It didn’t take me as long or as many trips on BART to find employment this time. I made the rounds of the Montgomery Street financial district and found that there were a number of insurance companies with openings for sales people. It was easy to get interviews.
Monarch Life had a small agency at One Montgomery and the General Agent, Gary Brenzel and I hit it off right away. I was given a battery of tests which came back positive for insurance sales, except for one thing: “You’re not motivated by money.”
Gary decided to take a chance on me, put me on a training salary of $800 a month, and sent me, expenses paid, to Monarch’s home office in Springfield, Massachusetts for two weeks of training at “New Man School.” There were 30 of us from across the U.S. and we were thoroughly indoctrinated in the ‘Monarch Way’ of selling and servicing our clients who purchased long-term disability policies, which was Monarch’s primary niche. I learned many helpful sales techniques and came back to San Francisco with new enthusiasm and confidence. The ‘New Man School’, I discovered over the next few months, was really just beginning.
I worked hard at the dreaded cold-calling to get interviews. I presented our story of why every professional needed disability insurance and why Monarch was the best company to buy this from. And I continued participating in House life most evenings and on weekends. Except that insurance sales often require evening house calls. At one point Gary even decided to help a couple of us boost our productivity by financing a week-long trip to the Sacramento area to call on Monarch clients, in hopes of snagging a few upgrades to their policies or sell them life insurance. But Gary had hit the mark when he said I wasn’t motivated by money. The thing about insurance sales is, the income is directly tied to sales. You get a commission, a percentage of the premium paid, for each policy sold. So the $800 a month I was getting gradually decreased after the first two month, until it disappeared, and I was on my own.
I remember one time when Gary approached me after an agency meeting. “I’m just curious. I notice that your pay checks are endorsed over to this Order: Ecumenical. Is this some kind of religious group?” The cat was out of the bag, so I told him the story of the Institute. Gary was a pretty open guy. And this was, after all, San Francisco. He continued to be intrigued. The Institute had this network of volunteer professionals and business people, the Guardians which often held informal gatherings and hosted our celebrations at their homes. I invited Gary to one of these at a doctor’s home in Hillsborough so he could meet some of my colleagues and see that we were not an organization of religious weirdoes. He was impressed and came to me during the evening with “Now I understand.”
But alas, Gary’s insight about my money motivation was proving itself in my productivity as a Monarch agent. I believe if I had become a success he would probably have joined the Guardians. I don’t remember the exact time, sometime in late fall or early 1976, Bob Vance said “Let’s take a walk over to Uncle Gaylord’s and get an ice cream cone.” He discussed what was coming up in the next few months. The ICA was embarking on an ambitious campaign of citizen and community involvement, Community Forums. We had been engaged in establishing human development projects in villages around the world for a few years. Twelve of these were to be in small rural communities and urban neighborhoods in the U.S. 1976 was the bicentennial of our nation and the ICA had applied for and received approval of a massive citizen participation initiative called Town Meeting ’76, one-day forums in communities across the country. Bob wanted to know if I was interested in being a part of the project. As we approached the front steps of our house, having finished our ice cream cones, he said “Milan, I don’t think we can afford to have you working out any longer. It’s costing us more than you are bringing in. I think I’d like to have you work full-time on this Town Meeting campaign.”
I couldn’t wait to hand in my resignation to Gary the next day. We parted friends even though I sensed his disappointment. To add to his frustration, I had introduced Heather Brun, his office manager to the San Francisco House and she spent the next year as an intern. I lost touch with Gary but remember his generous spirit to this day.
Now to get back to what I came here for—awakening people and transforming communities!