Adding value in everything you do
It is so hard to believe that our fourth BGNLive has come and gone. I made the comment at the end of the conference how it sort of feels like it passes as quickly as a Christmas morning. You spend months shopping, buying gifts, and wrapping the presents and then the packages are torn open in mere moments.
It was much the same for us as we prepared for last week. Literally, months of planning, content creation, the building of supporting documents, and countless hours of practicing our presentations went into the preparation for last week. A week that, for us, seemed to pass in a flash.
However, for all of that preparation to be productive, last week can't be seen as the finish line. Just the opposite; it has to be the beginning for all of those in attendance. If we did our job effectively in preparation, everyone should have left our conference better prepared for their own success. And hopefully, everyone left with a commitment to put lessons learned into practice.
A huge thank you from Wendy and myself for the pleasure of spending the week with some of our best friends. As I said there more than once, it is an honor and pleasure we will never take for granted.
We have already started the planning for BGNLive5. We know, among other things, it will be an exciting reunion with old friends, as well as an introduction to new friends. See you there!
Every nine months we have the great pleasure to spend some fabulous face-to-face time with a group of our favorite people in the world - the members of Benefits Growth Network. While there may not be much fishin’ going on, you can rest assured we are working hard, making new friends, getting re-acquainted with old ones, and having fun with old and new alike.
We are very fortunate to do what we do and to be able to do it with some truly amazing people!
And since there will be many sales people in the room, there probably will be a “fish story” or two told. Just sayin’.
Networking – different images can come to mind with this loaded word.
On the negative side you might picture a tacky cocktail reception with people milling around looking for the next potential sale, not caring at all about the people or their interests.
It can also be a powerful word and one that conjures up images of getting closer to your own goals as a result of working together with a group of people all focused on similar outcomes.
Networking is a key component to our membership and we design our programs to make it a prominent part of the agenda when we get together face-to-face. At our BGNLive conference last week I was really drawn into recognizing the nuances of networking and the powerful results that can come from it.
The catalyst for change
When you are with a group of people who are all working toward the same goal, networking becomes one of the most critical components to change – it can create that catalyst needed to get started or stay motivated. When you really choose to participate in sharing ideas with one another there are so many things you can gain from it:
This list could go on extensively. The point is that when you choose to share with others and allow them to share with you (ideas, challenges, fears, successes), you’ll gain ten-fold from it.
R&D: Rob & Duplicate
We had a member describe how it’s taken 5 years to develop a system that, from the outside, looks so simple and effortless. It looks so effortless and it’s taken so long because of all the trials along the way of what didn’t work.
When you get the chance to learn from someone else’s trials and mistakes like this and see the elegant end result – take advantage of it! Sure you want to put your own spin on it, but having a solid starting point will get you at least halfway there. The remainder comes from the effort you put into it back at home.
It takes time
Being able to get to the point of this level of comfort and sharing comes with time. It takes a while to develop these kinds of trusting relationships by meeting face-to-face and continuing the connections all year round. I have watched the group, now over three conferences, getting to know one another, greeting and welcoming the new faces, reuniting with favorite friends, and opening up more and more. As everyone becomes more comfortable, the sharing increases, the ideas are exchanged, and you can feel a level of excitement and energy in the room that feels like that tipping point of change – the Ah Ha! moments as people realize they’re not in this alone and they’re probably being a lot more successful than they might have otherwise thought. The power of the group is a strong motivator to get started and keep going.
Effort = Results
All-in networking is a huge boon for your business if done effectively and consistently because it can shorten your learning curve and speed the time to successful implementation of new ideas.
When you have the opportunity to network with a group of similarly focused people who are serious about improving their businesses, I highly recommend taking full advantage of every bit that you can. Networking is as good as the effort you put into it.
Wow, another BGNLive (BGNL) has come and gone. While I’m sure that everyone who attended has their own opinion, I felt that this was the most productive and enjoyable session to date.
I started the conference by reminding everyone that BGNL is primarily about two things; learning and networking. For those who haven’t attended a BGNL, this is not your typical “mini vacation” type of conference. There is real work involved. Homework assignments were sent out ahead of time with the expectation that everyone comes prepared to work - for their own benefit, the benefit of everyone back home, as well as the benefit of everyone in the room at BGNL.
