Jimmy McMillan is an entrepreneur and the Owner of Heart Life Insurance, a high-risk, online insurance agency licensed coast to coast. Heart Life Insurance is the only company of its kind that specializes in insurance for good people with heart problems. He knows personally how difficult it is to secure health and life insurance after a heart attack.
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Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Jimmy McMillan: Growing up my family had heart issues on both sides. As a financial professional, I knew personally how difficult it was to secure health and life insurance once these cardiac risks were known because most insurance companies prefer younger clients with no health issues at all. As I found success for clients over time, I started to journal about it and participate in social media groups related to heart risks. Eventually, these question and answer sessions became heartlifeinsurance.com, and as more clients continued to find us we built the nation’s only high-risk insurance agency focusing on clients with cardiac risks.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your view point, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Jimmy McMillan: I think entrepreneurs are made and they are made through their early life experiences and their passions. When I’m referring to early life experiences I’m referring to childhood through early education, in the schoolroom, and on the playground, on the sports teams, and around the dinner table. Life experiences develop skills to manage uncertainty, harness imagination, develop resilience, and look creatively for growth. It’s natural that parents shape these early influences on entrepreneurship, so to me, that explains why parents of entrepreneurs are typically successful business owners themselves.
The second thing that makes an entrepreneur is their passions. An entrepreneur will fail quickly if they don’t feel passionate about what they are doing. The road to success is too hard; a tremendous amount of passion is the well an entrepreneur will return to time and time again when the journey is rough.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Jimmy McMillan: Problem solver. Collaborator. Servant to our clients and our community.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Jimmy McMillan: We work with clients that have cardiac issues and help them secure life insurance to protect their families. It began as a face-to-face operation with lots of travel, countless conversations in living rooms all over the Southeastern U.S.
Over time we have leveraged the telephone and internet to serve more clients and more families, and today we rarely see a client in person. Everything we do is virtual, online, or over the phone.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Jimmy McMillan: An entrepreneur must assume absolute responsibility for the successes and failures of their customers and their business. If the customers’ successes are not aligned with the entrepreneur’s successes, that is a business destined to fail.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Jimmy McMillan: I assumed that being an entrepreneur meant having more time freedom, meaning there was no ‘boss’ telling me where to go or when to be there. The truth was exactly the opposite in the beginning. For me, being an entrepreneur meant always working and never being ‘off,’ taking client calls, and sending emails late into the night.
In the beginning, I never realized the value of disconnecting from work. Now I have a much better work-life balance, and I counsel my employees on how to achieve a similar balance in their lives as well.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain
Jimmy McMillan: If I could go back in time and give myself three pieces of advice, it would be to focus more on cash flow, hire my first employee sooner, and prioritize return on time versus return on investment. For cash flow, I spent too much money in the beginning before I made it, and I didn’t use tools like credit to add an additional 30 days to my flow-through. Cutting spending and using credit to my advantage really helped with cash flow.
I also made the mistake of doing too much non-revenue producing work, so life became much easier when I hired someone else to help with those administrative tasks. I shifted my focus elsewhere and was now able to build the business better. In hindsight, I should have hired my first employee much sooner than I eventually did.
Finally, in the beginning, I was obsessed with return on investment (ROI) as it related to my marketing efforts. Though this led to some great profit and loss numbers, I found I could make more revenue if I focused on marketing that needed less of my time to achieve the result. By focusing on this return on time (ROT) versus ROI, I was able to drive double-digit revenue and profitability growth. I wish I would’ve had this focus sooner!
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Jimmy McMillan: Here are three pieces of terrible advice: “Don’t be too personal on social media,” “Don’t talk to your customers,” and “Sell your customers, you are the expert.”
I think all of this advice comes from the past when customers didn’t have as much information as they do today. Considering that today’s consumer has the world’s knowledge right in their smartphone, they no longer need an “expert.” The customer wants to feel like the “expert,” and they want a direct personal connection to a company that can solve their problems.
Once I shrugged off this bad advice, customer interaction became much more emotional, leading to higher customer satisfaction and a deeper relationship with our clients.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Jimmy McMillan: I think COVID-19 has changed our work environments and entrepreneurs need to prepare their teams to work remotely. If not another pandemic, then there could be something else that forces us to work outside of the normal office setting and entrepreneurs should be ready.
What has not changed is that most customers still want a personal connection, even if it is not face-to-face.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Jimmy McMillan: I think would-be business owners spend too much time at the beginning on unnecessary things, like branding, logos, business cards, and the like. This is superficial and it takes away from the real work that needs to be done. The intent and focus should be on the customer, the customer’s needs, and if your company can solve their problems.
A fancy website and an office with a game room can wait; prospective entrepreneurs need to put the customers first and tailor their solutions to their customers’ desires. If the customer is not willing to buy what you are selling, then the perfect branding, website, or logo is not going to change that.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Jimmy McMillan: I mentioned this before, but the first quality has to be a passion for the project and the customers you are serving. Without that passion for your business, the company is doomed before it begins.
The next trait is self-confidence. Having self-confidence in yourself and your abilities will go a long way towards success, but self-confident entrepreneurs are also more likely to ask for help. An entrepreneur will need others to assist in their journey, and it takes confidence to ask for that assistance when needed.
Finally, empathy is extremely important for any would-be business owner. Initially, empathy helps an entrepreneur understand the customer and their problems so the company can best serve that customer. Once the company begins to grow, the business owner needs to empathize with the other members of their team to keep the employees happy and engaged. I think the empathy of the business owner, especially in a small company, is crucial to that company’s success.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Jimmy McMillan: To prepare for the challenges of business ownership, the best thing prospective entrepreneurs can do is to save their money before they start. Most businesses fail due to cash flow early on, and there are always growing pains at the onset of business ownership. By having an ample amount of money saved, the entrepreneur can navigate those challenges and still keep the business afloat.
I don’t think a person can anticipate the challenges of entrepreneurship through reading a book or website. These challenges have to be expected and experienced, and the business owner with cash reserves will still be in business once the challenges subside.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Jimmy McMillan: I’d still be an entrepreneur, just in a different industry. If not for my current company, I’d probably own a tiki-style bar somewhere in the Caribbean… and I still may one day!
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Jimmy McMillan: James Cash Penny – founder of the JC Penny department store. I think in an era of tycoons he stands apart for his dedication to the ‘golden rule,’ and treating others the way he would want to be treated. He even named his first store “The Golden Rule.” He fostered entrepreneurship amongst his employees, trained and paid them well, and gave most of his personal wealth to charity.
I greatly look up to his example, and–though his story isn’t as well known as other tycoons–he would be a great addition to Mount Rushmore.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Jimmy McMillan for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Jimmy McMillan or his company, you can do it through his – Twitter
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