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Back to the Roaring ‘20s?
THE YEAR THAT CHANGED AMERICA
This January, we’re not just starting a new year; we’re entering a brand-new decade. It’s the 2020s, and if this decade will be anything like the last time we were in the ’20s, it’s going to be a time of great changes. In preparation for 2020, I did some research into 1920. The Roaring ‘20s are remembered for jazz and flapper girls, but the decade started with some major events that changed the nation forever. The League of Nations was established. World War I was called the “war to end all wars.” After the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, world nations sought to prevent future wars. The League of Nations, a precursor to the United Nations, was the first worldwide organization dedicated to maintaining world peace. President Woodrow Wilson helped architect the organization, but the U.S. Congress voted against joining the League. Two constitutional amendments were made. The 18th and 19th Amendments were both passed in 1920. The 18th Amendment, which started the Prohibition Era, banned the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcohol. Meanwhile, the much overdue 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in the United States. Mass media began. The presidential election of 1920 marked the first time a commercially licensed radio station broadcast live results of the election. Being able to transmit breaking news was unprecedented. This “talking box” exploded in popularity. In 1923, Americans bought over 500,000 radios, and radio signals covered the whole country. The NFL was founded. Originally founded as the American Professional Football Association (APFA), the NFL began with just 10 teams from four states. It was the first professional football league to successfully establish a nationwide presence. The year 1920 wasn’t all football, radio, and votes for women, however. While I was researching significant events from the year 1920, I was surprised to learn some darker details I never expected. There was a terrorist attack. Thirty-eight people were killed and hundreds were injured when a horse-drawn cart carrying a massive bomb exploded on the busiest corner on Wall Street. Called the “Wall Street Bombing,” it was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil at that time. The KKK regained power. The Ku Klux Klan had a terrifying comeback in 1920, as new leadership had an eye for publicity. Their reign of terror spread across the country.
Ponzi began his scheme. Charles Ponzi set up a business called the Security Exchange Company to bring in investors so he could buy international reply coupons. The investors were victims of the world’s most famous Ponzi scheme. Who would have thought there was a terrorist attack in 1920? Or that the KKK managed to resurface time and time again? Terrorists and hate groups feel like modern problems, but the reality is we’ve been dealing with these things for a long time. For all the miraculous changes we’ve seen over the last century, a hundred years later, we still have a lot of the bad stuff, too. I guess human nature hasn’t changed in thousands of years, let alone the last hundred. The “war to end all wars” was followed by World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But I believe that, despite all this, the human condition is a lot better than it was a century ago. Back in 1920, there were people fighting back against hatred and injustice, and today, we still see people who want to do the right thing. When the bad stuff starts to rear its ugly head, there are still good people who say, “No. We won’t allow this.” The good stuff in the world keeps going; it gains momentum and takes us farther than we could have ever imagined. I can’t imagine what the next century will bring. Our world will be a completely different place in 2120, but whatever the difference, I believe we can count on some things staying the same ... God will still be in charge, human beings will still need redeeming, and good will ultimately prevail over evil.
