When you speak from the heart everyone who has one will buy-in. That means all of us.
Facts tell, stories sell.
Everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is Storytelling for Business.
Storytelling for Business: Do It For Others
It’s been a four-year run for which Ian Whiteman is extremely proud – proud to help, proud to serve, proud to change lives.
“I feel like I have been very fortunate in my life and been given a lot of opportunities to do some great things,” says Ian. “I started with USHEALTH Advisors back in 2016 and this year we opened a huge office, promoted a lot of people who are now able to provide things for their families and change a lot of lives. It might sound cliche’, but that’s what gets me up in the morning, this opportunity.”
“I had a lot of people who came here struggling to make car and rent payments and now have built sustainable futures for themselves. It’s why I’m here and why I work so hard. I like to enjoy the ride and get to look around while we’re on it. My girlfriend Emma and I now get to watch all this stuff happen and it’s a lot of fun. Plus, we’re not done!”
Success is a team sport and Ian’s USHA Division Sales Team in Florida is playing all out – to the tune of nearly $18 million in issued business already in 2020 and nearly $69 million in business since Ian’s run as a leader began.
“It all starts with our CEO Troy McQuagge,” says Ian. “This is the same stuff I heard him talking about years ago. There’s a reason he’s accomplished what he’s accomplished and I want to do the same. He’s changed so many people’s lives and that’s what I want, to help all of these people. I want to run into a guy I helped 20-to-30 years from now and see that he’s just crushing it in his personal life. That’s a huge win for me.”
It’s also a long way from where Ian was a little more than a decade ago, at a time when his own personal life was the exact opposite of where he is today. It was a very different four year period that truly challenged him but also shaped him as well. It’s simply part of the human experience – every day, every month, every year, the world turns over on someone who used to sit on top of it. For Ian, it wasn’t so much a moment, as it was a collection of them.
“I hit a really rough patch in my late 20’s and into my early 30’s,” says Ian. “It was one of those periods in life where you can’t catch a win to save your life. I owned a chain of franchise stores for a vacuum cleaner business and was knocking the ball out of the park. I had moved from Maryland to Florida, then Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Wilma came through and set the business back dramatically. When the housing crisis happened and the economy took a dive, everything went off a cliff for us.”
It was an incredible fall. In the span of four years, I lost the business and I had to liquidate everything. My dad was battling cancer, I broke up with my long-time girlfriend, I also got cancer and then my dad passed away. I went from an incredibly high point in my life where everything was going great, to watching it all slip away.”
It was this chain of events, beginning back in 2007, that brought Ian to the world of insurance and a different agency where he met the man he considers a visionary, Troy McQuagge. Things were going well, and Troy was leading the charge. But it wasn’t too long after that Ian’s professional life shifted, and more importantly, he watched his life turn on a dime – when he was diagnosed with cancer.
“I was thirty-one when I got testicular cancer,” Ian says. “I was more surprised than anything because I was in really good shape, going to the gym and working out five days a week. In about 17 years I had never missed a week. You don’t expect this when you’re healthy. I knew something wasn’t right, I had aches in my abdomen but just denied them. At the same time, my dad was battling non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He had beaten it and made a comeback, yet I was in denial that something could possibly be happening to me at such a young age. About eight months passed from the time I started feeling those aches, yet still not going to a doctor to get it checked out.”
Ian says he finally went to a urologist that pinpointed the problem but then told Ian what he didn’t want to hear – that there was no way to do a biopsy for this issue, the practice is to remove the testicle, then test it to see it if is cancer. In disbelief, Ian went in search of other opinions, but after meeting with a world-renowned urologist in Miami, Ian had to succumb to the inevitable surgery, for in the words of the doctor, “you have two choices, ignore it, or die.”
“The doctor did the surgery,” says Ian, “then came to me and said he took the sample to pathology himself and told me he didn’t waste my time – the sample showed I had cancer. It had all been surreal because as a young man you don’t think this can be the case, but once there was confirmation it was cancer I was able to gain a new perspective and be thankful for my life. The doctor told me, ‘you are young and healthy so I don’t want to compromise your body with radiation or chemotherapy, but we’ll continue to test you and monitor it all.’ “Thank God I never had to do any of that stuff, and my life and health are normal now. Outside of the mental weight of the experience early on, I feel like one of the luckiest people ever. I took a little downtime to heal and felt gratitude for how it all worked out.”
Ian’s dad wasn’t as fortunate. Though he had beaten back cancer, it returned, and a little more than a year after Ian’s successful surgery, his dad passed away.
