Ted Bernstein, Co-founder, Co-owner and President, Life Insurance Concepts
Ted Bernstein remembers when the Internet bubble burst. And more important, he remembers that when it did, the world didn’t end.
The co-founder, co-owner and president of Life Insurance Concepts uses past crises as a reminder that his company can survive through tough times.
“Just at the time when you think it’s the most bleak, all of a sudden, it begins to turn around,” he says. “You have to have the vision that this is temporary.”
Bernstein stays calm through economic swings at his life insurance agency by seeking help with his decisions and by helping employees make their own. So when the credit crisis hit, his company was prepared. And thanks to his crisis survival skills, Bernstein expects Life Insurance Concepts — which
posted 2007 revenue of about $50 million — to not only survive but to flourish.
Smart Business spoke with Bernstein about how to plan for a crisis and how to deal with one when it strikes.
Plan for the worst. Being consistent in your style and your approach is critical. You want to see that the people you look to for guidance — when it is a crazy time — are just what they say they are when things are not crazy: that they’re analytical, they’re thinking things through. You get the opportunity when there is no crisis to remind them that the reason that we’re thinking this through from all angles right now — even though it doesn’t look like all angles really need to be explored — is because that’s how you think through issues.
You’ve got to assume that, at any second, the status quo can change. Have a contingency plan ready to roll. Operate your business as if a crisis going to hit you tomorrow from nowhere.
It doesn’t seem to be consistent with optimism. If you’re optimistic, why would you want to be prepared for a crisis that isn’t even looming? It’s just that discipline that you have to or else you’re going to get caught off guard. When you have a big overhead and you have 50 people depending on you, you can’t get caught off guard. You better have a plan to deal with being off guard.
Whether it be diversified sources of capital, diversified vendors, whatever your business is dependent upon to be successful, have diversified sources of it because you just never know what’s going to happen to your bank, your accounting firm, your law firm, your source of capital.
Don’t go it alone. It’s important in crisis time to collaborate. You may have to make quick decisions. You don’t have that luxury to contemplate.
I find myself jumping out of my seat and looking for the person here that I trust to collaborate with. When you’re in that situation, check your quick gut reaction against those people that you know are dependable sounding boards.
Those are people inside and outside your organization. My father [and partner, Simon Bernstein] is one of those trusted resources because he’s been through more than me. Department heads are all really knowledgeable, valuable people. Then, of course, we have outside consultants [like] our CPA.