Harry Hoopis, On The Scent
When Harry Hoopis first sniffed the Singapore air, he smelled the sweet scent of opportunity.
It was early 1995 when the Chicago general agent for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company flew there for a three-day, main-platform appearance before a large group of Southeast Asian agents and managers.
“The first morning,” he says, “Im wondering, ‘Will they understand me at all?’ The second day I felt more comfortable. By the third day, Im telling all my old stories and jokes.”
What he came to realize in those three days was this: There were 1,400 managers and producers before him from 12 nations, and not a translator in the room.
“It was a wake-up call,” he says. “These people speak English. Theyre dying for information. When you looked at your audience, you never saw eyes, because their heads were down making notes. People would come up to me and show me what they had written and ask me to fill in the one word they had missed. It was remarkable.”
“That was my introduction to the marketplace,” he says.
On the way home, Harry and a colleague marveled over the business energy theyd witnessed in Singapore and they resolved, in mid-air, to create a product that would address a core need of the market: management development.
In the region, says Hoopis, if you are not in management, you are seen as a failure, though most managers there produce as well. The ratio of managers to reps, he says, is five-to-one at best, though this pattern is slowly changing.
The outcome, two years later, was “The Essentials of Management Development,” published in conjunction with the General Agents & Managers Association of Washington, D.C., of which Hoopis is a former president. Its also distributed in the region in partnership with Prudential U.K.
To date, some 500 students in the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia have been put through the basic, practical course, which has since been translated into Chinese and is being used in the United States as well. Prudential U.K. wants to bring it to three or four more countries.
The market is appealing, says Hoopis, not only because of its sheer size (more than 3.5 billion people, if you include India and China), but also because of its rapid industrialization.
When Harry returned from that first trip, people would ask, “Whats it like over there?” Hed say it reminded him of the U.S. industry 15 years before–certainly not as far behind as hed thought in that they were already beyond selling endowment policies.
He returned to the region two years ago (hes now been there nine or 10 times) and when he was subsequently asked the same question, hed answer, “Theyre five years behind.” And when he completed an August 2000 trip? “I think theyve caught up,” he says.