Jon Sabes Interview with Gerry Falick, The Babe Ruth of Insurance

Jon Sabes: Good afternoon. This is Jon Sabes again on the Innovating Life podcast, where we talk about innovating life. We talk about life insurance, and all good things that can happen in life. Today it is my pleasure to have with me Gerry Falick. Gerry, say hello.

Gerry: Hello everyone, and thank you very much, Jon, for inviting me aboard today, and to the listeners, who I hope will appreciate what we’re going to say, and help them in any way that we can.

Jon: Well, I think that would be, we’d be hard-pressed not to do that. Any conversation with you, I’ve learned so much. So since we do talk about life insurance, let’s just start out there. You have been in the life insurance business, Gerry. For the uninformed, give me a quick review of your career in life insurance.

Gerry: Well I came into the life insurance business 54 years ago. And it was my only way of earning a living, and that’s what I did, life insurance, disability income, annuities, but most of all representing the folks that provided me with that privilege.

Jon: That’s fantastic. 54 years ago. So, at some point you became quite successful, and if I’m not mistaken, earned a seat at the Million Dollar Round Table.

Gerry: Well, not quite a seat, but I did consistently belong to the Million Dollar Round Table for 54 consecutive years.

Jon: 54 consecutive years, that’s incredible. Incredible. So, when you look back at your career in life insurance as the way in which was going to allow you to make a living, what stands out for you in terms of the industry and the business when you look back on that really successful career?

Gerry: Well, you know, in terms of success, we can talk about that in many different ways, but I’m very humbled that I could serve my fellow man, and this comes from the heart and the mind because I’m of an age now where the things I say are absolutely the bottom-line truth, not that I did not try to state any untruths. But today, as you grow older, and you look back, and you look forward, and you try to say to yourself, what could I have done better, what should I have done better, you reexamine your mind, and this happens to everybody I’m sure that gets to be my age. But there are many, so many changes, that have taken place from the time I first came into the business, and big companies, I’ll say this today, and call me if you want to, I will tell you it’s not an enhancement. In days where companies like Lincoln National and the biggest companies in the world were sending you your commission statements on handwritten forms, and that’s the way things were being done. If we’re talking about the life insurance business today then, for example, everybody was assigned to a specific underwriter, even in the very largest of companies, and it certainly was to your advantage to build warm, friendly relationships with that person. In fact, I always made a habit of making personal visits to these folks, regardless of what part of the country they were in. I’ve always felt that if you build up these personal relationships, a better rating would be something you’d come to expect. That’s the way the business was way back then.

Jon: And so that probably doesn’t exist, handwritten commission statements or many relationships like the ones that you created over the years. I bet you that’s not probably reflected so much in the business today.

Gerry: Not that I know of, Jon, not that I know of. I mean, afterall I don’t hesitate to say that you’re a few years younger than I am, and I think the world belongs to the young people like yourself, and to all of the computer age that’s coming aboard, and rocketships to Mars in the next ten years, whatever’s in store for us.

Jon: I think you’re referring to one of my heroes, Elon Musk, right, putting some guys on Mars. I think that’s what he’s talking about.

Gerry: Oh yeah, yes. That’s something we’ve chatted about.

Jon: Yeah, so, you lead right into what I love to talk about, right. So if we’re not going to have handwritten notes and specific underwriters working with our sales agents and understanding who the clients are, then we might as well have better technology and, if you will, algorithms and machines doing the work, doing it more efficiently, so we can create more affordable products, service more people with the great benefits that life insurance and the related products, annuities, and long-term care can be offered because people do need these products as part of their personal financial planning.

Gerry: Well, Jon, everything you said is correct. However, please don’t lose sight of the fact that the life insurance business was and will be a function of relationships that are warm and fuzzy, and that means the telephone, the written note, and all of those things that are not going out to space.

Jon: Amen to that. Amen to that. We won’t send our relationships or our personal feelings or our kindness to one another and doing good service to space. We’ll keep that right here.

