Tom Cothron is an agency manager for a multi-line insurance company offering auto, home, and life insurance products. Tom is a seasoned expert, spending 40-plus years dedicated to the financial services industry. He is a certified Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF) and a Financial Services Certified Professional (FSCP). He currently presides as NAIFAs President-Elect.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Tom Cothron shares his professional background and how he got into the insurance industry
- The struggles Tom had to overcome as a young multi-line insurance agent
- Tom’s involvement with NAIFA and its importance in the financial services industry
- The value of participating in NAIFA’s processes rather than being a bystander
- What challenges do advisors, NAIFA advocates, and NAIFA ambassadors face?
- Tom talks about his journey running an agency
- Advice for advisors who want to continue growing and the key ingredients for success
- Why should aspiring advisors maintain their connection to NAIFA?
In this episode…
Financially planning for the future is fundamental for living a fulfilling life. So where can you get the support required to do so? And as an advisor, how do you foster good relationships with your clients and become the best version of yourself?
Surviving family members can suffer the consequences of a loved one who's passed away without adequately planning for their family’s future. This was the case for Tom Cothron's grandmother. Hearing how his grandma faced humiliation to apply for a loan to bury her husband, Tom developed a passion for the financial services industry to help people plan financially and educate advisors on how to have better relationships with their clients. His 40-year journey in the industry highlights the challenges he faced and the lessons he learned that led to his career success.
On this episode of Advisor Today, Chris Gandy and Suzanne Carawan sit down with Tom Cothron, an agency manager for a multi-line insurance company, to discuss how advisors can thrive in the industry. Tom talks about the struggles he had to overcome as an insurance agent, his involvement with NAIFA and its importance in the financial services industry, the challenges advisors, NAIFA advocates, and NAIFA ambassadors face, and his advice for advisors.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Chris Gandy on LinkedIn
- Suzanne Carawan on LinkedIn
- Tom Cothron on LinkedIn
- NAIFA Quality Awards
Sponsor for this episode...
This episode is brought to you by the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, or NAIFA, the #1 association for producers in financial services.
At NAIFA, we enhance professional skills, promote ethical conduct, and advocate for legislative and regulatory environments.
By joining NAIFA, you gain access to a partnership that elevates your performance while providing greater purpose to your professional work. NAIFA members are happier, make more money, and stay in the business longer.
Welcome to NAIFA's Advisor Today podcast series, where we focus on how financial advisors work, live and give to their local communities and our greater financial services industry. Now, let's get started with the show.
Chris Gandy 0:20
Everyone this is Chris Gandy, one of your co-hosts for Advisors Today's podcast. We're super excited to have Mr. Tom Cothron today. But before we go to Tom, Suzanne, our wonderful, my wonderful co-host, hi, Suzanne, how are you?
Suzanne Carawan 0:34
Hey, Chris, good to be here.
Chris Gandy 0:36
Wonderful to see you. You're very bright and excited today with a wonderful color. So do we have a sponsor for today's podcast?
Suzanne Carawan 0:45
Yeah, we do today is sponsored by the NAIFA's Quality Awards are NQA. It is time to put in your application to get that NAIFA's Quality Award. The deadline is August 31. Whatever big supporters actually at the NQA is Southern Farm Bureau. So I want to give a shout-out to them and say thank you Southern Farm Bureau. And I'm sure we'll hear a little bit more about them today as well with our guests, but until further do their Chris, I'll turn it back to you.
Chris Gandy 1:09
Wonderful. So with no further ado, we welcome Mr. Tom Cothron. Many of you probably have seen him. He said numerous roles within the leadership of NAIFA. And he's here today to share some insights from opportunity and really, where NAIFA's going and some of the promises that we're looking to enhance and to provide for everyone who's listening and follow NAIFA. So Tom, welcome to the number one downloaded. I heard the last week podcast out there in the in one of the industry somewhere in the vein, we're like number one. So that's super excited to welcome out. Well, how are you doing this morning?
Tom Cothron 1:50
I am doing wonderful, excited to be here. And thank you so much for the invite.
Chris Gandy 1:54
All right, so let's start off, let's kind of rewind the tape. Tom, I'm sure many people have either heard your name or kind of saw you at events. But if people don't know you, share a little bit about yourself what you do now your practice and kind of your role with NAIFA so people can become familiar with but the name with the person.
Tom Cothron 2:20
So as far as my practice goes, I'm an Agency Manager with Southern Farm Bureau, which is the second largest membership group inside of NAIFA. So we're proud of that. And the support that Southern Farm Bureau offers NAIFA through their member support. But I'm an agency manager with them. I'm in the multilane part of the industry, auto home like and I've been with Farm Bureau now since March of 1984. The dates get a little bit mixed up. But right before my 25th birthday, I started with Farm Bureau. And I spent the majority of my career here. I started in the industry a few days after my 20th birthday, April 1 1979. I think I didn't have enough sense to realize someone 20 years old, doesn't normally succeed at this. But there's a kind of a story to that too.