Prepare and work they did. I don’t recall ever getting to spend three days with such an engaged group. They took every section, every assignment, and every chance to role play and have group discussions very seriously. They didn’t just sit and listen to ideas, they shared their own. They didn’t show up just to brag about what they have already accomplished, they took an honest assessment and identified all of the areas of improvement still ahead of them.
The work was long and the breaks (at times) were short. But there was an energy that seemed to keep the group focused and forging ahead. My hope is that everyone left having learned something new about themselves and how they will find even greater success. It’s safe to say that I learned as much as anyone. Our members work hard, try new ideas, and are creative and enthusiastic about what they do – any they’re willing to share those ideas to help everyone in the group improve.
As hard as this group worked during the day, they played just as hard each evening. Don’t get the wrong impression of what I mean here - I mean that they truly enjoyed spending the down time together, the networking part of the conference. Not only do they respect one another as business professionals, but they genuinely enjoy one another as people. I had the pleasure of watching long time friends have a bit of a reunion and watched new friendships being formed. You could see it in the level of animated conversation taking place over dinner and a cocktail, and you could hear it in the good-natured joking that would take place the following day.
As I reminded everyone at the end of the conference, there is plenty of hard work still ahead. However, they know what hard work looks like. After all, they each spent three days learning, assessing their current situation, and planning for their next level of success. Of course, the equation wouldn’t be balanced without the challenge to keep the networking/friendships active (if only virtually) until the next BGNL.
Yes, this group worked hard preparing for and participating in this conference. But what I witnessed was clear evidence that when you enjoy what you do, it hardly feels like work.
Hi everyone -
This week we’re in San Diego spending a few days with our members at our BGNLive conference and networking session.
We have been head down preparing for the conference and won’t have any new postings this week. However, we’d love it if you followed along with the happenings as we share them on Twitter – we’ll be using the hashtag #BGNLive.
Even if you’re not a Twitter user, you can follow too! See the left side-bar of the blog – we’ll be replacing Kevin’s feed with the #BGNLive feed.
Want to know what we’re talking about? Here’s a look at the agenda:
Next week we’ll be sharing some wrap-up articles from the conference. Have a great week!
At our BGNLive! conference in Chicago this year we focused on the need to change the agency business model and how to effectively communicate those changes to our clients and prospects. Len Strazewski, writer with Rough Notes magazine, attended the conference and following are his takeaways of the content discussed at the session.
Agents and brokers that do not
manage that first impression run the
risk of letting random online information
or misinformation control what
prospective clients learn about them
By Len Strazewski
Do prospects really learn what you want them to learn about your agency?
Google says your agency sells insurance. Facebook says you have a great softball team. LinkedIn says you went to a state university.
Is this the way you want present and prospective customers to know and understand your agency? Do these sources communicate what you really offer your clients? Click here to read the full article at Rough Notes magazine.
Photo by Paul Downey.
As most of you know, we recently held BGNLive! (our networking conference) in Chicago. The feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive. Our members seemed to enjoy the hotel, the location, the agenda, and (most of all) the opportunity to learn from one another.
A big part of the formal agenda focused on sharing success stories as well as sharing tools and strategies that are working well with clients. However, I think the best peer learning opportunities are what happen off agenda, during breaks, and over meals.
I have attended lots of conferences over my career, and I feel I have brought something new and positive back from every meeting. However, it seems to me the more formal and “over produced” the meeting, the less real value I have received. In too many of those settings, the sharing among attendees becomes more of a competition than a collaboration. Each subsequent story and victory gets bigger than the last and just a little further removed from reality. I think, too often, people leave feeling completely inadequate and defeated.
Probably the single biggest factor contributing to the success of the conference wasn’t the setting or the content, rather it was the transparency and vulnerability with which our members came to BGNLive!.
Sure there were success stories shared, but just as important as the achievement itself, the stories of the initial struggles to get to that point were shared openly. That type of sharing empowers people to see that others have shared the same struggle, and that they have found their breakthrough.
In preparation for the conference, some of our members served as “social media guinea pigs”. They helped everyone to see that what today may be confusing and overwhelming can be brought within reach for even the most remedial of students. Having members willingly putting themselves in the “before” picture helped their peer group witness the breakthrough firsthand.
We heard confessions of those who “stopped working in the late 90’s”, but have regained focus and are enjoying new levels of success.
I overheard many conversations where the discussion was more on the bad habits that need to be broken as opposed to being a brag session.
I loved all of that! After all, isn’t that why you go to a meeting, to get better?! How can you get better if you aren’t willing to pull back the curtain?