Gerry: Yeah, and that’s another thing that’s very, very important, kindness, the respect of others. If you show more of that, even within the large companies, and I’ve known some leaders of the largest companies, who always took the time to sit down and write a personal note to people that had been with the companies a long time, where he heard that there was sickness or something of that sort within the family. You’d be surprised how some of that still exists and still builds good will and good faith in those companies that are smart enough to still do it.

Jon: Amen to that. I will take that to heart as I go to my personal days as well, and try to instill that to the balance of my team. Thank you for that. Talk to me about your career. So you started out, you’ve told me some really remarkable things about your career, Gerry. And I know we could spend hours and hours, but kind of the highlights. You were in the army, correct?

Gerry: Well, I always felt that I was a patriot. And one of the first things I did when I enrolled at the University of Florida at Gainesville, Florida was to join the ROTC. And the moment I joined up, I knew that that was something that I could take from and give to. I made, and I say all of this very modestly, I made good advancement as I went through the ranks, so to speak. My studies were always pretty good, and my ROTC challenges were also something I really delighted in and participated in. When I graduated from the University of Florida, I was, and I again say modestly, I was the number one cadet in the whole southeast, from all of the colleges in the southeast. And then when I went that first four years, I went back into on duty, and that was for about three years, and then to the academy, and then onto other duty stations, which we don’t have to go into today.

Jon: But you say modestly, and that’s something that for our listeners out there, Gerry’s always modest, but let me tell you, you’re listening to one of the true originals. You know, he’s modest, but he’s the number one cadet. He rises up through the ranks quickly, right, to, what, your rank when you left the army–

Gerry: I was a Brigadier General.

Jon: Brigadier General, there you go. There you go. Don’t be too modest. Don’t be too modest.

Gerry: Well, I was never one of those persons, and I say this modestly– no, Jon, I’m just trying to make a little something there. But I was never a person that would tell you, I just never got into bragging at all, and if we can all use that word, it’s an old-fashioned word. You know if it fits or doesn’t fit. But, you know, from guys who drink too much and get up the following morning and say, oh, why did I say that, why did I say that. You know, the things you put out there on the table are always going to find their way home. You’re always lucky to look so good the following day, and it’s going to set you back. It is. I mean you should not feel that you should not speak up to the things you believe in and all of this business, but there’s always a way to show respect when you do it.

Jon: I think your point is you let what you’ve done, what you’ve accomplished, do the talking, right. And correct me if I’m wrong, you’ve done a lot.

Gerry: If you want to be so gracious, you always have been. I’ve known you a long time.

Jon: What do you think has, you know, so you’ve accomplished a lot. I mean you became a Brigadier General. You’ve been on the Million Dollar Round Table for 54 years. You’ve had a really successful career. You’re married to a beautiful wife, Rona. What is it that’s continued to drive you to achieve in your own life personally and professionally? What is it?

Gerry: Let’s talk a minute about my beautiful wife, Rona.

Jon: Sure.

Gerry: And that is something that I enjoy so much. I think those of us who are blessed to have a wonderful marriage should do everything in the world they can to enhance it. And I am just the luckiest guy in the world to enjoy a long standing marriage that I have had. And I just don’t know of anybody else who has enjoyed marriage for as long as Rona and I have. And always showing the one most important word to each other, and that is respect. That is respect. I conduct my marriage in the same way I conduct business or conduct any kind of career that I personally involve myself in, and that is respect. And I do involve myself, and I always have involved myself, in many community activities, but at high levels, because when I started in something that interested me, I took it to the next highest level, and to the next highest level, and to the national level in things that I thought were important, and could benefit from what I could do for them, and what they could do for me, because there’s a lot of giving and receiving.

Jon: Is it the exchange? Is it the exchange that drives you?

Gerry: That’s what it is, always knowing that you can do more for people who need more. And there is something in that, you know, God, country, family, that for me is something that is just a part of me. It’s just a part of me. Came from a very poor family, very poor family, and knew at the age of eight or nine that we weren’t going to have four cars in the family. We were not going to have any cars in the family. That went on for a long, long time. And so when I finally became nine, ten, eleven, whatever you want to call it, I was probably working three jobs. Probably working three jobs while I was going to grade school, college, sending money home from college, and getting married at a very early age, and still sending money home. You see, again, I have to say modest, because there’s a lot of wonderful folks listening into us today that had to pay an even bigger price. I know many families that didn’t have money, and they had a lack of other things, which is health, which I always took for granted until some not so healthy things came along in my immediate family. But you try to work it all out. You try to work it all out. You just continue to keep the same promises to people that you made promises to while you’re trying to get over the bumps and the hurdles.

