Celebrate your success, absorb your failures, learn from your mistakes. Then rinse and repeat.
Welcome to business. It’s life and life is hard. It’s the struggles that challenge and shape us, and the stories that define us, guide us, and connect us.
Everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is Storytelling for Business.
Storytelling for Business: The Loneliest Place on Earth
“I invite you to give the world notice that you’re coming. Give the world notice that you’ve been here. Give the world notice that you played polite long enough – now it’s time to play full out.” – Lisa Nichols
Those are the two words that begin every baseball game, and for Kevin Cross, they were a big part of his life. Because Kevin always wanted the ball, to be in every pitch, and every play.
He still does.
“It’s always a scary thing, a scary position,” says Kevin. “Nothing happens until the pitch gets thrown. I remember watching the movie, For The Love of the Game. Kevin Costner is pitching in Yankee stadium, and it’s called the loneliest place on earth. You are alone out there, but at the same time, everyone is looking for you to throw the ball and make a play happen. I like that feeling, that people are relying on you. I loved to pitch. I always wanted the ball in my hands at all times. It’s a lot like being a leader and the pressure that goes along with it.”
Kevin serves as a Field Sales Leader with USHEALTH Advisors, and since 2018, when he joined the company, Kevin has led his team to produce nearly $34 million in health sales. It’s an impressive accomplishment in a relatively short period of time and Kevin credits a good part of his success to the lessons he learned earlier in life, some of those years spent standing in “the loneliest place on earth,” out there on the mound.
“It’s a pressure thing,” says Kevin. “I have an easier time speaking in front of people because of my experience of being alone on the mound. I also enjoy the pressure, like when it’s the last day of the sales week and we’re pushing our team to hit our numbers. I’m ready, I always want the ball. I enjoy it. I like the feeling of picking someone else up, sometimes kicking and screaming,” he laughs, “and helping them to win.”
Part of success is also the ability to embrace change, since change is inevitable, growth is optional. Kevin says there was plenty of change leading up to this point in his life.
Growing up in a small town in Alabama, at age 10, the family then moved to Georgia. until Kevin’s late teens and then they moved on to Orlando, Florida. Kevin says the reasons for the move were because his dad kept getting promotions and couldn’t turn them down. Kevin’s dad, Mike, was proficient at business, and would eventually lead his son down the same path. Sometimes, it’s in your blood.
“I never went to college,” says Kevin. “I was an ok student, and I know it’s surprising for some, but I had to be realistic, I knew I didn’t want to go there and waste the money. I did see my friends going to college and it hurt me a little bit, but there are plenty of successful people who chose not to go to school. I am still wowed by those who do have degrees. I think it’s nice you can make the choice to go either route in life.”
Instead, after high school, Kevin went from job to job, but then he and his dad had a conversation about opening a 7-11 franchise. Kevin was only 22, but with his dad’s financial support, he knew he could make it happen, regardless of any college education. “A lot of companies will take experience over a degree,” says Kevin. “I was going to go into business for myself.”
It’s said that part of the attraction for the opportunity with USHEALTH Advisors is that you’re in business for yourself, but not by yourself. But before he ever knew USHA existed, Kevin was about to experience what it was like to go it alone. Then again, he’d been here before. Standing atop the pitcher’s mound, “the loneliest place on earth”, but this time, without much of a team behind him.
“It was tough” admits Kevin. “I owned and operated that thing. I did it all from cleaning the bathrooms to cleaning out the pumps, to stocking the shelves, to waking up at 3 or 4 am, hiring people, firing people, working 12-hour shifts, and then when I had to, working third shifts as well. I’m telling you all the negatives, but I spent seven years there, and the positive side was, it was also a great learning experience.”
There is little substitute for experience in life. You can’t possibly share knowledge of something you’ve never been through before, if you try, it’s simply assumption and conjecture. But to have lived it, now you’ve got the lessons to share and the scars to compare. You’ve built a muscle and your strength and example will lift others to do the same.
So, when one of Kevin’s best childhood friends, Johan Farigua, started talking about this company, USHEALTH Advisors, where he had found great success and a new lifestyle, Kevin was ready – armed with the experience of being a sole entrepreneur as a foundation to build upon.
“Johan, who is now a Satellite Division Leader, had started working at USHA and was doing very well,” says Kevin. “He knew what I was doing, how hard I was working and he said to me, ‘You are doing well Kevin, but you are not happy, I can see it. You’re working 12-hour shifts now, but transfer that over to being a business owner with this company, to being self-employed with residual income, and you’ll be able to buy back your time later on. We don’t shy away from telling people we don’t make average paychecks, but we also don’t work average hours. Take the 5 am to 5 pm you are working now, and just transfer it to 8 am to 8 pm.”
Kevin believed in his friend and decided to give it a shot, he contracted with USHEALTH Advisors in early 2018, working as an insurance agent during the week and then still checking in at his 7-11 store on the weekends.
It wasn’t an easy go.
“I’ll be honest with you, I sucked,” Kevin laughs. “I think I set maybe one or two appointments working there in my first month. I was very uncomfortable on the phone. I just didn’t come from that world. If I had to sell someone a Torito or clean a bathroom, that stuff I had been doing for a while at 7-11. But if somebody yelled at me on the phone, I’d cringe. Now, I can share my own experience with an agent who is struggling, share my story, and totally relate.”