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There’s a long-standing idea that in order to be a good fit for the insurance industry, a person needs a degree in business or accounting; the arts need not apply. This myth is quickly busted when Kevin Wellfare walks through the door. A theatre major from the University of Oklahoma, Kevin has
At the start of each new year, about half of all Americans set at least one New Year’s resolution, a promise to themselves that they will thrive in the coming year. Unfortunately, research from YouGov Omnibus, an international market research firm, found that only 1 in 5 Americans stuck to their resolutions. The fallibility of New Year’s resolutions is why few successful CEOs or leaders bother making them. Around this time of year, plenty of articles pop up with hot takes like, “Don’t set New Year’s resolutions; make goals instead!” Unfortunately, if you haven’t been making goals already, you’ve likely been setting yourself up for failure. Setting goals, achieving them, and making new ones should be a habit all year long, not just something you do on Jan. 1. The start of a new year is still a great time to reflect and strategize, but rather than fall on an old cliche, take a page from two of the most successful people in business. Throw Away Your Resolutions And Set Alternative Goals for the New Year For decades, entrepreneur and best-selling author Tim Ferriss made New Year’s resolutions every year. Then, he developed a better strategy. “I have found ‘past year reviews’ (PYR) more informed, valuable, and actionable than half-blindly looking forward with broad resolutions,” Ferriss said in a 2018 blog post. At the start of each year, Ferriss spends an hour going through his calendar from the past 12 months and making a note of every person, activity, or commitment that sparked the strongest emotions, both positive and negative. The most positive events get rescheduled immediately for the new year. Meanwhile, the negative ones get put on a “Not-To-Do List” and hung up where Ferriss can see them. “I do believe in starting the new year with new resolve,” says Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “but instead of adopting a resolution, I choose a word of the year — a word that encapsulates my aspirations for the 12 months ahead.” Gates says that words like “spacious” or “grace” have helped her center herself and serve as a reminder about what she really wants to focus on. In 2019, Gates chose the word “shine,” stating that, “It’s a reminder for all of us to turn on the lights inside of us, lift each other up, and shine together.” Reflect on 2019 with Tim Ferriss. Pick a word of the year with Melinda Gates.
been in the insurance business since 1982.
Today, Kevin is VP of agency development at INSURICA, but he has many more roles to his name. His first insurance job was in a smaller agency’s accounting department, taking type-written invoices and putting them in their newfangled computer system. As the agency adopted new technology, Kevin helped move from “computerized” to “automated.” This was the first of many roles in which Kevin would help start a new department of an agency before handing over the reins. In fact, you could say he’s become typecast in this role. “I take great pleasure in creating something new,” Kevin says. “I find it exciting to visualize what could be and then getting to work to make it a reality. The building process is fun, but I’ve always got my eye out for the person who I can trust to take over. I’ve been blessed to have worked with many who take departments and projects to heights I never dreamed possible. I find great satisfaction in that.” Kevin has worked for INSURICA twice over the years. He first joined the team in 1990, when the company was still called North American Group. He spent four years growing our automation and IT department before going into technology sales and then settling down to help grow a startup. Kevin would eventually be lured back into the fold by Mike Ross, president of INSURICA. “Mike called and told me about a new position focused on the agency’s relationships. He wanted me to fill the role,” Kevin recalls. “At first, I said ‘no,’ because I was happy where I was. Then he invited me to lunch and shared his vision for the position in person. I know a great opportunity when I hear it, so I came back to INSURICA and never looked back.” Kevin played a big part in the company’s growth over the last few decades, taking a role in leading the IT department and then guiding us through the big rebrand from North American Group to INSURICA in 2009. Until very recently, Kevin was our VP of marketing and communications. Last November, his role morphed yet again when he became our VP of agency development, a role that will allow Kevin to once again focus on building the agency’s relationships. With his affinity for taking on many different roles, it’s no surprise that Kevin is still a drama kid at heart. His son and daughter both found careers in the arts, Kevin is a member of Toastmasters International, and he and his wife can often be spotted at theaters and music venues around Oklahoma City.
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A Time for Action
HOW COMPANIES GET PROACTIVE ABOUT SEXUAL HARASSMENT
3. Have an open dialogue between male and female managers to create a process that works.
Last month, we highlighted the ongoing struggles raised by social movements like #MeToo. As the reality of sexual harassment in the workplace comes to light, many men have responded by distancing themselves from female coworkers. This response, born from a sense of self- preservation, can have a negative impact on both women in the workplace and on companies at large. It is incredibly apparent that companies must take a proactive role in dismantling the destructive habits that called for the #MeToo movement in the first place and in creating better systems to ensure the safety and success of all their employees. But how? “Companies can no longer use training webinars that people can run in the background while doing other work,” says Nancy Mellard, executive vice president and general counsel at CBIZ Benefits & Insurance Services Division. Sexual harassment training cannot be a “check the box and move on” approach. Rather, companies need to create comprehensive sexual harassment policies, teach these policies to their employees, and equip managers with the tools they need to take action on these policies. Mercer, a global human resources consulting firm, has a three-step program they recommend companies follow: 1. With the help of a legal counsel, establish an explicit sexual harassment policy that is current, clear, and encompassing. 2. Communicate the policy with employees. Managers must be trained to take action if they notice something amiss. Employees must be able to understand what constitutes harassment. The first step, many experts agree, is for companies to take sexual harassment training seriously.
