The Waiting Game

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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Small Company, Big Responsibility

INTRODUCTION

While most college students are going to end up working their summers for the parks and recreation department as an assistant manager, for the local pool as a lifeguard, or in the best scenario for a company as an intern in their field of study; few will get the opportunity to lead a department, determine company strategy, or work on their own schedule.  The one opportunity you have to make a real difference for an organization is surprisingly an option that few students apply for, an internship with a startup company.

This blog will cover the intern experience of one of Pablow Inc.‘s most recent hires, Dylan DeClerck, who was hired to lead the company’s marketing efforts this spring and has continued to work for the company this summer.  Among the projects Dylan has helped lead for the company include developing and implementing a content strategy, developing and using sales materials to contact prospective business partners, creating new processes for marketing efforts, implementing a CRM system, directing the work of freelancers, and revamping social media strategies.

DYLAN

“This spring I had an excellent experience working for Pablow Inc. and CEO, Steve Sherlock, on all of our marketing efforts.  What I enjoyed most about my internship was 1) the flexibility of my work schedule, 2) the autonomy of my work tasks, and 3) importance of my efforts on the direction of the company.

  1. FLEXIBILITY

During my internship this past semester I was taking a full course load of 18 credits and traveling eight hours every weekend to play professional ultimate frisbee, a big passion of mine.  Luckily, Steve gave me the flexibility to set my own schedule and work hours as long as it was approximately 10-15 hours per week.  After some discussion, we decided that it would work best in my schedule if I worked 6-7 hours per week in the office each Tuesday, and the rest of the work time I could simply report every two weeks so Steve could input it into the payroll system.

Besides a flexible weekly schedule, Steve was incredibly accommodating with my full academic schedule.  In fact, the week before finals I worked just a few hours and the week of finals I didn’t work at all so I could focus on my tests and projects.  While not all startup companies may be as accommodating as Pablow, I think that a majority of small companies understand the importance of certain personal commitments and are more than accommodating when it comes to flexible working arrangements.

  1. AUTONOMY

In addition to flexibility, I enjoyed the autonomy that working for a small company provided.  In a small company, not only is it unrealistic for managers to micromanage all of the intern’s tasks, it’s detrimental to the organization as a whole because work never gets done!

An example of an autonomous project was when I developed and used sales materials to contact prospective business partners.  At the beginning Steve and I sat down to cover our objectives for the project and potential approaches to achieve our goals, but after a short time of planning and introduction the rest of the project was mine to handle.  First I began writing our sales materials using information I had learned in sales classes and based on my research of the vacation rental industry.  After I had written the script I ran it by Steve and laid out our approach to contact travel system providers and retailers.  Once I had his approval, I spent two weeks reaching out to partners using our sales and marketing materials, and successfully brought on new business partners.  The best feedback I received from Steve that made my efforts feel worthwhile was that my work had “helped prove that this business concept could be a reality.”

Looking at how much autonomy I was given says a lot about the trust Steve had in my abilities to market his product to our target market, and because of the internship’s structure I can say that I successfully completed a lot of important projects for the organization.

  1. IMPORTANCE

I alluded to this in the previous section, but working for Pablow gave me the chance to work on some incredibly important work.  Did it create some pressure that I needed to perform at a high level?  Sure it did, but Steve made sure the pressure was always manageable and kept my projects moving in the right direction.

I felt the most pressure within the first couple of weeks of my internship when I was asked to essentially lay out the marketing direction and strategy for the entire company.  This challenged me to think outside of the box and use my limited experience to develop the best plan of attack for the company.

At the end of my internship I will be able to say I’ve done so many great things for this organization, and that it was an experience well worth my time.  Are there challenges of working for a small company?  Yes, of course there are, but I wouldn’t give up this experience to work for any other company or any other CEO this spring.”

An Introduction to Pablow

“Personalization” and “big data” are buzzwords in the online travel space. Many firms aim to harness large amounts of data so as to better customize their product offerings to the end consumer. At Pablow we have taken a different approach to personalization by simply matching the insurance offer to the point of sale context. We call it targeted travel insurance.

In effect travelers are forced to pay for the whole buffet when sometimes all they want and need, is just the dessert! We help them get just the dessert; in other words, targeted travel insurance, that exactly matches the consumer’s need and risk at point of sale.

Pablow is working with the most forward thinking, innovative and entrepreneurial travel insurance companies around the world. All working towards diversified revenue streams via developing the targeted travel insurance category. We offer their products to travelers by partnering with travel retailers and system providers to direct travelers from their confirmation page to a purchasing site, send travelers retargeted emails, and promote using retargeted advertising.

Our target partners are travel retailers and system providers that sell vacation rentals, rental cars, conferences, cruises, and/or adventure tours etc. They should be looking to increase their revenue for minimal effort and no cost! As long as they have customers in the travel space we should have the targeted travel insurance to match their customers’ needs.

Do you think you are a potential partner for Pablow or know someone who would be a good connection? Feel free to share our newest animation (featured at the bottom of this introduction) explaining how our business works, and we encourage you to request a demonstration from our CMO Dylan DeClerck (Dylan@Pablow.com).