Practice Makes Perfect

On Saturday night I addressed PEMCO's top sales agents, their spouses and guests, and senior management of the company, in a banquet room that was high above the ground in the Seattle Space Needle. This is what I shared.

Good evening. . .

This morning I figured out that I’ve had the privilege to serve in my role at PEMCO for 17% of the company’s life. As solid as that sounds when compared to the tenure of CMO’s at other companies, it pails by comparison to many of my coworkers and many of the honorees at tonight’s sales recognition event.

I had the chance to pause for a moment and think back to how the story of me going to work at PEMCO began. It’s sort of amazing really. To be doing something that I’m enjoying so much, after being so certain that I wouldn’t want to work for an insurance company. It's true, of all the industries I could think of that I wouldn’t want to lead the marketing for, insurance was among the top two or three on the list.

This is how my story began. 

I was between jobs – at a career intersection I think we were calling it – and for the first time in 20 years my mentor and recruiters weren’t calling with opportunities. I’d been provided some “outplacement” support by the company I was leaving and decided to make the most of it. The first thing they did was help me get my resume in order. The second thing they told me to do was find places to practice interviewing.

So I started to apply for anything and everything that was remotely similar to roles I would be interested in. It didn’t really matter what they were. After all, I really just wanted the practice.

It wasn’t long before I saw that PEMCO Insurance had posted an opening for a a marketing director. I applied and literally weeks of interviews ensued. I interviewed with H.R. people, with executives, in groups, and with individuals. Then, near the end of the interview marathon, I had a second interview with CEO Stan W. McNaughton.

Stan asked if I had noticed that the people that I had met were, for the most part, long tenured insurance and financial services professionals. By nature and training they were conservative, risk adverse, and deliberate in their approach. They were good people, he told me… just unfamiliar with the pace of retail-like operations and other customer centric organizations. Stan asked me if I knew why his team of interviewers were still talking to a guy like me… someone who really didn’t even like the idea of working for an insurance company.

He explained that it was because it was 1999 and they wanted someone to join the team who would help move the company, it’s marketing and it’s brand position, into the new millennium. 

Crap, I thought, I should have been trying harder and not just practicing.

Well, as you probably guessed, I got the job. And eleven years later I still find myself in the perfect place to apply customer centric, market driven methods to build awareness, generate preference, stimulate loyalty, and inspire advocacy. I've learned a lot about insurance... and even more about the company I work for.  (The rest of the story)