Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Emulating Qualy

John Qualy was, and likely still is, a preppy guy. I am guessing he has fraternity roots, coming from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He started in the insurance business there in 1971, and, according to his web site, moved his family to St. Louis in 1986, on track to become the managing partner for Northwestern Mutual in downtown St. Louis. His is probably the most recognizable name in Life insurance in the area, because of his commitment to recruitment and training.

I was intrigued by John Qualy for many reasons. First, the guy dressed impeccably and he was fit for his age of 45 or so. He wore white or oxford blue shirts, paisley suspenders, the ones that either matched or complimented his tie and those were usually paisley, yellow or red. He had a style like no other, as all American as you can get, charismatic. I am sure he had to be. The insurance industry is one that requires charisma. Buzz words from the website include: entrepreneur, impact, values, commitment, independence.

Johns shtick was to canvass the fraternities and sororities at Mizzou, recruiting candidates as financial network representatives. Upon graduation he would bring them to St. Louis for training and motivation, sifting through the possibilities of a career in the business, motivating them to the point of exhaustion. I have bumped in to many a Northwestern Mutual representative through the years, some still in the business, others not. The one thing in common was their assessment of John Qualy's style and method of "working the numbers" on recruitment and training into an industry that simply is not for everyone. Johns style is like no other, as enigmatic as one can imagine. For the short time that I knew him, I was captivated by his ability to attract, motivate, hire and retain the best for his business. It was his magic.

Every Friday at the Media Club he would host a luncheon. There would be a table of 9 or 10 young men and women, mostly men. They were all dressed alike, interview suit navy blue or dark gray. I would meet and greet John and his group as they came off the elevator,

I would say: "Hello Mr. Qualy, a pleasure to see you again sir". He would say something like: "Ralph, how the heck is that baby or yours, is Janie feeling better? I can't wait to see pictures".

His warmth would resonate to the recruits- that which was designed to loosen things up a bit, give indication of his ability to take in the lay people, his fellow man, important to how he wanted to present his character, his endeavor. However, this environment of mutual respect and warmth was genuine. His concern for his fellow man would always kick start a subconscious emulative process for the recruits. One that would carry through the entire meal and sometimes on to a lengthy career.

It was funny the way the candidates looked up to and rose to his level of character. By the end of the week the young men were often seen wearing the same type of paisley suspenders and red or yellow ties. John would roll his sleeves up to his forearm at lunch, giving the appearance that he was approachable in conversation, open to possibilities. The recruits would follow suit. His stable of young graduates would all "get it" by lunchtime on Friday at the Media Club. They had adapted without knowing, to his style, his body language and his method of personal communication--that which made for good financial recruitment amongst the insurable community.

Emulation is important when embarking on something new. It could be that early on in a business dining environment, there is an uncomfortable moment or feeling that you are just not good enough. Think of your heroes, those whom you most admire and have been the most successful in what they do. Think about their confidence, their body language and style. Take from them those items that are most suitable for you, within your ability to manage and use without over engineering. Often you won't even know you are emulating a subject, as with John and the recruits who were eating out of his hand by dessert time.

Identify the culture of your situation and consider that which is most appropriate. John would often go against the grain of the culture at the Media Club. Instead of conforming to what was often a stiff and formal environment, he sat in the bar area with his group of recruits, making them feel a little more like themselves, where he could take his jacket off and role his sleeves up to his forearm, where he could form opinions on those whom he had surrounded himself.


dosrider said...

4:09 AM - Ralph you need to get some more sleep....

Anonymous said...

I'm new around here, seems like a cool place though. I'll be around a bit, more of a lurker than a poster though :)
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