When I joined National Life almost fifteen years ago, the company had two sales channels, as it still does. This is typical for insurance companies and offers agents options to be closely aligned with the company or to work for independent agencies. Back then, there was a fierce rivalry between both of these channels. Field leaders didn’t mix or mingle, each thinking their way of doing business was better.
As the years went on, National Life recognized that by bringing these leaders together regardless of channel, they could learn from one another. At first there was some resistance. But now, even though the company still has two channels, Independent and Affiliated, leaders attend the same training and strategy sessions to take advantage of best practices. As the saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
We never anticipated the power of this particular tide.
Thanks to a chance meeting on the way to the airport from a sales conference last year, Nicole Sabato, wife of one of our Affiliated agents, Mike Sabato, happened to grab a seat next to Donna Whitt, sister of Jerry Stratton, who runs one of our largest Independent agencies.
Nicole and Donna struck up a conversation that turned to Team 94, the nonprofit Nicole and Mike started to help provide continuing education to autistic adults. As Nicole explained, early intervention is critical, but when autistic adults age out of programs, there is a massive gap that leaves them and their families struggling. Donna was so inspired by what Nicole had to say, she called her brother and insisted his agency, Alliance Group, support Team 94’s mission.
Having worked with Alliance for years, I know how dedicated they are to their causes. Many of our agents and agencies have charitable passions they support. As a matter of fact, the New York/New Jersey agency principals, Jim Ortenzio and Vic Muro, who Mike Sabato works with, wholeheartedly support Team 94. Jim is even on its board of directors. This type of dedication is one of the reasons National Life created the Agent Do Good Award, to recognize the good causes that agents support in their communities.
It would have been easy for Jerry to politely decline yet another cause, especially since this one falls outside Alliance’s focus on breast cancer awareness, not to mention the fact that the lead agency from “the other channel” was behind it. Instead, not only did Jerry agree to take on this cause, too, he challenged Alliance’s agents to also donate to Team 94 and offered a match. Going one step further, he also asked National Life to donate.
We like to partner with organizations like this and we think this is a really good thing we’re doing.Lee Duncan, Alliance Group
“What I love about this is that Alliance is all about education and training,” explained Lee Duncan, Alliance Group Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. “Our slogan is ‘Together We’re Better.’ We like to partner with organizations like this and we think this is a really good thing we’re doing.”
Lee added, “National Life’s at the core of this connection. One of the main reasons I love and support and sell with National Life is because of their values, do good, be good, make good. It’s not just a catchy slogan that they put out there, it is something they live and they practice.”
Last week, the tide came in.
During a Zoom presentation that included representatives from Alliance, the New York/New Jersey Agency and National Life as well as Nicole and Mike Sabato representing Team 94, a combined donation of $50,000 was made to the nonprofit.
“Aside from Jim and Victor who help run this, I couldn’t ask for better partners,” said Sabato during the presentation. “I look forward to taking it to another level.”
A Team 94 building is in the works. It was scheduled to open in September but has been put on hold due to the pandemic.
Mehran Assadi, Chairman, CEO and President of National Life who participated in the presentation commented, “Day in and day out, this is why we’re a family rather than just a business.”
If you would like to learn more about Team 94, click here.