Every year, thousands of people think about a new career or what to do with their life. Usually through the lens of what they’re “passionate about” or “what sounds interesting”. In practice, this fantasia is incomplete because millions of interesting, high-paying, or otherwise excellent jobs seldom or never occur to people as an option. Greg MacDonald took a different approach. He reverse-engineered his career by specifying the lifestyle he wanted and worked backward.
Nestled between three parks just off St. Joe Road in Fort Wayne, MacDonald is in his office at Sage Insurance Advisors. “I started in 2001,” he recalls. “Prior to that, I had been working in manufacturing and sales and had just sold my business. I asked myself, ‘What am I going to do next?’ Because what I sold my business for wasn’t going to last me a lifetime.”
Like any great thinker, MacDonald pulled out a yellow legal pad and wrote down everything he wanted and didn’t want. “That’s when I started looking at the insurance industry because it had the most things I wanted,” he says. The problem was, “I didn’t know much about it, except I knew I had to buy it.”
Of the many things MacDonald desired in his professional life, residual income was high up the list. “Having worked in sales and knowing this month’s paycheck depended on the previous month’s sales—most of which were one-time sales—I had to continue to keep that income up. I wanted to find something with residual income, and that’s a lot of what took me to insurance,” he says. Having flexible work hours and knowing an in-demand product was available also factored heavily.
From that auspicious beginning, he began researching the insurance business and became increasingly drawn to the health and life insurance side. To learn the business, he began working with a company. “I did that for three months before deciding they had junk products,” he says.
Undaunted, he quit, “And I started doing it on my own. I had to learn what the heck was going on, and it took me a while to understand the business and how it worked,” he says. Throughout that learning process, “I just went at it with how I wanted to be treated. If I didn’t know something, I’d tell people I’d find out and get back to them.”
Like most new businesses, growth was slow. “I have a tortoise approach to this,” he admits. “I knew if I kept going and doing what I needed to do—though my wife started to wonder at times—I knew it would work. And every year it got better.”
The learning never stopped. And from an outsider’s view, selling insurance may seem like a straightforward sales process, but service extends beyond merely selling a policy. “I called on a lady early in my career and discovered that as far as Medicare and the Social Security Administration thought, she was dead. I took her down to the Social Security office and got her placed back among the living,” he says with a smile.
Now at 67, MacDonald has spent nineteen years in the insurance industry. A veritable novice compared with others who have been working with insurance clients since the Nixon Administration. Many of whom he now sees regularly through NEIAHU. “I’ve been a member for five years,” he notes. “I asked myself early on why I’d want to get involved. Why sit down with my competitors? Why would I want to pay dues to this organization?” But after attending a few meetings, it became clear to MacDonald he needed to “grow into it.”
“The Medicare Summit in Indianapolis really opened my eyes. I’ve found daily updates helpful, and I’ve discovered that sitting down with other agents is okay,” he says with a chuckle. “There’s a lot of good people in this industry. There is enough business out there for everybody.”
New connections at NEIAHU lunches and events have helped improve his business, too. “I went to Bill Hartman at the beginning of this year, and we talked a bit about how he was running his data management system,” he says. A quick trip to his office later, MacDonald had learned of a new vendor and has since re-hauled all of his records for Sage Insurance Advisors. “That’s an indirect result of Health Underwriters, but formed because of just going to a meeting,” he says.
“It takes a long-term view of what you’re trying to accomplish,” says MacDonald. “In this day of instant gratification and desiring immediate results, it’s a little tougher. The thing with health insurance is while the commissions may not wow a person, they accumulate. I liken it to having a marble collection—putting marbles in the bag. Problem is there’s always a hole in the bottom of the bag. If you’re really good, the hole is small. People will always leak out because life happens, and people may pass away. But if you are steadfast and truly concerned about the people you’re working with, and do a good job with them, people are incredibly loyal if they feel you care. Through that, you can build a really nice living and lifestyle.”