Sometimes it would be rude to ask the question you want someone most to answer. That was the case when I met “Dave.” In a family of high-wealth, high-power overachievers, why was he a clerk in a magic and costume store?
When I opened my wallet to pay for the nun’s habit (that’s a different story), Dave noticed my Rotary Club card. “You’re a Rotarian?” he asked. “My wife is, too.” I felt an instant connection as I learned that his wife is in the insurance and financial services industry and licensed for securities and variable products, as am I. He continued, “She doesn’t understand that I can’t go to a two-hour Rotary lunch meeting to sit around and talk with people every week, because I have to be here at the store.”
He tried her job one time. In his forties, he got his insurance and securities licenses and began selling. “They tell you to start with your ‘lateral network,’ people that you know who are at a similar stage in life. It might have been easier when I was in my twenties or thirties,” he said, “but I was in my forties. The people I knew already had their life insurance, already had their financial plans. I could close any deal set in front of me, but prospecting was hard for me, and I hated that part of the job.”
I could relate. I owned an insurance agency for two and a half years, and I had a high closing ratio. Because of my product knowledge from fifteen years of product management and actuarial work, and because of my sincerity and concern for the people, they felt comfortable with me. They trusted me. “I’m glad you’re going to be my agent,” they told me, and they referred their friends to me. In some cases, they said they drove past other agencies run by men, being more comfortable with female agents, because they thought women are more likely to be concerned and empathetic and service-oriented. Yes, I could close those deals because I cared—but I hated prospecting. I could relate to Dave.
What about the difference in income? His daughter is a lawyer and earns a healthy six-figure income. “She is in her thirties and has children at home, but she works sixty or seventy hours a week. I don’t want to live that way,” said Dave.
His brother-in-law owns a successful financial services agency. “He is the typical sell-ice-to-an-Eskimo kind of guy. Whenever he goes to a party, he is off in the corner getting someone’s contact information, setting appointments. It works for him, but I don’t want to be that guy! I want to enjoy the party.
“So I left that business and I came here, to be a clerk in a magic and costume store. I always loved magic, and I love this job. I do what I enjoy every day. My wife can’t say that.”
Not many of us can say that, Dave. I admire you for it. How many of you will have the courage to do the same thing?