Jul 12
Good Computer Posture

Good Computer Posture: Your checklist

  1. Maintain good posture – check these items:-
    • Adjustable height seat
    • Lumber support
    • Screen at arms length
    • Top of screen no higher than your eyes
    • Wrists should be in line with your forearm and hand, not at an angle, when using keyboard and mouse
    • Upper arm should be by your side and your inner elbow should be just about touching your side. Your forearm should be near horizontal and directly in front of your side. Numeric and function keypads on keyboards make this difficult to achieve and the tensed twisted arm posture is a major cause of RSI conditions.
      This is why we strongly recommend a vertical ergonomic mouse and compact ergonomic keyboard.   
  2. Many people slouch unconsciously. Ask people to check you when you’re not aware.
  3. Don’t maintain any fixed posture for long periods. You need to move your body around a bit to exercise your tendons. Perhaps deliberately place things you use a lot too far away from your desk so that you have to stand up to use them.
  4. Other tools and aids relevant to computer posture RSI conditions generally are below. :
    • Vibration and massage therapy can bring fast relief to RSI pain caused by tight muscles.
    • A telephone headset eliminates the strain placed on your neck, shoulder and arm, particularly if you hold a handset between your cheek and shoulder.
    • Software that types for you gives the wrists, arm, elbow and neck a rest through being able to dictate emails, reports etc.
Dec 05
I Carpenter

Once a year Big 'I' staff members from across the Midwest gather for round table meetings covering myriad topics about our associations. We collect ideas about what is working in other states, what our peers are seeing in the industry and what ideas failed both on and off the whiteboard. One of the topics this year was the rapid progression of technology and how it is affecting our industry. Several people in the room agreed that there is a good deal of fear amongst our associations and our membership about the adoption of new technology. Changing technology is affecting all aspects of our business from online rating tools to predictive modeling. We all agree that this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands of advancements and changes coming our way and the pace is only going to increase in the future.

I am not a master of technology, I am a carpenter. I am not trying to be arrogant, but I believe that given enough time, money and the right tools, I can build almost anything. My father taught me woodworking at a very early age. We never really built high quality show pieces, but we built about everything we needed. My dad could build just about anything out of a pile of scrap wood that was hanging around the garage. That is something he passed along to me. Today I have my pile of scrap wood and can build just about anything we need when we need it. I will occasionally build a high quality piece of furniture, or something for our home that we can't buy. The truth is that most of the time it is just cheaper to buy it than build it, but that is another blog topic.

So, how does this tie back into technology? I look at technology the way a carpenter looks at his tools. When I start planning out a project I am not worried about whether or not I will be able to use the tool needed to complete my project. Occasionally I may not have the tool I need and in that case I have to factor the purchase of the tool into the cost of the project. Sometimes purchasing tools for a project, or the materials to build exactly what I want just doesn't make sense and I have to change the project. The reality is that while we have a nice home, I don't need a zebra wood spiral staircase with custom wrought Iron handrails. Good old oak will work just fine.

Adopting new technology is really no different. Where we all seem to get a little off track is when we start looking at what the technology can do first and then trying to figure out how we can use it. Advertisers, marketing reps and technology companies are mostly to blame for this backward view that many of us have. Their marketing approach is always "check out this cool piece of technology. You need it, it will make your agency better." Very few take the time to figure out whether or not their customer has a problem that their technology can solve. It baffles me why more companies don't approach technology the way we have always approached all other tools. Problem first then solution. Not solution, create problem and then solve.

So, back to the beginning. We shouldn't waste our time worrying about technology and how it is going to destroy our business. Instead, we should take time to look at our business and see how we can improve it, or build something new. The technology of today provides us with so many tools to improve efficiencies, gather data, analyze our performance and be more educated advisors for our customers. Viewing this technology as a tool instead of a threat will allow us to build a beautiful industry for many generations to come.

Nov 16
Why Change is a Necessary Evil

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 Often times we label people who are resistant to change as stuck in the past, outdated or stubborn. The reality is that everyone is resistant to change. Change equals fear and fear is a roadblock to innovation and progress.

