Hundreds of financial professionals made their way to Atlanta last month for the 2016 National African American Insurance Association Conference and Empowerment Summit. During this jam-packed event, attendees were engaged and inspired as they listened to the best in the business deliver powerful lessons on self-empowerment, succeeding against all odds, and moving to the top in today’s challenging business environment.
From keynote speaker Robert Johnson, J.D., attendees learned how to create the best version of themselves, no matter their professional status. As they move toward achieving this lofty goal, they should make it a point to always look for the “white space” in their organizations and take calculated risks to fill that space. A first step as they embark on this search is to focus on aspects that their firms have not yet capitalized upon, he advised.
Striving for the best also requires a keen emphasis on leadership development and executive branding. According to Johnson, leadership development consists of several components, including:
- The Envelope. This encompasses what one conveys to the outside world—their email messages, clothes, and language, for example.
- Excitement. Learning to be different and unique is critical for success. “Is there a buzz about you?,” he asked.
A key factor in becoming the best is also to focus on why you are doing what you are doing or what you want to do in life, Johnson said. “People do not buy from you because of what you do,” he stressed. “They buy because of why you do it. Once you discover your why,” he said, “everything else will make sense and you will understand the rest of your life.”
Johnson used his own background to illustrate his point. He is currently managing partner and general counsel for the Solomon Group, LLC, a management consulting group he founded in 2008. Prior to this position, he worked as a lawyer for McDonald’s Corporation, where, seizing upon an opportunity to identify his “white space,” he launched the company’s Worker’s Compensation program and implemented a program that saved the company more than $60 million.
The courage to succeed
From the Boldness Coach, Vaneese Johnson, attendees learned how to be bold as they seek to raise their social media profiles and elevate their careers. A certified career management coach, personal brand analyst, and career transition coach, Johnson’s business model and growth strategies help savvy women entrepreneurs leverage their branding trends, technologies, and resources to achieve next-level growth.
“Be the kind of bold that will work for you,” Johnson advised the attendees. “Be a game changer, buy into new solutions, and remember that “we are always evolving.” To succeed, she stressed, “you must have a game-changer mindset, be innovative, resilient and self-confident, and develop the willingness to take risks.”
In today’s high-tech business environment, those who seek success must also learn how to use the various tools of social media effectively. If you are not on social media, your professional efforts are invisible, she said. In fact, 60 percent of professionals note that using social media has helped them become game changers in their industries.
NAAIA Executive Director Margaret Redd addresses attendees.
Some of the top social media platforms mentioned by Johnson are Facebook, YouTube, Periscope, LinkedIn, and Twitter. All of these platforms are growing by leaps and bounds and as financial professionals develop plans to leverage them, they should have in place the following:
- A vision—A carefully articulated vision is important because it will drive everything you do. “Your mission dictates your why,” she said.
- Brand managing—This is about managing your reputation and the experience people have when they meet with you.
- Positioning strategy—This involves addressing issues like the best time to post content in order to achieve the highest customer interaction.
All of these social media tools are vital to a professional’s success, she added, and those seeking to move their careers forward must learn how to use them to their advantage. The key, she added, “is to think about what you want to do and go ahead and do it.”
Preparing for the unknown
From popular conference speaker, Ronco Johnson, LUTCF, attendees learned about the power of faith, resilience, perseverance, and the importance of being prepared. Johnson is currently president of the financial-services firm, L.R. Johnson and Associates, and an active member of NAIFA, a NAAIA Partner.
In 2011, Johnson had an experience that he describes as a “lights-out moment,” which changed his outlook on life and business forever. At the time, he was anxious to meet with a recording artist and had prepared diligently for this meeting. When he actually had an opportunity to do so, he was nervous, with sweaty palms and a racing heart. “I was working 20-hour days and not getting enough sleep; so, I thought I was just exhausted,” he said. But he was more than exhausted. He was suffering from a medical emergency. His condition quickly worsened and the artist had to accompany him to the doctor. “Basically, at 38, I flat-lined,” he said.
Johnson prayed to God to give him a second chance to spend time with his daughter and his foundation, and God did. Since that time, which he now describes as his “aha” moment, Johnson has learned not to look back, to stay spiritually balanced, and to make sure that he and his clients are prepared and ready for any event.
“What about you?” he asked the audience. “Are you prepared for when your lights go out?”
Protecting the profession and client promises
For many financial professionals, a key requirement for success is acquiring a firm grasp of the political forces at play and how they influence the products and services they provide to their clients.
On hand to describe the important role that government officials play in shaping the financial-services industry and how NAIFA is working tirelessly to create a favorable business climate was Diane Boyle, senior vice president of the association’s Government Relations Department.
Boyle kicked off her session by commenting briefly on the current political climate. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the two most unpopular presidential candidates in more than 30 years, she said. Most Americans rate them unfavorably.
But no matter who wins the election, she stressed, NAIFA’s first responsibility is to educate that individual about the critical role NAIFA members play in securing America’s financial future. NAIFA carries out this important task by developing a successful political advocacy program, which consists of building trusted relationships with lawmakers, earning positive media coverage, making good use of experienced professionals, and political giving.
NIM Insurance Solutions agent Maurice Mbata, Jr., proudly displays the Heartrate + Fitness wristband he won during the NAAIA meeting Standing next to Mbata is NAIFA staff member Olivia Scott.
NAIFA is an advocacy organization that works in a nonpartisan way, she said. The association seeks protection for the insurance and financial-services industry and does do both at the state and federal levels.
The industry will soon face the issue of tax reform, she added. The government is looking for revenue, and that is one reason NAIFA is monitoring numerous industry-related bills. Recently, NAIFA has worked on a wide range of initiatives, including the Affordable Care Act, NARAB, and the DOL Fiduciary Rule. The recent DOL ruling shows how regulators can put in place rules that affect the insurance and financial-services business, she said. Other initiatives NAIFA is working on include senior financial protection, cybersecurity, producer licensing, state-sponsored retirement plans, and financial literacy.
Apart from ushering in a new president, the 2016 elections will also bring new members of Congress to Washington, D.C. Running for office is expensive, she pointed out. The average candidate spends over $1.5 million to run for office. Supporting these lawmakers does not buy their vote, but it does help gain access to them.
Policymakers on the state and federal levels shape the way agents and advisors do business. So Boyle urged the NAAIA attendees to stay involved and engaged by supporting NAIFA’s PAC, which is the largest in the industry, and by participating in the association’s webinars, fly-ins and other initiatives.
The conference is NAAIA’s 18th annual Conference and Empowerment Summit. It was supported by many of the association’s partners, including NAIFA, which recently partnered with NAAIA to strengthen professional development, political advocacy and diversity programs.