Suzanne Carawan 2:20
Yeah, how did you get into this? How did you get into this at 20 years old?
Tom Cothron 2:27
So let me back up. Whenever I reflect always like my dad comes into the picture. And this is a story I'll continue to tell but as a kid growing up, I heard my dad several times tell a story about his father passed away, only 54 years old of a massive heart attack. And he left my grandmother in a new house that wasn't paid for. And he had no life insurance when he passed away. And I was just kid I mean he passed away in 1962. So I was three years old. And as I grew up when I look back and reflect, I remember dad several times and sometimes I get a little choked up talking about it but several times dad told the story about the humiliation of having to go to the bank and borrow the money to bury his dad. And growing up, I can remember back with my grandmother. I just knew that she was a waitress at a little restaurant little town in Florida Mayo Florida a little small farming community. And I knew she worked as a waitress I knew she ironed other people's clothes she cleaned house he did whatever she had to do to make ends meet this was 1962 prior to the level of social services that we have now and it didn't mean anything to me until I kind of grew and matured and realize that my grandfather die and with that in life insurance created that lifestyle for he left her with nothing but loneliness. And she had to make ends meet. And so as I started maturing in my teen years in high school years, and I started thinking that's something I can do my dad really, really, I can't count the times he told me son, when you grow up, and you have a family, make sure you have life insurance to protect, and then it was just something that made an impression on him that never went away. So when I was 20, they had a friend that managed an agency that gave me an opportunity, and boom, it never had that’s the rest of the story. And I did life insurance auditing for about four years before I started with Farm Bureau in the multi-lines, that's the area I wanted to be in to handle the story. Wanted to be able to handle Bill Walton. I'm proud of the family's insurance. And so I started with March web matching 84. And then with Farm Bureau ever since in the multiline part of the industry.
Chris Gandy 6:11
Well, congratulations, Tom on just the stewardship and the continuous focus on making a bed and then laying in it, right? I think one of the things is we look to individuals like yourself, the young professionals out there they say, if I could be like someone who do I want to be like, and I think you've set an example. So let's talk about the struggle, right? So when you first start off of super young, what did you struggle with the most that just kind of you couldn't get through your head, you're like, what is it that your largest struggle as you started to kind of make your way and make progress in the business?
Tom Cothron 6:53
Well you struggle with the no's. I didn't stop. Fortunately, I was in a community where I had grown up. I was active and athletic. So I was well-known in the community. And I could just about go to anybody in town and talk, again, I didn't have realization that 20 years old was really young to be in this industry. I really believed in what we do. I believed in the product I believed and my tagline on my email in there protecting lifestyle since 1979. That's really what we do. And I lived a real story, being able to relate what I saw my grandmother go through and the stories my dad would share with me. And I was successful did well. And the struggle, though is keeping that keeping the funnel full and activity but I did okay, from the very beginning.
Chris Gandy 7:47
So, but you mentioned the fact that there was a decision at some point to go from just doing one product to a multi-line platform. Yeah. So share with us a little bit about that thought process and then what ultimately helped you make that decision because that's pretty decisive decision, right? It's not like hey, yeah, one day I woke up and I want to be a multi-line agent versus being a Asia does assets under management or whatever, maybe.
Suzanne Carawan 8:17
People kind of go vice versa. Right. They started life really in the PNC and add on life. But yeah.
Tom Cothron 8:23
Let's put this in perspective. I mean, this is 19, what 1984 And in that day, bankers did banking. stockbrokers did stocks and life insurance agents did life insurance, it wasn't like it is now. So you didn't have what would you call it the mixture that you have now? And so I've told this story. It's an easy answer. My dad was a State Farm client. And they had State Farm agent could have called him and had my dad do anything he wanted him to do. Had he ever bothered to call my dad to talk to him about his life insurance or anything else. Dad would have been responsive and probably followed his advice. But he never call never made that call. And but I knew in my house, my dad's house, the inserts person in the family was the State Farm agent and get his home on auto. And so quickly realize that you have the home and the auto which we call it demand product. And you're always talking to the people that funnel never dries up. You just have to be able to cross over, again, it's in a world where it was more niched, back then it was more. The independent world wasn't as prolific as it is now. And I knew that I wanted to be where I could handle on someone's insurance, whether it be their personal insurance, or their auto or their home. That's how that transition took place and recognizing that that's the part of the industry I want them to be in and I started approaching Farm Bureau because I was young, they really wouldn't give me an opportunity for a while. And finally, when I was 24, they opened the door and I came in, the rest is history.
Chris Gandy 10:18
Let's talk about your connection to NAIFA, shall we? So tell us a little bit about how you got involved in NAIFA. And then let's talk about your first journey through NAIFA. And we'll talk about that. And then we'll come back to say, the second journey. Second time is always better than the first the sequel, but talk to us a little bit about how you got connected to NAIFA. And in kind of your journey from your perspective.
