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a blog by Chris Barrow

The "why", the coach and the work

Back in the early 1980's I worked for Hambro Life Assurance as a technical representative, visiting IFAs (Independent Financial Advisors) across the North West and persuading them to use my company's products.

Back in the days of unregulated commissions, we didn't pay the IFAs the highest rates and so we majored on investment performance (producing the goods for the clients pension plans, savings and capital) and service (making sure the IFAs were incredibly well supported and offering advice on marketing).

To my dismay, I had to accept that many IFAs were motivated to sell the companies paying the highest commission, but thankfully, there were enough focused on benefits to the client to make me one of the most successful reps in the UK.

It was a hard and relentless slog to find new IFAs to talk to, build trust through demonstrating care and competence and then constantly remind them that I was there, ready to help but needed the payback of business submitted.

If at any time I rested on my laurels, the new business would start to dry up and I would have to be out there, making calls.

I was first in to our Central Manchester offices every morning (after a long commute from my home near Blackburn) and often last to leave. Committed to success, committed to service.

I spent 5 years at that job, before moving into sales management and then becoming an IFA myself. I was age 27 to 32 whilst doing it.

Three things ensured my success:

  • The chip on my shoulder. A working class only-child who had been passed over for entry to Manchester Grammar (another story) and had flunked his O-levels, thus failing to gain admission to the Fleet Air Arm, where I wanted to train as a helicopter pilot;

  • A brilliant manager, Mr. Barry Woolley (still an IFA in Preston) who saw the "angel in the rock" and carved a professional out of my boyish enthusiasm;

  • I simply worked harder than my colleagues and my competitors, eventually winning the record for the largest number of active accounts (customers) for any of the company's reps in the UK - activity was the key.

Three things now ensure my success at the age of 70:

  • The chip on my shoulder - that's a chip, not a chimp. I'm still trying to get my own back for early failures and my upbringing;

  • A brilliant coach, Rachel Turner, who sees that same "angel in the rock";

  • Hard work - starting early, finishing late and putting more effort in.

We all of us need these three:

  • The "why";

  • The coach;

  • The work.

I expect to be saying and doing the same until the end.

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