by Carolyn Ellis Brad Elman, CLU, founder of Nine Dots Benefits in Los Altos, California, is a 19-year MDRT member with nine Court of the Table qualifications. He is a second generation life and health insurance agent. His practice, based in the heart of Silicon Valley, focuses on helping closely held businesses with their employee and executive benefits. Elman is an active community volunteer, especially with special needs children. We spoke with Brad about how MDRT maintains its relevance today.
L&HA Features Editor
L&HA: You celebrated your 25th year in the business in 2011. I understand that MDRT has been very helpful to you in developing your successful practice.
BE: The biggest value of MDRT is the successful people who are members. Everyone in the financial services business who is successful has gotten there with the help of somebody else. MDRT is a collection of the greatest minds in the industry; you could call it the world’s largest study group. My peers have helped me grow and taught me things you don’t always get in company training or in a textbook setting.
I’ve been a member of MDRT for 20 years. Because my dad was a member, I was aware that MDRT was a goal I should be striving to hit from my very first week in the business. The qualification amount was formidable, and it took me five years to qualify for the first time.
L&HA: MDRT has a broad global reach with members from 78 nations. How has that been helpful in building your practice?
BE: We all have something to learn from everybody. When I was a brand new rep and was coming to my first meeting, I stood in line next to a woman from South Africa. She told me that she had spent nearly 20 percent of her annual income to come to the meeting. I thought to myself, “What amazing dedication to improving your practice.” When I originally got involved in the organization I didn’t realize all that it was going to be. Like any educational opportunity it requires commitment. This woman from South Africa put things in perspective for me. She helped me see the value right from the beginning, and I have never missed a meeting since.
L&HA: MDRT is based on giving as well as receiving, and you currently serve on the MDRT Management Council. What committees are you involved with?
BE: I am the divisional vice president of membership networking. There are three committees in that division, mentoring, the MDRT knowledge network, and a group that’s addressing the needs of newer advisors.
L&HA: MDRT strives to remain relevance. How can newer agents and/or younger people get involved?
BE: MDRT has a program to encourage participation by mentoring teams. Typically a mentoring team is a current MDRT member and a mentee or aspirant, who isn’t yet a member. Teams have access to MDRT Resource Center materials, and there’s no time limit on the enrollment period or enrollment fee. Mentees get to interact with someone successful in the business and receive regular communications from MDRT that will enhance their practice. MDRT offers a 50 percent reduced production requirement for the aspirant to attend the MDRT Annual Meeting for the first time. To attend the second time 80% of the production requirement is needed. Meetings are so educational and inspirational that they get people fired up and that makes it much easier for them to qualify in subsequent years. Mentoring is a great way to help people gather the resources to come into the organization.
L&HA: It’s often tough for agents to get through the novice phase to the point of having a practice that can sustain them. It would seem that what MDRT is offering would be very helpful.
BE: It takes a certain amount of faith when you are first getting started in the insurance business, that if you do the work and stick with it, success will follow in time. Some people are hugely successful right out of the block, but for the most part it takes time to develop a reputation in the marketplace, become educated, and develop referral sources. When they are struggling, it would be great if newer agents had somebody who could tell you it’s going to be OK. And if you can stick it out until you reach a level of success, it’s immeasurably rewarding, for the rest of your life.
L&HA: Tell us about the new MDRT networking program.
BE: The greatest value to MDRT is the intellectual capital of its members; it’s an organization whose members readily share information with one another. MDRT Network is a fantastic tool to facilitate real-time interaction 24 hours a day seven days a week 365 days a year. We launched in 2011 and took it out of beta in January 2012. It uses the best elements of social media like Facebook in a private network so it doesn’t have the issues that financial representatives can have with social media. Just half an hour ago, I put up a post about a false positive for one of my clients for nicotine. She’s taking some diet supplements that could possibly have caused this false positive, and I would like to know if anybody else has had this experience. It’s a great way to facilitate study groups, ask questions, get the best minds in the business responding to you — and have fun.
L&HA: It sounds like MDRT is moving in the right direction.
BE: MDRT has always tried to stay relevant, and the issues that face financial representatives today aren’t all that different from those faced 20 or even 80 years ago. The biggest challenge is making sure you have enough qualified people to speak with, running your practice effectively, and managing the day-to-day challenges of running a business. What are new are the tools and the communication techniques we can use to facilitate that, particularly as they relate to our newer members. Being able to speak the language of technology is very relevant these days.
L&HA: In what other ways has MDRT been of value to you?
BE: The volunteering and leadership development opportunities have been helpful and lots of fun. I came into the insurance business right out of college, so volunteering in the organization has enabled me to test skills I’ve learned in other venues. Like a number of people in MDRT who have family members in the business, I had the benefit of my father’s example. The mentoring program gives everybody the motivation and training they would get if they did have a family member in MDRT.[sc:bio_ellis]