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Bits of Tid…

We’re all still recovering from the Annual Meeting, so the long-winded epistles that sometimes populate this space will have to wait a week or two.  (Don’t look so happy…)  In the interim, here are a few items I thought you might find interesting.  And don’t forget, this is as much your space as it is mine, so if you have any comments, suggestions, concerns, book recommendations, or favorite movie quotes (see below for more information on this item), please SPEAK OUT!!!

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Enhance Your Society’s Board Performance with New NFCA Tool

I’ve been invited to address a number of NFCA member-society conventions this year, and in virtually every case, the CEO has asked me to focus my remarks on the need for fraternals to modernize their governance structure and enhance the performance of their boards.  That’s a good sign, because of the three major challenges we face as a system – governance, solvency, and relevance – it’s governance over which we have the most control.  In fact, you can make a good case that we can’t effectively address the solvency and relevance issues without first modernizing how our organizations are governed.  The bottom line is that you can’t create the fraternal of the future on the chassis of the past.

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6 Fl!pping Lessons Every CEO Should Learn

I just finished reading Fl!p: How to Turn Everything You Know on Its Head and Succeed Beyond Your Wildest Imaginings.*  The author, Peter Sheahan, is one of the featured speakers at the 2010 NFCA Annual Meeting, September 9-11, in Chicago.  I thought the book was terrific and encourage you to a) pick up a copy and b) register for the Annual Meeting so that you can experience Mr. Sheahan in person.  Here are six of the most important lessons I learned that I intend to implement at the NFCA:

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Joe’s Special… Random Bits of Positivity from an April Fool

WFLA turns sales trip into community service event… Almost every fraternal life insurer provides their top producers with an incentive trip as a way to acknowledge their outstanding sales, service, and community service performance.  Western Fraternal Life Association (WFLA) has established a tradition of incorporating a fraternal activity into this annual event.  When the site for the sales trip is selected – in 2010, it was St. Thomas – society leaders select a needy school in the area, and over the course of the year, agents send the home office school supplies which are collected and sent to the school in advance of the trip.  Executives work out a date and time when the WFLA delegation can visit the school to present the supplies to the children and learn more about the community and the challenges that local educators are facing.  WFLA president and CEO Jim Wolfe said that the pens, paper, binders and portfolios donated by the society can often supply a school for an entire year, and “you have no idea how valuable and appreciated a simple pencil and notebook are in some parts of the world.”  A small project?  Yes, in the grand scheme of things.  051_9A But all those small projects combine to make a difference and extend the reach of fraternalism one person at a time.  Here’s a photo (click on the photo to view full size) of this year’s event that benefitted the Gladys A. Abraham Elementary School. 

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When you’re playing a solo, your instrument better be in tune…

You may not know this, but right now NFCA is working to defeat five separate bills in two states that would modify or outright repeal the fraternal tax exemption.  Three bills are under consideration by the Hawaii legislature and two bills are in the hopper in Washington state.  NFCA has retained lobbyists in each state to be our eyes and ears in the state capitals.  Hiring these resources is critical to winning these battles and, at least in my opinion, is one of the best expenditures of your dues dollars.  Every member has a stake in these battles and every member – large and small – benefits from NFCA’s lobbying activities.

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Joe’s Special…

A mish-mosh of information, intelligence, and innuendo…

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Joe’s Special

A little of this and a little of that with hopefully something that you might find interesting, enlightening, or outrageous.  As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.  Let’s keep the conversation going…

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If people knew they had a choice…

I’m convinced that if more people knew they had a choice about where they purchase their financial service products, they would select the fraternal option.  Think about it.  If average consumers – folks who didn’t know a thing about who we are and what we do – knew that they could buy life insurance from an organization that funded social service projects in their community and encouraged members (not policyholders) to participate in volunteer efforts, my gut tells me that a much larger percentage of consumers would choose to purchase from a fraternal life insurer.  I’m also convinced that if agents knew about the fraternal option we would have a larger and more enthusiastic sales force – one that understood and embraced the marketing value of the common bond and our commitment to community service.

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Random Thoughts on a Tuesday Morning

I’ve been on the road quite a bit lately, which means lots of reading.  Here are a couple of mini-reviews for you to consider:

  • The Forgotten Man  A detailed analysis of the impact of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” policies and programs on America and Americans by an author with a decidedly conservative point of view.  The most interesting part of the book was the section dealing with America’s fascination with Soviet-style collectivism in the 1920s and how close our government came to implementing some of these concepts.  Given some of the current proposals to dramatically expand the reach and role of the government, this is a particularly timely read.  I’ll be honest, though.  It took me FOREVER to get through this.  It’s quite complex and not what you’d call a “thrill ride” of a read.  For the short version, just skip to the author's afterward.  She spells things out pretty clearly there: the New Deal slowed the economic recovery coming out of the Great Depression, nearly resulted in the U.S. becoming a socialist state, and did not create jobs.  All well and good, but I’d like to see her try to convince my father of that notion.  His first job was in the Civilian Conservation Corps and the meager savings he put away from two years of planting trees and building roads on the New York-Pennsylvania border fueled a cross-country hitchhike to California and the creation a business that hired thousands of individuals, many of whom are still reaping the rewards of a pension program he put in place.

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All Work and No Play …

It’s been a long, cold winter here in Chicago.  Seems like when it wasn’t snowing we had those wonderful “Alberta Clippers” that the local weather forecasters enjoy so much because they get to brush up on their wind chill calculation skills.  Seriously, once it gets below -10 degrees does it really matter?  No one’s going outside anyway.

So what do you do when it’s too cold to do anything else and you need a break from worrying about the solvency and relevance of the fraternal system and the sanctity of our tax-exempt status?  (Please don’t suggest Sudoku.  My wife can do these for hours, but I am not a “puzzle guy” – especially when they involve numbers and not words.)  That leaves books and movies.  I’ve been doing a lot of both since that first snowfall in early December when the gardening (golf) season officially ended.  Here are some thoughts on the best of what I’ve read and seen.

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