I think for me change has become easier to deal with because after nearly 15 years in the corporate world I had become used to it. It just became the norm. Things changed, people changed and new technology replaced old outdated technology. Please don't take this to mean that I like change. I am after all human and we humans aren't wired that way. We like comfortable safe environments, not obscure, undefined and sometimes perilous environments. What I have learned to do is embrace change and understand that if you want to move forward, advance and be more successful you have to change.

The most recent example I can think of that represents the importance of change is the Kodak company. Kodak was started in 1888 and in 2012 they filed for bankruptcy. The killer of Kodak? Digital technology. Even though Kodak developed the very first digital camera in 1975 and had a leg up on the competition, the fear of the change from print to digital photography kept them from becoming what could have been the dominant force in this emerging market. By the time the mid 90's rolled around they were playing catch up and the market had simply outrun them. In 2014 they emerged from bankruptcy and sold most their digital technology patents. Guess who bought them…… Samsung, Google, Apple etc. the list of tech dominators goes on.

Regardless of the industry we are in we must recognize that change is inevitable. Some changes may not be a giant killer like the shift from print to digital but that doesn't make them any less important. In our industry the changes in the personal lines business are happening quickly. Consumers now have access to multiple quotes from multiple companies at the click of a button. That doesn't make an educated insurance agent any less important, but it does change the way we need to market our products. By now the personal lines changes are already old news. Agencies that have failed to adapt to this new way of selling are already feeling the pain. Many believe that we will see a similar shift in commercial lines. We are already seeing it on small commercial, but how long will it be before a multi-million dollar account buys their insurance on-line from a virtual broker?

Reflecting back on my past blogs I realize that I have placed a great deal of emphasis on the importance of recognizing the contributions of those that have come before us. Those contributions were often the result of embracing change. The leaders in our business were some of the greatest innovators and still are. The challenge we are faced with today is change and innovation that moves at a much faster pace. Keeping up with those changes and innovations requires more time and attention than it ever has in the history of our business. While change can be scary I would encourage everyone to recognize that it is essential for the survival of our business. We must continue to adapt and progress if we want to build on the success of those that came before us.

Oct 10
109th Annual Convention

With just two weeks until our 109th Annual Convention in Kearney, Ne – things are now into "crunch-time".  If you have ever planned a large event, say a graduation party, anniversary party, class reunion or even a wedding – you know what I mean. (Fortunately most of those are one-day events, whereas this is a three-day event.) 

As the event coordinator for the Big I, I handle a lot of the preparation items for the convention.  But the planning starts way back in January with the Annual Convention Committee.  As we narrow down the theme, instructors, topics, etc. then starts the fine details such as promotional pieces, website registration, tickets, programs, signs and banners, room set-up, decorations, menus, supplies, name badges, class handouts and more. 

Our conference room in our office begins to look like "ground zero" with all the items that we will take to the convention. (Right now it is looking like fall and Halloween are in a war.) And don't forget about the TV that we will raffle off for PAC.  (Buy your tickets here.)

Convention is a great way to not only get up to 12 CEUs from some of the best instructors in the country, but it also a great networking opportunity with other agents and vendors.  This year we also have Congressman Adrian Smith speaking at lunch on Tuesday, Oct 25th, a Beer and Wine Tasting event prior to dinner and Costume Contest on Wednesday, Oct 26th and Jen McPhillips, IIABA's Vice President Federal Gov't Affairs speaking at lunch on Thursday, Oct 27th.

There is still time to register, so make sure to join us at this "Spooktacular" event.  Click here to register.

See you in Kearney.

Sep 09
Remember Your Audience

 

I have a confession. I stalk your agency's social media. I know that sounds a little creepy, but I don't mean it to be. Rather, I have been busy all summer helping with the social media efforts at IIAN as their communications intern. That, of course, means that I have been the one behind the screen, spamming your Twitter, Facebook, and Linked-In feeds for the past few months sharing updates and information on what is going on in IIAN as well as addressing a concern many of you face in your own offices. How do independent insurance agents use social media to their advantage?