Jon: Sure. One of my favorite sayings is, you know, do what you say, and you’ll get what you want. You know, it seems as though people have forgotten the importance of keeping promises. And whether you put it in a promise form or not, but if you say you’re going to something, then do it, and do it for, I think as you were saying, God, country, and family first. That’s where the doing it comes from. That’s where the initiative comes from, and then you go.

Gerry: Yes, I agree. You and I have known one another for a long time, and thankfully we’ve enjoyed one another’s relations, and we have common things to chat about. I personally, Jon, don’t know how you do it quite frankly. I have once thought to myself how fast Jon runs, and I don’t know how you do it, believe me. I don’t. You’re not my guest today, but I can tell the listeners out there, and to you, Jon, which is an appropriate time to do it, that you’re one of my heroes.

Jon: Thank you. Wow.

Gerry: You’re probably half my age, but I look at the things you’ve accomplished personally, family-wise, and in business, and I don’t believe how you do it. And then maybe you look over at my end of it, and you see, geez, he’s still up in ears, but he’s still working full time, enjoys what he’s doing, likes to come up with new ideas, likes to associate with people, because that’s the mode I’m in right now at what I do, which we don’t have to chat about, but that’s what it’s all about for me. So I plan to keep going as long as I can, and I hope with God’s blessing that I’ll be able to continue as long as possible. Right now, things look pretty good. So, what’s your next little inquiry?

Jon: My next little inquiry. Well, my next little inquiry is what special thing or words will you have for Rona today, just to make sure she knows how much you do love and respect her? I know you think about things at a little, at a small level, ‘cause it’s the small things that make up the big things, so I’m sure you’ve got something planned out there. So what is it today?

Gerry: Well, what is it today? An early movie at 7 pm with some Twizzlers, and we turn out the lights at 9. Now, if I may, I made some notes that may be helpful to your listeners, and they were a list of habits that I have followed and built upon over the years.

Jon: Ok, great.

Gerry: That would be of any interest to you, I’d love to share them with you and your listeners.

Jon: Please, absolutely.

Gerry: And this has more to do with selling life insurance in the life insurance world, but if you’d like me to refer to this, I will be happy to do so until you cut me off.

Jon: Let’s hear them. Let’s hear them. Absolutely.

