The Practice Doctor is IN
Lessons from Fortune, Circa 1949
by Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH
Practice Management Consultant
One of the small pleasures in life is reading old magazines, in particular, magazines before 1970. I have a varied collection of them in assorted states of readability. Some of my favorites are Fortune magazines from 1930 through 1960. These are visual gems with incredible, arresting art deco and modernist covers. And the magazines are huge: weighing a couple of pounds and spanning 22 x 11 inches when fully opened.
The issue at hand, October 1949, nearly 65 years ago, is the usual mix of big business brawn and audacious corporate ads. The cover is a frosted still life painting by Walter Murch, portraying the "Modern Art of Printing." Walter has a Wikipedia profile worth reading.
With my practice management hat on, let's see what might be gleaned from this tome of the distant past that might be relevant to our practices today.
An ad for New York Life entitled "Home Land." As was common in magazine ads back then, this was a story, and so it had a title and a drawing of a tee shirt-and-jeans clad young farmer sitting on a fence near his pasture with a corn stalk in hand talking to his New York Life agent (who is in a suit and tie, of course). "I'd have hated to see this place go to somebody else," the farmer is saying. "One of the things Dad told me, a few days before he died, was how you'd helped him work things out so there'd be enough life insurance to take care of Mom and me...so we could keep the farm and all."
Not quite a tear-jerker but certainly a sentiment that resonates with any small business owner today.
Lesson: Don't be afraid to access the emotional underpinnings of a life insurance sale. Whether it be term, permanent, variable or indexed, in this day of viatical depersonalization of life insurance, keep in mind its noble purpose.
A column by Peter Drucker (yes, that Peter Drucker) bemoaning the federal tax structure for discouraging the "ablest managers from the risk of entering small enterprise and running into the security of big companies." This was an era where the highest individual tax bracket was 91 percent. In the article he cites the case of a medium-sized paper company looking to hire a financial vice president. "The man they wanted was willing to change employers — all he demanded was a moderate increase in real income of $3,000" (equaling a raise of nearly $29,000 in today's dollars). "In order to give him that moderate increase, the paper company had to pay him a salary $12,000 higher." Only larger companies could afford to make these increases happen, to the detriment of smaller employers.
Lesson: When doing long-term retirement planning for clients currently in their 50s, it's instructive to know the history of taxation — how it can be oppressive as well as friendly at various points. A good allocation strategy of tax-free, tax deferred and taxable instruments is an important tool in real-life retirement plans.
A feature article on Philip Morris cigarettes' comeback. "By sledgehammer advertising, the No. 4 cigarette has recaptured the ground it lost right after the war. An old selling hand named Al Lyon wields the sledgehammer." The piece reports that "domestic consumption has approximately doubled in the past decade to the point where every man, woman and child in the U.S. statistically smokes 2,372 cigarettes, or around 119 packs a year." Wow! Were we really that addicted?
Then we meet Al Lyon. "Mention Philip Morris to any old-time tobacco dealer in Sacramento, Boise, Chicago or Aliquippa, PA, and ten to one the response will include another anecdote about Al Lyon. It may be a story of how Al, when he was selling cigarettes in 1913 or so used to drop in at 7:30 in the morning to help the owner open his shop — sweeping the floors, cleaning the windows, etc. Or it may be a recollection of how Al bought dresses for the dealer's twin girls on their third birthday and last year sent them graduation presents." It goes on to record Al's rise to Chairman of the Board and his bringing a real sales mentality to the company.
Lesson: Do you have stories being told about you and your customer service? Refer-ability is about the buzz you generate and how other people want to be part of that buzz.
Young and Rubicam, advertising agency, full page ad. The theme: "The point of purchase (insert picture of woman with a cart selecting a product at the store) is less and less the point of sale (insert picture of woman lounging and listening to the radio)!" The text: "There was a time when these two expressions were synonymous. But no longer. If you don't sell your prospect before she gets to the store — she's likely to pick the brand that DID sell her."
Lesson: If you've ever heard a client tell you at an annual review: "Disability insurance? I bought that from XYZ company. I didn't know you did that," you've had the experience described above. Present your value proposition consistently as you interact with your clients — especially at the annual review — and they'll think of you first!
Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company ad about "Stability for the surviving partner's income." Buy/Sell life insurance planning is discussed with the tag line: "The event that causes the NEED for cash also creates the CASH." It might sound a little cold, but you get the point.
Lesson: As we began this 1949 Fortune tour with life insurance, so we end it. That tag line is a classic and certainly hasn't gone out of style. In fact, these days with the emphasis on managing investment assets, the message of "wealth creation" through life insurance has been muted. There's a lot of death benefit money out there today, thanks to the insurance agents of the 1949 era creating that wealth. You may have even had some of those proceeds to invest for a beneficiary. Keep up the tradition for the next generation of financial advisors — be sure you and your clients don't discount the importance of this benefit!
The Doctor is OUT
© 2014 Al Depman
Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH, a.k.a. "The Practice Doctor", is MitchAnthony.com's Business Practice Consultant. He is the creator of "The Practice Management Assessment" tool and materials and has authored numerous articles in professional publications on practice management, and author of the book, How to Build Your Financial Advisory Business and Sell It at a Profit, available from McGraw Hill. Al combined his Liberal Arts studies with 10 years of management experience with McDonald's Corporation to enter the financial services world 25 years ago. Since then, Al has evolved from an MDRT-level sales rep into a full-time consultant specializing in helping others engineer their business practices to the next level. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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