Now, I am no social media expert, nor am I claiming to be one, but I have grown up in the age of social media, and I have taken courses on social media and it's theories in depth at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. There is one staple thing that I think IIAN members truly need to consider when posting. Their audience.

It's a simple concept. You post for those that follow you. But who follows you? And who do you want to follow you? Take into consideration the demographic you are aiming for by using social media, or even just by looking at the demographics you are reaching using Facebook's analytics system. The idea is to cater messages to those people. For them to like and to share and to think about what you are saying, and, eventually, that resulting in brand recognition. When they think of an independent insurance agent, you want them to think of you.

Assuming that you are hoping to generate consumers with your social media, you will want to post things that are client facing. Consider ways that you can help them, ways that you can fit into their lives. Insurance education, timely insurance tips for their car or home during severe weather, or even ways to prevent them from needing to use their insurance in the first place. Create your own content! Write blog posts, and share your own ideas! There are a million ways to use social media and a million tactics to execute. Feel free to be creative and to try something new! But remember who your audience is and craft your messages to cater to that audience. Keep on posting!

Jul 26
Don't Let Blue Light Give You the Blues - Jeremiah's PSA for 2016

 

 
Six years ago I had Lasik eye surgery. The doctor told me before the surgery that one of the side effects may be sensitivity to light. I didn’t really think much of it until after I opened my eyes for the first time and realized just how bright everything had become. Would I do it again? Absolutely. The freedom from wearing glasses and just being able to see the alarm clock in the morning was more than worth it. Plus now I get to wear some really awesome sunglasses! However without the anti-glare protection that I had with my glasses, I started to have a problem.
 
Fluorescent light and computer screens both can give me a splitting headache in a very short time if I am not careful. What is the cause? I discovered it is blue light. There are a plethora of research articles about blue light, but essentially it is the light within the visible light band that has the highest wavelength. As a result it travels deeper into your eye. Since the most common source of blue light is the sun, we all need a little, but too much can be detrimental to our health. Fluorescent lighting and computer screens are two sources of blue light that can lead to over exposure. In some cases, blue light has been linked to serious health issues. The Review of Optometry published a great article on the link between blue light and macular degeneration. Click here to check it out. Harvard health also published an article on how blue light affects our circadian rhythm and affects our sleep patterns. Click here to read more.
 
I have no doubt that too much blue light can be bad for us. So what have I discovered to be the cure? Back to glasses. But the good news is that they are cheap and I don’t always have to wear them or stick my fingers in my eyes to put in contacts after eating some Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
 
If you work on a computer all day, can’t put down your smartphone, or are a hardcore gamer then investing in a pair of blue light filtering glasses is definitely something to look into. I prefer Gunnar glasses but there are numerous vendors that manufacture specialized lenses to help filter blue light. As our workspaces and homes become more automated and even more of our time is spent using a computer, tablet or smartphone we are all becoming overexposed to blue light. The move from standard incandescent lighting to high efficiency lighting is another contributing factor in nearly every commercial space.
 
If you or your employees are suffering from headaches or eyestrain at work, or at home try out some blue light filtering glasses. I promise you won’t regret it.
 
Have you tried blue light filtering glasses? Tell us about your experience. We want to hear from you.
Jul 15
Positive Changes Coming Our Way

 

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If your agency is insured for E&O insured through Swiss Re/Westport, you likely already know that you’re insured with the top dog carrier for insurance agent’s professional liability around . . . rated A+ by AM Best I might add!
Well, effective September 1, 2016 this policy form gets even better!  Before I read the entire policy myself and give it the ‘ole dissection, I would like to give you a few snippets of some of the changes in store: 
  • 1st party breach of personal data coverage limits are being increased from $10,000 per incident to $25,000 per incident with a $25,000 per policy period aggregate.  This coverage is featured automatically on all Westport E&O policyholders through the Big “I” Risk Purchasing Group (RPG) at no charge! 
  • Automatic regulatory defense coverage (also automatic and free in the RPG) is being increased from $25,000 per policy period to $60,000. 
  • Loss of earnings reimbursement is being increased form $500 per insured per day to $750 per insured per day.
 
