An excerpt from an old in-house publication article about Bud Blake's grandfather Daniel J. Blake, in 1920. (Credit: The John Hancock Field)

The DeLorean sports car of memory rushes me back through the decades. Back through the 2010s, through the 2000s, through the 1990s… all the way to June 1961.

John Kennedy is president. Fashionable people are wearing hats. IBM is preparing to release its first Selectric typewriter.

I’m a trainee at the insurance agency my dad, Jim Blake, is managing for a major life insurance company.

The Way Becoming an Agent Was

In June 1961, I was age 18, and I had just finished my sophomore year at Rockhurst College (now Rockhurst University) in Kansas City, Missouri. Back then, all I could think about was becoming a successful provider of insurance products and services, for existing office leads customers and, hopefully, new clients of my own. Of course, I was clueless about the what, the when, and the how of how I was going to accomplish this feat.

In the mornings, at the agency, I took a correspondence study course to learn the insurance business. In the afternoons and evenings, I went on calls and appointments with the top agent, Thomas V. Lynch. Tom Lynch was, and is, a master salesman, very smart, and a real professional. Although he and his family now live in Minneapolis, we are still very close friends and confidants to this day. Tom became known as one of the most able estate planners in the country.

Here are two concepts I learned that summer.

The first concept was the value of building a clientele.

(Related: Renewals, Renewals, Renewals)

I learned this by seeing how Tom interacted with his clients. Tom was very important to them. He showed how important an Insurance Agent could be to families and businesses. An Insurance Agent can provide the client with a real piece of property, which pays a set amount of dollars at the death of a family’s breadwinner, or at the death of a key person at a business. What a truly remarkable asset for protecting families and businesses.

Although, the insured clients would be deceased, if they were still alive, they would have been proud to know they had made these strong arrangements for protecting their families and businesses.

Providing this fine insurance product and the service that goes along with it affected me in such a positive way. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been in this business my whole adult life.

The second concept that caught my attention was the value of renewal commissions.

My dad literally sold me on the idea that renewal commissions were the most important part of my compensation as an Insurance Agent. This was the sizzle for me, because renewals were (yes! I used the past tense ‘linking verb’ were) truly such a unique component in our compensation program back then. We had such a diamond, so I thought!

Renewal commissions alone set us apart from every other industry in the land. In my view, this component alone is the medicine our industry needs to attract and build a strong insurance producer work force. A LIMRA study said that our industry’s agent retention rate is 11% after four years.

Another Ride in the DeLorean Time Machine

The Summer had ended, and I was ready to return home to the current time.

However, the DeLorean was balky, and it rolled me back to 1926 — the year my father began his career as an Insurance Agent.

He, too, started at his age of 18, after living for five years in an orphanage in St. Mary’s, Kansas, that was run by the Jesuit priests.

The DeLorean kept going and rolled me back to March 28, 1895, when my grandfather, Daniel J. Blake, began his insurance career.

Then the DeLorean accelerated to 1698, when the first life insurance company was founded in England. Whew!

Then I found the time direction knob and returned to 2020.

Looking Back From 2020

Here’s what I learned from traveling back in time.

Early on, I was in The Insurance Business.

For the past 30 years, there has been pressure for me to say that I’m in the Insurance & Financial Services Business, or just The Financial Services Business.

I, myself, am in the Insurance and Life Planning Business.

Now that I’ve returned to 2020, I’m grateful to be back home, doing good-to-great and wonderful work developing relationships with my existing clientele and along with new clients just like my dad discussed with me many, many years ago.

The revenue from my retainer relationships with my clients sure looks just like the renewal commissions my dad sold me on as my compensation program back in 1961. Thanks, Dad!

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Bud BlakeBud Blake is the owner of Blake and Associates, an insurance agency in Leawood, Kansas. He has owned the agency for more than 40 years and trained dozens of agents.