“Although my dad and I were not that close when I was a kid, we had grown closer because of the cleaning franchise business we shared. All of this happening in the span of two years made me hit the reset button on life. For the first time in my life I started re-evaluating things and for a period of time in my early 30’s I just took a break, spent time with friends, and took it easy for a little bit.
Back in the business mode Ian split his time between a profitable painting business and maintaining his insurance license as a broker in the post-Obamacare era, which Ian says didn’t bring in a lot of income. When Ian and his partner in the painting business had, as Ian describes, “a huge falling out,” Ian focused on the insurance side of things, helping his friend, Garrett Laughlin, with clients Ian couldn’t help on the Health Marketplace plans. “Garrett was experiencing huge success at USHEALTH Advisors and it seemed there was a real opportunity there,” says Ian. “I got contracted with USHA, got my state licenses, and was doing virtual selling from my living room when Garrett said he was looking to open an office in Fort Lauderdale. I went to see the office with Garrett and he signed the lease on the spot. That was 2016 – it’s been almost exactly four years to the day we moved into that office and it’s been quite the ride.”
The early part of the ride is a time Ian says he will never forget. In retrospect of any great accomplishment in life, it’s the foundation time, the hard days, the grind, the step-by-step process that seems tough at the moment, but when it eventually starts to flow, it’s a time you can look back on through the lens of life’s rear-view mirror, with great satisfaction and pride.
“In all of my years with business and working with teams I’ve never experienced anything like it,” says Ian. “Garrett could not have hand-picked a better starting lineup to get the team going. A huge amount of what you see at USHA today, especially in Florida, was built in those early days with guys like Brandon Cornett, Justin Brain, David Zalka, Jaime Goldstein, Nick Finazzo, Bryan Velasquez, and myself. It was a starting team of guys that couldn’t miss. It was the right time for the health products as well and the right time in the market, it still is.”
For Ian, as it is for most agents, in the early days it was about personal production and Ian hit the ground running – producing nearly $2 million in issued business in his first year-and-a-half. Progressing and moving into leadership, Ian has now earned his way to his role as a Division Leader and turned his attention to his own team, he says it’s a labor of love – and it’s non-stop action.
“Never once have I been in the office after 8 am on a weekday,” says Ian. “And I usually work until about 9 pm, some late nights keep me there until about 10:30. “Now early on in the morning, my day begins with greeting everyone and taking their temperature, literally, as you can’t be too careful during this crazy time. But then I spend my mornings with agent assessments, looking to see who needs help, who needs me to sit down with them. Every day from 12 pm to 2 pm I go to Crossfit, then I’m back in the office by 2 pm for training, one-to-one meetings with leadership, handling problems, etc. Tuesdays and Thursdays are busy with recruiting sessions at 6 pm that ties me up for most of the night. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I go through the lead budgets to see what is doing well and what is not. I’m in the office on Saturdays for selling and development and work until about 2 to 3 pm. I’m in the office about every other Sunday and on the Sundays I’m not, I work from home. If I’m in the car I’m on the phone. If I’m making dinner I’m on the phone, when I’m in the shower I’m on the phone.”
“My girlfriend says I’m a psychopath,” Ian laughs. “Because she says I’m obsessed with all of this, but I couldn’t do any of it without her. I wouldn’t be sane without her. She is wonderful and is there in the evening with dinner and to spend time with me.”
For Ian, time is not to be wasted and he says he can clearly see the future, for himself and his team.
“The first big goal is to get 100 licensed writing agents on the team,” says Ian. “We’re at about half of that right now. By the end of the year, we’ll be knocking on the door between 70 and 80 because we’ve got a really good recruiting pipeline right now. This business stretches and retracts, but as we expand we’ll be looking to get an even bigger facility so we can grow even more. Growth is the name of the game because as you see an uptick in agents, you see more business being produced and if you’re growing then everything is ok for you.”
As he and the team expand, it’s also a moment for Ian to pause and reflect.
“When I came into the business it was about making money and rebuilding my life,” he says. “How do I do it for Ian? But now, it’s about making sure the people in my care have a better life. I see so many people come to us with nothing and in a short period of time create something real for themselves. If I can change people’s lives and put them in a position to win, then it’s all worth it. We take a huge interest in people’s lives, professionally and personally, and help them build a better future.”
“It sounds cliche’, but it’s the truth, I know it will happen for me if I do it for other people.”
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
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