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Ignorance is Bliss?

Certainly we all have had times when we wished we didn’t have the vision to see possible pitfalls ahead, but instead were able to simply move on full speed ahead into the unknown, putting all fears aside. I couldn’t help but think of this phrase a short while ago while on a ski trip with my family.

I’m a fair skier, good on my best day, but I had grown a bit weary after a long day on the slopes. It was snowing quite heavily, and as it was late in the day, there weren’t many people left on the mountain.  In fact, there were only two of us on this particular run: a young snowboarder, probably no older than eight or nine years old and me. I started the run a bit ahead of my young companion, but I missed the turn that would have taken me on my fairly gentle ‘blue’ run back to the lodge. Instead, I found myself at the top of a fork in the trail with only two long double blacks (most difficult) ahead. I stopped and began contemplating my predicament. Even when fully rested and in my best skiing, these slopes would be well beyond my ability. I pondered at the prospects—down a steep mogul run to the left, or on an even steeper, yet less bumpy trail to the right. Fearful thoughts ran through my head. I thought about my family and friends who I would leave behind without telling them how much I cared. Who would take care of the pets? Had I made my life insurance premium? And so on.

I was preparing to remove my skis and start the embarrassing but safer ‘walk of shame’ descent, when suddenly from out of the snow emerged the young snowboarder. Undaunted by the poor visibility or the perils ahead, he flew past me and over the sharp crest, disappearing into the heavily falling snow. Hearing neither a terrifying scream nor a loud thud and even though I could no longer see him, I assumed he escaped without incident.

Emboldened by what I had just seen, I snapped back into my skis and started down. I am happy to say that while I may have stopped once or twice (ok, more like five or six times), I made it down unscathed.

So, what’s the point here? After all, the kid made it down. In fact, he made it with probably minimal effort and far more enjoyment than I. Ignorance (in this case of the possible life threatening slopes) truly was bliss.

I would suggest to the reader that while it may be perfectly acceptable for an obviously skilled snowboarder to put fear and good sense aside, such cavalier actions in business are unwise, especially in the insurance industry.

Other than the nuclear power business, few if any industries are as heavily regulated (and litigated) as ours. Regulators may suggest that they do a lot to keep the participants informed, and to an extent they’re right. But just like the ski resort operator who puts up signs and provides trail maps, agents, marketing organizations, and carriers need trained professionals to help them navigate through potential pitfalls.

I’m not suggesting that insurance agencies play it safe, staying on the easier slopes at all times. Often, risk does bring reward. An occasional ‘double black diamond’ trail may be the right move for your business. Just make sure that when you head over that crest, you know exactly what you’re getting into. Engage an in-house, experienced compliance person, an outsourced resource, or both.

Properly assess the planned new venture before investing in it too heavily. There are plenty of examples of well-intended, poorly planned ideas especially in the advanced sales space that have left casualties strewn on the proverbial trail.

Periodically review your operation. With frequent changes in regulation and in litigation, it is a good idea to test even previously tried and true processes against the current environment. Understand the risks, take the proper steps to mitigate them sufficiently and then push on down the hill. Enjoy the run!