by Jon Spaugy, BIG CEO
GOODBYE 2016 AND THANKS Well, here we are at the end of 2016 and what a year it was. With presidential politics deeply entrenched on the left and right, lots of controversial propositions on the California ballot, and healthcare premiums soaring through the stratosphere, people had a lot to digest. Some of it went down smooth and some had us running for the antacids (and scotch bottle). But in the midst of all the gloom, the insurance industry actually coalesced. Case in point: insurance conventions and other networking events took an upward trajectory and BIG could not be more pleased. Our fellow insurance trade associations all reported increases both in attendance and exhibitors/sponsorships. I believe this can be credited to the explosion of technology. But how can things like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even emailing and texting – communication advances that keep us “connected” yet physically isolated – bring us together under one roof? Very simple. The insurance business was built on eyeto-eye contact. Golf tournaments, monthly meetings, lunches, and even a few drinks after hours propelled business. The fact is our business is still all about looking a person in the eye and sealing a deal with a firm handshake. Conventions are opportunities to say things out loud in a group and get some instant feedback. You can actually have a spontaneous exchange of ideas and talk to people that may have an idea of what might be missing from your business plan or life plan. Go to a CE course and learn in a social, classroom environment and not a computer screen. Attend a meeting and actually have a conversation with company reps and vendors outside of your office.
Need more evidence of this social media backlash? BIG’s Holiday Party sold out in record time this year and there are more agencies that purchased entire tables than carrier or vendors. This is the first time that has ever happened. Because you can also be all alone in an office full of people and it’s healthy for your business to have employees talk with someone across a table rather than with instant messaging or office intranet. BIG is glad to have provided venues throughout the year – the NorCal and SoCal conventions, baseball games, cruises, meetings, and more – for our members and others to log off of Instagram and really get some face time (and not the Facebook kind).
See you in 2017! Get Active, Get Involved, Get BIG!
Harper & Heim Lawyers
By Jon S. Heim, attorney, Harper & Heim Lawyers
Our Wild West: California’s Free Competition Policies In one important aspect of an otherwise overregulated economy, California’s laws and public policies rank among America’s freest. That is the movement of labor. California forbids most contracts which prevent or restrict employees from competing with former employers. Other states give much more deference to employers, and see our state’s policies as typical California outliers. In this field among others, our far west is far the wildest. Throughout the United States, employers try to use employment agreements to curtail employees’ competitive activities after termination of employment. Several types of such competitive restraints are common. Non-competition clauses purport to prevent former employees from doing business in a specified field or locale for a fixed time. Anti-solicitation clauses seem to prohibit former employees from soliciting the employers’ customers for a period after employment, even if the customers worked with the employee. Anti-raiding clauses would bar the former employee from urging other employees to follow. Common trade secret causes are also competitive restraints, but California sees them differently, so let’s leave them aside for now. In most states other than California, non-competition clauses and other competitive restraints are valid and enforceable if they are broadly reasonable in scope and term. Very generally, in those states competitive restraints will be enforced against a former employee if the restraint is reasonably related to protecting the business
and good will actually done and established by the employer. In most other states, competitive restraints are presumed valid, and the employee has the burden of proving that a particular restraint is unreasonable and invalid. Usually the employee loses and the restraint is fully enforced. None of that in freewheeling California. “[California Business and Professions Code] Section 16600 states: ‘Except as provided in this chapter, every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.’…. Section 16600 expresses California’s strong public policy of protecting the right of its citizens to pursue any lawful employment and enterprise of their choice. California courts have consistently affirmed that section 16600 evinces a settled legislative policy in favor of open competition and employee mobility. The interests of the employee in his own mobility and betterment are deemed paramount to the competitive business interests of the employers, where neither the employee nor his new employer has committed any illegal act accompanying the employment change.” (Dowell v. Biosense Webster, Inc. (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 564, 574-575, citations and most inner quotations omitted, citing inter alia, Edwards v. Arthur Andersen LLP (2008) 44 Cal.4th 937, 946, Advanced Bionics Corp. v. Medtronic, Inc. (2002) 29 Cal.4th 697, 706, Diodes, Inc. v. Franzen (1968) 260 Cal.App.2d 244, 255, D’Sa v. Playhut, Inc. (2000) 85 Cal.App.4th 927, 933.) Applying this strong public policy, the Court of Appeal in Dowell v. Biosense Webster invalidated the two common competitive restraints there at issue. “Based on the foregoing [law and public policy] it is clear that the noncompete and nonsolicitation clauses in the agreements with [former Biosense employees] Dowell and Chapman are void and unenforceable. The broadly worded noncompete clause prevents Dowell and Chapman, for a period of 18 months after termination of employment with Biosense, from rendering services, directly or indirectly, to any competitor in which the services they may provide could enhance the use or marketability of a conflicting product by application of confidential information to which the employees had access during employment. Similarly, the broadly worded nonsolicitation clause prevents the employees for