Tom Cothron 10:51
So it all starts out. There's different segments of it, but I'll go all the way back to 1980. Started in the business in 79. And back then, in my hometown of Palatka, Florida, we got a local chapter, and I got invited to a meeting and the gentleman named Ed Gein, was the speaker, the guest speaker that day. Ed Gein was with New York Life. And in the little town of Palatka, Florida. He was the leading New York Life agent in the country for that year. So he was an honored guest speaker. And he talked about our industry talked about what at that point in time was Nadler. And he talked about the value of what we do, how we protect families. And here again, to go back to my example of my dad, my dad was a pastor, and that he was the type that participated in the process. And by that I mean there's different denominations have conferences, and dad never was a spectator. He participated in the process. He participated in the conferences. He set that example of not just being a bystander of being a participant. Well, the 1980 I'm just a kid trying to figure out how to do this. And but the message that Ed Gein, relayed, rang true with me. And I realized that's an organization I want to be with. And I maintain that until I moved in 1986. Farm Bureau named me as an agency manager, a little community, close to Tampa, Brooksville, Florida, and there was not a chapter there. And so there was a void in that for a little bit of time. And then I came up into Ocala in 1991, and got involved in a local chapter there. And just basically responded when I was asked to serve. I was asked to serve on that board. And I was asked to serve as president and I did in 1995, and then a second time in the 2000s. And that's really where things launched. In 1995. I was president of local chapter, but I came back in the second time, a good mentor of mine, a good friend, Vinnie Mazurka, came to me and said, We need someone that can come in. And just step right in it President we had a situation where our incoming president passed away suddenly, it was tragic, very young man. And so I stepped in, as the President didn't go back through the chairs and organize the group that year, we had a blowout year Platinum membership. And that attracts attention when you have a good year, and our CEO, her Morgan, Kane, recent Tom, we'd kind of like you to run for the state board. Okay. And then hey, Tom, we'd like for you to maybe run for state president. Okay. Hey, Tom, we'd like for you to maybe consider being a national trustee. Okay. And then in 2015, the thought was I would run for Secretary. And the timing wasn't right. And so that kind of got moved off the radar. And oddly enough, still, that's served on the NAIFA 2020 Task Force, and stayed involved. I reverted back to Florida serve as the national committee person that time and served on the National Finance Committee. So I kind of stayed in the game, so to speak. And I'd get a call, the garbage committee when we come changed over. Part of their process is to solicit qualified candidates for positions. And I'd get asked about how to Secretary look, and I do always the timing never was right. And then it 2021 I hadn't received a call for a couple of years and the phone rang and made it really hit me. Wow, this the circle back. I committed to pray about it. Talk to my wife. There never was anything And that was a check in my spirit about this is the time, this is the time to do it. And here we are. So just basically responding with a yes, when asked to serve, never have really gone out searching for it, it's just kind of, here again, participate in the process instead of being a bystander. Following that example, my dad set, despite the process, we have a lot of people that ride in the wagon, and very few to pull it. In the industry, everybody in this industry rides in our wagon, those that pay our dues, pull the wagon, and then even inside of our organization, we have a few people that do the body of the work. And a lot of our members riding the wagon, and thank goodness for them, they support us. But we have just a few people that do the work and as always been committed and convicted about being a part of the process, not just a bystander.
Suzanne Carawan 15:57
So Tom, why was now the right time to say yes to this, like, what now do you see in NAIFA? I mean, because you were, and I know we've talked about this, you've been part of the process, but it's vastly different NAIFA. So you want to talk a little bit about what you see NAIFA doing now?
Tom Cothron 16:14
Well, we've changed a lot in that, cue me, changed a lot of things. And we have many challenges in the industry as challenges. And someone, it was like a double dog dare that when the word says we need you. What do you do with that? And I thought I was good. I mean, I was good. I mean, I'm happy. And in the twilight of her career, but when somebody says we need you. So I committed to pray about it. And there just never was anything that made me think this isn't the time. And we have a lot of challenges. I mean, we talked about our challenges and the industry as challenges. I mean, the changes that we see, going through so many places. I just believe in what we do. In this industry, what we do is magic. And we're able to do things nobody else can do. We do protect lifestyles, whether it be through being able to make someone home when they have a loss at their home or their automobile. Or when a premature death. I mean, the difference in a family's lifestyle changing versus being able to continue. So I just believe in what we do. I believe without us, I keep using the word industry, but our profession would be vastly different. I mean, you look back at the history of NAIFA, we'd been in the room with every important thing that's ever happened in this industry, your back. I mean, I'm a fan of NAIFA history. And we have been in the room in in some monumental occasions. And as I've worked through the system, I'm going to make sure our members hear about that. Because I think it's important than our history. I think when you get away from it, you don't talk about it enough, then you run the risk of forgetting it. And we don't need to do that, nobody compares to what we do. Nobody compares to what we done. We've given birth to associations all over this industry. We've started them, give them freedom, give them birth. And no one's ever done for this industry what NAIFA's done, that nobody even comes close. And that's just my opinion.
