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How Will We Be Remembered?

How Will We Be Remembered?
by Paul J. Disser, Spectrum Vision Systems


It has been said that none of us now are what we have been. And for many of us, a combination of hard work and inspiration from the success stories of others may have paid off handsomely. Or, within other scenarios, because of poor decisions some may still be struggling. Yet barring unexpected tragedy – and sometimes even despite it – many will eventually succeed.

According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics, there are 280 million people in our great nation. What they all have in common is a need for our products and services – a need that can – and often does – change. Again, none of us now are what we have been. What’s important today maybe wasn’t even thought about yesterday.

And so it goes – spring follows winter, to be replaced by summer, then fall, and it’s back to winter again. We keep at it, one season following another, in our chosen profession – it’s what we do. Some do it better than others. Most are honest, while some are not. Within the insurance industry, as in any other, there’s a normal mix of individuals. Many are competent and trustworthy, while a minority are quite the opposite.

I’ll never forget a story that an insurance editor shared with me many years ago. He was covering a meeting featuring a keynote address on truth-in-advertising by the late Senator Philip Hart (D-Michigan). The senator had just introduced legislation to make this dream come true. During his talk, an insurance agent leaned over to whisper to the editor (thinking he was a fellow agent), “This guy is dangerous!”

Advertising, of course, comes in many forms. Yet word-of-mouth advertising – as you’ve undoubtedly heard and possibly experienced – has often proven to be the most effective. But it’s sometimes spread – with once being too often – sprinkled with falsehoods, often within an attractive environment conducive to sales. Then, once the deal is sealed, it’s time to move on to other waiting, and sometimes even greener, pastures.

As vision care providers for over three decades, Spectrum has heard about and at times haven’t been able to bid on business because of chicanery. The field of dreams turns into a land of dishonesty and greed for unscrupulous sellers. The buyer suffers and, when and if the word gets out, so does the industry. Sound familiar? If you’ve been an insurance and/or financial services marketer for more than a while, it undoubtedly does, regardless of what products and services you’re offering or plan to offer.

It’s also not news to industry veterans that some products are better than others and, when they’re practically equal in benefits and features, price can – and should – make the difference. Yet there’s the hitch. You can sell practically anything at any time if you tell the prospect what he or she wants to hear.

As some have rationalized and continue to act on, what’s a bit of embellishment if you get what you’re after? But they’re not salespeople; rather, they are executioners – killing softly with their words. And such individuals, through devious practices, continue to shatter the image of an industry that has long been in need of repair. Yet the refurbishing can’t be effective and lead to cleansed avenues while the mischievous among us continue to traffic in deceit.

A relatively recent case in point, one of too many we seem to be reading or hearing about, concerns an enforcement action in California, part of a statewide sweep targeting insurance agents selling unlawful and fraudulent securities. Some 100 individuals – the majority of them agents and none of whom were licensed to sell securities in the state – face charges of selling over $8 million in unqualified, nonexempt promissory notes, real estate, investment agreements, and investment contracts to more than 180 Californians.

Such reported abuse of trust, sparked by age-old greed linked to the magnetic lure of big commissions, is not only a gross disservice to the unsuspecting but also to the vast majority of honest and conscientious professionals within out ranks and to the very industry we serve.

On the proverbial, brighter, side of the coin, our organization, possibly like yours, has saved companies benefits-budget dollars every time we have had an opportunity to replace an existing program. And we’ve been able to do the same for state, city, and county governments – and, in the government sector, the savings actually represent our tax dollars!

We recently quoted a union case where we are saving the laborers $150,000 a year for identical vision benefits. When the trustees asked us how we could do this, since their “consultant” had told them another plan was the only game in town, I advised them to ask that person where he conducts his discussions with the provider. The trustees were informed the confabs occurred when the consultant-broker took them golfing, or treated them to seats in a skybox at the ballpark for baseball and football games.

Yes, it takes money to make money, but at such an exorbitant outlay? And did the consultant know that an identical plan could have been offered for less money? The answer is a definite maybe; you are invited to draw your own conclusions.

But, before you do – that is, if you haven’t already – remember that any successful consultant or marketer has studied the marketplace beforehand and knows what products and services are out there before proceeding on the pathway to profit. And, for some, if there are advantages to be derived by hiding facts, so be it – as long as they get what they’re after. As noted in this particular example, as long as entertaining can lead to financially draining others – unbeknownst, of course, to the soon-to-be client.

Please don’t misread. I’ve been around long enough to realize that countless business deals are struck on the golf course and at leisure spots. But I’ve also been around long enough to understand that, at times, the public we serve is getting blindsided by some dastardly people – look again, if you can stand the sight, at the investment houses where high-priced thieves have been removed from their dens of deceit and incarcerated.

Yes, their sordid and manipulative machinations don’t – or hopefully don’t – pertain to any of us. They have done wrong and paying for it (with others seemingly destined to follow). Yet what about us? What are we doing to rid our industry of the bad apples in our barrel?

Have we notified our peers, our industry associations, state insurance departments, and/or the NAIC when we have proof that the actions of others are most definitely askew? Or have we simply shrugged our shoulders? Think about it – and, as you do, if the concerns I’ve outlined may sound a bit pious and self-serving to you, that’s most definitely not the intent. Rather, it’s to emphasize that what’s really important in our professional lives is how we serve our clients and our industry.

Whistle blowing, while it may not have been part of our practice in all the years many of us have been in business, is sometimes absolutely needed. All you have to do is pucker your lips and blow. Blow as many of the unethical within our ranks away as much as possible – the sooner, the better. And continue to do so as much as necessary.

No, none of us are what we have been. We should be, as long as we’ve performed honestly and professionally, much better. And we can – and should – strive to continue to improve each day, each step along the way, in our journey through life. Let it be said of us, from this day forward and after we’re gone, that we served with integrity and that we honored our profession and industry.

Paul J. Disser is chairman, CEO, and president of Spectrum Vision Systems Inc, a managed vision care organization and PPO headquartered in Kansas, which services more than 20,000 companies and four million subscribers throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Disser can be reached at 913-451-1672 (email,

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