a period of 18 months postemployment from soliciting any business from, selling to, or rendering any service directly or indirectly to any of the accounts, customers or clients with whom they had contact during their last 12 months of employment. Ultimately, these provisions restrain the employees from practicing their chosen profession. Indeed, these clauses are similar to those found to be void under section 16600.” (Dowell v. Biosense Webster, Inc., supra, 179 Cal.App.4th 564, 575, citing D’Sa v. Playhut, Inc., supra, 85 Cal.App.4th 927, 931; Kolani v. Gluska (1998) 64 Cal.App.4th 402, 407; Metro Traffic Control, Inc. v. Shadow Traffic Network (1994) 22 Cal.App.4th 853, 860.) Under the same, established, California public policy analysis, non-hire provisions fare no better than other competitive restraints. In VL Systems, Inc. v. Unisen, Inc. (2007) 152 Cal.App.4th 708, the Court of Appeal reasoned that a corollary to the policy set out in the foregoing Business and Professions Code section 16600 is “that [competitors] may solicit another’s employees if they do not use unlawful means or engage in acts of unfair competition.” (Id. at p. 713.) Thus, no actionable wrong is committed by a competitor who hires away his competitor’s employees or agents, so long as the inducement to leave is not accompanied by unlawful conduct. Other corollaries also follow from this fundamental public policy. As noted in Dowell v. Biosense Webster, Inc., supra, a former employer’s assertion of an invalid competitive restraint constitutes unfair competition and interference with prospective economic advantage. (179 Cal.App.4th at p. 575, citing Application Group, Inc. v. Hunter Group, Inc. (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 881, 906–908.) So a former employer who wrongfully asserts a restraint can be sued in tort for compensatory and punitive damages. Moreover, another employer who first hires a person, then discharges him or her out of mere respect for an invalid competitive restraint in an old employment contract, may also be sued in tort for compensatory and punitive damages. (Silguero v. Creteguard, Inc. (2010) 187 Cal.App.4th 60 [affirming tort cause of action on those facts for wrongful termination in violation of public policy].) In California, a new employer must recognize and disregard a former employer’s invalid competitive restraint. These extensions of tort liability illustrate the strength of California’s free competition policies.
Earlier I mentioned that trade secret clauses, although competitive restraints, are viewed differently under California law. True trade secrets are protected with or without a contract under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, California Civil Code section 3426 and following. Insurance expiration dates and many customer lists are often trade secrets, so this issue is important to insurance producers. As I’ll discuss in another article, there are many trade secret contracts, but few if any afford more trade secret protection than the UTSA. Trade secrets aside, enforcing competitive restraints way out west here is complicated and tenuous. Asserting invalid competitive restraints can draw heavy backfire. If your employee left, you must seek counsel before asserting any restraints. If you are hiring someone subject to a purported restraint, you may want legal advice on whether it is valid and whether you may even mention it. If you are the mobile employee, you still have some trade secret and other limits to respect carefully. But for you, California is the wild open west, and you should shout Eureka! Call Jon Stanley Heim at (510) 725-7593, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
TERROR INSURANCE COVERAGE MAY BECOME PERMANENT By Stephen S. Santoro Every day threats of terrorism arise. Last month it became more acute as a result of summary intelligence report suggesting ISL/ISIS would like to attack us again. Homeland Security asserts that their “gut instinct” indicated a possible attack might be in progress. Whether such indicators are reliable forecasts, the timing was interesting as Congress was debating as to whether or not to renew the “temporary terrorism insurance program” started after 9.11.2001. In Congressional slang “temporary programs” are defined as on their way to becoming permanent. Chairman of House Financial Services Committee has been moving along a bill to extend the federal terrorism coverage for 15 years, wanting to expand it to cover unconventional weapons and increase the government’s share of the total payout (essentially reinsurance) after an attack. Fifteen years after the 9.11 attack, along with the collective resources of the insurance and reinsurance profession, who are working long and hard to evaluate, understand and price the threat, Congress is proposing increase the federal government’s role. My good friends at SWISS RE, the world’s largest reinsurer (by premiums written globally), and the reinsurer who insured and reinsured the bulk of the 9.11 losses issued a careful report 6 months after the attacks predicting it would be 3-5 years before the insurance and reinsurance profession could stand on its own feet in covering terrorism risks. SWISS RE, in concert with the entire insurance and reinsurance profession are calling for a permanent federal program. I agree 100%. The US Government should always be the reinsurer or insurer of last resort in any terrorist catastrophe, of any kind. US Senator Charles Schumann, from New York, claims that uncertainty over the program’s fate
is already disrupting real-estate deals and construction projects in the Empire State. While the program is set to “sunset” this year, it should be renewed and renewed properly. Even though these buildings are assets with useful lives measured in decades and even though project managers and developers factor in the buildings depreciation and ultimate demise, actuarially, again this program should be renewed and renewed correctly. The urge to extend this program is NOT traditional Congressional “pork-barreling” due to lobbyists and campaign donors who grow up in “pork”. The federal role is now one that applies to every other catastrophic market: “The strength and the financial statements of the USA taxpayer are the only entity strong enough to support virtual unlimited and unconditional risk. Risk that is unparalleled in ANY other risk sector or insurance or reinsurance.
Stated another way, how do you price this risk? Or, better stated, can you price this risk?” My argument is two-fold: Without a federal backstop, private insurers and reinsurers faced with an “off-the-charts mega-attack” which bankrupt not only the individual carriers, but the entire insurance and reinsurance profession (there is finite capital in the insurance and reinsurance market; it is not unlimited or infinite), the private insurers and reinsurers cannot set their rates high enough for property owners to afford it.