Chris Gandy 18:56
So Tom, let's shift gears. Let's talk about you mentioned, challenges change and participating in the process. I want to hit those three things. Yeah. Champions, Skeet, copious notes. That's what bits Lombardi did. He told his team champions, keep copious notes. So I'm keeping copious notes on some of the things you mentioned. So how can people participate in the process? You mentioned that is one of the key things that you learned from your day. Right? And you've now taken that and run with it, but how can people participate in the process?
Tom Cothron 19:37
Well, the first thing is just engage. I have a saying that I like wherever you're at be all there. And I've said whatever role I was in, I would ask our membership chairs be the best membership chair you can be. If you're a greeter at a meeting, be the best greeter you can be, if you're the president, and it's your turn to lead for God's sake lead. Don't be a bystander. So we're like any other organization, we're starved for people that will engage, it's not hard to engage in system just you have to seek to engage, we have to seek those people out, that are willing to engage in the process. And the difference makers, you're always going to have some that feel like, they're not at a point that they can really engage in the process. But we need to leverage the ones that can. And as we've evolved, back in the day, we had the three levels of communication, national, state and local. And as things condensed and evolved, we now have chapters, but then we have the affiliate system. And that's probably our biggest challenge now is really tweaking that affiliate system and getting communication out to, what I call out to the street out to the feet on the street. And one of our biggest perils is if your exposure to NAIFA is only in your little circle, and if your little circle it in perfect, then the perception can be incorrect. And it can be a negative word shouldn't be, you know, we do great things at the national level, and at some state levels. But that doesn't always make it to the street. I say sometimes we're so busy getting things done that communication, we just get it done. And then communication becomes a challenge. That's where Suzanne tries to communicate the best we can. But people are busy. always say, don't ever think you communicate with a sin button. That's not communication. So we need ambassadors, people that will engage and be a part of the process and want to make a difference. They're out there, we just need to find them.
Chris Gandy 21:46
Great, talk to us a little bit about to participate in a process you've asked call to action, you've asked people to step up, at least step up, but lead by example. Because it needs that type of enthusiasm. But you mentioned challenges. So talk to us about the challenges that we face as advisors, right, that are helping our clients. Talk a little bit about that. And then the challenges that we face collectively together as NAIFA advocates and ambassadors.
Tom Cothron 22:27
Well, one of the biggest challenges we always face is the political realm. And I don't mean politics, I don't care. I'm not talking partisan, I'm just talking about what happens in Washington and in our states that can have an impact on us. So that's our biggest challenge is keeping up with that. I went through a process one time and I don't know what made me do it. Sometimes I get off on weird tangents but I did some research on the financial profiles of our legislators and it's scary how many of them really don't even list financial products as an asset means I don't have any experience in it. Sometimes it scares me the people that end up in office sometimes it's because the people that need to be there maybe don't have the time or something but our biggest challenges what can happen that we can't control in Washington that's why our advocacy is so important. And the role that we play in protecting the industry and what we do here again you look back on our history and when some monumental things accomplished and considers.
Chris Gandy 23:42
Tom, have you ever thought about running for an office?
Tom Cothron 23:45
Yeah. I've been approached about it but here again think about timing not being right that's what...
Chris Gandy 23:53
I was gonna say it sounds like your position. Well you articulate messaging. Well, did you learn that from your dad?
Tom Cothron 24:04
I think without really realizing it. I've thought often I think through osmosis I learned so much from my dad. I didn't realize though till become an adult. Little tidbits dad passed away in 06. So still think about him a lot. And just little tidbits of the one-liners you know, he talked about leadership he said some leadership is a lonely place. Now you can't always say what people want to hear but you need to know what you think and why you think it. Well that's something that sticks with me you know and I kind of feel that way now. I was having a conversation with sugar guys are the knights and our trustees made a comment. My son who's 29 now I coached him and literally and right off this first year, we got a game, the outcry was terrible. And my son's all upset after the game. And I said, son, you can't control the umpire, you can only control your effort, your job is to do the very best you can do focus on what you can control. He's about eight years old. I never really thought a whole lot more about it. And just last year, he said, dad I remember that tall. And my son proceeded through life and very successful athletically. And he did always did the best he could do. And it just for him to share that. So Brock Jolly was sitting there. And he said, he looked around together, dad just said, guys, remember what you just heard right there, our kids are listening, that can be a good thing. Hopefully it's always a good thing. Because it can be a bad thing, too, you know, so we need to make sure what they're getting fed is productive. Right? Anyway, my dad set that example. He was a high-character guy. And he ever had to worry about what he thought where he stood. I look back verdicts on real numbers.
Suzanne Carawan 26:14
So Tom, how do you take that now in your own agency? And how are you able to do that with your new advisors and the people that you need to mentor etc? What are some of the tips, you have to create that and others?
