We are all unique individuals, but it doesn’t mean we need to face life alone
BY TIM KANTER
In the world of business, Bill Gates is arguably one of the most successful people in the United States. But what many people don’t realize is that he attributes much of his success to his mentor, Warren Buffett. Bill shared that he learned how to manage his time and prioritize people as a result of his meetings with Buffett, and he refers to him as “one of a kind.” Oprah Winfrey, known for her talk show, acting, and her philanthropy, often talked about how critically
important her mentor, Maya Angelou, was to her. In an issue of Oprah’s magazine, she shares, “When I first met Maya, in the ’70s, I couldn’t have guessed what the next few decades would bring or that she would be there for me every step of the way — a wise, loving presence and the greatest mentor I’ve ever known.”
Due to my upbringing, I learned early on that if I wanted to change my circumstances, I had to take steps to make it happen. But at 16 years old, I had no idea where to start. Fortunately, I got my first insurance job in my junior year of high school. My boss, Susan Erkfritz, took me under her wing and mentored me on everything from personal finances to business etiquette and generosity to timeliness. I firmly believe that I would not be where I am today if not for the patience, encouragement and kindness that she showed me. Not to mention the many mentors in my life that followed, be it one of my best friends, one of my peers, an elder in my church, or my mother-in-law.
As Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and I can attest, our lives are better and more enriched because of people who were willing to give us their time and attention. Every person and every life is unique. You’ve experienced many situations completely different than I have. And vice versa. You have learned some lessons the hard way and your peer down the road may have learned an even harder lesson. One person may intuitively understand a challenge that they are facing because of their upbringing or past experiences. While another person facing the same challenge can be completely at a loss. That’s the beauty of our individuality. There are no two people that have the exact same experiences or the exact same knowledge. We need each other.
We’ve all heard of those pay-it-forward chains that sometimes happen at a Starbucks drive through. Someone buys the drink for the person behind them, and that person buys the drink of the person behind them, and they for the person after them, and so on and so on. That’s a little bit of what mentoring is like. When you take the time to mentor someone, that person will often take the knowledge and wisdom they’ve gained and mentor someone else. And that new mentee will often share with someone else, and so on and so on.
In one of those Starbucks pay-it-forward chains, you may get your $7 Trenta-Quad-Iced-Oatmilk-Vanilla-Latte paid for while you only pay for the person behind you that ordered a $2 Tall black drip coffee. In this example, you are clearly getting more than you are giving. Mentoring can be like that too. You may have had a mentor who meets with you every week for a year, pouring into you, encouraging you, and helping you grow, and then later, you meet someone and share one small piece of advice you once received, and that person is forever blessed because of it. And the opposite scenario can happen as well. Now, I’m not advocating for those Starbucks pay-it-forward chains. If you’re ever in one and you get your drink paid for, accept the gift or pass it along, neither is wrong. But in mentoring, I want to encourage you to ALWAYS pass it along.
The day-to-day of an insurance agent is complicated. No two clients we speak with will have the same need. Is the call you are about to take for a small group or large group? Do they need a fully funded plan or partially self-funded plan? Is it an individual or family plan, or is it for Medicare? Medicare Advantage? Part D? A supplement? Or maybe they just want your help deciding if their child should go on the plan their college offers. We’re building a book of business, growing a team, managing hundreds of accounts, all the while staying abreast of new compliance rules and regulations and making sure our clients are doing the same.
The life of an insurance agent can be lonely. We want to grow, but we don’t know the next steps we should take. We have a dilemma relating to a client and don’t know exactly what the right questions are to ask. Or maybe we just need someone to talk to. Someone who can be a sounding board.
And the responsibility of an insurance agent is great.
We help our clients make decisions that can have a huge financial impact on them. We are there for them when they need it, to answer their questions, help them appeal their claim, or pour over hundreds of plans from many different carriers to make sure that they have the information they need to make the right decisions.
We don’t need to do it alone
Recognizing that agents sometimes have a difficult time finding a peer to connect with, California Agents and Health Insurance Professionals (CAHIP, formerly CAHU) developed a mentorship program through the CAHU Foundation at the end of last year. Since then, we have begun to match up mentors with mentees.
Here is some feedback I received about a mentor from a mentee shortly after we launched the program: “Thank you so much for the coaching sessions this week. Your advice and suggestions are so practical and insightful. I am very lucky to have your help. I look forward to learning more from you and other mentors in the future.”
This week, Jeff Larsen, one of our newest mentees, shared some of his experiences with his new mentor, Henry Romero: “He’s been really helpful and he’s willing and able to help. He’s shared best practices, concepts and workflow expectations. And also shared how he’s grown as well. I know he’s going to be an awesome resource.”
Mentorship is one of the easiest and most beneficial things a person can take part in. In this industry, when you mentor, or when you are mentored, you become more engaged, educated and informed so that your clients can be engaged, educated and informed.
Before I got that first insurance job, if someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I can promise you that I never said, “an insurance agent.” But here I am today, and I wouldn’t change a thing. But I don’t think I would feel the same way that I do today, if it wasn’t for Susan mentoring me when I was just getting started. Not to mention all of the other mentors I have been blessed to work with over the years. Thank you to Susan, Brian, Beverly, Louis, Curtis, my mother-in-law Linda, and many others. If you have someone who has mentored you, make sure you take a moment to thank them.
A mentor is a person who can shape and change lives for the better. And we need more people to shape lives and people who want their lives shaped. If you are interested in becoming a mentor to one of your peers, or interested
in being mentored, please go to www.cahufoundation.org/mentor to sign up or to learn more. If your experience is anything like mine has been, it will be one of the best choices you will ever make.
TIM KANTER is the happily married husband of Angela and together they have two wonderful daughters, Megan and Emma. He is the president of Get Benefits Insurance Services in Thousand Oaks, an insurance agency that helps their clients with all-things insurance. He serves as the head of California Agents and Health Insurance Professionals (CAHIP, formerly CAHU) mentorship program in the role of VP of Community Outreach and is the incoming president-elect for CAHIP 2022-2023.