10 Celebrities Who Worked in the Insurance Industry Before Making it Big (You'll Never Guess #9)
If you know anything about insurance sales or sales work of any kind, then you know that being successful in sales requires qualities that will make you successful in other areas.
It means making phone calls or knocking on doors until you get a lead. (And a great insurance website, of course!)
It means learning how to read people well enough to know when or if you can make a close.
These traits can also be found in people who having become celebrities. And, some of these people started by selling insurance. Let’s take a look at some of the celebrities, ranging from reality stars to rock stars to famous chefs, who sold insurance during their lifetimes, or in one or two cases their entire lifetimes.
If you love the novels of Tom Clancy, or more likely all the cool movies and video games derived from his novels, then you should thank the insurance industry. Like many English majors who loved the written word and reading, Clancy needed a real job in order to take care of his wife and, eventually, four children. But, unlike other celebrities who dabbled in insurance Clancy, who died in 2013, was really good at selling insurance. In fact, he ended up buying his wife’s grandfather’s insurance agency back in 1980. As a manager he probably had more control of his time and it allowed him to finish the first draft of his first book “The Hunt for Red October”. And, if you’re thankful for all those Jack Ryan CIA adventures, back when Russia was the enemy, you should also be thankful that Clancy was good at selling car, fire and casualty insurance. Great chance that without the one you wouldn’t have gotten the other.
Who wouldn’t be jealous of George Clooney? He has a beautiful wife and twins born within the last month He’s been in countless fantastic movies and television shows. Oh, and just the other day he concluded a $1 billion deal by selling off his tequila business. If only this guy could catch a break.
However, it wasn’t always like that! When he talks about the early hard scrabble years he talks about how he used to work as a door to door insurance salesman, which probably came in handy when auditioning for roles. In an interview with the Evening Standard he said doing a difficult job like selling insurance door to door, gave him humility. Unfortunately, like a lot of his earlier jobs, he wasn’t able to keep it. Or, as he retells the tale, the one commission he received for selling a life insurance policy “…the guy died”.
You could argue that reality television has its limitations. You will find people who seem obsessed with their looks and starting fights with each other. That would certainly describe the Real Housewives performances of Vicki Gunvalson. However, Ms. Gunvalson, like a lot of people who appear on reality TV, is a very successful insurance agent.
Her other job is running an insurance company. And, if you’re in the insurance business she actually has ideas that might help your enterprise Check out her interview about her approach to how she does insurance (Pitching 30 people about your product as opposed to one.) or this very well done ad about her various insurance websites. You get the idea that she uses the reality show to leverage her insurance business, where she probably makes more money than she makes on the show. As you can see there much more to Vicki Gunvalson than the uncensored version of Real Housewives or wondering if she’s lying about Brook, whoever that is..
Evel Knievel, known for his motorcycle stunts,, managed to break just about every bone in his body either doing stunts or motorcycle racing. This meant that he occasionally needed time off just to recover from his injuries. And, after breaking his collarbone and shoulder in a motocross accident, Evel, born Robert Craig Knievel Jr. in 1938, decided to try his hand at insurance sales in 1962. As a professional showman and entertainer he did pretty well.
What’s most interesting about Evel’s short stint selling insurance is how it also turned around his approached to his life. While selling insurance, Evel read “The Success System That Never Fails”, co-written by his bosses W. Clement Stone with Napoleon Hill. Evel , credits that book with changing his life for the better. Positive thinking, the focus of the book, helped Evel sell insurance for the Combined Insurance and helped him get back up after breaking both legs in a motorcycle accident gone wrong.
Poet Wallace Stevens
Poet Wallace Stevens is probably one of the greatest poets the United States ever produced. He wrote his poetry while working full time as an insurance executive. In fact, if you look up Stevens’ biography, you might be forced to conclude that he was a full time insurance man who wrote exceptional poetry on the side.
There is some indication that he loved his insurance job so much that he turned down a faculty position at Harvard. Perhaps he thought another routine would interfere with his creative process. He often came up with his poetry — including Harmonium, Two Figures in Dense Violet Light, The Man Whose Pharynx Was Bad,Tea at the Palaz of Hoon. Hymn from a Watermelon Pavilion)— while walking the two miles from his home to his office.
So if you remember the lines:
“Let the lamp affix its beam. The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.”
you should thank one of the many insurance companies in Connecticut, located in Hartford. Insurance wasn’t a way station for Stevens to do something else. Selling insurance was the destination and integral to his process.
NFL Quarterback Tommy Maddox
Tommy Maddox, quarterback with Pittsburgh Steeler until Big Ben Roethlisberger replaced him after an awful career ending arm injury, is one of many professional football players who also sell insurance either off season or post career.
The average football career only lasts three years so it makes sense to figure out what you want to do next.
The insurance business is based on relationships and professional athletes have a ton of those. Maddox, who had briefly found himself out of the league became a full time insurance broker. He went back to selling insurance after his comeback attempts failed. Other football players who have made the transition from the gridiron to the grid office include: Dennis Havig, Emmet Johnson, and Lincoln Kennedy.
Anne Rice, prolific horror writer whose books first introduced us to the idea of the sensuous vampire, also found herself making her way in this world as a member of the insurance industry.
Ms. Rice wasn’t in sales but worked as a claims processor. She took the job to help pay her way when she moved from New Orleans, the appropriately dark setting of many of her horror novels, to San Francisco. In an interview with US News and World Report, Ms. Rice admits that she wished she didn’t have to work odd jobs like selling insurance just to survive because it took away from her study time.
If you read the many online bios of Colonel Harland David Sanders, three things strike you immediately.
First: He clearly spent most of his life doing the toughest kind of cold calling – door to door insurance sales.
Second: The skills he learned as a very serious cold calling insurance agent sales machine in Indiana. These skills were invaluable to later selling the Colonel Sanders brand throughout the country, where he had to use those same cold calling skills to sell the franchise.
Third: It’s never too late to succeed. At 65, with just his savings and his monthly social security check, Mr. Sanders started the KFC franchise, even sleeping in his car to close deals. In addition to selling insurance, Mr. Sanders was a lawyer, a military veteran who was actually designated as a Kentucky Colonel.
So, if you’ve ever struggled in insurance sales and are wondering “I bet I would do better in sales if I was a famous celebrity.” Then, wonder no more and let us tell you the Gene Simmons story.
The former Kiss band member and sometimes reality TV personality guy is now a fully-fledged insurance executive. A friend thought that Gene would be a great pitchman for his insurance business, which specializes in long term estate planning. You can find Gene talking up his insurance websites at various places on Youtube.
Steve Harvey, the host of Family Feud and several other shows, has done quite well in the entertainment industry. Like many celebrities he had some hard times struggling to survive that included periods of homelessness where he was living in his car. It was during those struggling years that he took a job selling life insurance. Harvey said he was very good at closing insurance policies but hated the follow up, according to a story on LinkedIn. Needless to say, Mr. Harvey no longer has to sell insurance or worry about delivering the policies. Also, these days everything is completed online!
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