Again, how do you price it? The second factor is the need for the USA Government to aid the markets after this type of an tragic attack, and the subsequent tragic events. Again, there is finite capital in the insurance and reinsurance market; it is not unlimited or infinite. Rand Corp.’s “think tanks” have labored and tried to quantify this issue. Rand concludes that with the USA as the “market backstop and the market of last resort” taxpayers actually save money in the mist likely terrorist scenario (e.g., a modest truck bomb that does a few billion dollars of damage). “If the USA government assumes more risk, private insurers and reinsurers sell more policies covering conventional attacks, which means the USA government covers fewer losses. What if the coverage is extended to “nonconventional” attacks-nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological-all of which private insurers now exclude from policies? Rand says that doing so would be desirable, but such a stand would also raise prices, causing many property owners NOT to buy coverage. From both a public policy perspective and a personal perspective, that is akin to all drivers in the USA not having liability auto insurance on the grandest of all scales! And it is foolish!
Taxpayers can be at risk for more severe losses after a more likely “ordinary attack” (if there is such a thing), which insurers and reinsurers have concluded that a mega catastrophe is much less likely now, due to heightened international surveillance. Rand’s advice: Cover the unconventional terrorism by the US
Government, make adjustments to reduce the risk to private insurers and reinsurers and thereby optimize (from the taxpayer’s point of view) the take-up of insurance by property owners. Congress bill mandates coverage of unconventional attack, cutting in half-to $50 million-the damage trigger before federal money (reinsurance) kicks in.
Congress also imposes a low deductible, allowing private insurers and reinsurers reinsure the bulk of losses to the federal government. I think this makes sense, as it insures the “solvency of global financial, insurance, reinsurance and risk-assumption markets. Many of you, myself included, view other natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tsunami’s as the same type of problem. Again, the insurer and reinsurer of last resort must be the US Government. While smart insurers and reinsurers limit their risk by setting rates high enough to guarantee their survival even if hit with a modeled 250 year catastrophe, there are some risks you just can price high enough. 9.11.2001 was one such risk. It changed “modeling of risk assumption” forever. Higher prices mean less terrorism insurance (in theory) is bought by building owners, however, good public po-
licy requires our government to protect us against “unconventional attacks”. Many lobbyists insist terrorism is uninsurable. I agree. I can see no pricing mechanism that takes into account all variables and cost issues and creates an algorithm that can be relied upon and then “stress tested” in all kinds of events. If it could, no money managers would EVER lose money. They do, they have and they will continue to. I am not suggesting we bailout property owners who buy NO insurance. That is socializing risk and I an advocate against it. However, Rand’s rational arguments for permanent federal insurance and reinsurance are also rational arguments for a greater and more sophisticated federal insurance and reinsurance role in insuring against all natural disasters. I agree with Rand. Look no farther than Hurricane Katrina and 9.11.2001 as proof. We must always keep the insurance and reinsurance markets solvent. One more time: There is finite capital in the insurance and reinsurance market; it is not unlimited or infinite. You decide folks! Thank you to Jon Spaugy and the Board of BIG for allowing my viewpoints. I’ll be back next time! and production. Stay informed and stay relevant!
About the Authors: Stephen Samuel Santoro is a former senior executive officer from 2 Fortune 200 Insurance Holding Companies. Both firms were/are traded on the NYSE. Stephen’s background focused on reinsurance in both USA and tax haven venues. Stephen attended the University of UT from 1975/1980 AND has worked in the insurance business and related businesses since 1981. Stephen also has owned controlling interests in 3 managing general agencies in CA and GA. He may be contacted at (310) 305-0459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
chapter president, BIG San Diego
By Don Lukenbill That BIG noise you hear in the south is Matt Speed, chapter president of BIG San Diego, presiding over a membership explosion in that region. Since agreeing to helm BIG’s efforts just north of the border, he has been very successful in building a solid membership base there. With his extensive experience on the company side as a rep, Matt brings a unique understanding to the shared challenges faced by companies and producers alike. He has been in the middle and can use that experience to create partnerships beneficial to both sides. With his drive and dedication, great things await for BIG members, in San Diego and across the state, in 2017 and beyond. Here is a quick look at one of BIG’s rising stars, Matt Speed. BIG Times Magazine: We always like to start out with some biographical information on our interview. So tell us, Matt, how did you first catch the insurance bug? Matt Speed: I have over 18 years’ experience in the insurance business, in particular the personal lines market. I began in 1998 as a marketing representative for North Pointe Insurance, continuing my career on the carrier side for Bristol West, Legacy Insurance, Stonewood Insurance and Greenpath Insurance. I have worked as a Personal Lines Underwriter, Commercial Lines Underwriter and in Customer Service and earned my API and AINS designations. As president of Greenpath Insurance, I learned about the importance of profit and growth for a carrier. BTM: What made you decide to make insurance your career? MS: It was actually by accident. I went to Sacramento State University and was studying Health and Sa-
fety. I wanted to get into law enforcement. But I had some student loans I need to pay off and I received a call from an insurance company, North Pointe, which made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. 17 years later, here I am. BTM: You are based in San Diego. Explain some unique challenges facing insurance producers in that part of the California, as well as those for companies selling there. MS: My wife and I relocated to San Diego a year ago. We love it here for the weather and people. There are some challenges for agencies and carriers in this part of CA, due to all the brush. When it comes to home owner’s insurance, it become tough for agencies to find a carrier that will take the risk. I think as some of the rural area and also software from carriers become more updated, they can really start to get into the brush area and determine if there are fire roads and developed areas. BTM: This year, you became president of BIG’s San Diego chapter. What plans have you already put in motion and what to you see in the horizon for our association members there? MS: We have already had 4 successful local meeting this year and a baseball game. Each meeting has been bigger than the last. We are excited that the BIG is finally in the San Diego area and holding quarterly meetings to educate local agents and bring them together. We will continue to hold quarterly educational meetings that are at a low cost to the agent/broker. The last 4 meetings the carriers/vendors have been generous to pay for most of the local meeting and attracting more agents/brokers. We are looking forward to have more and more carriers and agent/brokers participate in the San Diego Chapter in 2017!