Beyond training, companies must also embrace diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategies. It’s impossible to create systems that will protect all people if only one kind of person is writing those systems. D&I strategies are crucial for building a company culture that will thrive in the post-#MeToo era. These strategies must be intentional, and, as Kelly Thoerig, senior vice president and EPL coverage leader at Marsh, points out, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. “Each company is going to have its own issues — cultural, international, sectoral, geographical — that feed its training policies,” she said in an interview with Leader’s Edge magazine. Andy Barrengos, CEO of Woodruff-Sawyer, agreed with Thoerig, going on to address how companies can go about addressing their issues: “The best practices are not to do X, Y, and Z so men will be less afraid of being accused. The first thing is to get real with themselves if they are committed to a more diverse organization. If you’re committed, understand your own ecosystem. What is your male-female mix: broadly, in management, in senior management, and on your board? P.S. Do you need help understanding these numbers? Maybe you need an outside partner … Do you need to set targets? If your board is all men and your senior leadership is one woman with the rest men but your management ranks are more evenly distributed, you can say, ‘Okay, what do you want to do here?’” It will not be easy for companies to address the deeply ingrained issues we must overcome now. Experts agree that the effort is worth it. Companies that do nothing now face reputational and financial risk and personal liability.
Sudoku Have a Laugh!
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INSIDE This Issue
The ‘20s Are Back! page 1
Are New Year’s Resolutions a Waste of Time? Meet KevinWellfare, INSURICA VP of Agency Development page 2 Is Your Sexual Harassment Training From 1981? Sudoku page 3
Optimize Your Business With Eric Ries page 4
JUMP-START YOUR BUSINESS With Eric Ries’ ‘The Lean Startup’
registered users, downloads, and raw page views.” Anyone can generate immediate hype for a product, but it’s another thing to maintain constant engagement and experience growth of consumer interest. With a good MVP and continued improvement of your service or product, your business will see that growth and also retain customers. Ries’ guidance does not end with MVPs and vanity metrics; here are some other key takeaways that will keep you on the lean startup path when it’s most daunting.
After reading just a few pages, it’s easy to see why everyone raves about Eric Ries’ invaluable manual “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.” Ries is a fantastic writer, but two aspects of his writing style separate him from the pack of typical business writers and keep you turning pages: He is intellectually honest and cheerful about his business insights. Eric takes a common notion in business — “fail fast, succeed fast” — and breaks it down into a system that works for businesses and keeps consumers happy. “The Lean Startup” recommends the use of a minimum viable product, or MVP, to gauge demand before you embark on major product development. Forbes describes an MVP as “a product with only a basic set of features, enough to capture the attention of early adopters and make your solution unique.” If you jump into building the best product possible before measuring what your consumers actually need, you risk wasting a lot of time. Market research can tell you a lot, but MVPs can tell you even more. Plus, if your initial rollout is successful, you can respond quickly to consumer feedback and tailor your final product to specific needs. Throughout his book, Ries emphasizes the importance of consumer feedback for the success of your business, but he also warns against putting any real value in vanity metrics, which TechCrunch describes as data points, “like
“It’s the boring stuff that matters most.”
“Remember if we’re building something that nobody wants, it doesn’t much matter if we’re doing it on time and on budget.”
“Customers don’t care how much time something takes to build. They care only if it serves their needs.” In the epilogue, Eric’s intellectual honesty shines; he readily admits that some readers may take his theories as a means to justify their past business actions. But he encourages everyone to use his book instead as a guide for what they will do next in their entrepreneurial journey.
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