Do stories matter?
Consider an excerpt from, The Culture Code, by Daniel Coyle:
“When we hear a fact, a few isolated areas of our brain light up, translating words and meanings. When we hear a story, however, our brain lights up like Las Vegas, tracing the chains of cause, effect, and meaning. Stories are not just stories; they are the best invention ever created for delivering mental models that drive behavior.”
Everyone has a story. Stories matter.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is Storytelling for Business.
Storytelling for Business: Daddy’s Little Girl
What it all comes down to is Bri Atchison likes people.
She says it’s simply part of who she is, talking with people, helping people, keeping them positive and leading them down a path, teaching them to help themselves. Bri currently serves as a Satellite Division Sales Leader with USHA in St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida. She says it’s all about other people and says she comes to that mindset naturally, because of how much she learned from her dad.
“To be honest, a lot of what I do and what my life is about centers around my father,” says Bri. “My parents divorced when I was only one, and when I was with my dad he spent a lot of time working. He was a serial entrepreneur and at one time owned the largest jewelry store in Richmond, Virginia. My dad was my mentor in so much more than I realized. We would sit at night and watch tv and he would give me so much business knowledge. I realized later in my life he would make choices he was making with his business – and he would share them by talking them out loud with me. It helped me immensely.”
“The biggest thing I’ve taken away from him – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. I always focus on the customer service part of the business, always, and for me, that has been the most important thing. I tell my agents we are USHEALTH Advisors for a reason – we are advisors, not sales agents. When you are speaking with someone you have to help them figure out what their best position is – either with us or not with us. When you do that and you do it right, you gain somebody’s trust.”
It’s always been a matter of trust. Bri says especially when you can trust that things in life are happening exactly as they should. You can work and you can dream, but somewhere along the way, you’re going to have to have some faith.
“I am strong in my faith,” says Bri. “There are times I get overwhelmed and have to take a breath and trust that it’s going to happen the way it’s supposed to happen. I’ve always said that things happen for a reason. I truly believe that and my agents sometimes tell me how annoying it is,” laughs Bri. “But I tell them if you take a positive outlook then it’s going to happen that way eventually. When I was a Field Training Agent with USHA my agents reported directly to me and they would complain, ‘I dialed this many, and it’s not working, people are just broke.’ “I’d respond to them, ‘no, that’s not the reality and that’s not how this is going to go, go dial 50 more people and it will happen.'”
“Sometimes you have to speak it into existence. I had one agent who was always negative and I kept telling him, ‘no, it’s not going to go work like that.’ “When things didn’t go his way I’d shout across the work stations, ‘you’re going to be positive, keep going.’ It’s all about mindset.”
But even Bri has her moments. She says as much as she believes things will happen for a reason, sometimes even she questions how she’s going to find that reason.
“I don’t always love that message, because you may not know the reason, maybe ever,” says Bri. But she thinks about her father and his story and knows there is always a deeper meaning to life.
“When my dad was 18 he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. It was back in the ’80s and all they did was blast you with radiation and chemotherapy. It got so bad my dad got a tattoo on the back of his neck, a small dot that meant, ‘no more radiation.’ When he met my mom he was told they could never have children, but they had me and they were so elated. Fast forward to when my dad was about 50-years-old and was playing soccer. He loved soccer, but one day he couldn’t catch his breath. They ran a stress test and discovered he needed a five-way heart bypass and valve replacement. He was in ICU for 39 days. At the time I was in my senior year in college, but I came home to care for him. He was divorced and had no support system. I also needed to help care for my siblings, my half brother and sister were 15 and 17 at the time. My dad got better, but about a year later they found he had gastric cancer and he ended up passing away. He was only 51-years-old when he died.”
Everything happens for a reason.
Bri says while she hated losing her dad so young, she now realizes she might be living a very different life if everything didn’t unfold the way it did. “I wouldn’t have grown up so quickly,” says Bri. “My dad left it to me to make the decision about selling his business. I was 23 when he died, my siblings were now 18 and 16 and I still needed to be there for them. If he hadn’t passed I might also still be living in Richmond.”
Though Bri took so much of her father’s legacy with her, life changed. It wasn’t too long after her dad’s passing she met her future husband, Will. “Will actually went to dinner with me on the one-year anniversary of my dad’s passing,” says Bri. “We had only known each other for about two or three weeks. One of the things I truly wish Will got to do was meet my dad – he wishes that too. Not only because my dad was such a big influence on my life, but there are also so many times when we would love to have my dad’s business advice.”
Bri says it was her mom who taught her the mindset of being an overachiever as well. “My mom taught me what getting an “f” meant in school and an “f” meant you should probably run away from home,” Bri laughs. “I did well in school and graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in biology. Both Bri’s dad and mom thought she should go into the medical field to be a doctor pharmacist. But Bri says she knew that wasn’t for her, she knew she was meant for a different path. She was confident to go in a different direction.
For Bri, the road less traveled also brought her to Will. And meeting Will inspired Bri to do the one thing she had wanted to do before her dad’s passing, make a move down to Florida, the change that would lead her to the doorsteps of USHEALTH Advisors in Tampa.
“I had told Will I wanted to make that move,” says Bri, “and if he wanted to come with me, that was fine, and if he didn’t that was OK too. I didn’t know at the time he had bought a ring! We went down to St. Petersburg, Florida for a Valentine’s Day trip in 2015 and decided to move here.”
The move down south eventually led Bri to an interview in Jason Grief’s office. Jason is a Regional Sales Leader for USHEALTH Advisors in Tampa, Florida, but at the time was just getting his Satellite Division team off the ground. Neither Bri nor Jason can recall exactly how she found out about the USHA opportunity, but Bri says she does remember the day of her interview.