BTM: How do companies and their representatives fit into the equation? MS: They play a huge role. They are the mouth piece for the BIG. They can bring dozens of agent/brokers to the meetings and also help sponsor and have giveaways to attract our members and soon to be members to the meeting and shows. BTM: If you could travel back to 2006, what would you tell Matt Speed? MS: Don’t get into insurance. LOL. No, I would say, learn as much as you can in insurance, as one day you will play a BIG part in the insurance world. BTM: Now fast forward to 2026. What would you like to hear people say about you? MS: Matt was knowledgeable, helpful, mindful and always giving back to the insurance community.
BTM: In a few sentences, how would you sum up your personal and professional philosophy for success? MS: Always teach others your successes and failures, so they can shorten their learning curve and become more successful sooner than later.
HOW LOYAL ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS? SIX TIPS FOR MEASURING THIS CRUCIAL “GROWTH PREDICTOR”
By Jeff Sauro, author, Customer Analytics for Dummies Good customer management comes from good customer measurement. Customer loyalty is an important analytic for determining how well a company or product is positioned to grow or shrink based on future earnings. The “best” metric for determining customer loyalty depends on the industry, company, and type of product or service, but for most organizations, measuring customers’ intent to repurchase your product or service and their willingness to recommend your company to others provides a solid base.
Sure, your company has satisfied customers. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be in business (at least not for long). But here’s a question few companies ask: How loyal are they? Will they recommend your products and services to others? Will they stick with you through thick and thin? Or will they run at the first sign of a price increase or some other change that rubs them the wrong way? The mere presence of customers (even those who’ve stuck around long enough to make multiple purchases) isn’t enough. You need to be able to measure their loyalty so that you can use it to predict the health of your company. Too many companies spend a ton of time and effort getting a customer to make a purchase, and then they just hope for the best. The problem with that approach is that operating in the blind in terms of loyalty makes it likely you’ll make ill-advised decisions that come back to bite you. When you measure customer loyalty, you’ll be able to not only make the most of that loyalty but also to make better strategic decisions for your company.
Probably the first way to gauge customer loyalty is to compute the percentage of customers who are repurchasing, reusing, or returning to a product or service. This data can be collected from past sales or from surveying customers about their past or future intent. Repurchase habits are measured differently, depending on the type of product or service offered. For example, for rental car companies, the repurchase rate is a good indicator of loyalty as certain customer segments rent multiple times per year and have many companies to choose from. For software companies, a similar measure of repurchase loyalty is the maintenance contract renewal rates. Gauge word-of-mouth promotion with the Net Promoter Score. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a po-
pular way of measuring customer loyalty through understanding word-of-mouth marketing. It is based on a single question: “How likely are you to recommend [product or service] to a friend or colleague?” NPS is calculated by following a three-step process. First, ask your customers how likely they are to recommend your product or service to a friend or colleague. Next, compute the proportions of promoters, passives, and detractors. Promoters are customers who are most likely to speak about and recommend your product or service. Passives are generally satisfied with your product or service but are less likely to recommend it to others. Detractors are not only the least loyal, but also the most likely to actually discourage friends and colleagues from purchasing or using your product. And finally, compute NPS by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. Be aware of bad profits. How does it feel to pay the check at the restaurant where you had terrible service and bad food? Or how about paying $150 to change your airline ticket reservation? Obviously, nobody likes to pay for a subpar or overpriced product or for bad service, and yet, in these examples, companies financially benefit from a customer’s negative experiences. However, it’s a short-term benefit. Those are bad profits, and they’re a ticking time bomb. They lead to customer resentment and a decrease in customer loyalty, and they eventually impact profits negatively. While it’s bad to generate revenue from dissatisfied customers, it’s worse if a large proportion of your revenue comes from detractors, he explains. With too much detractor revenue for a product or entire company, you are more susceptible to new competition, alternatives, or abandonment. Find out what customers like most about your product/service. One of the most effective ways to understand what drives customer loyalty is to conduct a key driver analysis. Key drivers are things like quality (Are your products reliable? Do they work as described?), value (Does your product give buyers the best bang for their buck?), utility (Does your product offer essential features?), and ease of use (Can customers use your features without frustration?).
Pinpoint your haters. While companies should strive for more promoters, it’s often the customers who are least satisfied with their experience who have a much larger impact on referrals and the brand. Research supports that customers who are dissatisfied with a product or service experience are actually more likely to be vocal and tell more friends and colleagues about their bad experience than generally satisfied customers. The negative effects of detractors can outweigh the positive effects of promoters. Again, once you’ve identified your detractors, you’ll have some decisions to make. Make sure you’re getting your money’s worth from promoters. Generally speaking, promoters are a positive asset to your company. But before going all-out to attract as many as possible, Sauro says you should take the time to understand how valuable a promoter is, both in terms of revenue and in how many new customers a promoter brings to a company. The best way to understand how much revenue a promoter generates is to tie actual sales to survey responses to see how many promoters actually recommended someone, and how many of those people who heard the recommendation actually became customers.
