Bill Hartman has only ever sold two things: hotdogs and insurance

Bill Hartman, a man whose father died on his twelfth birthday and dropped out of school at 16, was told by another man he went to church with that he might be good at insurance. So at the age of 18, two years after leaving high school, and having spent 5 years hocking hot dogs at Fort Wayne’s Famous Coney Island, Hartman took the 40-hour insurance class with a friend and got licensed in life insurance.

“I was so successful I sold three policies in a year and a half,” Hartman says with a straight-laced laugh. Not surprisingly, he kept cooking up hot dogs.

Hartman’s life continued its rapid pace. He got married at nineteen. He had his first daughter thirteen months after that. And by the time the littlest Hartman was three months old, his wife lost her job due to business closure. “We ere making about $300 a week at best,” he recalls.

With a newborn to support, he needed to make changes fast. “I started looking at the newspapers. A cousin of my wife worked at the local Globe Life office. Russ Choka gave me a week off at Coney Island, and I said, ‘I think I can do this.’”

Bill Hartman's last paystub
The paystub Bill Hartman carries with him to this day

On June 10, 1984, Bill Hartman received his last paystub from Coney Island. “It was $116.81.” Not only does he remember the amount, he still carries the paystub in his wallet.

“The difference was I had my ‘why’. I knew I had to do something. And since I knew that, everything kinda fell into place.”

Bill Hartman got into insurance because he needed a job. But he also needed a better job to support his new family. 

From virtually day one, Hartman has worked in the Medicare market. And because he started at the fresh age of twenty working with seniors, Hartman has worked with a memorable range of customers. 

“I had clients born in the 1800s. I’ve worked with WWI, WWII, Korean War veterans, and a lady who saw her entire family forcibly sent off to the gas chambers in WWII.” There is also hearsay one of Hartman’s early clients may have seen Hitler before being captured as a POW and imprisoned in the United States. 

Over the last 36 years, as stories continued to mount, Hartman has grown his career from Globe Life to ultimately his own business, Hartman Insurance Services. And for much of that time, he’s been a member of NEIAHU and Life Underwriters.

“In 1999 when [Dwight] D Hall and a group of people who came from the State chapter came to Fort Wayne and talked about starting NEIAHU. So I came to the first meeting and I signed on.” To this day, Hartman is one of the original founding members and has never lapsed his membership. And in addition to being the inaugural treasurer, Hartman has held multiple positions since. 

“One of the reasons I got involved was because much of our leadership were group producers and managers. I got involved because I was in the Medicare markets. I knew if I wanted to hear about things in the senior market, I needed to be involved and have a voice in the chapter,” he says.

Hartman is also a lifetime member of NAHU’s Leading Producers Roundtable (LPRT). “NAIFA had the Million Dollar Round Table, a symbol of the most successful producers in the life industry. I’ve filed for LPRT every year,” he says. The LPRT was designed as a way to give bragging rights to the health insurance industry. “I put that on my business card,” he says, beaming.

Since starting so young, it follows he will retire young, but he has an ambitious goal. “I started on June 10, 1984. My goal is 50 years, with retirement on June 10, 2034,” Hartman says. “As long as my mind can stay sharp and I can pass the exams.” 

Each year he takes all of the carriers exams, starting back at the first module. It’s a robust academic behavior for a self-proclaimed and admitted high school dropout. “I try to be known as the best person in the Medicare market as I can be.”

Perhaps unsurprising, Hartman has always been an independent agent, always straight commission, and never salaried or hourly pay. 

“Health Underwriters has been a major part of my life since 1999. Being an independent agent can be lonely. The camaraderie and fellowship, even just once a month, is critical. There’s so much business out there that I don’t look at someone like Matt Hatfield or Cindy Trahin as competitors. They’re friends of mine.”

It’s obvious Hartman loves the insurance industry, but it’s not the sales part that drives him. “My mission statement is empowering others to make informed decisions,” he says. A mission that extends to his declaration, “I’m not a salesperson. I’m an educator. It’s all about educating people so they can determine what’s right for them.”

When Hartman does retire, he will have educated customers who have lived across three centuries, 22 presidents, and received millions of dollars in insured benefits. 

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