||Executive Vice President
|Type of Business:
Bruce MacDougal is executive vice president of Mazonson Inc., an insurance brokerage firm in Peabody, Mass.
Q. Why did you choose your profession?
A. I was a loan officer at a large New England bank; that was over 19 years ago. I had a friend whose father was owner of this agency at the time. Over a period of about three to four months, he persuaded me to come work for him, help him build the business. I liked the idea of being at a smaller business; Mazonson had about 14 employees then, and my bank had 9,000.
Q. How did you get started?
A. I started out as a salesperson, a junior producer -- that's the name for a salesperson in our business. My friend taught me how to sell property and casualty insurance. I took professional designation courses while I was growing my business and I worked really hard. In the process, I learned how to read and understand the customer.
Q. What did you do then?
A. About six or seven years in, my friend wanted me to start hiring people, develop producers. And we learned what it takes to hire the right people, teach them the business, and how to sell as effectively as I was doing. A lot of my work has focused on that. We developed a profile, using handwriting samples, psychological tests, to make sure the people would fit. And we developed a process, working with consultants and clinical psychologists, for how to increase our salespeople's ability to bond with customers.
Q. What have been the biggest challenges you've faced?
A. The first challenge is to become highly technically skilled. When you start, there's a lot to learn. Once you get that base competency, the second thing is figuring out how you can maximize your potential. Some people become like actuaries with green eye shades, while extroverted people may focus more on generating opportunities. You have to get more self-aware about which type you are.
Q. What are your favorite resources?
A. In my early days, when I was selling every day, my first resource was the insurance companies. Second were traditional periodicals like National Underwriter. Third was the insurance library in Boston, if I really needed to get some technical detail about a specific item. My Web versatility isn't what it is for the generation behind me. Most of those younger guys, the Web is their first resource. I go to the Web last.
Q. What is your most useful gadget?
A. The cell phone. I'm on it 24/7. Second is my computer, third my Palm Pilot. I'm on the road a fair amount.
Q. What advice would you give someone starting out in your profession?
A. First is, learn the product. You can never be a top salesperson without understanding your product. You also need to pinpoint what markets you want to serve. If you want to serve Fortune 500 companies, there is a different array of products from the ones you need to learn if you sell to small markets. And learn how to be really present with your prospects, underwriters, and fellow employees. If your employees hate you, you won't get a lot of work done.
Q. What are the key changes in your industry and profession?
A. There are changes in the brokerage agency business and changes inside the insurance industry. On the agency side, there's consolidation, new technology, and a push for national licensing. In insurance companies, technology is helping people get a clearer idea of where they're making money and allowing them to make more clear-cut decisions about which businesses they'll underwrite. I find the number of available insurance companies that will write anything and everything is falling dramatically.
Q. What are the best and worst parts of your job?
A. The best is the people I get to meet -- the clients, underwriters, the employees who work for me. Because I'm right outside Boston, I see a lot of new technology and biotechnical ideas. There's an enormous amount of exciting activity going on and we get to contribute to it in a small way. The worst: You see some people who tell half-truths. The enormous pressure people are under to produce results can create a certain mentality: If you don't ask the question, I don't have to tell you the truth.