think that might be why I have such a passion for it.

As the owner of your business and your life, the buck stops with you.  If your goal is to take from life and not give back, don’t even bother reading this magazine. Sure, it would teach you how to sell better, but you still won’t be a truly trusted advisor.

So, if you can’t find competent help for your office, create it. If you are worried about finding an heir for your business, develop one. If you care about the future of your country, step up.

These days, I am not asking questions. I am learning answers by doing. How about you? As someone who is part of an industry that gives back as much as ours does, I want to hear your story. How are you helping society? What do you do to give back?  I want to know!

I know so many of our readers give back to society, and I want to share those stories in our magazine and through our social  media. If you are making a difference in your community, please send your story to [email protected], and maybe it will  appear in an upcoming issue of InsuranceNewsNet Magazine. It is my intention to inspire this industry to do more, and with your help, we will.

As appeared in InsuranceNewsNet Magazine, March 2015