When you work in a family business, there can be challenges. When I started working in my father’s life insurance business, I experienced several.
At the time, my dad had been in the business for more than 40 years. Before I started working with him, it was just him and an assistant. He did most things himself, though. Understandably, it was hard for him to give up some control. Even how he worked with his assistant was completely different from the way I wanted to work.
In addition, my dad never set goals, marketed or created a business plan. He never did any of the things I was being told in my training that I needed to do. He basically told me to ignore that stuff.
Bringing in outside help
To help me work through the issues, I hired a coach. I wanted to get my dad used to the idea that I was not just his daughter but now also his business partner. I thought a great person to help with this was someone who was once my father’s coach.
In every other meeting with my coach, we included my dad in the discussions. We discussed things such as why it was important that he invite me to meetings, include me on emails and introduce me to his clients. He needed to understand that by not including me, he was making me look bad to the clients. They would call with questions and I couldn’t answer them since I didn’t know what was going on.
The coach helped me set up access to his calendar, so I could add myself to meetings when he forgets, set up a rule in his email where I am automatically copied on everything, and schedule weekly meetings to review all cases. These don’t always happen, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Learning to work differently
Today’s environment means I must work differently. While he had focused on selling life insurance his whole career, I wanted to bring in other products. I also noticed that if I didn’t start bringing in some younger clients, I would eventually be the “queen of the death claim.”
One of the biggest hurdles was getting my dad used to the idea of working virtually. While I have been meeting with clients virtually the past few years, this was the first year he was forced to. He suddenly realized he didn’t need to be in the branch office anymore to meet clients. Thankfully, we have now been able to move the office 10 minutes from our home instead of commuting into New York City daily.
While my dad keeps saying he wants to work less, he is not ready to retire. In fact, I think he worked more this year than in the past nine since I started working with him.
Now I hired a new coach to teach me how to start running a practice of my own while still being active in his. I’m setting my own goals, creating my own marketing plan and learning to be a business owner in a way that works for me. This way, when my dad is ready to retire, I will have the tools in place to absorb his business.
Meredith Gail Langus, of White Plains, New York, has been an MDRT member since 2013.
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