The following was recently written by my brother for his company newsletter. While it is a sales pitch for his customer base I feel it’s a slice of our family life I knew very little about. It’s fascinating to discover facts about ones own family which often shines a light on who we are…..enjoy! (And if you do need insurance you know who to call!!!);
“I started Health Insurance Express because of my grandmother. From around 1915 to 1938 she and my grandfather owned and operated the general store in Fulda, Minnesota, a farming town of about 900 people. When they left Fulda for Chicago in 1938 to be near my dad while he attended DePaul University the whole town turned out for their sendoff. They did that because as merchants and residents of the town my grandparents treated each and every Fulda resident like family.
Many years later my grandmother, who continued working in retail until she was 86 years old would tell me, “Always do the right thing for your customers, treat them like family, and the rest will take care of itself. If you’re not sure which products to recommend just ask yourself if you would suggest the same product if this were your brother or sister, your aunt, uncle, cousin, mother, or father.” I guess that most of you had a grandparent or grandparents who greatly influenced you too. Those are lessons you never forget.
Of all the things I’ve done in my working life retail became my first career and my first love. I went from being a stock boy in high school to owning a small chain of men’s clothing stores by age 26. After several years I got tired of the seven-day, five-night a week schedule and started to seek a change. I knew that many of my retail skills and values would transfer into a career in the insurance industry and that’s what I decided to do. However, after many years I got the “itch” again and I took my traditional insurance career (stuffy office, by scheduled meeting only) and changed it into a new type of retail experience, Health Insurance Express. So far it’s working…and I think it is because I followed my grandmother’s advice.
Many people asked me how I could sell an intangible product like insurance in a retail store. But that never occurred to me because I know that our customers look to us for efficient, economical, and secure solutions to their risk management needs. Having a relaxed, informal, and accessible year round place to do that made perfect sense to me and it made the experience much easier for our customers.
Yes, we sell a lot of different products from a lot of insurance companies. Many of these products are complex and explained in lengthy contracts. But I have often said that insurance, by its most essential definition, is simply a promise to pay. Looking at insurance products as promises to pay makes them easier to understand and easier to explain. Here’s what I mean. We offer:
- The promise of a retirement without health care financial disasters with our Medicare plans
- The promise of quality health care with our health insurance plans
- The promise of happy, protected, and trusting employees with our employee benefits plans
- The promise of brighter smiles and beautiful sunsets with our dental and vision plans
- The promise of a financially secure future for our loved ones with our life insurance plans
- The promise of a financially smooth recovery from a sickness or trauma with our disability, critical illness, and accident insurance plans
Like most of you I always had a desire to learn more about my family’s history. As I get older I think that it helps to understand who I am if I have a better sense of where I came from. My dad never told me much about his boyhood or what it was like to grow up in a small town but I always wondered about it, especially since I only knew what it was like to grow up in Chicago, a huge urban area.
Many years after my grandparents and parents had passed away my wife and I took a drive to Fulda, Minnesota, my first time there. I had written a letter to the editor of the newspaper before we left for Fulda, asking if there were archives where I might see ads for my grandparents’ general store or information about my dad’s and uncle’s school days. I didn’t hear back from the editor but when we got into town half of the people had heard about our tour of Fulda and they met us, brought mementoes, photos, and best of all, personal stories about my grandparents, my uncle, and my father. The town’s historian put together a whole presentation of old photos and news articles for us. It was one of the best experiences of my life, really like a family reunion.
Of course one of the things that we had to do during our time in Fulda was to view the site of my family’s general store. What is it today? To my great surprise I found that it’s the town’s insurance agency! Thanks Grandma. And thanks for reading”.
Alan Leafman, President