Tom Cothron 26:27
Well, always be credible, always be real, don't ever blow smoke is particularly this generation, they can see through smoke in a heartbeat. And you can't always tell them what they want to hear. But you can be credible with what you're saying. And they can know that you're real. Be honest with them even when it's not what they want to hear. And but let them know you care. And I think that as I've evolved we're nothing without our people. And any effective team has to have good people on the team. And, Chris, you're an athlete, I mean, some great athletes, and really made some great coaches. And some great coaches without athletes have not really dialed that well, we could give examples. But I mean, it's the worst is that it's the job isn't the job, there's not the x's in the O's. And people that are sports fans will know that analogy. But you know, great players make great coaches. And so the better people we have on the team, the better rebounding.
Chris Gandy 27:38
Well, let's talk about change. Right? So we can't control what happens. We can't control the situation, we can't control what they do, we can control what we do and how we react. That involves change isn't we have to embrace change. And change is a bar. It's everywhere around us, right? We're not changing, we're behind already, because the change had already happened ahead of us. Tell me your thoughts on change? And then what are some of the techniques you use show then, even though it's difficult, that you're constantly changing?
Tom Cothron 28:20
I here again, focus on what we can control a lot of what we can't, in a company atmosphere. I'm not in the independent world, I'm what's considered an industry a captive agent, things happen. I mean, copies happen, make decisions, I have to make moves. So I've learned not to focus on what I cannot control. Focus on what I can control. I've tried to set that example to my guys. And my advisors, I say, guys, because I don't have any advisors that are women. So I've used the word guys. But I try to keep us on what we can control, we can control our effort, we can control our activity. But don't dwell on the things we can't control. That would be focus on the positive, hang on to the positive, and give it your best effort. And I call it stuff that's above your paygrade don't get lost in it, because you can't change it anyway. They're not calling to ask my opinion on corporate decisions that have to be made. I mean, it's just it is what it is. So now you're a man and do the best you can every day what you can have an impact on.
Chris Gandy 29:37
So I walked into your office today I've had the worst day, I'm one of the advisors on your team, right? And you got to coach me up and get me ready to go back in the game and go play the game right. What would you tell me and how would you motivate me to just push through the discomfort and a fear. Share with me, how would you coach me to be better going forward?
Tom Cothron 30:07
So the first thing I would tell you to do is take a quick self-analysis, usually what you just described is self-imposed. Either we'd not put forth the effort that we need to put for. Now we do, from time to time in this world, multilateral world, we do have people coming at us a lot of the time where they're rates go up on their auto, or their rates went up on their home or whatever. But continue to have to counsel those people, and nurture them, and explain to him why things are happening. But in Turkey, in Florida, right now, we have a very volatile casualty market in Florida. But you find a way to have the net, analyze their self, what are your efforts, what are you doing on the positive side? It's hard to feel beat up. But you really putting forth the effort, this, if you talk to enough people, you're going to be successful. And I go back to the State Farm agent, that could have gotten my dad probably to do anything, and never bothered the calling, because they just thought it was okay without my dad's additional business. So keep in touch with the people build relationships. I'll always be talking and keep it active. I mean, it's a tough business. I say all the time, hey, if everybody could do this, everybody would be doing, because it's a good gig, but those that can do it. That's why those that can do it are so valuable to society and to the industry. I believe what we do we play a vital role in society. I don't mean to underplay that. I mean, we're the difference. We put people in a position where they don't need social assistance, they can take care of yourself and provide that vehicle and the avenue for that. So let's focus on what we can do not what we can't.
Chris Gandy 32:13
You've been in a management position for some years, right? You've seen people make it. And you've seen people fail, right? What would you say are the key ingredients that will lead to success? Coach coffee.
Tom Cothron 32:35
Its activity. There's prospecting and relationships. And then there's everything else. Our Joe Jordan the other day, and Joe came in and zoomed in for a meeting with us. And he said, there's prospecting. And everything else. Well, it's prospecting, relationship building and everything else. And so, just continue to be talking. I've seen people fail. And I tell those people I said, listen, first of all I say, there's different aspects of this industry. There's different initiatives that people can get into. So, if you're not good at one, try another, I think one of the keys to success is kind of find your niche. And then don't try to do everything. Try to do what fits your passion. And so it's not simple. Another say like this was an easy business, or simple. This is a simple business. But nobody ever said it was easy. It's not easy. But it's simple. You talk to enough people have enough appointments, do the right things, and you'll make it. But I still say if everybody could do this, everybody would be doing just a really good gig.
Suzanne Carawan 33:57
It definitely is, it always comes down to and that's why I think athletes are so well positioned for this profession. It's that consistency. It's the consistently and other you see people fail in that kind of bursts of activity. But it's doing it the day after day after day and keeping that endurance. So how do you help people get that endurance?