With some estimate of the number of promoters you need to gain a new customer, you can then weigh the cost of new programs, features, pricing, and promo-
tions to determine if the benefit from new customers outweighs the cost. For example, if you have to reduce the price of your product to turn customers into promoters, gaining those promoters might not be financially sustainable. Or you might find that it would cost close to a quarter of a million dollars to add a new feature to a product, while that new feature would generate only 10 new promoters—not worth it. And for websites, a new “customer” might just be a new visitor or subscriber, so the cost of gaining new promoters can be important. Customer loyalty isn’t black and white. When you can use analytics to dig into why customers buy from you, how often they do or don’t recommend you to others, and so on, it becomes very beneficial for your business. You can make better product decisions, provide better service, and make changes to ensure you can create many more loyal customers. About the Author Jeff Sauro is a Six Sigma-trained statistical analyst and pioneer in quantifying the customer experience. He specializes in making statistical concepts understandable and actionable. He is the founding principal of MeasuringU, a customer experience and quantitative research firm based in Denver, Colorado. Jeff has published over 20 peer-reviewed research articles on statistics and the user experience. He has written four books, including Quantifying the User Experience: Practical Statistics for User Research and A Practical Guide to the System Usability Scale.He publishes weekly articles online at www.measuringu.com and daily updates on Twitter (@MeasuringU).
THE ELECTION THAT SHOCKED MILLIONS: CHANGES ARE A COMING By Seth Sherwood, Sherwood Keynotes Okay, so here we are at a turning point in our government. (And maybe a turning point in your life.) The U.S. of A. now has President Elect Donald Trump. The election is over and life goes on. Protests are going on all over the country. Isn’t it great that we have freedom of speech here in our nation? Each one of us can and will choose how to respond to the election. Remember what Edmond Burke said, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” While it is important to express our points of view, I encourage you to trust in our democratic process. Let’s say that at least a few of you are not happy about the election results. If you feel like protesting, complaining, blaming, or just being angry and upset over what happened, it is your choice. My intention is that after reading this article, you will take a different direction on your journey of LIFE, one that will lead you to more success and happiness, the Route to Riches. Where to Focus Your Energy (Choices) Here’s the deal. We all have a certain amount of daily energy. After you get a good night’s sleep, you wake up, eat breakfast and then get to work on your to do list. You have energy to go to the gym, make phone calls, write emails, create things, build things, destroy things, improve relationships, or of course waste time on Face Book, Amazon.com, Twitter or whatever. Research has documented that putting something off with the use of social media is one of the strongest motives for using social media. (Psychology Today) Research also shows that 40% of people have experienced financial loss due to procrastination and that 20% of people are chronic procrastinators.
(Brandon Gaille) (Personally, I am going to join Procrastinators Anonymous one of these days) How much do you procrastinate? In the picture to the right many people are exerting various amounts of energy by protesting the election results. The truth is that Trump won the election. Can that be disputed? No. If we apply the “what you resist, persists” principle, then by law you will continue to be upset over something that you have no control over. Choose the Champion’s Route to Riches On the other hand, what if you channel that energy to something more productive? Below are a few ideas, Joining and becoming an active member of an organization which supports immigrant equality Joining and actively helping an organization which champions women’s rights Joining and supporting an organization that encourages others to be more involved in the political process here in the United States While groups tend to get more accomplished than individuals, if you feel inspired to start a blog, You Tube channel, Face Book fan page, give speeches, etc… that promote those principles listed above, just do it. You can then have a more positive impact on the challenges our country faces. Rather than going out on the street and yelling, kicking and marching, use your energy in a more positive way to make a change in the world. I strongly believe that protesting is not wrong. (as long as it’s peaceful) Wouldn’t you like to see a lasting change? If you decide not to focus your time and energy on one of the above causes, here’s another idea. Take that energy and channel it to your relationships, your career, your health, your finances or whatever your goals and dreams are. Study more, read more, improve your spiritual life, work more, exercise more, laugh more, sing more, dance more, live more, spend more quality time with your family, friends, colleagues, co-workers and /or meet some new people. The average 60 year old American watches 15 years of televi-
sion. Ouch! It really comes down to how you’re spending your time and energy. Are you going down the dismal destructive drag-way? Or do you have the courage to change direction and focus on standing up for a worthy cause or doing what it takes to achieve your dreams and vision. Maybe it’s time to start planning for 2017. Just like a pole vault jumper takes a long approach to the take-off point, it’s a good idea to be prepared to take-off in 2017. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Seth Sherwood is originally from Amherst, Massachusetts. He has traveled and worked extensively in Latin America. Part of that was a two year stint in the Peace Corps in Chile and Honduras. He earned his MBA from the University of New Haven in 1987. After a 16 year career as a public school teacher and 9 years as a Dale Carnegie coach, in 2013, Seth founded the bilingual professional development organization, Sherwood Keynotes (www.sherwoodkeynotes.com). You can contact him at (800) 215-0526.