Gerry: Well, before I mentioned that the most important two things, of course, are to show respect and to be kind to those whom you speak, and this applies to business, and this applies in your personal life. There are a lot of things I’ve added to this list over the years, and I’ve discussed it with other folks. One of the most important things that have been very helpful to me is to try to get in touch with people, not necessarily older than myself, but usually older than myself, so that I could learn from them, but younger people don’t think about these things, and how easy they are to do. And that is, for example, to get in touch with people you’d like to talk to. Now, for example, I always made it a point to pick up the phone, and this was young in the industry, pick up the phone and talk to a congressman, a senator, state senator, or a local senator, or whatever, but people in the industry, CEOs of other life insurance companies. These kinds of people are going to return your phonecalls. Senator looking for a vote, this looking for this, and just being nice, you’re going to get a return telephone call. I always made it a point to do that. I established relationships like that, and I want to tell you, I was representing at that time National Life of Vermont. I don’t even know if they’re in the business anymore, Jon. I really don’t. But the president and CEO of that company was a man by the name of Dylan at that time, and we began a nice relationship. I wound up leading that company in sales for about six years in a row, because every year that I wrote business, I managed to, my goal was to write more business than the year before. And when I wrote my first million dollar policy, it was very easy to write years that were much more than million dollar years. I had years where I was selling 25 million dollars of life insurance a year, and that was a lot in those days. We only had whole life in those days. But here are things, your audience is most interested in insurance, not necessarily in order, except showing respect, being kind, conducting yourself accordingly. Dressed to the occasion, depending upon the professional demeanor of the client. You don’t want to overdress, you don’t want to underdress. Always ask for referrals at the time you deliver policies. One thing I’m going to mention that stands out always in my mind is that when you visit with a prospect for the first time, try to pick up their policies. Once you have control of their policies, an opportunity to review them, an opportunity to go back and discuss them accordingly, find out what they need. You’re part of the family. So pick up the policies, always make appropriate notes when you leave an appointment. I carried with me, and it’s still working, a little dictaphone in my pocket that’s 55 years old, a Linear product. I don’t know where they are, but they know where I am, ‘cause I send it somewhere and somebody fixes it. 55 years, I never get back a bill they must say, gee, this chump is still doing business with us. Keep up with your education. I know people have to keep up with their CE courses, but keep up with your education. Read books, any kind of books. Keep up with current events. I mean, we’ve had enough of a presidential run year that will be remembered for all time. But keep up with current events. Have something to talk about. Be interested. When you visit with people, look at them. They’re the show, not you. Don’t brag. Don’t drink. We all get in trouble sometimes. I stopped drinking 50 years ago, and before that I was a pretty good drinker. I was laying out in the street. I was doing anything that a bad boy would do. One day Rona said to me, darling– and this is being married, after being married for a long, many years– she said, would you do me a favor, and I said, what is that, sweetheart. And she said, would you stop drinking? And I said, of course, because if that was important to Rona, it was really important to me. And then she said, would you stop smoking, and I had been smoking for ten years. And I promise each and every listener, I tell you I stopped drinking and smoking on the same day, and I’ve never touched a cigarette or a drink. Ok, so those are the things. The last couple of things are to talk softly, which I’m not doing today because I’ve heard too many guns going off in my ear, and they’re all worn out. And here’s couple of ones that will bring a smile to your face, always pick up the check, and always, think. Those are the most important things that I can tell you at this time.

Jon: Those are classics. Those are great.

Gerry: If any of you, and Jon, this is strictly up to you, I’m sure this is your show, but I still want to feel like I’m being in the business to the greatest extent, I have the greatest deal of respect for GWG, and what you folks are doing. I followed it carefully. I am a GWG cheerleader. I wish you folks the very best, and if I can only help you in any way, that would be a treat. In the meantime, if I can help any of your listeners, I wish they would feel free to contact me.

Jon: There you go. If you want to get in touch with Gerry, you know how to do it. You can always comment on the blog itself, and if you put a comment down, we’ll be sure to get that to Gerry. Just so you know, the Linear dictaphone is still in business. They’re still in business.

Gerry: (laughs) I’m not so sure. His grandmother might be in the garage, you know, still wanting to keep the name up, and she got a little screwdriver, and she’s going to work.

Jon: Well, or maybe they licensed it to China. Nonetheless, they’re still out there. And the Vermont Life Insurance company become part of the National Life Group. So there you have it, a little bit of history brought present day. Both companies still around, doing business the right way. And that just goes to show you, you do business the right way, which is I think what Gerry’s talking about, and you can have a terrific career, and have the longevity to be successful in a way that could make you proud, as well as your family, of the things that you’ll get done in life. So, Gerry, I want to thank you for the podcast today, and for listeners, call Gerry if you’d like, again 561-312-9476. He’s always interested to communicate with friends of the business, friends of GWG, and we’re going to sign off. Gerry, any last words?

Gerry: No, Jon. Thank you very much for having me today.

Jon: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you. I’ll talk to you in a little bit, ok. (Music) Ok, I want to thank my special guest today, General Gerry Falick, the longest member of the Million Dollar Round Table. 54 years. 54 years, consecutive membership in the ultra exclusive Million Dollar Round Table. He’s got a lot to offer, and if you want more, you want to get in contact to Gerry, leave a comment, and we’ll put you in touch. Gerry’s got a lot to offer, and he just wants to give. Have a great day. We’ll talk to you soon. Keep innovating.

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