September 02, 2014
Family Heritage: Protecting Customers for 25 Years
by Sarah Paulk
Headquarters: Cleveland, Ohio
Executives: Chairman, CEO and Founder Howard L. Lewis
Products: life and supplemental health insurance
|Howard L. Lewis|
Direct sales has proven to be a channel that is equally receptive to service companies as it is to those that sell physical products, especially with the growth of the energy and essential services sector—so why not insurance? Selling an intangible like insurance may not provide the same glitz and adrenaline rush for customers as perhaps shopping for jewelry or home décor items might, but for Family Heritage Life Insurance Company of America, that unlikely niche is exactly where they like to be.
“Many people buy insurance through their employer,” says Doug Kelly, Chief Marketing Officer of Family Heritage. “There are people whose employers do not provide supplemental insurance, people who are self-employed and people who are retired who cannot obtain insurance products this way. We provide products to this underserved market segment. It is a difficult market to reach so most insurance companies avoid it. This means the competition is not as intense in this market, and that makes it attractive.”
|Family Heritage headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio.|
The Evolution of Coverage
Family Heritage’s life and supplemental health insurance aims to provide what families are looking for: protection. Everyone wants to know that they, along with their families, would be taken care of in the midst of a health crisis or tragic accident. And unlike traditional health insurance, supplemental insurance pays money directly to the customer.
Simplicity and efficiency are top priorities for Family Heritage, so it is no surprise that their products reflect those objectives. The company’s life insurance policies emphasize an uncomplicated underwriting process, which requires no medical exam, convenient billing and immediately effective coverage. Heritage Life Extra, an innovative life insurance product, was introduced in 2006. Juvenile Life, designed to protect customers’ children, was launched just this year.
Additional policies within the company’s product line include accident, hospital indemnity, intensive care, and heart attack and stroke policies. Family Heritage’s top seller, cancer insurance, is also its flagship product and is the company’s avenue to provide relief to families who are enduring the exhausting and expensive journey that often accompanies this diagnosis.
Over the years, the company’s cancer insurance has evolved to meet customers’ needs and to inspire healthy choices. The addition of a wellness benefit, for example, encourages customers to get cancer screenings annually by paying benefits for examinations like mammograms and PSA (prostate-specific antigen) testing.
“As medical procedures evolve, the product is updated to reflect those changes,” Kelly says. “A recent example is the chemotherapy benefit. Family Heritage has always paid a benefit for chemotherapy, but in recent years, the medical community has been moving away from toxic chemotherapy agents toward less disruptive agents known as targeted therapies. Family Heritage broadened its chemotherapy benefit to include these agents in our most recent revision.”
Recruiting with Passion, Working with Compassion
Providing comfort and financial relief during crisis is the mission behind the commitment and effort of Family Heritage’s team of Sales Professionals. This mission, reinforced by an unofficial motto of “work with passion and compassion,” creates a relationship between Sales Professionals and their clients. As a result, customers feel comfortable calling on their personal Sales Professional in the event that a claim needs to be made. While this caring salesforce is certainly the lifeblood of the company today, it was surprisingly the company’s greatest obstacle at one time.
“Over the years, recruiting a salesforce has been a challenge,” says Henry Grendell, Family Heritage Vice President and General Counsel. “The leadership addressed this by developing a recruiting process that highlighted the importance and value of the products and the financial rewards that are available to Sales Professionals, and also shared best practices across sales organizations so that a robust portfolio of recruiting methods and sources were used.”
The term ASAP (All Sources; All Places) was coined to describe the multifaceted approach Family Heritage relies on to recruit new team members. Active participation in job fairs and online career boards, placing newspaper ads in locations where organizations are seeking to build their teams, and field recruitment—presenting the opportunity to friends, family or customers who appear to have potential—are all proven methods that successful Family Heritage Sales Professionals use to expand their organizations.
“Family Heritage grows by finding sales leaders who want to build organizations and businesses of their own,” Kelly says. “When we find an effective sales leader, sales grow in that geography.”
The company’s recruiting efforts continue to pay off as the number of Sales Professionals increases exponentially, from 22 agents during the company’s inaugural year of business to more than 1,600 active Sales Professionals today. The company also serves over 250,000 families across the U.S. and has 127 employees at the home office. Aside from creating a healthy, large organization, the leadership prides itself on knowing that the building of a strong Sales Professional base is ultimately the fulfillment of a goal they set 25 years ago.
“The original vision was to build an insurance company in which all participants—both home office and Sales Professionals—were stockholders,” says Ed Rocheck, Senior Vice President and Chief Administration Officer. “We met that goal, and many had their financial dream fulfilled.”
This vision was the one that Howard L. Lewis, Chairman, CEO and Founder of Family Heritage, set himself. Having the principles of service and integrity instilled in him early on in his professional career in both the financial services and insurance industries, he felt that those who help build the company should have the opportunity to become owners of the company.
This business model has offered Sales Professionals and corporate office members alike a unique and often prosperous financial opportunity. The company’s acquisition by Torchmark Corp. in November 2012 for $218.5 million has broadened that opportunity even further, offering a new stock purchase program. McKinney, Texas-based Torchmark (TMK—NYSE) is a holding company for several life and supplemental health insurance subsidiaries, including two other direct sales companies—American Income Life and Liberty National Life.
