I never set out to become an insurance broker. My father needed part-time assistance and I needed a job. Somewhere along the way, it became a career.
“I don’t know how you do this,” a new client once noted as I walked her through carrier chaos regarding submitted paperwork. “And with a smile,” she added.
“You either laugh or cry. I’d rather laugh,” I said as I pointed to a section she needed to complete.
Insurance sales is far from glamorous. No one, and I mean not a one, grows up aspiring to sell employee benefits. Indian Chief and Policeman are far more appealing. Plus, they both come with better accessories.
“Do you like what you do?” my mom once asked.
“I love where I work and the people I work with, so yeah.”
With my father at the helm, employees were treated like family. His partner always had a more miserly approach, but he was never the point of contact. Well, he wasn’t until January 1st of this year.
“December 31st will be my last day,” my dad announced on December 19th, three days before he left for Florida on a one-way ticket.
I went pale. His partner almost choked.
You see, my father had been handling everything: payroll, business expenses, property management. He cut all of the checks. When he was gone, I took over. And for the most part, I also managed the office. It was one of my original tasks that I never gave up. So, in between managing a book of business and prospecting new clients, it was my burden to research and order a new network printer along with paper and toner for said printer.
The feel in the office has been different since my father passed the torch. When he is in Philly, he still comes into the office every day and he still cracks jokes, lightening the mood. But there’s a general sense of panic and dread between the rest of us.
“I get the distinct sense I’m fall out from your decision to retire,” I said to my dad one afternoon when we were the only people left in the office.
His left eye twitched a little as I shared the evidence: snippy comments, a reduction in my commission split, and my monthly commission payout being withheld for over six months, something that I quickly learned was not occurring with any of the other employees.
“That is ridiculous. You need to say something,” he urged.
“No point. As you always asked: Would you rather be happy or right? I’d rather be happy.”
A few weeks later, as the dings continued to pile up, I worked harder to turn the other cheek. But today? Today I was yet again reminded that things have changed.
“This week is Diane’s five-year anniversary and Simon’s twenty-eighth birthday. Should we do a combined celebratory lunch?” my dad’s partner asked as he stood by my desk rifling through mail.
“Sure. Hey, this month marks my anniversary too. Thirteen years,” I noted with a little pride.
He chuckled a little. Then he spoke. “Yeah, well, you have technically only been on my payroll since January so that’s your anniversary to me.”