It just makes for a more productive experience for everyone. Many times the way you will help someone (and find help yourself) isn’t just because you have found an answer, its because you have experienced the problem firsthand.
And guess what? That vulnerability will make you much more approachable as others have ideas of how you can overcome your next struggle. Or when they need help, you are viewed as someone who can relate and might have ideas for them.
Making yourself vulnerable like this is what truly opens the lines of communication.
Photo by Jennifer Boyer.
With all the focus these days on social media, you have to remember which of those words is most important – social.
There is nothing more exciting and connecting than a good conversation. While tools and technology provide some good alternatives, there is no substitute to the great experience of time spent face-to-face and knee-to-knee.
We’re back from spending a few days in Chicago with our members at our BGNLive! conference, and were definitely reminded that the power of the personal connection cannot be replaced.
As you move from texts, to e-mails, to a formal letter, to a phone call, to Skype, to a face-to-face meeting, the level of conversational intimacy increases. While each has its place, the in-person conversations and the moments shared change the dynamic of the relationship. After spending time together, you now have shared experiences to remember and reference. It moves the relationship to a more intimate level.
When you’re together, you also get to experience the physical person by seeing their mannerisms, you get to make eye contact, and you can see their personal style. You find out quickly who’s a hugger, who’s a handshaker, who’s a two-cheek kisser. Again - it changes the dynamic.
In Chicago, we talked a lot about using social media as a communication and relationship management tool. It’s another way to develop and maintain relationships, and it allows you to carry that connection forward on a daily basis. With social tools, we don’t have to wait for the next in-person event to rekindle that connection. We can work on it every day.
We talked about the importance of our online presence, and what it says about us. How our presence, or absence, is the new first impression that people have of us. This online presence that we project gives us such an advantage in developing relationships and then allows us to use the power of the social tools to maintain the relationships moving forward.
For the folks we hadn’t yet met face-to-face, it was a thrill to see people around the hotel and instantly make the connection because we already “knew” one another. What a huge advantage to developing a relationship! Think about the advantage you can gain if your prospect already “knows” you from your online presence when you show up for that first meeting.
Other items we spent time discussing were solutions, sharing ideas, and accountability. These are all great topics that can be easily reviewed in a broadcast way like a webinar. But when you add the in-person conversations – and maybe a glass of wine – it takes on a different level of enthusiasm and collaboration. It takes our potentially challenging situations and makes them feel completely achievable because we know we’ve got partners to help us along the way. We’ve got someone we can easily call for those new ideas or to help hold us accountable to the ones we’ve already committed to doing.
I was thinking about the power of the personal connection, and on my flight home I read through the Southwest Airlines magazine, Spirit, finding an entire (great) article on the importance of the face-to-face meeting. As diverse and spread out as our work world has become with more and more people working remotely from one another, travel is up significantly. “…the number of air passengers worldwide has nearly doubled during the Internet era—an additional one billion people take to the skies every year.” Even with the technology available, the human connection is still a significantly critical business tool. Perhaps social media, when used properly, doesn’t replace the traditional relationship; perhaps it just enhances it and speeds its development.
I hope that all of our discussions last week encourage our members to take a more active role in their online presence and make themselves more available and visible on a daily basis – to both us as an industry, as well as with clients. I have no doubt that if they/you do, by the time the next BGNLive! comes around, we’ll have even more to talk about and connect over and will immediately jump right into the good stuff!
Photo by Michael 1952.
Hi everyone -
This week we’re in Chicago spending a few days with our members at our BGNLive conference & networking session.
You may have noticed that we’ve been a little quiet these last few weeks getting ready. And…since we’re focused on what’s happening at the conference this week, we realized that we wouldn’t be very focused here on the blog, so we better hold off posting anything new until we get back.
However, the good news is that you can follow along with the happenings by following us on Twitter – we’ll be using the hashtag #BGNLive.
Even if you’re not a Twitter user, you can follow too! See the left side-bar of the blog – we’ve replaced Kevin’s feed with the #BGNLive feed.
Want to know what we’re talking about? Here’s a look at the agenda:
Confidence | Taking control of our business models
Repositioning Strategies | Introducing our model to clients/prospects
Brand Management |Communicating our model & using social media platforms
Cost Driver Education:
New Model Solutions | Member idea exchange
Accountability for Execution | How we’re holding ourselves accountable externally & internally
Look next week for some wrap-up articles from the conference. Have a great week!