This blog is meant as a follow up to Steve Sherlock‘s article “License to Thrill!”  It is recommended, though not necessary, that you read the article before continuing as it provides context for the following discussion.

INTRODUCTION

When Pablow Inc. began as a company in the United States we had a vision of rapidly transforming the landscape of the insurance industry by eliminating complexities and inefficiencies that are so prevalent throughout the industry.  What we did not know is how many of those complexities and inefficiencies we would have to deal with first to try to accomplish our goals (e.g. licensing, legitimization, compliance etc.).  After a couple of years with headquarters in the United States and offices in Australia, we have come to the conclusion that working in the insurance industry can sometimes feel like a waiting game.

RULES OF THE GAME

  1. You may only participate in the game after receiving licensing in each US state for each type of insurance offered in that state, which will cost your company tens of thousands of dollars.
  2. When you want to begin the game and have everything arranged to start, be prepared to wait a significant amount of time before you may actually initiate the first turn.  The amount of time to wait depends on the players, their background, and a variety of unidentified variables, but be assured that this time can not be lessened.
  3. Once you’ve begun the game you may only advance with the most cautious of moves, as any one mistake can revert you to the starting point.  Your opponents and teammates must also play this way, which means that it will take a long amount of time to complete any one move, much less a series of moves.
  4. Once players begin the game it takes longer to develop relationships with other non-players who are cautious about the intentions of players.
  5. Verbal strategy is the quickest way to initiate execution of a plan, but beware that putting moves in writing is almost always required and will take an unexpectedly long amount of time regardless of the type of plan.
  6. The rules of the game may be changed at any time, and players are expected to react immediately or may face a loss of turn if they play outside of the new rules.

PLAYING THE GAME (Startup Companies)

Now that we’ve covered just a few of the most important rules to the waiting game, it’s important to know how to play the game.  For this you will have to rely on your experience alone due to the complexity of the insurance industry, and for those without previous experience be prepared to build it quickly or face yourself playing another game.

Although the waiting game is difficult to manage, particularly for new players, there is hope.  The first important game strategy is to find a sponsoring company whose key performance indicators are linked to your success, in other words they need you!

Once you’ve developed a relationship with a sponsor it’s critically important you continue to move your game piece toward the finish line with regular conference calls and tight timelines, because you want to get into the market as soon as possible.  Within the last year, I’ve experienced a project being killed off at the last minute after six months of preparation because someone decided we were a competitor to their organization; a fate that might’ve been avoided had I better communicated the benefits of our distributor relationship.  Instead of working with the company to distribute their product to a niche market, we entered a partnership with one of their competitors, which will help us ensure we serve a new market niche.  Based on my experience and knowledge of other entrepreneurial ventures, I can confidently say that by getting your product to market you’ve reached a major checkpoint in the waiting game.

The game can be won, but it will take time and will be incredibly difficult for even the most resilient players.  At Pablow, Inc. we’ve been through many situations working with insurance companies that have been psychologically uncomfortable, but as we persist we’ve realized that there’s a sense of thrill that comes with preparing our gameplay strategy in order to advance ourselves toward the finish line.

A NOTE TO THE GAME MAKERS (The Insurance Industry)

“An idea does not survive because it is better than the competition, but rather because the person who holds it has survived.” ~ Taleb
It’s important that you look at startup companies as partners, rather than as competition, when they present new ways to solve old problems.  If you find that you have similar goals and values, then it’s easiest for the players if you provide the rules of play, but otherwise let them decide on a gameplay strategy.  This is primarily because startups are worried about timeliness, especially with technology companies, and when larger companies intervene in the process it tends to delay technology and project completion.  As a rule, entrepreneurs should be given more freedom to solve problems, because they can often get it solved more quickly than the bureaucracy inherent at larger corporations.
Finally, I strongly suggest you consider working with startup companies in the future as your problems need solutions.  If insurance companies embrace entrepreneurial partnerships then they may divert their work from business as usual to an innovative solution that they would not otherwise have thought of or been able to take advantage of.  You never know how an innovative group of entrepreneurs might solve your most complex and persistent challenges.
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