SHOULD WORK BE FUN? SIX COMPONENTS OF A POSITIVE WORKPLACE CULTURE AND WHY YOUR COMPANY NEEDS ONE y Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, coauthors of The Entrepreneurial Culture: B 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People cultures are rigid, serious, and businesslike. The reality is, productivity improves when people enjoy being at work and enjoy the work they’re doing, regardless of the decade in which they were born. Here are six components of a positive company culture:
Fun. While going to work might not ever beat a day
at the beach, it’s still possible to make time at the office enjoyable. When possible, allow your employees to work in highly collaborative teams and make group work areas available. Give these teams clear goals and celebrate when they’re accomplished. You might even want to introduce a little friendly competition.
There’s no denying that this isn’t your father’s Corporate America. Since Don Draper’s day, workplaces have become more casual, more connected, more innovative, and more flexible. But have they become fun? Maybe so—or at least, that’s what the latest crop of employees hope to find when they settle into their new cubicles. According to a recent report from Accenture, 60 percent of graduates from the Class of 2015 said they would take a pay cut to work for a company that had a “positive social atmosphere.” Most employers don’t actually need to see the results of a study to know that a positive, even fun, company culture is a deciding factor for young people who are entering the job market. And since millennials now account for the largest share of the U.S. work force, those employers had better take this generation’s expectations seriously—even if they themselves are members of the ‘it’s called work for a reason’ camp. Don’t worry, you won’t have to put in a basketball court or bowling alley—and actually, injecting a little more fun into your organization will benefit everyone. It’s a myth that productivity improves when company
Yes, your new millennial hires will be the low men and women on your company’s totem pole. But that doesn’t mean they can be treated dismissively or viewed as a cost. No one, regardless of age or experience, will enjoy coming to work if they aren’t treated with respect and viewed as an asset.
A 2014 report by consulting firm Achieve revealed that not only do millennials think it’s important to give back to their communities, 57 percent would actually like to see their employers offer more company-wide volunteer opportunities. It’s a good idea for your company to stand for more than “just” the mercantile value of its goods and services. All of your employees, regardless of their age, will be proud to work for a company that’s committed to a better world, not just a better product. (And if some of them share your company’s good deeds on social media, so much the better.)
Flex-hours. If your company has a rigid attendan-
ce policy, Houlihan and Harvey ask you to seriously
consider: Why? Thanks to technology, many of today’s jobs don’t require employees to be in the office, at their desks, from nine to five. And believe it or not, almost half of millennials say they’d choose flexibility over pay. Appreciation. When your employees work hard on your company’s behalf, they deserve your thanks and appreciation. Don’t take it for granted when your employees put in extra hours, land a coveted client, or turn out an incredibly well-thought-out proposal, for example. Make sure they know that you have noticed their efforts. For that matter, don’t even take it for granted that they show up every day. (As the economy continues to improve, employees have an increasingly wide array of potential employers to choose from!) A great way to build team spirit and nurture a positive culture is to send out written acknowledgments or make an announcement when a person does something that positively affects business
own. By that time, your competition will woo them with higher salaries and a positive company culture. Now is the time to get in front of the curve and attract the folks you need to build your company. Shouldn’t work be fun anyway? Isn’t that when we all do our best work? Isn’t that the fertile ground that allows the best solutions and disruptive ideas to grow? And isn’t that the basis of company loyalty? With the right people in the right environment, your company will be more likely to hit its numbers and be able to provide those increased salaries when Mom and Dad pull the plug.
Family. Accenture’s report also revealed that only
15 percent of 2015 grads “prefer” to work for a large corporation. Today’s employees want to be known and treated as individuals, not merely as “human capital” or cogs in the proverbial machine. They value kinship, shared values, and being part of a supportive group that has one another’s best interests at heart. They want to feel proud of their “tribe” and look forward to the company of the group with whom they spend the majority of their waking hours. All of the advice shared here will help you to create a workplace “family.” In addition, we recommend setting up a mentorship program. When a new employee comes on board, try to match him up with a more experienced worker who can advise, teach, challenge, and encourage him. Mentoring relationships are a win-win because they guarantee that valuable institutional knowledge is passed on while knitting your team more closely together.” You may have noticed in Accenture’s report that 70 percent of the graduates surveyed are still being subsidized by Mom and Dad—but don’t assume that they’ll be willing to settle for less in the workplace for the sake of a few more bucks once they’re on their
About the Authors Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey are coauthors of The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People (www.TheBarefootSpirit. com). Widely used as a case study in schools of entrepreneurship, Houlihan and Harvey were the keynote speakers at the 2014 World Conference on Entrepreneurship in Dublin, Ireland, and recipients of the 2014 Distinguished Entrepreneurship Speaker Award from the Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Bradley University. Michael and Bonnie coauthor weekly no-nonsense business blogs at www.TheBarefootSpirit.com and www.TheBrandAuthority.net.
