Surveying the Field: My Industry Chat with Fran Tarkenton

I recently had the opportunity to interview Fran Tarkenton, retired NFL quarterback and insurance agency owner at Tarkenton Financial LLC. Fran is a hardworking and motivated businessperson who understands the value of teamwork and trust in our industry – similar to their value on and off the field in the game he used to play. Yet unlike a sack, his partnership with BI did not come out of nowhere – it took learning from partnerships, even failure, but most of all integrity, to get to where he is now.

In the early days, how did you build your business? How did you grow your client base?

We had to knock on a lot of doors; we had to find a way to get our message to a lot of people. But the thing is, I don’t believe in selling or telling people what to do. We build relationships. We build trust, and that is why people do business with us.

What do you see as the future of the industry?

In the area of retirement income planning, people are living longer and face increasing medical costs. The product solutions we offer will continue to be in demand as a way to provide long-term income stability to retirees. The future of our business is going to be great. We have to continue to push education to our customers by leveraging technology, while never compromising integrity.

Let’s talk about how technology is going to change the adviser experience. How do you think we can use technology to the advantage of the adviser?

We have to leverage technology because it’s a whole new world out there – companies that haven’t been able to adapt have shut down. We are not in the sales business; we are in the business of helping people and problem solving. We do that with our agents and our culture, and we are very successful with that. For example, we have leveraged technology and communications by streaming out live video, using it to educate our agents, who can go out and communicate to potential customers and show them how our products work. We can reach them on their mobile apps and educate them about the products we are selling. We’ve built a state-of-the-art studio to accomplish this.

What are the characteristics of a successful adviser?

Number one: Integrity. Number two: integrity. Do the right thing. Do not sell people your product. Educate people, answer their questions, and if they say to you, “thank you for your help, but, it doesn’t make sense to me,” then walk away. If you’re going to have a sustainable business, you have to do that.

Can you share a little about your relationship with BI?

I learned early in my life from football that I could not do it alone, no matter how great I thought I was at being a quarterback. I had to have linemen to block, kickers to kick, defenders to defend. In business, we needed coaches, and we need partners. When I started in business, I really thought I could do it all by myself. That’s my entrepreneurial spirit. I learned a great lesson when I started a software business called Knowledgeware, back in the 80s. I couldn’t make it work. I couldn’t pay our expenses. We were losing money, and I knew we needed to find a new way – a partner who could help. I went to IBM and showed them how a partnership with my company could make them money, and that’s when things really turned around. With BI, we have built a great partnership over many years. It’s a partnership founded on trust, where 1+1=3. It serves BI well, and it serves us well. I don’t have all the answers. Nobody has all the answers. But I know that together, we can accomplish more things than we can apart.

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