Ron Berg is all in on helping drive accelerated, effective technology workflow improvements for independent agents and brokers. He believes in the focus and mission of ACT (the Agents Council for Technology), a program within IIABA, wholeheartedly.
More than 20 years ago, Ron got his start in the insurance industry as part of a mainframe programming team at St. Paul Companies. Over the years he has done many jobs, including mainframe and LAN programming, PC and tech support, project management, team leadership and management, agency workflow analysis, and competitive intelligence.
For Ron, the biggest draw to the insurance industry is helping people and connecting them to solutions. I talked with Ron to learn more about how he works and stays on top of his to-do list.
Forest Lake, MN - a rural area northeast of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro.
Executive Director of ACT (the Agents Council for Technology).
What do you like most about your job?
There are so many great aspects that it's hard to say just one thing. I guess overall, I love bringing people together - the best and brightest - who have a passion to improve our distribution channel, and effecting real change to help agents help our customers. It gets said a lot, but it's true. Our industry has the absolute best people anywhere.
One word that describes how you like to work.
Current mobile device:
Samsung Galaxy S6 (moving to the S6 Edge soon). Android over iPhone any day!
Microsoft Surface Pro 3. Can't wait for the Surface Pro 4!
Project(s) you're currently working on:
Strategic Future Issues: Working to ensure our industry stays on top of coming tech trends.
eSignature: This group is focused on improving agent workflow and driving carriers to accept agent eSignature solutions that meet UETA and ESIGN laws.
Security Issues: Providing agents and brokers with resources to address the top security needs for them and their clients.
Customer Experience: Mapping all technology touchpoints that consumers expect to provide our industry with a roadmap to make sure we're providing those.
Small Commercial Rating: Bringing key representatives together to provide consistency, improved workflow, and more applications in place for agents and brokers.
Accomplishments you're proud of:
With my previous company, MetLife Auto & Home, it was providing insights to assist with their technology strategy. With ACT, it's when a really solid resource is created. Two great examples are the Security Issues Pocket Guide and Customer Experience Journey Recommendations.
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
Start up new ACT Work Groups to address emerging issues, such as the Changing Nature of Risk, and a renewed focus on mobile. Double the number of agents and brokers who take advantage of ACT as a FREE technology resource. Increase ACT's video and podcast offerings, and begin a redesign of our ACT website.
What does a typical day look like for you?
No such animal! Every day is a bit unique. But in general, up around 5:45 am, at my desk by 6:15, review daily plan, address some emails, meeting and work groups throughout the day, try to work out over lunch, and toward the end of the day re-check email and plan for the following day. The minute I can step away from work, I'm outside no matter what the weather is. It's my way of regenerating.
Aside from your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why?
For work, it's very simply my wireless headset. It gives me the freedom I need to move around while still connected.
From a personal standpoint, it's my Vexilar fishing sonar. The technology has advanced so much the detail is incredible. Yet I still manage to have tough days of fishing.
What technology, apps or tools can't you live without?
For in-conferences, it's Poll Everywhere and Prezi. For travel, it has to be my airlines app and Waze or Uber.
What's the most recent app you've downloaded but have yet to use?
Arcus. It's basically like Waze for weather. You can drill down to your exact location.
Describe your workspace.
Try to keep it clean. Surface Pro 3 as a mini monitor, driving two 24' main monitors. Wireless keyboard and mouse, Office Jet printer used mostly for scanning. I do have some folders, as I take better notes with a pen than in Word, but I try to keep it to a minimum.
How do you manage your to-do list?
One big Excel file. It all gets logged with columns for project or task name, priority, due date, and comments. It's a pain, but it has saved me many times.
What are your biggest professional challenges?
Email! Being I'm a resource for all our member carriers, vendors, agents, etc., as well as 50 state associations and various user groups - My inbox overfloweth.
What's your best time-saving tip or hack?
Use Outlook filters and flags for critical incoming email. Check email only at specific times, not getting dragged in every time a new mail flag pops up.
What is your best everyday habit?
Ending one day with a plan, then starting the next day reviewing that plan. Helps with focus and minimizes stress.
What do you listen to while working?
Depends upon the focus needed. If I need to throw myself into an article, document, or create something, I'll have smooth jazz or new age playing as ambient noise. To keep cranking, I usually tune into '70's on 7' on Sirius XM. I used to hate disco in high school, but now (most of it) is fun to listen to.
What are you currently reading?
'Shadow Divers' by Robert Kurson, 'How To Create A Mind' by Ray Kurzweil, and 'So Young, Brave, and Handsome' by Leif Enger.
How do you decompress?
The outdoors (working, hiking, ice fishing, hunting, camping), playing guitar (loud electric or quiet acoustic as mood dictates), and being with my wife and grandkids. And music has to be playing no matter where I am.
What's your sleep routine like?
Pretty routine, actually. In bed by 9:30, up by 5:45. I wish I could say that it's solid sleep ALL the time, but...
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Knowing I have people to help, and that we're making a difference.
What is your motto or personal mantra?
Use every minute of today the best way you can to improve. Don't have to look back and regret.
If you could switch jobs with someone, who would it be?
Dave Genz. He is a true pioneer and has lived the life he wanted while creating new tools and tech for enthusiasts. That's all I'll say. Google him if you want to know more.
Who would you like to see in a future This is the Way post?
Jim Armitage, Jay Byrnes, Rick Morgan, Steve Anderson
The This is the Way blog series asks ITC employees, agents, carriers and other people in the industry how they work and to share their tips. Is there someone you want to see featured or questions we should ask? Tweet us or leave it in the comments below.
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