Kevin says the early struggles started to subside and it all began to click when he did the one thing anyone can do, but not everyone does because it means taking a risk and leaving doubt outside the door.
“The click happened when I went 100 percent into USHA,” says Kevin. “I wasn’t fully bought in at the beginning, because I still had the store at the time. I’d work Monday to Friday at USHA and then spend Saturday and Sunday at 7-11. You can’t give 100 percent to two things, you just have to dive right in. You can’t dip your toe in the water to see if it’s warm, you’ve gotta jump in and make a splash. I told myself what I did with running that store was a great experience, but if I don’t want it anymore I’ve got to let it go. When I totally let go of the past, what’s when I was fully able to move forward.”
Lessons learned, experiences lived, hardships overcome, that’s what connects us as humans and those stories are what others need to hear, to encourage them that they too, with full commitment, can be the best that they can be.
“What I tell people now is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” says Kevin. “Agents might get upset with the phone calls like I did. What I tell them is, ‘the person on the phone is not upset with you, you have no idea what’s going on in their lives, get over that hurdle, it’s not about you. Figure out their situation, say hey, ‘tell me what’s going on. Figure out their why and solve their pain.'”
In his role as a leader, what Kevin has learned as well is to be there to help with your agents’ pain.
“Why I’ve been successful is the agents hold me responsible,” says Kevin. “You have to be in their space, you have to show up and be available and even when you are not… still find a way to be there. My fiance’ Kelly just re-did my office and put these nice chairs in there that lean back. The big joke in the office is now that it looks like a therapists’ office – but that’s ok – because part of the job is being like a therapist, listening to agents who need to get stuff off their chest. Break it down and see why they may be struggling. Get that person talking about what they may be feeling, or going through, you will have an easier time helping them. Even if you already know what’s wrong, just listen. You have one mouth and two ears for a reason, listen twice as much as you speak.”
Kevin says he understands and appreciates that it’s not just about being a sounding board for the agents in the tough times, but it’s also about giving what every agent, and let’s face it, what every human desires – praise and recognition.
“I want to be in the office by 8 or 8:30 am at the latest,” says Kevin. “Then, and I picked this up from Johan, I say hi to every single agent on my team, regardless of whether it’s 75 or 100 people, I still try to say hello, ask how they’re doing or even if it’s just a fist pump in the morning. I have an office, but I like to pick my stuff up and spend time in the cubes. Each FTA is in a different section, so I spend time from week to week in those areas. I do that for a few hours each day, then help with training in the afternoon and then additional training in the evening, for a veteran agent who might be struggling a little bit.”
There are long days and many people who need help on his team, so the question becomes, how does Kevin help himself to stay engaged and on top of his game? It means playing the same game the most successful achievers do – since success leaves clues – habits, discipline, systems, and continual learning – since first and foremost, leaders are readers.
Kevin says he recently read a great book about the process of success, called Atomic Habits, by James Clear. “The author proved that if you just get better by one percent every day at one thing throughout the year, you’ll be 37 times better by the time it’s over. Just one percent, who can’t do that? Everybody wants to be a million-dollar producer by the end of the year, but why do some reach it and others don’t? Because the ones who do fall in love with the process. The Olympic gold can only be won by one individual, and why does that person win it over someone else… it’s just because of the work ethic, practice, and training.”
“I had an agent on my team who wanted to buy a house and hit a certain production and income goal by the end of the year. Before he came here he was a busboy, not doing much at all. Then he joins USHA and starts making very good money each year. But after he reached his goal, he fell down and out, he was not in love with the job anymore and even started complaining about it. The lesson is that the goal and the goalposts will keep moving, but keep the routine, the foundation, and fall in love with the process and you’ll be a lot happier.”
There’s the love of the process and then there’s that special love in your life – for Kevin, that is his fiance’ Kelly. The two are preparing to be wed this October.
“Kelly has been such a trooper,” says Kevin. “We knew each other from high school, and lost touch for several years, but around age 25 or 26, while I was still running the 7-11, she came back into my life. Even with me being at the store for long hours, she hung in there and she’s been great. Even now, she puts up with the long days at USHA. But Kelly got a horse recently, she loves to take him jumping. So while I’m putting in the 8 am to 8 pm days at USHEALTH Advisors, she can visit her horse and go riding. Then I can get off work at my normal time and not stress about her missing me.”
What Kevin wants to be sure he’s not missing are the things he says he can do for other people, most importantly being a good listener.
“I want people to know that I always listen,” says Kevin. “I at least try to help and give you the time of day because I know there is a time when someone won’t listen to them or try to help them clear their head of other things. I think my fiance’, my agents, and my parents would say I’m a good listener. I have an open-door policy, where people can come to talk to me, and I will listen to them and give a human response, after all, we are not robots, though some people try to be. That’s the one thing I want people to remember about me, I was a leader, and I was always available.
Leadership might be the loneliest place on earth – but also the most important – when leaders stand alone in service to others.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
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