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Wearing Two Hats

One producer shares his secrets for balancing the responsibilities of an agent and an association exec.

By Lucretia DiSanto Jones

Mark Sedaka, LUTCF, a producer since 1982, speaks of the Passaic-Bergen association as if he were its nurturing father. When the local's executive resigned some years back, Sedaka, armed with a Ph.D. in sales and marketing, took on the job, preferring not to let someone muss up all the work he had put into it as president.

Previously a manager for Prudential for 12 years, Sedaka spoke briefly with about the rewards of being an association exec and an independent insurance producer simultaneously.

“The experience you get communicating with members helps you tremendously with clients.” How did you end up in this dual-role position?
Sedaka: After working my way up the chairs, I became president of the local. A few years after I finished my term, our executive had to relocate for personal reasons. At that point, I had worked so hard for the association that it had became my baby, so to speak. So I thought I'd take over for a year until we could find an exec. That was seven or eight years ago. I don't count anymore. The insurance business has been good to me, and I like to give back to it. Why did you originally join NAIFA?
Sedaka: I felt it was part of my obligation. If I'm going to be a professional in this business, I should belong to the association. I also saw that there were successful people at the meetings and that I could get some good ideas. Does your role as the exec help your role as a producer and vice versa?
Sedaka: Yes. The experience you get communicating with members helps you tremendously with clients. When you try to communicate with members and persuade them to do certain things, it's like selling to them. And it's nice to be able to say to your clients that you're on the board of your association or on a committee that's helping others. Does each role create any challenges or obstacles for the other?
Sedaka: I don't think so because no one can ever come and tell me that they don't have two or three hours a week to give away. You talk to members and say, "Come, I need your help." Sometimes those who don't think they're smart will give you the best idea. Do you feel you are more focused as a producer because of your two roles?
Sedaka: Well, it's all about how you plan your day. If you have a good business plan, and you allow yourself a certain time every day for one part of the plan and a certain time for the other, you can get it all done.

I work hard, but I also play hard, which is good for me as a producer. I work for a lot of charities for handicapped children and for those with cystic fibrosis. I've also chaired golf tournaments for the American Heart Association and the Make-a-Wish Foundation. I'm the chair of the town planning board and I ran for mayor of my town, Fairlawn, N.J. I coach soccer. I do a lot of volunteer work. How do you find the time?
Sedaka: Again, I say plan it right and you'll find the time. My father once told me a short pencil is better than a long memory, so I write everything down. What would you say to members who are not really involved in their local association?
Sedaka: Well, I come down hard on them but in a very nice way. If someone comes to the meeting, he's not coming for the free breakfast. He's coming to learn, meet other successful people, maybe walk away with one key idea. I try to get close to these people and ask them, "Can you chair this event? Can you chair this committee?"

Communication with members is extremely important. You have to get the people excited and then ask for their help. That's how to get people involved. They get pumped up with the responsibility. We want those who are excited to get involved, work on a committee, work on the board. I don’t mind if he or she has been in the business for only six months; I'd say this is the right way to start.


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