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No Lay-Offs for 145 Years
While many companies have down-sized, right-sized, or re-engineered their work force in recent years, Northwestern Mutual Financial Network has never had a reduction in force. No lay-offs and no downsizing – even during the depression. Named one of “American’s 50 Best Companies to Sell For” in 2003 by Selling Power Magazine, and ranked among the “100 Best Companies to Work For” by Fortune Magazine in 2004, NMFN has very little turnover among its workforce of 4600. Employees come to Northwestern and they stay. Often for their entire career.
With 350 offices and over 7,900 representatives across the United States, Northwestern has consistently had the highest available ratings for financial strength from Standard & Poor, Moody’s Investors Services, FitchRatings and A.M. Best. It currently has over 3 million life insurance policy owners with more than 4.7 million policies. It has enjoyed tremendous growth and continues to be one of the most prominent insurance companies in the world.
In a recent interview with Edward Zore, President and CEO, he identified several factors related to the past and continued success of NMFN. He suggests the following for long-term success:
- Discipline and focus. Identify the areas that offer an opportunity to excel and keep getting better at them. Pay careful attention to what works and do more of that. Avoid areas that are not the focus of the organization and keep the spotlight on the core business. Sometimes it is more important to know what opportunities to pass by than identifying new business.
- Add value. Don’t succumb to the whims of the marketplace and the lowest denominator. Keep the focus on the long term not just a quarterly profit. Long-term growth is strategic with careful planning. Bring high value to all that you provide to your customers and they will be loyal to the company and tell others. There is no better advertising than an enthusiastic customer.
- Do the right thing. While there is plenty of work for attorney drafting contracts and agreements, Zore feels strongly that your word still has to be your bond. If you say something, follow through. You have to live up to your commitments and reflect integrity in everything you do. Treat people fairly and be proud of what you provide and how you do it.
- Recruit the best people you can find. Be very selective over who joins the organization and make sure that the qualities of the individual align with the company. Be clear of what the organization needs and bring in new employees that can fill these needs. Hire the very best people and make sure they complement, not duplicate, the talent you already have.
- Remember, you are where you are because of where you are. Success is partly the individual and partly the circumstances. Don’t let arrogance cloud your opinion of yourself and your talents. Nobody gets where they are by themselves. Make sure that you give back and mentor others who are on their way up. We all drink from wells we didn’t dig and sit in the shade of trees we didn’t plant.
- Always keep learning. How far you go in life is directly dependent on your openness to new information. Teach classes at the local university, read books that are not in your field and attend professional seminars. Research on reading habits by Penguin Books reports that half of all Americans never read another book after high school and 40% of men say they never read books. Successful people do what others are unwilling to do.
Remember, if you are not the lead dog, all the scenery looks the same.
Barbara Bartlein is the PeoplePro™. She helps businesses sell more goods and services by developing people. She can be reached at 888-747-9953, by email at: email@example.com or visit her Web site at www.ThePeoplePro.com. Published in Networking Today, August 2004.
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