Chuck Nord, Sarasota, FL
Chuck Nord has found it possible to reboot himself and keep working at a much less stressful pace, with a relaxed lifestyle and improved business results, thanks to technological advances. Here is his story:
|Laurie & Chuck Nord
I entered the life and health insurance business in February 1961 in Nashville, Tennessee. By 1969, I had my own agency, and for the next 30 years specialized in employee benefits in general and in payroll-deducted life and health insurance in particular.
I'm a fairly good salesman and I love selling. I'm also a fairly good manager, but I hate managing — unfortunately a most necessary part of the job, the way my operation was structured. By the mid-90s, I was burned out and looking for an exit strategy.
Laurie and I had purchased our first home in Florida in 1993 and started spending the winters here, with my staff minding the store back in Nashville. One balmy February evening, as we sat enjoying a beautiful Florida sunset, we looked at each other and said, "This is too good for just part-time living.” We were about to become full-time Floridians.
When we got back to Nashville a couple of months later, I started looking for a buyer for the labor-intensive (read: requiring management) portion of the business. It took more than a year to find the buyer and work out the endless terms of the deal, but by October 1998, I was through managing people and back doing what I really liked: selling and servicing my clients.
This "rebooting" would not have been possible without the advances in technology we have since experienced. These advances have set me free to live in my favorite place on the planet, reduced my overhead to a mere fraction of its former backbreaking amount, significantly increased my bottom line, and allowed me to do what I enjoy doing — increasingly important the older one becomes.
Here are some examples of this liberating technology:
Smart phones. I have a Palm Treo. With this device, anyone can reach me anywhere via phone or email. I get a lot of business done in the car, in an airport, or when I'm actually doing something other than the insurance business. For example, one afternoon I was repairing my boat when the phone rang. The client (850 miles away) had a few questions, I answered them apparently to his satisfaction, we agreed on the deal, and I emailed him the paperwork then and there. With a smart phone, my office is now located, in large part, wherever I happen to be.
Personal computers, laptop variety. These don't take up much space, they can (like the smart phone) go wherever I go, and they can perform an ever-increasing array of the tasks necessary for me to stay in business. They can perform these tasks more accurately than the best administrative assistant I ever hired. And they never ask for a day off or a raise.
The Internet. In the "old days," the myriad forms needed to conduct business were stockpiled in approximately 170 square feet of floor space — with all the reachable vertical space also utilized. No more. Those same forms are now available on websites, and I don't have to leave my chair to go hunt for them. Also, my clients — especially those under 45 — prefer communicating via the Internet. It's quicker, less expensive, and easier to file documents than the old methods.
For example, I am currently working on a group long-term disability insurance risk, the client firm being located in a Nashville suburb. I have asked (via the Internet) seven different insurance carriers to submit (via the Internet) lengthy proposals. It's a somewhat complex deal, but with the Internet, Microsoft Excel, and a telephone conference call (another tech innovation), I have been able to manage the entire deal from my Florida office, nattily attired in a pair of ancient khaki shorts and T-shirt. And — most important — the client is just as well served.
External Hard Drives. These little gems are providing relief for my aging back muscles. One of them can hold everything that's on my "main" computer in Florida. I have a second laptop in my Nashville office. Instead of hauling a computer (and voluminous client files) back and forth, before a trip I feed the external drive whatever data's needed to bring it up to date, slip it into my small briefcase, and download its contents onto the Nashville computer once I arrive. If I'm traveling elsewhere, I take the external hard drive rather than a laptop: I can plug it into a client's computer and thence display whatever is needed, and/or make copies from the client's printer.
Very little of the above would have been possible just a few years ago: the reliable technology simply wasn't in existence. I would have had to continue working as I had been, with all the attendant burdens of overhead, personnel, and administration, or else retired. I was really burned out. Instead, here I am having more fun than I've had since high school — and that was a blast.
So I guess I'd say that I have indeed rebooted myself. As an old Italian friend phrased it, I have gotten rid of the stone in my shoe. My health permitting, I plan to be going down the same road indefinitely.