Three years into my insurance career, I somehow talked my way into the manager role for the employee benefits practice at a multi-line agency. As I drove in that first morning, I started to question whether or not I was qualified for this new role. After all, not only did I only have three  years of experience, but I had never worked on a group over 35 lives.

My anxiety waned as I got closer to the office, and I walked in the front door as confident as you can be on the first day of a new job. I walked down the hall to my new office which had been stripped bare of everything but the furniture, my computer, and one small stack of papers.

I picked up that stack of papers and all of that anxiety came flooding back with a force that just about knocked me to the ground. I was holding the self-funded renewal of the largest client (by far) in the entire agency. I’m not just talking about the largest benefits client, the largest client PERIOD. Yeah, there may still be the echoes of an f-bomb rattling around that office.


After the initial shock wore off, I did the only thing I knew to do. I called industry friends and, as vulnerable and transparent as I could be, I asked for help. I received multiple crash courses in stop-loss coverage, TPAs, PBMs, in everything that goes into a self-funded plan.

Not only did I get through the renewal successfully, that client became one of my biggest referral sources. And we retained the benefits on that account long after it was lost on the P&C/bond side of the agency.

You may be wondering what this story has to do with the volunteer title of this article. In a word, EVERYTHING. You see, the industry friends I called for help all had one thing in common, they were my NAHU brothers and sisters. They didn’t have to help me out, but not a single one hesitated dropping what they were doing to help me.

I’m guessing many of you have a story similar to mine or, at the very least, you owe your success to any number of people who lifted you up along the way: bosses, mentors, colleagues, and association groups like NAHU (National Association of Underwriters). If you’re also like me, you feel indebted. Not necessarily that you feel the need to pay them back directly but, as the idea goes, you want to pay it forward.

The debt is real

I specifically mention NAHU because of the impact it’s had on me. The impact wasn’t just helping to save my shit on that renewal, but it’s come from the professional/personal development and leadership skills they have allowed me to build over my career. I owe so much of who I am today directly to NAHU and the countless association friends from around the country I have met over the past 25+ years.

I know that I’m not the only one who feels indebted to NAHU and other organizations like it, but it sure seems like there are fewer and fewer who are acting on that indebtedness.

NAHU – THE association working to protect our future

In full disclosure, I am the current National Membership Chair for NAHU, and I have volunteered to do what I can to help grow the association. I’ve taken on this role for two primary reasons. First, I believe the industry is faced with some of the greatest challenges it’s ever faced. Many are positive, but they are challenges, nonetheless. Second, I believe in the association and its ability to help lead the industry through this time of transition.

The industry needs a strong NAHU more than ever before. That’s where you come in.

Not only are we struggling with membership numbers but, even more concerning, we are struggling to fill critical leadership and committee positions at all levels of the association. This isn’t just a challenge for NAHU, anecdotally it appears most associations are struggling with membership numbers and with volunteer leaders.

But we won’t use that as an excuse; our industry is better than that. We are an industry that exists to make the businesses of our clients stronger, and we are also an industry that works to make one another stronger.

A hidden debt

Whether or not you owe your development and success to NAHU like I do, you benefit from the association’s efforts every day. I could not even begin to list the countless ways NAHU directly improves the professional lives of its members, but if you can think of something that challenges you in your business, I am pretty certain there is a resource inside NAHU that could help.

I will, however, focus on one aspect of NAHU that everyone in the industry benefits from: our legislative effort. To my knowledge, there is no association that has the attention of legislators like we do. We are consulted, help draft, and even submit pieces of legislation that impact your livelihood.

Sure, you may not agree with every single position the association takes. But, given the countless issues in which we are involved, it’s safe to say you are more successful and secure in your career because of the NAHU influence. For that reason alone, I would encourage you to join and help support this important effort.

It’s my opinion that we all have a responsibility to help protect the future and grow an association that exists for the expressed purposes of protecting our future and helping us grow.

Step it up

And to those of you who are already members, thank you. And to you, I’d also challenge you to step up and become even more involved. We would love for you take on a leadership role or, at the very least, contact one of the leaders in your local chapter and simply ask them what you might do to help support their effort. I promise you, there are countless opportunities for you to help that will require a minimal amount of time.

As much as I’d love for you to be an ACTIVE member of NAHU, that isn’t my entire point. With all of the change and new solutions and strategies available in our industry, there is no shortage of other in-over-their-head-like-I-was industry friends who need your help, guidance, and mentorship.

Please just seek out an opportunity to repay your debt, to pay it forward, and help strengthen our great industry.

The cool thing about paying on this debt is that you will likely grow even more than those you are helping.

Photo by IconWeb.