“I just joined the Northwestern Mutual life insurance sales team. I would like you to introduce me to your network,” said John. When I said I would not, he was taken aback. That was 2006, and John and I had already become good friends.
I originally met John back in 2001 at a Bible study I was leading on Friday mornings at my office. I am not sure how he found out about it, but there he was. The rest of us were in our late thirties and early forties, and we adopted him as the young guy in our group.
At the time John was 21, single and selling flatware door-to-door. He later started a ministry for the immigrants in Clarkesville, Georgia which we all supported. Soon he fell in love and got married. It was a beautiful ceremony at Woodstock Baptist Church.
That day when I would not turn over my network, John asked, “Why won’t you help me?”
I said, “All my friends already have life insurance which was sold to them by a life insurance agent their age.
“You need to build your own network and not leverage off of mine. People with young families are your market, and they are not my friends. My friends have teenagers, adult children and some have grandchildren.”
John said, “Surely they don’t all have their insurance needs met. I can help them.”
I said, “I’m sure you can help them. But if you sell to my network, you won’t be building a sustainable long-term business. Build your new insurance business within your age group. These are the people you can relate to. You understand first hand where they are in life and have the stories to prove it.
“The older, successful insurance agents in your office look like their fathers. They are locked out of this market. This is your market, not theirs.”
This is the way business works. People do business within their network. Networks are generational micro-economies. This means people do business with people roughly within five years or so of their own age. When you’re 26, this means your market is early twenties to early thirties. This is your generation. These are the people you will most likely relate to in life and business.
Beauty of Aging
I learned this during my career as an angel investor. When I started funding companies in my late thirties, my network consisted of people in their early thirties to mid forties. I was able to help companies find great people because they were in my network. This is not the case today. Those great hires are now board members or took early retirement. They aged right along with me.
The wonder and beauty of this is significant. Since we age all at the same time, my market moved with me. If I establish myself and my brand in this market and stay active, I have built a barrier to entry and higher value. In other words, I’m set. My market and I live life together. Grow old together. Retire together. Die together.
But this leaves the door open to another virgin market I can’t get to…the next generation. This is where I wanted John to spend his time networking and selling. Not with me and my “old” friends but with his generation.
John followed this advice. He is now a successful Northwest Mutual insurance agent. His family has grown right along with his income. His clients, most of whom are now in their forties, love him and wouldn’t think of doing business with anyone else. John created his own generational micro economy which serves as his foundation of success now and for the future.