This time last year, I left the corporate world to became an entrepreneur. Scary? Not really. Exciting? Yes. I wanted to make the switch earlier but was procrastinating. Since I got pushed out after 18 years, I got a nice severance package to cushion the landing.
The transition wasn't very risky because of advance planning. Here's why:
- Viable business plan (understood the clients and the competitors)
- Low start-up costs (less than $10,000)
- Low fixed expenses (business and personal)
The StepsI've devoted my life to life insurance: designing products, helping top advisors with their key clients and harnessing social media to explain the benefits. So switching to selling life insurance wasn't a huge step — though nontraditional for an actuary. I already knew how to do the deep technical work, create effective marketing material, make presentations and network.
If you're lacking essential skills, why not start building them now? Find others who are strong where you're weak. If you can't, perhaps your ideas aren't compelling or you aren't persuasive. The sooner you find out, the sooner you can improve.
BrandingTo start, I focused on building a brand that instils confidence. That's important when you're selling a service. For example, you're at a disadvantage if you use a generic email address (e.g., Gmail or Hotmail) and don't build a website. Here are the basics
- Company Name: my wife, Sharmila, created the short, intriguing name TaxevityTM
- Design: Fritz Lyons did wonders with the logo, business card and PowerPoint template (see the screenshot at the top of this blog post)
- Online presence: Laszlo Elo of thirtyseven.ca developed the PS Network, a cohesive structure that incorporates my blogs, newsletter, websites and Twitter feeds
I needed a distributor since insurers don't deal directly with advisors (see three keys to getting your claim paid). To my pleasant surprise, PPI Advisory agreed. They are the leaders in the high net-worth market. Their support team includes accountants, lawyers and actuaries. That's ideal.
ClientsA successful business needs clients. Write that down. For safety, my approach uses multiple channels, each with different characteristics.
Channel 1: Insurance-licensed AdvisorsFor immediate revenue, I agreed to split cases with selected advisors I'd supported in the past. They had clients and I had know-how. This no-fail model flopped. There's a huge gap between what these advisors would say and do. Big hat, no cattle. Maybe you've had the same experience I didn't have the foolproof measure of trust then. Without trust, working with potential competitors is very risky. Your reputation can also suffer since you're judged by the company you keep.
Channel 2: CollaboratorsFor near-term revenue, I focused on collaborators with complementary services: accountants, lawyers, investment advisors and employee benefit specialists. They already have clients for me. As thanks, collaborators get help with their marketing and may get added to the external team section of the Taxevity website. Building relationships takes time but has lead to opportunities I would not otherwise have found. This channel is a key for growth.
Channel 3: DirectGoing direct has been the most successful approach. Who knew? No intermediaries. No compromises. No delays. I can work to my own standards and timeframe. This channel also takes the most work. My most popular service is an Actuarial Insurance Review (currently free). I didn't know there was a demand but the say-do gap in Channel 1 gnaws at clients' peace of mind. As Yogi Berra said, you'll observe lots just by watching. When I saw the need, I offered a solution.
Going direct is also a way to find more clients for my collaborators.
Lessons For YouThis has been a year of major learning. What I'm doing works but the results are taking longer than I'd like. Impatience is part of being an entrepreneur too.
- Are you entrepreneur material? (Thicken My Wallet, Oct 2008)
- How to find a mentor for free
- Unemployed: how to make your exit easier on you
Podcast Episode 92 (6:06)
direct download | Internet Archive page
PS There's plenty you can do to improve whether or not entrepreneurship is in your planning. Start now.