By MICHAEL G. MANES
Manes and Associates
From WDSU News today (5/17/2021), former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer has died at the age of 77, according to a statement issued by his family. Roemer, initially a Democrat who switched to the Republican Party, served as the state’s governor from March 1988 to January 1992.
According to the National Governor’s Association, Roemer is credited with balancing the state budget for three years, increasing teacher pay, strengthening the Department of Environmental Quality to enforce environmental laws, and toughened the laws on campaign finance. His campaign, dubbed the “Roemer Revolution,” was perhaps best remembered for his vows to “scrub the budget” and “brick up the top three floors” of the Department of Education building. (KXLY)
Roemer came in third in his 1991 campaign, losing to Edwin Edwards and David Duke, who were considered controversial candidates at the time of the election.
Buddy Roemer was very intelligent, driven, connected, and powerful. I got to know him after he served as governor. Buddy had built and was leading a new bank in Baton Rouge. He had a supportive, ambitious, and influential board. Members of the board were committed to be the future in their regional marketplace.
Aubrey Temple, a member of his bank board and an owner of one of the largest independent agencies in the state, was the ultimate entrepreneur and a significant influence on Buddy. He convinced Buddy to open an agency in his bank. Based upon Aubrey’s recommendation, Buddy engaged me to facilitate the process. I had experience in bancassurance.
The first time we met he enthusiastically shared his vision. In one of our next meetings, he asked my opinion. I responded, “How big are your b***s?
He rocked back in his chair and said, “What the hell does that mean?”
I responded, “What happened when you tried to brick up the top three floors of the Department of Education?”
He responded, “The bureaucrats damn near destroyed me.”
I speculated that the pushback he would get from his professional bank team when he suggested that they get involved with insurance would be as bad as or worse than that of his state education department “civil servants.” He laughed and said, “Our bankers are different.”
I handed him a two-page questionnaire/survey for each of his bank officers and key employees to complete, so we could determine each individual’s starting point and readiness for this venture. This survey was needed before we could commence our efforts.
He would call me every week or two to check on the status of our project. I would respond that I needed the survey from his bankers before I could offer a plan. He’d vent his frustrations and promise the surveys would be forthcoming. After about six weeks, he called and asked for my plan and I, again, asked for the survey. Buddy exploded, “Dammit, they won’t give them to me.”
In my opinion, this is and remains the cultural difference between many bankers and insurance agents. The cultural difference was Buddy’s challenge.
Traditionally customers have gone to their bank to beg for a loan. For the most part, insurance agents go to their customers and prospects and beg for a chance to write their business. The difference in these industries has not been technology or regulatory; it is cultural. Who begs whom?
The new unknown today is: Will place-based, agencies/banks be utilized or will everything be done in cyberspace? Who will be in charge, clients/consumers or their intermediaries? What will be the marketplace cultures of tomorrow? Will there even be intermediaries?
By some definitions, culture is:
-“It (culture) is that distinctive constellation of beliefs, values, work styles, and relationships that distinguish one organization from another.” (Diagnosing Organizational Culture, Roger Harrison and Herb Stokes, 1992)
-“Quite simply, culture is created by what is tolerated. … Your current processes are perfectly designed to get the results they are already getting.” (David Balestracci, Quality Digest Management)
-“Culture is the house rules.” (MGM)
In my opinion, to change the culture, you must change the people: Fire everyone and start all over again with new folks. Or change the people: Work with each individual until you get them to work enthusiastically with everyone else on a shared vision and plan.
We need to not merely adjust to the marketplace as it exists today, we must venture out with a purpose and a plan, process, products and people that are right for tomorrow. Nobody said it will be easy. Remember, the greater the risk, the greater the reward.
“The greatest risk is not taking one!” (AIG Annual Report)
MICHAEL G. MANES is the owner of Manes and Associates, a New Iberia-based consulting business. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 337-577-3885.