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There’s No ‘Sea of Sameness’ Here; We’re On A Cause

I am a great believer in the good that a company like mine can do in the world. We are living our vision to provide peace of mind to millions of American families with innovative products, including life insurance policies with living benefits, or annuities with guaranteed lifetime income.

To be honest, we’re not alone. Other financial services companies have similar products. But I also am here to tell you that there’s something different about National Life.

We’re on a cause, a mission, a purpose. I’m quite sure that’s what caught the attention of bestselling authors Jackie and Kevin Freiberg. They believe that we have “A Business Strategy for Standing Out In A Sea of Sameness,” as the subtitle of their new book “Cause!” says.

Let me tell you something about what we’re up to. On many levels, it’s as simple as our corporate values: Do Good. Be Good. Make Good.

Those are the same values that are held dear by Main Street America. But, to me, that’s not enough. We had to really bake those values into everything we do, from the way we treat each other as colleagues to the way we treat our clients and the way we support the communities where we do business.

When it comes to our interactions with teammates here at National Life, we operate under a concept we call Servant Leadership. There are a series of leadership tenets that we’ve worked together on with everyone from the executive ranks to the most entry-level employees.

The concept behind the leadership tenets is as basic as any human relationship. At National Life, they boiled down to a saying that now adorns some of our walls in the office and were even printed on buttons that some of us wear in the office: “I feel valued. I add value. I live our values.”

These aren’t slogans that were created out of whole cloth by a consultant or some hired gun. They really go to the core of who we are as a company. Our company dates to 1848, when the National Life Insurance Co. was chartered.

Even then our founder, Dr. Julius Dewey, was guided by similar values. The language of the day was much more flowery, but the concept was the same. Dr. Dewey was a country doctor who traveled by horseback selling his idea of “life assurance” because he believed that members of the community could come together to help protect one another. It’s telling that National Life was organized from the beginning as a mutual company.

We’ve grown significantly since then and we offer a lot more options to American families. But I’m confident that Dr. Dewey would recognize his own vision of “life assurance” in what we do.

Our employees know that history and they respect and honor it every day. They work to do good in their every interaction because, when it comes right down to it, they’re helping make someone’s life better. Employees are empowered to do everything they can to advance this cause.

It’s a big part of the reason that agents and clients so often tell us that they feel like they truly matter when they work with one of the companies of National Life. We know an awful lot of them by name. And even when we don’t, we quickly get to know them and treat them like family. Then we know them by name. First name.

You can hear some of our friends’ stories in their own words. Here’s Jessica. And also Bob. And finally, Joven and Benita.

Why do our employees believe as strongly in this cause as I do and other top executives do? Because we live it every day. Again, we go beyond mere slogans and give teammates the ability to do good in their community.

We offer employees 40 hours of paid time every year to go out and volunteer in the community. Employees in one of our companies have challenged each other to see who can volunteer the most hours at the Vermont Foodbank. It’s a friendly but a serious competition! They carry that same Do Good spirit into what they do with our clients and associates.

We also support the Vermont Foodbank and the North Texas Food Bank through our charitable foundation. Both have backpack programs that provide backpacks filled with food for needy schoolchildren to take home on the weekend and help feed their families.

We try to make this fun, too. That’s why we sponsor the Do Good Fest on the grounds of our Vermont campus. The Do Good Fest is a music festival featuring well known bands, food and beer, children’s activities and a showcase of local nonprofits. Last year the band O.A.R. headlined our festival, which drew more than 3,000 people. Over the past two years we’ve raised $26,000 for Branches of Hope, the cancer patient fund at Central Vermont Medical Center, where we also paid to build the National Life Cancer Treatment Center.

This is part of our cause. Employees believe in what we do as a financial services company, as a good employer, as an important member of our business community. And you know what? Our cause pays dividends.

We have broken sales records for several years running even as the rest of the industry has remained flat. It has allowed us to do more for our clients and our communities, including a one-third increase in the amount our charitable foundation spends to support other causes.

This isn’t rocket science. This is good business. It’s good neighborliness. It’s our cause.

Guarantees are dependent on the claims-paying ability of the issuing company.