Back in the Office

I am very lucky. I get to balance running a business with the substantive work of insurance compliance. This suits my strengths and weaknesses as a working being. Over the past couple of years, the amount of time that I spend on business travel has increased and it can be both exhausting and exhilarating. 

I have just spent two days travelling. The first day was spent training another attorney on advertising compliance. He is knowledgeable and experienced. Our time together was as much to point him in the directions where his attention was needed, as it was to really teach new material. I have done similar trainings many times now and each time different issues come up, depending on the niche of the trainee’s organization. On Tuesday we spent most of our time talking about websites and the issues inherent in trying to control the flow of information and the cost of going back and pulling material down when it is problematic. The training was at a fairly high level and there was general agreement between us about what the standards are and what needs to happen structurally to achieve compliance.

The second day was more demanding, but in a generally good way. I was asked to review a large volume of materials and help figure out a way that they could be presented that would be compliant with state insurance regulations as well as be successful from a sales perspective. The discussion was fast paced, and friendly, but with an edge. The slides moved in front of me at a very high speed. I was reacting both at a gut level and trying to provide an analysis at a rate that was very intimidating. There were about 6 people in the room and all were looking to me to make these quick (though tentative) decisions: decisions that impact all kinds of people along the insurance purchasing/selling chain. But as I was feeling overwhelmed at the speed of the review and discussion, the main presenter looked around and then directly at me and said I “scared” him. On several occasions he said my facial expressions and “grunts” (really?) were as valuable as my words. He wasn’t really scared, I don’t think, but he did recognize that if he couldn’t convince me that what he was doing was ok, he had a problem. Going into the discussion, I wasn’t sure we’d find a resolution. I am still not sure, but I feel more positive about the possibility. My concerns were heard and generally understood.

I love the collaborative nature of compliance work. I never enjoyed the adversarial battles of my life as a lawyer before my regulatory practice. Compliance is different. A good outcome in compliance isn’t a win or a loss: it is not a zero sum game in the way litigation is. Rather, compliance is finding a way to make an idea work. It is protecting people and entities from loss rather than trying to remedy the loss after the fact. Compliance is reaching an understanding of what the issues are and how we can work together to build a better product/ad/program. Sometimes that process – reaching that outcome – is more difficult than others, but in my experience it is always worth it and it is always rewarding.

I am back in my office today feeling great about the work we do, about the people I work with here in the company I founded, those “out there” in the industry, and the regulators who make sure that there are rules to play by and that they are (generally) enforced evenhandedly. I have no doubt that other challenging days are ahead, but dealing with those challenges is what we do. And I come back to the office feeling like we are pretty darn good at it – if I do say so myself.