Yes, I did appear as Willie Nelson; and yes, I did re-write the words to “Crazy” to reflect the current environment for the life insurance industry. But behind all the glitz and glitter of the Andesa Services Client Forum held this past September in Nashville, I also shared a heartfelt message with our clients.
I grew up listening to country music. Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, Tennessee Ernie Ford, George Jones and Whispering Bill Anderson were often heard on my parent’s stereo. By the time I was in college, Willie, Merle, Hank Jr., and Alabama dominated my music preferences. The lyrics of country music speak to the hardships and heartbreaks of life perhaps like no other medium. I especially appreciate the reverence that up and coming stars pay to those who preceded them. At the conclusion of the Hall of Fame ceremony each year, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” is sung as a reminder of the ecosystem, the kinship and the family that is country music. So it was a fitting tribute to the relationships and history that Andesa shares with its clients that we would gather our friends and colleagues together in Nashville to celebrate and appreciate our clients as a key and critical part of the Andesa circle.
Our conference theme was “The Andesa Sound – Find Your Voice” – a play on the unique Nashville Sound which speaks to something different – something about the special relationships we share that make the Andesa sound special. We also like the “Find Your Voice” suggestion as a play on Stephen Covey’s 8th Habit – Find Your Voice and help others find theirs. We believed it fit as we tried to challenge those in attendance with new information about the industry, leadership and external factors driving success.
The Andesa Voice is an ecosystem that constantly feeds and builds off one another to develop a special relationship between systems, services, staff and clients in which each are strengthened and can grow to reach their full potential. It only works because it is all so closely linked by relationships. The trust and support each contributes toward making the system stronger, knowing that each will be stronger as a result of the contribution and effort. The ecosystem gets stronger and stronger as each contributes to the relationship. It is a formula for success that has transcended 30 plus years and has adjusted to regulatory changes, technology advancements, increasing risks, the ups and downs of different business cycles. And it is successful because of its foundation of staff and client relationships that make the whole truly something special
We live in ambiguous times. A low interest rate environment continues to hang over the industry, threatening the products and success of many operations. New technologies are driving change, and at an ever increasing pace. E-mail hacks and cybersecurity are daily news items; and no matter how much we spend and educate, the world always seems a step behind the bad guys. The political and regulatory environments are crazy; and perhaps more unpredictable than at any time in our history.
As Andesa began its planning efforts in 2015, we looked at the environment and decided we wanted to be a victor, not a victim. We were very intentional in charting a new course. Our plans were for growth, diversification of revenue and preserving the values and relationships that have made us successful. The benefit for our clients is that a stronger Andesa allows for more investment in people and technology. Systems enhancements necessary to meet the challenges of a particular situation in a particular product line often find their way back to benefit the overall Andesa ecosystem.
As Andesa embarked on our new planning cycle, a group of leaders reflected on what is the company’s core focus – what is its deep purpose? Back and forth, to and fro we went, but kept coming back to the relationships. It was not a discussion of who we wanted to be, it wasn’t a conversation of a desired future state, it was a simple understanding of who we are – what energizes us – what is in our DNA. It came back to “Our Voice” – building our team, building our relationships, building our business over the long-term; a clear and focused understanding of our core ideology – of the Andesa Voice – of the Andesa ecosystem.
As we look out over the next ten years, Andesa sees its ecosystem continuing to be strengthened. We seek to maintain and build those relationships which feed the ecosystem. We desire an employee ownership culture which contributes to strong client relationships and retention. We desire a committed and engaged client base which contributes to the Andesa ecosystem – seeking to advance their own business goals and entrusting Andesa with the confidence and collaboration necessary to achieve a better, stronger whole.
One of the blessings of our conference was a line in Jason Young’s presentation on “Servicetopia” on day one of the event. Jason noted that “From being in the room just a short time, I could sense there is a great culture here – a different feeling.” Sixteen different companies represented, yet there was a sense of something different about the Andesa/Client culture.
You see, without the contribution and collaboration of our clients, the Andesa Voice is rather silent. But in these ambiguous times, together we can continue to march towards greater things. We can realize our potential and accomplish our goals by working together – finding our voice and helping others find their voice too. It is not a typical vendor-client relationship we seek to build; it is a true partnership in which the whole is strengthened.
To our clients – Thank You for being part of The Andesa Sound. I hope we continue to make beautiful music together for many, many more years. I have no doubt that the Andesa circle will be unbroken.