After making a couple of hospital visits at Mayo Hospital in Jacksonville, I stopped at a Starbucks on my way home. Got my latte, found an empty table, and checked out the room. Being right off I-95, it was busy, mostly people passing through I would imagine.
A slender, twenty-something young man sat next to me at another table. Polo, khakis, decent shoes, but no beverage. A few minutes later another gentleman walked into the store, carrying a zippered briefcase, polo, khakis, athletic shoes, carrying a bit more weight. He shook hands with the young man, excused himself to the restroom for a moment, and then returned, also no beverage.
I thought to myself, “I’ll bet this is an interview.” Cool. I’m going to eavesdrop on their conversation and take notes. Latte, clerical shirt, phone out, writing in my journal — perfect cover.
First observation: both were fast-talkers. Really fast-talkers. Nerves? Maybe. But they never relaxed. They kept up the frantic paced conversation for the next twenty minutes. Good thing they didn’t order any caffeine.
I was right. Job interview. First question, “So are you looking for full-time, part-time…” First answer, “I just need a job.”
“So tell me about you.”
21 years old, between jobs, girl friend, did a little life-insurance sales, didn’t work out. Took care of grandfather. Took a few college classes. Played a little football in college. Wide receiver and defensive end.
That was their common ground. The interviewer had played football, too, till he broke his hand. He revealed a little more about himself. A few years in the military. Three college degrees, but didn’t use any of them. Thirty-eight years old. Didn’t know anything about finance until he got into this business. “I was a police officer when I started. But I told them I would work harder than anyone else.”
That’s a lot of education and experience packed into just a few years.
He continued. “I’m not a salesman. My goal is to help people be better than they were when I met them. I let them make the decision. If they don’t want to do this for their family, I don’t care.”
He went on, “I’m looking for someone to manage people. Most life insurance companies…” So that’s the job: selling life insurance. “Most life insurance companies lie, rip you off, take your money. Ours is different. We have 700 agents in our office. On the average the people in our office make $175,000 a year.”
Impressive. But now I think I know where this is going.
He went on, hardly taking a breath, as if his plane were boarding in five minutes. “After thirty days you’ll have 10-15 people on your team. Another thirty days, you’ll have 30-40. Hardest thing you’ll ever do. I’ve been at this for eleven years. You come up to our office twice a week for training. Hey, I’m OK teaching you, even if I don’t make any money. I’d rather make less and do the right thing. What’s your name, again?”
After an exchange of names for the first time in the conversation, the interviewer continued. “You just make sure you’re helping people and training them. Two years from now I can see you making $100,000.”
All along, the interviewee has been affirming that he can do this. He already has some of the licenses. He’s willing to learn. At this point he breaks in, “What’s the name of the company?”
First mention of the company. “Primerica. Biggest insurance company in America. Biggest investment firm, too.” Note to self: fact check later. “We do car insurance, home insurance, long term care insurance. Whatever people need.”
My coffee was gone, I had filled two pages with notes, and I was exhausted just sitting there listening to the pitch. Time to head home. I hope things work out for the young man.
When I returned home, I checked out Primerica. It is a big multilevel marketing insurance company, that appears to be a descendant or reincarnation of the 1980’s buy-term-invest-the-difference A. L. Williams firm. Online reviews of Primerica include the typical range of “best company ever” to “high-pressure, lying, cheating, rip-off artists.”
No judgment from me. Just listening and learning, reflecting and writing. I wonder who’s eavesdropped on any of my coffee-shop conversations?