Tom Cothron 34:21
Well, I think, you'd have a playbook and you have a system. And you repeat that. Chris, when he played ball, I'm sure didn't just show up for the game. I mean, you had to practice you had a system you had things that you did you did them over and over and over. When it comes game time, it's somewhat comes natural. And so you have to have a system you believe in, you have to be repeat that over and over and over and realize any no's just that much closer to the next yes, because it is a law of numbers and just got to keep plugging away. I think the athletes for your analogy, they're used to repetition, used to continuing on and continuing on and continuing on. And what I've seen people fail, it's normally been self-imposed, they either don't have the confidence level that they need. And that's why companies get personnel profiles. I mean, we try to find out the nature's that can do this. But when I talk with people, I say, first of all, you got to care about people, you got to want to help people. And you've got to be consistent. And I think the biggest thing is caring about people. If you really realize what we do, then you kind of go on mission. And you want people to be protected, you don't want I mean, I've seen all sides of it. I've seen scenarios where there's a proper program in place, and the difference that makes up seen in my own family difference of when my grandfather passed away in the life my grandmother lived. And the life my mother lives because of the belief my dad had in our products. We set up a program for him, he was one of my first clients. And a laugh at my dad. Dad never made much money as a pastor, but he was a master budgeter. And let's say the lightest, my dad, this is somebody who didn't have two nickels to rub together dad did, but he knew where both of them were all the time. And he was able to use your Ben Feldman process, and we turned pennies into dollars. He was able to budget, a life insurance policy budgeted annuities, he budgeted things that he was able to take those pennies and create dollars that that his death, my mom, she didn't have the problems that my grandmother had. She was good. She did what she wanted to do when she wanted to do what she didn't have pressure to get out and go to work. And then she was set. And it's through our products that we were able to do that.
Chris Gandy 37:19
Give us a little bit of insight on kind of what's ahead for NAIFA. I mean, you mentioned obstacles with government laws, rules, regulations, we also have that same kind of space happening at the local and state levels. We have companies changing their distribution models, it's happening in it for so many people that are listening to this. Why would you say that getting involved with NAIFA helps you kind of navigate some of those things. Again, you can't change those things. But those are things that are happening. And then where do you see NAIFA going in the future? Because for a young, aspiring superstars out there, they're like, Okay, where's this organization going? And why do I want to stay connected to this type of organization? Now, the two-prong question, sorry.
Tom Cothron 38:18
I'll use my own analysis when I started out. I mean, people don't start out in this industry, seeking out advocacy, you start out trying to figure out how do I even get this done. And then what I call you cross a bridge, cross the bridge from being in this business, to where you cross the bridge to where now this business is in you. And you've made it, you realize it's always going to be a challenging career. But now you're in at the advocacy because you understand the delicacy of what we do, and how quickly it can be affected either at the state level or the national level. And so I believe our biggest challenge continues to be communication to the street level. One of the first things I noticed when I came that first meeting back in December of 21, before I was inducted Secretary, I looked at the membership totals, and only 25% of our members were part of a chapter. 75% are in these affiliates. And if they're not getting anything from their state, or from national, they're not getting anything at all. That's our vulnerable group. And there's been a lot of effort and work trying to tweak that over the last couple of years. But we've got to somehow communicate to the street. And when I say the street, I mean the adviser on street that's maybe doesn't have the luxury of a local chapter in their area. We continue to try to work on that and improve that we've done we've made tremendous leaps and bounds and improving that and so long way to go.
Chris Gandy 39:54
So I've heard a couple of things in this call today. One participate in the process, get involved, you can't control the things that are happening around you, but control you control how you react to it. Activity is a necessity. Right. And then also, your ability to stick with it right. Obviously, you stuck with it and listen to the calling, you know, you mentioned the fact that it was the calling, you know, and they called you but it was time. So don't deny your calling when that time does come. But the one thing that sticks out to me that you said was that you can't just sit on the sidelines. Everybody's has to get involved. And you and I've said this I mean, I've said this from the stage numerous times, it's if everyone invites one person.
Tom Cothron 40:53
Reach one to reach one.
Chris Gandy 40:57
Right. The one thing if everybody brought to a conference or to NAIFA one person every year, how much more robust would NAIFA be with so many different unique opportunities and how much more people will be would be involved? So thank you for your service and your continuous effort on leading the charge for the narrative of change. We're going to move to Suzanne, do you have any other questions before we move to...
Suzanne Carawan 41:26
I was just gonna tell you it's time for the lightning round. So I think we are in sync.
Chris Gandy 41:30
Does this speed round? Yeah, you'd great buys Seiko.
Tom Cothron 41:35
Should I be nervous?
Chris Gandy 41:36
You got it? We kind of vibe together. No, this is fun.
Tom Cothron 41:40
I will say I don't get nervous that ease.
Suzanne Carawan 41:43
I take that back. As I always say when those I do have one question, Tom, what's the story on the ring? It's a killer. I want to know that your ring.
Tom Cothron 41:50
Yeah, that's a million dollar clubs. So the first year you qualify, it's a production-level club. You get the ring with the diamond in the crown. And then every year you re-qualify, you get another dime until you fill it out.
