Every other week, Lead. Empower. Grow. features interviews from entrepreneurs who lead productive teams, empower their communities and grow successful businesses of their own. This week, our guest was Alan Guerra, a Senior Marketing Director from Southern California.
Alan is a pastor who started a business to provide financial security to other ministers. He spoke about how he came to see the importance of life insurance, as well as his work providing retirement and life insurance to small congregations across the country.
See below for an excerpt of our conversation — you can listen to the full episode here.
What led you down the path to starting your own business?
My life has carried me through many different avenues, if you will. I have been a pastor serving in ministry for a little over 40 years. So, I have been involved in my community — doing things for others, ministering to others, helping others — for many years. It has been part of who I am. It is not something that I do; it is just part of who I am.
And, on the secular side of things, for over 20 years, I was an I.T. analyst with major corporations nationwide. I was actually working with the company that builds drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles for the federal government.
Were you doing both at the same time? Was it a weekly job, with ministry on Sunday?
Well, being a pastor is not just a weekend job. I pastored a small church — several small churches — and there was a need for me to be dual vocational to support my family in the meantime. That’s one of the reasons why, after 20 years, I actually moved away from the I.T. industry. I knew that I needed to make an adjustment.
I decided that I wanted to do something that did not feel like a job. I knew I had to get up every morning and go to work, but I wanted to have more control over my life, my decisions, and my time — to not be limited by a company or a position. After doing quite a bit of research and due diligence, I narrowed down my decision to financial services. That is a decision I have never regretted because it honestly fits me like a glove. I always tell people that I do not mind working 80 hours a week if I have to, in some weeks, because I am building my business. I am not working for somebody else, with someone else’s schedule, and that gives me a lot of control of my time and resources. Ultimately, I think all of us want to have more control of our lives.
I wanted to have more control over my life, my decisions, and my time — to not be limited by a company or a position.
What made you decide to build your business around life insurance?
I did over a year of research because I knew I wanted to make a change. I looked at different industries, different types of jobs, and I always kept coming back to financial services.
I had experienced personally what it was like not to be properly prepared. My mom got very sick, and before she passed away, she shared with me that she had seen a commercial on TV, and that she had purchased a life insurance policy. Well, when she passed away, one of the first things the funeral director asked was, “Did she have life insurance? Bring me her policy.”
He reviewed it. Then, I noticed that he picked up my mom’s death certificate, and he read that too. He said, “I want you to read this out loud.” So I read it, and what does it say? It says “Accidental Death Life Insurance. It is like a light went on. It was one of those “Aha” moments.
He said, “This is one of the unfortunate things that happens to many people: they see something on TV and purchase one of these types of policies, an accidental-death-only type of policy. They don’t cover very much.” I had just finished reading her death certificate, which said it was a natural death — so, she had no life insurance. I needed to pay $15,000 in 48 hours. That whole experience left such a bad taste in my mouth that I decided I wanted to teach people how to avoid it. Since then, I have been in so many people’s homes that have been in very similar situations: when I ask them to bring me their life insurance policy, they thought they had permanent or whole life insurance and it turns out to be only term. Many people would be shocked to find they do not have the financial protection that they thought they had.
Many people would be shocked to find they do not have the financial protection that they thought they had.
Did you run into any challenges when you started your business?
When anybody tries to launch their business, they are going to face challenges at the beginning. I view entrepreneurship as a train. A locomotive: at first, it takes a lot of effort to get that thing into motion. It can seem very daunting: “How am I going to get this thing moving? How am I going to get clients? How am I going to make money?”
The process, the products, the carriers — there is so much to learn. And then you have to put it into practice! To go out there and actually share that with someone else? You have to do it in a way that captures people’s attention and imagination. I think that is the biggest challenge at the beginning.
But, once your train is in motion, it is easier to keep it in motion. One of the biggest challenges for any entrepreneur is nailing down their message: what to say about their business and how to deliver it. We have to be effective communicators because we have a tremendous message to share, but we have to learn how to share it effectively so the listener is compelled to take action.
Even I am still trying to fine-tune my message. But, like I said earlier, once you get your business in motion, it is a lot easier to keep it in motion.
We have a tremendous message to share, but we have to learn how to share it effectively so the listener is compelled to take action.
Listen to our full conversation with Alan for more valuable insight on entrepreneurship and the power of financial security through life insurance.
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