“I was in a car accident,” says Bri. “This guy rear-ended me on the way to the office. He got out of his car and had no shirt and no shoes on. I knew this was not a good situation, but when I looked at my car it didn’t look that bad. So I just told the guy, ‘look I gotta go, I’m gonna be late for my interview.'”
Bri let the guy off the hook and was only three minutes late for the interview. The USHA career presentation had already started when she got there, but Bri stuck around and finally got called in to see Jason for the interview.
“Jason was kind of trying to put me off because I was late,” laughs Bri. “But he looked at my resume and saw I had sold Cutco. He said he had done sales for Cutco as well, and once he saw that, he said, ‘alright, usually I ask a lot of questions, but since you sold Cutco, you’re in. When do you want to start?’ “I barely knew what we did. Jason said it was insurance sales and his other leaders would fill me in with answers to any questions. Now, Jason is like the big brother I never had. Jason’s dad was a businessman and also passed away at a young age as well. Though Jason and I butt heads sometimes, like any good brother and sister, it is he who I always look to for guidance. He’s constantly looking for ways to help me grow. Sometimes it might be 10:30 or 11 pm and I get a call. And there we are, Will and I just lay in bed talking to Jason on the phone. Where else can you go where other people are that invested in you? I appreciate it in a big way!”
Bri’s initial meeting with Jason and her follow up expectation interview with USHA proved to come at a fortuitous moment in Bri’s life, since she was about to suffer a health crisis she never saw coming.
“The day I had my expectation meeting I was also asked if I had health insurance? I did not, says Bri. “So I did an application that day and got approved for a policy.”
As it turned out, it was just in time. Three weeks later Bri woke up with ear pain, double vision, and ended up in the emergency room. During a five-day hospital stay, the doctors did many tests, but nothing was conclusive. The doctors figured Bri was simply suffering from ocular migraines.
Unfortunately for Bri, this time the best medical guess was wrong.
“A week later I woke up with my ears ringing so bad I fell out of bed,” Bri remembers. “I was throwing up and ended up back in the emergency room. As it turned out the nerve in my ear canal was swollen for so long, it died. I was completely deaf in my left ear. I now wear a Cros hearing aid, a device to help me feel like I have sound in both ears. My health policy saved me. With all the medical trouble, I had bills north of $55,000. Because of the way our policies are structured my only out of pocket was $3,000. I was only 27 when this happened and I share this story with everyone, especially my clients.”
Bri says it wasn’t only the health policy she purchased through a USHEALTH Advisors agent that eased her stress, it was also the action of her sales leader that led her to know she made the right decision joining the company.
“The day after all this happened I was supposed to take the test for my health and life license, but obviously I couldn’t,” says Bri. “I had to reach out to Jason and tell him I had to postpone things. He and the leadership team immediately sent me a balloon bouquet and candy. I hadn’t even started working with them yet and they were already sending me gifts, telling me they understood and to get well.”
Everything happens for a reason. Lose part of your hearing and you might listen a little more closely. Lose a loved one too soon and you might gain some inner strength. Be the recipient of an unexpected gesture of kindness and you just might care a little deeper about others. For every action, there’s a reaction; a consequence for everything.
Since her initial setback, Bri has been moving steadily up the production charts. She’s issued more than $2-million in personal business and more than $9-million in team production at USHA. What I love about USHEALTH Advisors is its sales and I can make as much as I want, but it’s ethical sales, offering things that are helping people.”
Recently Bri and husband Will created their greatest personal production to date – their daughter Monroe – and for the Atchison’s it was another adventure.
“We had just opened up my Satellite office and Monroe was born, six-and-a-half weeks early,” says Bri. “I expected to have more prep time to get ready, for her and for the new office. Thankfully I have Will to help, he’s not only my husband but also my Field Sales Leader. He’s been with the company now for close to two years. It’s nice working with your spouse – though some days are difficult and some days are fantastic.”
“My schedule is different now because of having a five-month-old,” says Bri. “Will is my rock, here’s there at the office at 7:30 am and works until about 7:30 at night. I get up and get Monroe ready and then my nanny comes and I head into work. My focus is to check on my agents, to make little touches with them. I have a notebook with me and ask them how things are going – how are the leads, how are the sales and how can I help? I then sit back down in the pit, I like to be with everybody and work on everything they need. My Field Training Agent, Josh Kisner, is also a huge help – he has a work ethic like no other and just hit $1 million in sales and he’s been here less than a year.”
“Recruiting, of course, is also a major focus. I have a whole system for doing my career listings and I’ve actually done recruiting training for a couple of different leaders.”
Bri relishes her role as a leader. “I like leadership so much,” says Bri. “The sales I can do, but that doesn’t energize me anymore. Now, what gets me going is showing an agent or someone in my life that they have potential. You can shoot for and hit any goal you choose. I want them to know how valuable and worthy they are. My role now is focused on more than just me – it’s my daughter, my husband, my agents, my friends. I want everyone to know they are capable of great things.”
Not long after Bri’s father passed on, it was she who got up to represent her family and speak at an event for the American Heart Association. She told the large gathering in attendance about her dad and his health struggles. She shared his story. She let them all know how heart surgery extended his life. “When he passed the doctors said my dad had the heart of an 80-year-old,” Bri told the crowd, “and he passed at (only age) 51.” Bri went on, “Unfortunately, his body was not able to survive the fight that his heart and soul wanted to continue.”
But everything happens for a reason. Her father’s heart and soul do live on, in the spirit of the daughter he helped create.
Bri will always be daddy’s little girl.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
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