This article was originally published in HIU Magazine (Health Insurance Underwriter).

I was asked to write an article highlighting the value of our Professional Development resources. Specifically, we want to make sure our entire membership is familiar with the following:

  • Certifications and designations offered by NAHU
  • On-line learning institute
  • Promoting certifications to clients
  • Competitive advantage you can build
  • Federally Facilitated Marketplace training
  • CE hours offered at local meetings

And, of course, I want to emphasize all of this because it truly is extremely valuable and important. HOWEVER, I believe that the professional development resources offered through NAHU go so far beyond the specific items listed above.

I spell Professional Development “N-A-H-U”

I will state unequivocally that I owe a significant portion of my professional self to the professional development I have received through my NAHU membership. I’d like to say that I was smart enough to chart the course from the very beginning, but I can’t. And, maybe that is the most powerful statement I could make. I grew professionally, not out of some grand plan, but because I showed up and participated.

Hell, I never even intended to get into insurance, but I am so thankful that I did.

What about you?

How many of you grew up with the dream of getting into insurance?

When I ask that question in a room full of industry professionals, there is rarely more than a hand or two that goes up. 

So, if you didn’t intentionally pursue insurance as a career, what is it that has kept you here?

I’m guessing it’s the rewards that come from working in this industry; the potential for a great income, good work/life balance; and a nice working environment. When you add to all that the fact that everyone has to buy what you sell and the recurring revenue stream that follows, it becomes pretty obvious why we stick around.

However, when I ask industry professionals why they do what they do, I don’t hear the materialistic answers from above; instead, I hear some version of, “I like helping others.”

We exist to make other business owners more successful at what they do.

Think about that for a second. Collectively, we represent what is arguably the single most important relationship a business owner has, more important than the accountant, attorney, or banker. Sound like a bold claim? When you collaborate with industry partners and do your job the way it needs to be done, you impact the businesses of your clients strategically, operationally, financially, and emotionally. No other partner has that kind of an impact.

That’s a big responsibility to take on for someone who, like me, ended up here by accident.

How do you prepare? Professional Development is BIG; REALLY, REALLY BIG

The technical part of your job is unbelievably complex and getting more so every single day. However, learning about policies and products that lead to the rewards I mentioned above is the relatively easy part of your development.

And through the formal Professional Development resources, NAHU members have the opportunity to receive a lot of that needed training and establish themselves as elite professionals in this great industry.

However, knowing that the real reason why you do what you do is to “help other people”, the development necessary to do that can’t be captured on a spreadsheet or in a training course. With all due respect, it can’t be “certified”.

Through the less formal Professional Development opportunities, NAHU members position themselves for the type of growth that, while hard to measure, makes them invaluable to their clients.

We are never alone

Despite the fact that I took an accidental path into the industry, it was a much more intentional path I took to NAHU; actually, maybe non-optional is a better description.

When I started at my first agency, it was expected that I join and become an active participant in NAHU (St. Louis chapter). NAHU membership was the closest thing we had to any kind of training program.

Of course, a big part of the training had to do with learning about the carriers and products. But, WAY more important to me, it was also where I learned about how special of an industry it was that I had wandered into.

Can you help a brother out?

I spent my first three years at an agency where I worked on groups no larger than 35 employee lives. Despite that limited experience, I somehow talked my way into the benefits practice lead position at a multi-lines agency. The first day I showed up, the ONLY papers in my new office were for the self-insured renewal of the largest revenue client in the ENTIRE agency.

After the initial panic, and the echo of a few expletives had faded, I did the only thing I knew to do: I called my NAHU friends who knew all that “self-funded stuff”. From them I learned about TPAs, reinsurance, specific and aggregate deductible, 12/15, etc. While it was very necessary traditional product/feature lessons, I learned so much more.

What I really learned was that, because of NAHU, I wasn’t really alone when I stood there in my office the first day staring in disbelief at that renewal.

I grew professionally through that experience, not so much because of the product knowledge I acquired, but because I was the recipient of countless NAHU brothers/sisters who were willing to drop what they were doing to help me, even though they had nothing personal to gain. I was the benefactor of their teaching, leadership, knowledge, and, most importantly, their genuine interest in helping me be successful.

The growth is constant

That was only one of the countless growth (call it Professional Development or whatever you like) experiences I have had through my engagement at NAHU. And they continue to this day, literally.

The day before this writing I spoke at the Indiana State AHU Symposium. At their social event that night, I sat with Denise VanPutten, Bynum Tuttle, and Chad Schneider. I couldn’t even begin to touch on all of the world problems we discussed, but I will tell you that none of it had to with product, spreadsheets, or ACA.

We talked about NAHU; we talked about “you”; we talked about all of the great things about NAHU; and, being completely honest, we talked about frustrations. It was heartfelt conversation. I certainly won’t speak for them, but, as I always do when I spend time with my NAHU brothers/sisters, I grew professionally that night.

And, there was nothing particularly unusual about last night’s experience; it happens every time a group of NAHU “siblings” get together.

Back to my initial charge

You have access to some unbelievably powerful resources through the Professional Development arm of NAHU, many of which we forget. I’m sure I’m supposed to go through and explain in detail the value of each. But, I know you’re a smart cookie and you inherently understand the value of each; you simply need the occasional reminder to take advantage of them.

So, here is one more reminder. Go to and re-familiarize yourself with:

  • Certifications and designations offered by NAHU
  • On-line learning institute
  • Promoting certifications to clients
  • Competitive advantage you can build
  • Federally Facilitated Marketplace training
  • CE hours offered at local meetings

All of these provide the foundation you need to do your job. But, in order to do your job for the reason you truly do it, PLEASE don’t forget the professional development that happens in times of need or over a couple slices of pizza and beers. For me, that’s where real growth and development takes place.

Maybe I missed my “charge”

I sometimes take a different approach to assignments. ; ) If you’re not reading this, you know I really missed this one big time! If you are reading this and agree with me, do me a favor?

Given that you are in the middle of fourth quarter, there is a good chance this is a tough day for you; there is a good chance this is a tough day for your NAHU siblings going through the same, challenging fourth quarter.

Here’s the favor. Pick up the phone (no email, no text) and call one of your NAHU siblings and remind one another of why you really do what you do. It will help you through the day; it may even help you through the rest of fourth quarter. It will probably even help you grow a little as professionals.

And, growing with you is what continues to make me proud to be a part of this very special family.