Two of my favorite changes are the elimination of the insured versus insured coverage extension (which previously cost an additional $250 premium) and the improved deductible reduction feature: 
  • Because of a policy language modification, it is no longer necessary to purchase an insured versus insured coverage extension listing entities that have a 10% or greater ownership interest in the agency.  In fact, that endorsement has been eliminated altogether, but coverage will still extend to insurance written on said entities.
  • Also, the current policy form features a deductible reduction clause, which states (in essence) that if the insured generates and maintains contemporaneous written documentation of the refusal by any customer or rejection of limits offered, that the deductible could be waived by 50%.  The new policy form increases this waiver to 100%!
There are other changes on the new form (including some new optional coverages); however, until I learn more, the above changes are the ones that I’m most comfortable sharing at this time.
 
With the new form, all policies will be rewritten beginning with the September 2016 renewals; however, please note that the liberalization clause in your current policy will extend these coverage/limit enhancements to you before your policy is rewritten at your renewal date.
Thank you so much for your business!  I love working with each and every one of you and feel enormously blessed to serve in such a rewarding profession.  If you have any questions, please know that you’re welcome to call or email me anytime.  I love hearing from you and particularly enjoy those challenging questions!
Take care and have a lovely rest of July!
Jul 07
Wisdom Comes From Those Around You

I often listen to podcasts on my commute between Lincoln and Omaha, or out on the open road when I am heading to visit members. One of my favorites is the Ted Radio Hour. Click here to check them out. The podcast takes pieces of several TED talks and relates them back to a single topic ranging from why some people become champions and others don’t to the mysteries of the human brain. Recently they discussed what it means to be wise. That got me thinking and I started doing some research to find out what others believe it means to be wise. To my surprise I found that there is no one definition, or understanding of the topic. I thought one of the TED presenters said it best.  “Wisdom is the information you get from other people that have already been there.”
Throughout my life I have always tried hard to learn from everyone I encounter. My bosses, my co-workers and friends and my family have always been great sources of wisdom. My current boss, Carol McClelland, CEO of IIAN, is someone who always seems to have been there. Rarely does a day go by that Carol and I don’t talk and nearly every time I have a question, she has an answer. I wish I had enough time to gather all of the information she has, but there aren’t enough hours in the day.
As young professionals enter the insurance business, it is important to always remember that more often than not, someone else has already been there. Taking time to find that person and gather information from them will ultimately set you on the path to becoming wise. Most of the young agents I encounter are excited about their new career and ready to set the world on fire. In many cases that means the desire to change things that are already in place, make things better, improve efficiencies, workflows and production models.
Just a quick word of caution to those looking to make changes. There is always a new model being talked about that is the hot ticket to writing more business. Most that I read about aren’t revolutionary, but just an improvement, or a change to an old system. Taking the time to gather the wisdom from those who have already been there and built the system in the first place will make the decision to change or not to change a lot easier.
Wisdom is often the key to success. Those around us are the best source of that wisdom.  Whether it is a decision to change something that is already happening or create something new, the information from those that have already been there is essential for success.
Who in your life is your best source of wisdom? Let us know, we would love to hear from you.
Jun 27
Searching For Work-Life Balance – Becoming The Vetruvian Woman

 

Leonardo da Vinci’s famous “Vitruvian Man”, drawn in 1490 and named in honor of the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius - illustrates his understanding of proper proportion as an artist and philosopher. 

 As a self-diagnosed workaholic, I’ve been struggling to achieve a healthy balance between my work and the rest of my life for my entire career.  When I first came on board at IIAN 29 years ago (yikes!), with an active junior high school age daughter, a spouse with his own career, and a huge work challenge in front of me, it was very easy – and at first almost essential – to focus on work to the exclusion of almost everything else in my life.