Tools of the Trade
The introduction of new parent company Torchmark brought with it new resources, including new tools to help identify viable candidates and modernized processes that use the latest Internet technology to locate and recruit new team members. As with any organization in today’s marketplace, technology plays a vital role in the company’s success. Social media platforms are must-haves for any company wishing to stay relevant, and Family Heritage uses them to communicate cultural aspects of the company that could be easily missed in the tone of a formal website. Those who view the company’s Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter pages will see pictures of awards Family Heritage has won, fundraising events it has taken part in, and videos of its salesforce and home office employees showing how much they love being a part of the FHL family. These platforms provide Sales Professionals and employees a place to share successes and advice, and they allow potential recruits to learn more about the culture of Family Heritage.
For Sales Professionals, the opportunity to dig deeper past the public website into a password-protected portal offers training videos and commission and sales reports exclusive to each of their individual organizations. A robust internal system nicknamed SOAR (Service, Outstanding performance, Adaptability, Reliability) is available to home office personnel, allowing them to easily access information for customers and conduct transactions on a customer’s behalf.
Continued personal development is essential for success, and Family Heritage addresses that with a variety of training opportunities made available to Sales Professionals throughout their careers. Sales Academy is a Sales Professional’s starting point, explaining the ins and outs of the Family Heritage products and sales process. This weeklong course uses exercises and role-playing in addition to traditional presentations to give Sales Professionals a basic understanding of the business.
Beyond Sales Academy, national sales meetings are hosted twice annually with a heavy training component, and online training videos and weekly conference calls provide continuing education and tips from successful Sales Professionals.
While technology is important, the leadership emphasizes that it is not the catalyst for success at Family Heritage. “The key to success at Family Heritage is our people who have a can-do attitude and who treat customers as if they were part of the family,” Kelly says. “Technology helps them do it, but technology alone would not be sufficient.”
In addition to the company’s training, individuals are also required to have a state license to sell insurance. In order to receive a license, all states require applicants to pass an exam and complete an insurance application. Depending on the state, applicants may be required to attend a pre-licensing course as well. Family Heritage also conducts a background check on all applicants. Most states require that agents complete continuing education courses each year to retain their licenses.
A Bird in the Hand
Since its launch in 1989, Family Heritage has stretched its active operations into 49 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. While sales are greater in some areas, depending on the concentration of the salesforce, the leadership continues to set its gaze upon the horizon and how it can improve or positively affect its current program.
One of its opportunities is expansion, including geographic expansion into areas like New York and Canada. Until this expansion becomes a reality, the leadership is placing greatest emphasis on its current assets, as they see these areas as the best opportunity for growth. The key for creating growth for the company during this season, Kelly says, is continued recruitment.
Product awareness will play a strategic role as well. “The opportunity for better utilization of the existing portfolio of products is huge,” Kelly says. “In 2014, cancer insurance sales represent almost 60 percent of the company’s sales. With a portfolio of six products, there are tremendous opportunities for growth by offering the other products to new and existing customers. Programs have been developed to facilitate this type of cross-selling, and results to date have been favorable.”
Celebrating a Silver Anniversary
Although it has faced its share of obstacles, growth has seemed to come naturally for Family Heritage throughout its two and a half decades’ reign. At its launch in 1989, the company brought in a meager $5,848 in revenue. The next year, in 1990, revenue soared to $523,728. This past year, 2013, saw revenue reach $192.5 million—earning it the No. 66 spot on the DSN Global 100 list of the world’s largest direct selling companies.
As Family Heritage reflects on the success of its past and prepares for the future, the company is making plans to celebrate its silver anniversary in style by awarding and recognizing the heart of the company—its sales team. A four-day celebration at the end of December will bring together 700 Sales Professionals and home office employees for an exhilarating celebration at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, its headquarters. Excellent catered food and live bands will set the mood for a weekend that leaders of the 25th anniversary committee describe as “not low-key at all.”
The purpose of the event, with the theme of “the heritage of our past, the promise of our future,” is to thank and pay homage to the agents who work year after year investing in and building the company. A highlight of the event allows agents and home office employees to rekindle old relationships and make new connections.
“We are proud of the opportunity we have created for our employees and Sales Professionals,” Grendell says. “Prior to the sale of the company in 2012, every employee received, and every Sales Professional could qualify for, stock in the company. When the company was sold, many Sales Professionals and employees received significant payments for their stock, which permitted them and their families to improve their standard of living. Likewise, Sales Professionals receive lifetime vested renewals, and employees have an excellent benefits program. We are proud to see our employees and Sales Professionals become financially secure as a result of our success.”
Family Heritage also continues to receive awards and recognition for its customer service and workplace environment. This year alone, the company received Corporate Social Responsibility Program of the Year for the second time from the American Business Awards; Customer Service Department of the Year (both through the ABAs and the Sales and Customer Service Awards several times throughout the years); and Customer Service Department of the Year by Customer Sales and Service World Awards. In previous years, it has won the World Class Customer Service Award several times by Smart Business magazine and The Plain Dealer Top Workplaces for 2010 and 2011.
The Next 25
Customer service is a dominant theme in the culture of Family Heritage. It is evidenced in even the smallest details of the business, such as their commitment to never have an automated attendant answer their phones and ensuring that all documents are scanned into the company’s system and accessible when customers call in.
Helping customers in this way by dealing with their concerns with both efficiency and compassion has contributed to Family Heritage’s longevity and success. “The goal for the next 25 years is to continue to grow and to make Family Heritage a common part of most American families’ protection plans,” Grendell says.