Chris Gandy 42:03
So you got yours. So yours is cool. So you got what, three rings
Tom Cothron 42:09
No that you graduate from a ring to a Rolex. So after that, yeah, so.
Suzanne Carawan 42:17
Nice, who knew. All right. Got some bling bling there. That's great.
Chris Gandy 42:22
That's awesome. Well, we have one of those rings thingies. That's kind of cool.
Tom Cothron 42:28
Probably have one of those NBA rings. I've seen a lot bigger than...
Chris Gandy 42:32
No mine's actually. It's on my desk because I just came back from one of our conferences. So I actually...
Tom Cothron 42:37
Saw that congratulations. Number one.
Suzanne Carawan 42:39
Chris Gandy 42:40
I have one with the diamonds. So it's kind of cool to kind of see it kind of go off on its own
Tom Cothron 42:47
Number one rep for one America. Congratulations.
Chris Gandy 42:49
Yeah, we're running for four years. We're trying to bring home a fifth championship here. This is like sports for me. See how many championships we can win in a row? See, to try to build a dynasty, so, was your world we just live in it. So let's move to the lightning round. Suzanne, do you have some sound effects? I don't know if you have sound effects. But, Tom, this is how this works. How it works is I'm going to ask you some questions that are just, now we know the executive board, Mr. Tom Cothron, and now we want to know, you, right. And the whole point of this is that you'll be surprised people will come up to you and say, hey, I listened to that. And when I got out of that was, I know you like sports. Like, what? That's what you got out of that. But our ability to connect with others. I heard something the other day, actually, from our conference was when I share my story, it empowers you to share yours. And so, part of this is hearing your story, which is so motivating. Every week I do this. I'm always fascinated by some of the stories. And one of the quotes I heard the other day, and I'll share with the both of you was be optimistically curious for the rest of your life. So that that's so powerful, because you're like, Yeah, I'm curious about Tom in his success, I'm curious about how to make other people success. I'm just curious how to how I can help more people. So be optimistically curious, I just think that's so interesting. So Tom, here we go. So we'll start off with some easy questions. Pretty easy, right? Again, I promise you, this is not the hot seat. We're not going to ask you questions about, you know, what you were doing when you were 17 years old? And hanging out outside in sports, you know, we're not gonna ask you that, right. But these are just going to be simple questions. That kind of gives us some insight on kind of who you are you ready? So we'll start off with the easy one. So, Tom, you mentioned sports in our conversation. What sport did you play in what position?
Tom Cothron 44:57
So I played football, baseball and by quarterback and digits and back and football and catcher in baseball.
Chris Gandy 45:07
Okay, see how easy that was? You got it. Alright, so now let's go so with that being said, your favorite sports person and I can say idol because I'm changing that narrative below what's your favorite sports person that you're like, yeah, they're a superstar.
Tom Cothron 45:30
Well, I'm a gator. Tim Tebow. What he stood for what he stands for. Yeah, that's the first that comes to mind. A guy that stood against a lot. And courageous.
Chris Gandy 45:46
Awesome, favorite food?
Tom Cothron 45:53
Anything but liver. They say to you, like so and so on. Don't look at me. Do I look like a picky eater? I love to cook.
Suzanne Carawan 46:03
And here's the thing. I mean, doesn't want to cooking.
Tom Cothron 46:06
I have an awesome summer kitchen at my house. And there's a whole story behind that. I'll share with you real quickly when my talked about the difference in my dad's my mother's life and my grandmother's like when dad passed away. I've always wanted to own a restaurant and people that went to Lilly with me know that was torn up like I had like an old restaurant one day, but I've never had a bunch of money and when we lose that's why I don't do it. But there was a concept in Ocala that I thought would be just perfect and so dad's passed away will move Mondo caliber gonna open up a like a country style breakfast a lot restaurant already had the name my grandmother's name was Annie’s, we call it miss Annie's. And I said Mom, we can read it Ocala will open his restaurant. And here's the difference in her life. And my grandmother, she thought about it for about half of a second. She said you're crazy is that I'm not coming to Ocala to run a restaurant I'm good. Well, there was a lot of satisfaction in that. And but he there was my dream of owning a restaurant because I couldn't swindle my mother into coming and do it. So anyway, my favorite food I mean, I love the barbecue. I love to cook I don't really have a favorite. I really don't.
Chris Gandy 47:18
Okay, we'll move on. So if I'm coming to your house, Tom, I'm coming to your house you're like, add again, like, I got to make this what is the one thing that you're going to me? For sure.
Tom Cothron 47:32
So one of my wife's girlfriends as a saying Tom's got the best but in Ocala she's talking about a Boston but I'm gonna put you a Boston but on the grill. And is gonna melt in your mouth. And even it's the best but in Ocala in my opinion. It's really good. So that's what I'm gonna put before you.
Chris Gandy 47:53
All right, so next question is your favorite movie.