December Holiday Fun Facts
December is filled with holidays that cross cultural, religious, even national boundaries. While there is very little “White Christmas-ing” going on in most of California, we do try to maintain our own holiday spirit. Getting together with colleagues and co-workers at holiday parties (like BIG’s own annual gala), visiting friends and family, and following in whatever tradition you may have make the end of the year a special time. So let the retailers start their holidays with Black Friday sales beginning in early November and enjoy there fun facts about December holidays. - The traditional three colors of Christmas are green, red, and gold. Green has long been a symbol of life and rebirth; red symbolizes the blood of Christ, and gold represents light as well as wealth and royalty. - Christmas wasn’t declared an official holiday in the United States until June 26, 1870. Alabama was the first state in the United States to officially recognize Christmas in 1836 and Oklahoma was the last in 1907. - Christmas is a contraction of “Christ’s Mass,” which is derived from the Old English Cristes mæsse (first recorded in 1038). The letter “X” in Greek is the first letter of Christ, and “Xmas” has been used as an abbreviation for Christmas since the mid-1500s. - Hanukkah is celebrated around the world for eight days and nights and celebrates the victory of the Maccabees or Israelites over the Greek-Syrian ruler, Antiochus about 2200 years ago. - During Hanukkah, families eat latkes(potato pancakes) and sufganiot (jelly donuts), or other foods which are fried in oil, to celebrate and commemorate the miracle of the Festival of Lights.
- Traditionally, Hanukkah is a time when children are encouraged and rewarded for their Torah studies. Consequently, it became fashionable to give the children Hanukkah money and presents during the holiday. - Kwanzaa, which is observed Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, is a nonreligious holiday that celebrates African-American culture. The weeklong event highlights seven principles, including Nia, which is Swahili for “purpose.” - “Kwanzaa” is derived from Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means “fresh fruits” or “first fruits,” and is used in relation to the first harvest of the year. - The holiday was created by Dr. Maulana Krenga in 1966. The co-founder of a black nationalist organization, his intent was to educate African-Americans, and the world at large, about African culture, and to unify African-Americans. - Boxing Day, which falls on Dec. 26 or the first weekday after Christmas, is an English holiday. It is called “boxing day” because it was the day the family opened the box for the poor. The Christmas Box was often made of clay or wood and was where people placed gifts.
SECRECY IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA: SIX WAYS TO KEEP TRADE SECRETS AND SENSITIVE COMPANY INFO OFFLINE By James Pooley, June 2016 inductee, IP Hall of Fame
You can be sure that most of your employees are active on social media. For younger ones, in fact, Facebooking, Instagramming, and Tweeting are as natural as breathing. But suppose an employee shared pictures of your product prototype? Posted a draft patent application your company was about to file? Messaged a Dropbox link with confidential information (even if only to a fellow employee) over an insecure connection? Crowdsourced a question about a sensitive issue she was handling for a customer? The Internet—which spawned social media—has changed the way we work and communicate,” says Pooley, author of Secrets: Managing Information Assets in the Age of Cyberespionage. That change has profound implications for a trade secret system that relies largely on human trust. I’m not saying openness is inherently bad. Obviously, a certain amount is needed if we’re to collaborate for innovation. Yet there’s a dark side to the comfort level that’s evolved around all this sharing. Companies need to acknowledge the risks of social media and work to prevent leaks by improving their employees’ knowledge and good judgment. Here are six tips to help you keep your company’s sensitive information off social media feeds: Understand that you’re asking employees to go against their “digital instincts.” By their very nature, social media platforms encourage users to publicly disclose the minutiae of their lives (usually the more, the better). The so-called Facebook generation is conditioned to casually communicate, swapping files and
using the Cloud to store and access photos, music, and more. They are experts at revealing a lot using only 140 characters. Making sure that social media doesn’t become a hole through which your company’s secrets leak is an especially challenging task because you’re essentially asking employees to check their habits at the door. They’ll need to learn to operate based on a different set of standards that often contradict how they deal with information in their private lives. Put social media policies in writing. Don’t assume that a few informal warnings and cautionary tales will keep all your employees from tweeting and posting what they shouldn’t. If your company already has general policies about the disclosure of information assets, make sure they become part of the official set of rules that govern employees’ use of social media. These policies will reinforce the need to keep personal and work issues separated and not to post about what is going on inside the company. Companies need to decide if social media business contacts belong to them or to their staff. According to recent court decisions, if this isn’t clearly specified in the company’s policies, those contacts and the social media account itself can be claimed by the employee when he leaves. Train, train, and then train some more. In many organizations, after initial orientation, data protection policies are left on the shelf and more or less ignored. That’s dangerous, because staff can easily forget about the rules or lose respect for the dangers of noncompliance. Meanwhile, they may be working on collaborative projects, examining acquisition possibilities, receiving development proposals, and more. All of these situations can lead to personal social media connections, where you will be relying on the knowledge and good judgment of your employees to control risks. You can mitigate much of this risk by creating a quality training program that engages your employees as part of the security defense team. They’ll make fewer mistakes themselves on social media (and elsewhere), and they’ll also be on the lookout for the mistakes of
others. Keep in mind that the best training is continuous, careful, upbeat, and professional, and does not rely on threats. And be sure to include everyone—not just key knowledge workers—in social media security training. That includes contractors, temporary employees, and interns. Know which devices might represent a risk. The growing popularity of “BYOD” policies means that many of your employees may well be storing sensitive information on the same laptops, smartphones, and tablets they use to scroll through status updates in the evenings. That’s cause for concern, because cyberthieves can gain access to these devices’ contents and your company’s systems through relatively easyto-hack social media accounts and apps. In addition to establishing clear policies on social media use and providing continuing training, consider technical mitigation measures. Mobile device management (MDM) tools can remotely configure devices, monitor what’s on them, and even erase their data if lost. MDM techniques can also include encryption for data stored on or communicated from the device. Teach employees to spot social media scams. In addition to using MDM tools, training employees on methods that information thieves often use can help them avoid falling prey to traps on social media. For instance, social media profiles give hackers a lot of information that they can use to compose realistic-looking, customized email phishing messages. But beyond that, websites themselves can be used directly to fool people into joining a fake group, survey, or event, sometimes using a money coupon as a lure. Other traps involve fake “like” buttons, browser extensions offered for download, or compelling offers designed to make the viewer want to share them with friends. All of these social network scams are grounded on the idea that we are all so used to rapidly connecting, sharing, and exposing that we’ll do it more or less automatically with anything that looks attractive. Teaching employees to think twice before clicking can help secrets stay secret. Be aware of your official social media presence. While you may not be able to fully control what your em-
ployees post on their personal social media accounts, you can certainly keep a close eye on official company Twitter, Facebook, and other social media pages. Have a safety net of trusted employees monitoring and maintaining your company’s presence on social media to stop potentially revealing posts from ever reaching the public eye. Also, regularly change passwords to lock out account thieves who may have successfully procured your company’s login information. Social networking has become a fixture of modern personal and professional life, so embrace its many benefits. Just be aware of the security concerns social media represent and proactively work to prevent breaches, whether they come from employee use or official company activity.
