At the age of 13, I started filing papers at a law office owned by my father’s good friend, Howard Metzenbaum. That same year, Howard was forming a public company called APCOA. As I watched Howard create this company, I started thinking about law and business being similar. Both have the potential to be lucrative careers. Both work hand in hand and can be easily intertwined. But most importantly, both paths appealed to me.

An Unexpected Detour

When I graduated from Ohio State University in 1970, I was ready to enter law school. But, education doesn’t come cheap, and I realized I would have to take a job with my dad in his food distribution business, which carried commodities like eggs, butter, etc.

So, that’s exactly what I did. I started “selling” on the road during the day and attended law school at night. And while I was eager to start my law career, that detour – though unexpected – was beneficial. After going on the road to sell the commodities we carried, I quickly learned why it was so difficult to make a sustainable profit with this business. With price-driven products like these, every penny was a battle. I knew the trick was going to be creating a strategy focused on adding value, rather than just providing commodities.

Lessons in the Journey

I started adding items like seafood and other unique products for the “white tablecloth restaurants.” But  the real breakthrough came when a friend of mine mentioned Häagen Dazs ice cream.

I flew to New York to meet the inventor and founder, Rubin Mattusz. We made a handshake deal, which gave me exclusive distribution rights for almost 16 years. This relationship resulted in significant profitability and led to other exclusive marketing and distribution agreements with Ben and Jerry’s, Good Humor, Healthy Choice, and Edy’s Ice Cream.

Unfortunately, Edy’s agreement caused us to lose the business. While our distribution was very successful, we underestimated the true costs involved and lost $1.00 per unit. It was a hard lesson, but it was the lesson that forced me into a new career – a career with the opportunity to increase philanthropy and utilize life insurance, which I considered a very creative and valuable product.

Creating My Own Roadmap

With my dream of working in law and business still in my mind, I started thinking about my next move. My first thought was that I wanted nothing to do with investments. People who do usually come off as greedy and disingenuous, but I had my heart set on helping people.

So, I fell back on my experiences and considered this question – what could be “the Häagen Dazs” of financial services? What could help me transcend the commodity perception of insurance agents and allow me to add significant, unique value for clients?

It took many years of experience – seeing and understanding the problems many policy owners endure – to realize the foundation of my business relied on becoming an expert resource. I noticed:

  • 90% of policies lapse before maturity or payment of the death benefit.
  • Policies intended to provide retirement income often fail due to poor design and improper funding.
  • Policies with unsustainable loans made against the cash value that lapse will cause an ordinary income tax to the policy owner for debt forgiveness.

 With the help of these observations, I realized my roadmap to success needed to focus on developing strategic relationships and how to implement smart strategies with life insurance. So, I built a business that is focused on reviewing life insurance coverage, creating advanced tax planning strategies and working with premium finance.

I worked hard and became an expert in the field, and I knew I was providing value. But the name “Life Insurance Dr.” came years later after working with a prominent estate planning attorney.

He referred several clients to me for policy reviews, and he quickly noticed that I was able to generate more cash and increase savings for his clients with my review process. As a result, he started telling his clients that I was like a doctor – diagnosing problems, mending “sick” policies and creating stable financial health.

The name “Life Insurance Dr.” stuck, and I’m glad it did because like a doctor, I am in the business of helping people thrive.