Tom Cothron 47:57
I'm not much of a movie but I do like, so if I go to a movie, I want it to make me laugh. And I have enough stress in my real life. I don't want to be stressed out at the movies. But Oh Brother Where Art Thou? is funny to me. And in high school, a movie Young Frankenstein with Gene Wilder came out. That was the funniest movie ever. Probably most of the people that are listening don't even remember that movie. But it was just funny to us and come into our senior year in high school. We watched that several times. But that kind of movies why I enjoy, the funny stuff.
Chris Gandy 48:30
What did sports teach you about life?
Tom Cothron 48:35
Persistence, team atmosphere, being a part of a team, as a team member, fulfill your role. What you do or don't do affects everyone. But basically persistence, fortitude. Stick with it. Really, what it taught me how to compete.
Chris Gandy 49:03
How to compete. That's right. That last two questions here. If you were joining the business today, what would you tell yourself? What would you go back and tell yourself?
Tom Cothron 49:25
I've had a pretty good run. I mean, I don't know. Probably I would tell myself to buy Microsoft when it comes out and buy a lot of it.
Chris Gandy 49:33
Microsoft and Google do and hurry up. Last question. If you could go back in time and have history and have dinner with anyone whether they're passed away or they're alive now who would it be and why?
Tom Cothron 49:54
Be my granddad that I never would have got to know, the one that I don't know what kind of odd thing, the odd kind of way. He was in a negative way, the impetus for where I'm at. People say very good things about him. But I really would have liked to have gotten to know him. And he was a great guy. Just, you never knew I could church when he passed away. He's only 54. I don't you never saw him in small town, maybe nobody ever asking. Don't really know the answer. But without his experience, and hear about it over and over, maybe I wouldn't be where I'm at. I don't know. But I'd love to have gotten to know him. All I know, is what people have told me. My son's named after him, everybody. They were his name was Mr. Will, and my son's name is Will. And so pretty cool.
Chris Gandy 51:04
So with that being said, Mr. Tom, do you have anything else for our wonderful audience, our NAIFA constituents and or future NAIFA members who artless aren't here, we know we're on all different channels. So people do type in and say, listen to that.
Tom Cothron 51:22
For our Nathan, members, we need you. We need you to engage. We need you to help pull the wagon, don't write in it. And for someone thinking about joining Teddy Roosevelt said no one has the right to withhold their support from an organization advocating on their behalf. And now they're saying, we need people that are advocating for us in rooms that we're not in. And so, ask yourself, if I'm in this industry, and I'm not even a part of a professional organization, am I really in it? It's naive to think that we don't need to support those that are advocating on our behalf. And so, you know, engage, get involved, make a difference. And we need all the people at the table we can get.
Chris Gandy 52:17
Well, I'm coming to the table because I want the best button Ocala. So I'm coming to the table. Your turn for that, because I haven't want to participate. I don't want to be on the sidelines I want to participate in that beast. So I'm coming to Ocala so.
Tom Cothron 52:35
I need 24 hours’ notice.
Chris Gandy 52:38
Suzanne, do you have anything else for Mr. Tom?
Suzanne Carawan 52:42
I was just gonna say, Tom, thank you so much for serving for answering my calls saying yes, I think you're a great inspiration to so many people that are looking for that structure and that consistency and want to buy into something that you're doing as a profession, but really is a legacy. So thank you for that.
Tom Cothron 52:59
I'm also going to have been stellar in the industry and with NAIFA. Just it's a humble honor and experience for me to be doing this.
Chris Gandy 53:09
Suzanne real quick, do you just want to mention again, that Nominations are open really quickly, and then I'll close this out.
Suzanne Carawan 53:16
NAIFA Quality Awards are still open, as well as actually all of our awards are open until August 31. So please put in your nominations board or 40. Any of those types of things and if equality, we'd love to see your name up there in lights that will all announce at our National Leadership Conference this year, December 3 through fifth.
Chris Gandy 53:35
It thank all of you for participating in the podcast. We wouldn't be able till we launched this about a year and a half ago, a little over a year ago. And we're super excited. We have a great following. We want to thank our guests, Mr. Tom Cothron from the executive board so you can reach out to him and connect with him. But he mentioned in a couple of things, and I'll just highlight this before we close is that, participate in the process. You can't sit on the sidelines and expect that things will happen and things will change. And you can learn so much by observing others and their continuous commitment to the organization and activity is the cure of all odds and go see Tom if you want to get the best button Ocala. So with that being said, thanks for tuning in Advisor Today podcast where we uplift and promote the industry as a whole but ultimately, for you to make you a better advisor and a better person as a human. Thank you so much for participating. We'll see you next week. Thanks all. Thanks, Tom. We appreciate you.
Suzanne Carawan 54:44
Thank you Take care.
Thanks for joining us for NAIFA's Advisor Today podcast series. Make sure to subscribe to get future episodes. And if you're interested in coming on the show, let us know.