Call it sick, but I really, really LOVED to work (and still do).  I was good at organizing the myriad projects, programs, and people IIAN needed to succeed – most often at the expense of my personal development and relationships.  Needless to say, I had a pretty high stress level!
Bill Brown - a very observant and wise past IIAN president - suggested that I and key staff members complete a program called “Priority Management®”, which turned out to be a life-changer for me.   After going through their course and starting to use the system, I actually thought I could become the “Vetruvian Woman” – balancing Work, Family, Social, Intellectual, Financial, Physical, and Spiritual goals.  Which of course required that I actually develop and attempt to implement a personal strategic plan (ha!).
I must admit I’m a backslider on the personal planning side.  But I’ve been able to incorporate the core of the program into my work life – a fairly simple system to provide managers and staff the discipline they need to focus on what needs to be done at work - each day, each week, each month, and each year - to achieve major goals and succeed, while maintaining personal and professional balance, through effective time management.
Simply put, it forces you to spend most of your time and best energies each day on what’s important, and not allow the “urgent but not important” to rule your life.  You do it by planning each day and assigning an “A” or a “B” to each item on your to-do list.  “A”s are:  1.) Commitments and promises, 2.) Steps leading to goals, and 3.) Must do’s.  “B”s are:  All other items not critical to today.
An extremely useful tool for further categorizing your “A”s and “B”s is to assign them to one of the following quadrants:

M-1        Important and Urgent – Always an “A”
M-2        Important and Not Urgent – Always an “A”
M-3        Not Important but Urgent – Could be “A” or “B”

M-4        Not Important and Not Urgent – Always a “B”

The key strategy is to schedule time blocks for M-1 and M-2 items (and stick to them as much as possible), see if someone else can help you do M-3 items, and not let M-3 and M-4 items highjack your days, weeks, months, and years.
There are many products available to help people be more effective at work – but this is the one that helped me that I can recommend.   Back in the l980’s it was a paper-based system (and paper is still available) – including tools for planning, project management, communications management, and more.  Nowadays it has been adapted to work with MS Outlook, Google, and other popular software platforms – but many people are now going back to paper!   Check it out at www.prioritymanagement.com .    

 
Jun 14
Family Ties

 

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I have two sisters and two brothers all of whom are married.  Earlier this month we lost a brother-in-law quite suddenly.  He was the first among my siblings or siblings’ spouses to go so it was a very difficult time for my family.  Many of our cousins and other relatives attended the funeral.  We are not close to our cousins and (sadly) we all typically see each other only at funerals.  Because our heads were in such a fog that day, it was almost impossible to get better acquainted with other family members that we rarely see.
That got me to thinking about family reunions.  In the past I tended to poo-poo such events and often took the ‘awe, do I really have to go?’ attitude.  Going forward I’m going to try looking at these get-togethers a little differently and embrace them as joyous opportunities.
The challenge with family reunions can be starting a conversation with someone you barely know.  Asking about ones hobbies, musical tastes, movies or vocations (or vacations) are obvious places to start.  Simple games with which young and old alike can participate can also be good conversation / laughter starters!  The following are some ideas that take little or no planning or equipment:
·         Egg (or water balloon) toss  --  Divide up into teams of two and toss an egg (or balloon) to your partner, gradually expanding the distance between.  The winner is the last team to have an unbroken egg or water balloon! 

·         How long has it been since you’ve been in a three-legged race?  All you need here is something to bind you and your partner’s legs together and go for it.  (You might leave the older folks out of this one as a trip to the emergency room will dampen the best of parties.)
 
·         Charades or Pictionary are classics and are always fun and easy.
 
·         And if you REALLY want to get to know one another, there’s always spin-the-bottle! Ha-Ha! J
Bottom line . . . . anytime you get the chance to hook up with family, take it along with a photo album to share!  Along with myself, I also encourage you to embrace the uniqueness of your family.  Unless you fight like cats and dogs, you won’t regret it!  Appreciate that our time here is limited so enjoy and get-to-know your peeps while they’re still around.
Have a safe, fun and happy summer!
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About this blog
Welcome to The IIAN Blog. This is a spot on the website we have created for IIAN's CEO and staff, to keep you up to date with important and interesting industry and association news.