About the Author Nicole McMackin is president of Irvine Technology Corp. (www.irvinetechcorp.com), a firm that specializes in information technology solutions and staffing. She joined the company more than 10 years ago, initially serving as Vice President of Sales. McMackin has an established career in sales and management with a strong emphasis of account ownership within Fortune 300 organizations. She began her career in staff augmentation services with a locally based Orange County, Calif., company, where she was quickly recognized as one of the top performers throughout the nation. She has sold and managed multiple premier accounts, all while leading a large team of account executives and recruiters.
ARE YOU PUTTING YOUR BEST FACE FORWARD? By Don Lukenbill, editor, BIG Times Magazine
There is no doubt your offices include clean, organized reception and work areas, and that says a lot about your business. But how many customers actually visit a physical bricks and mortar location these days. Most walk through your virtual “doors” but probably never even meet their insurance professional in person. How many agency owners and managers are mindful of the online (website and social media) impression they are making on their present and future customers with their “virtual” offices? How about agency marketing material attached to emails and used by those who still send old school mass mailings? No matter how sharp the agent or broker is, it is their virtual presence that will make the bigger impression. Really we are talking about two things. The introduction, that is, the first encounter a customer makes with an agency. This is probably your website. If you into multi-marketing, it could also be flyers, billboards, bench ads, or some other form of external advertising.
A great way to get known in the community is sponsorships – little league team, Pop Warner football, school banner ads, etc. Heck, even your own agency bowling or softball team gets your name out into the community. Whatever the venue, ask yourself “how do you I look?” Is your website up to date? Are you recycling your flyers and marketing collateral without touting your latest and best products? Are you out there supporting the team you are sponsoring? Let’s not forget about social media, either (who can?). Is your Facebook page updated? What kind of content are you tweeting out? Is there a link to your website? Are you using your agency Instagram for more personal (less professional) posts? Next is the “leave behind.” This is what people leave with – physically or virtually – after promising to “get back to you” as well as any web surfers adding your agency to their list of potential callbacks. This could be an e-quote, a follow-up email, a brochure attachment,
or even an actual business card. You may be the greatest salesperson ever, or employ the best of the best. But you will never be able to flex your sales muscles if your “best face forward” is unremarkable or even a turn-off. Remember that you never have a second chance to make a first impression. Of course, most agencies don’t have the luxury of an in-house marketing department, or even a full-time staff person dedicated to creating and updating marketing efforts. So whoever is taking care of your agency image, remember one thing: When mailing, e-mailing or otherwise distributing anything from your agency, there is one cardinal rule to consider: See it as your reader sees it. -Are you writing in industry jargon? Most customers don’t understand insurance acronyms and shorthand, so your message will be lost. -Have you used the spell check? Grammatical mistakes and typos cause you to lose your reader faster than anything – at best, they give the impression of a sloppy organization.
-Before anything is considered ready for public consumption, be sure at least one other person has proofed it. The more eyes on it, the better! Most of this advice can be readily incorporated into your everyday quality control. Of course, composition is another story. You are an insurance professional, and your job is to sell policies. Writing is definitely a skill that intimidates some people and eludes others. Some of the best and most repeated advice given to writers is “write how you talk.” That doesn’t mean to pepper your emails, letters, etc. with poor grammar and street slang. A good exercise is to pretend you are talking to the reader in person. What do you want to say? How does it sound to others? You have control over your agency’s public face and the difference between a favorable and unfavorable impression is often dictated by simple choices. Take an objective look at what you are sending out or otherwise using to market your agency. Just being aware is half the battle. You have worked hard to build a successful, vibrant business. Be sure you look the part, even when you can’t be there in person.ell as personal growth opportunities, offered at the BIG Minivention.”
-Is the presentation neat and professional? There is a place for out-of-the-box creativity, but your main goal is to have the information read. -Is your agency name and contact information clear? You would be surprised how many websites practically hide how someone can get in touch with them. If you aren’t completely paperless, make sure you have attractive letterhead and business cards. This is an introduction and what people keep. -Is the customer’s name and contact information spelled correctly? Nothing irritates people more than a misspelled name. It screams “you are just another name on a sheet.” Unusual first and last names need to be checked twice. -Make sure your logo is on everything. Branding, branding, branding!