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Each of us has been impacted by a series of individuals over the course of our lives – family, friends, teachers … the list is endless and the input varied. The most dramatic help is normally from those who champion our cause and want to see us succeed in school, sports or life.

Survival in the financial services industry is around 17 percent over the first four years. The standing joke is that most recruitment efforts amount to “hiring a bunch of individuals and throwing them up against the wall. Those that stick are the survivors.” That isn’t funny, because, all-to-frequently, that resembles what is taking place!

For any task, it is almost always more quickly and easily learned if someone shows us how to do it and then critiques us as we attempt to replicate it. The military understands this and has a well established program of on-the-job training that newly schooled individuals go through upon arrival at their units.

The purpose is to translate technical training into actual performance in the real world. This is just as true when a pilot lands in an aviation unit as it is when a technician arrives in a maintenance facility.

I suspect that agencies with the highest new agent retention statistics quite possibly employ some form of one-on-one mentorship for their new personnel. If a formal managerial matchup in not implemented, informal working partnerships may be forming by the agents themselves.

The validity of the on-the-job-training concept within the financial services industry is given at least an oblique endorsement by the number of ‘family clusters’ contained within it. Almost by default, if a family member or close friend comes into financial services, more personal effort is drummed up in support. Referrals may be given to the new arrival, service work with existing clients allowed and joint appointments held. In short, a higher percentage of family members manage to survive those initial years.

However, this kind of intense training takes time. I don’t believe the industry has historically shown the patience to allow agencies and training managers the blocks of time necessary to train agents in this manner. The quarterly quota keeps popping up requiring the next batch of new hires to be run through the grist mill.

This time crunch is most deleterious on smaller and newer agencies, where there are not as many people to begin with. If the full training cycle for one-on-one is two to three years to get a new agent up to self-sustaining proficiency, then the full scope of how successful this method would be versus the traditional ones could take 10 to 12 years to begin to extend its lead. It would take someone with a lot of courage and strength of their convictions to allow this to fully play out and validate the concept.

With the quantity-versus-quality mentality that seems to permeate the industry, I think few at the agency level within the traditional distribution system have the horsepower to carry the personalized training to completion. It would take someone further up the food chain to finance the required time.

Agents building their own shop by training agents or independent brokers building their practice are the places where this most likely is already being employed or is most apt to be implemented. They are most concerned with long-term productivity and the most efficient cost to get there. They are willing to polish a few quality gems, rather than to grab a handful of gravel and hope they find something of value.

One of the best salesmen I have ever seen was a young college graduate hired right out of school. No one told him he couldn’t shoot to the top, so he worked hard and that is just what he did. His results were fantastic and his success seemed assured.

However, no one was coaching him on how to run his practice like the business it was. Management expressed the opinion that the accumulation of debt he was building up was a good thing, as it would mean he would have to sell more to pay for it. At just over a year in the business, this agent’s meteoric sales success came crashing back to earth.

How different the path might have been had there been a mentor to cheer him on, yes, but also to give wise counsel on managing debt, building business cash reserves and taking a long term view of where he could go.