Alan Kaye of Fidens Ventures: How We Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy
Be vigilant, The COVID-19 pandemic won’t last forever. Eventually, this will all end. The “new normal” will fade away, and we’ll go back to “business as usual.” However, somethings will never be the same. Lives have been lost, jobs obliterated, companies bankrupted — it’s going to take a while to pick up the pieces. But while the future may look bleak for small businesses, I try to uplift spirits and empower the bewildered with calming reassurances that this is the time to reevaluate, reinvent, pivot, pursue lifelong passions and find their groove.
As a part of my series about How We Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alan Kaye. Alan’s diverse business experience and network connections provided the foundation for Fidens Ventures and continues to drive the firms ongoing expansion. Alan is a New York native who graduated with a degree in Business Administration from the University of Albany. After school, he followed his dream and formed Legendary Events which orchestrated appearances, auctions, signings with Sports and Entertainment stars. This culminated into significant charitable contributions with National MS Society, Save the Children, Make a Wish, and many more philanthropic organizations. He uniquely transitioned into the financial services industry serving as a risk manager and health/group benefits consultant. Alan now applies his decades of knowledge and networking acumen to align customer specific needs with the most constructive and pragmatic financial solutions.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I am an animator/illustrator-turned nursing home operator-turned sports & entertainment business founder-turned insurance brokerage partner & philanthropist, all of which have afforded me the opportunities to experiment, pursue personal passions, develop strong skillsets across a multitude of industries, and learn more about my professional inner self. I continue to learn, grow, and remain proud of my unique perspective and adaptable skill-set I bring to any table.
My passion for connecting people, ideas, concepts and thoughts in order to see growth and change is paramount to me. My value add proposition is one of my strongest convictions. My formula is a simple one: offering individuals and business owners something way more substantive than just a mere policy quote. Heck, anyone can do that-my goal is to be a trusted consultant, resource, friend, partner and an extension of my client’s business, providing all of my colleagues and clients with the heart of a teacher and trusted advisor, not a salesperson. But it is my commitment to my family and to my community that drives me to focus and work hard.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Not sure whether this falls under funny category or mortifying. I had founded a Sports & Entertainment Marketing firm in the Mid-late 90’s, working closely with some of my childhood heroes and other celebrities. I was living the dream. I had noticed an influx of talented Japanese ballplayers joining MLB and the popularity craze surrounding them. Right then I thought that I was going to revolutionize the industry. A dear colleague had arranged a packed weekend for me of meet and greets with some of the world’s most prominent Japanese sports agents who were touring the US, showcasing and promoting their top talents. I was beyond excited and convinced this was going to be my million dollar move. Well, unfortunately things did not go as planned and I completely flubbed the opportunity in every humanly way possible. All which could have been avoided if I had done some simple preparation. The day went like this; I walked into that ballroom, pocketful of business cards and a swagger about me that I’m almost too embarrassed to admit. I would be introduced to an agent, grab their hand for a firm shake, blabber on and on as to why their talent should work with me, and then forcibly place my business card in their hands. Reluctantly, some actually gave me theirs in return, whereas I stacked it in with the others and slid it into my suit pocket. I was completely unaware of The meishi koukan, considered to be a formal introduction in Japanese culture. I had no idea that absolutely no business can begin until cards are exchanged because the exchange itself indicates the beginning of a relationship. I am mortified to think back on those times, yet I learned one of my most valuable lesson that day. One of our most influential Founding Fathers said it best; “to fail to prepare is to prepare to fail.” Benjamin Franklin. I never simply just ‘wing-it’ anymore, and haven’t done so since that athlete showcase debacle. I always have a written plan prior to any meeting. Thankfully with the internet & social media so robust with information, it is typically quite easy to do adequate research on someone or an organization prior to meeting with them for the first time.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Not one in particular, but a combination of three books have taught me lessons early on that significantly influenced my unique management style and continued business successes; Made In America by Sam Walton, The E-Myth by Michael Gerber, & The Way of the Seal by Mark Devine. All 3 of these books are about relatability, connectivity, self-awareness, compassion, listening, influence, discernment — the soft skills in business and in life that have to be developed, not acquired. I’ve gained the understanding of how to make clearer and concise decisions, improved my social skills and communicate my ideas effectively in both my business & personal lives, I’ve learned how to be conscious of my actions — something required to build stable, trustworthy and collaborative work relationships, the importance of humility, honesty, integrity, and gratitude, how to create productive habits by defining, articulating, and implementing routines. I’ve learned how to tackle difficult conversations head on and see them as an opportunity to learn about the other person’s point of view, and to try improve relationships with my family, friends and at work.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
When I think about purpose through my work I think about it through our service and how we can make the most impact. It has always been a top priority of mine to include a meaningful ‘Purpose’ driven strategy to any of my past or current ventures. Being raised in a very warm and loving home, I was always taught, at an early age of the importance to give back and help those who are less fortunate. I have carried this conviction all throughout my career. Beginning with my sports & entertainment marketing business, I learned early on how to leverage my close relationships with high-profile athletes and entertainers, have them lend their time and donate their personal items for fundraising, awareness efforts, and incentives benefitting organizations including Leukemia Lymphoma of Westchester, UJA of Westchester, The National MS Society, The Barth Syndrome Foundation, National Breast Cancer Association, Children’s Village of Westchester, The American Red Cross of Greenwich, The National Board of Realtors, The pediatric Hematology foundation of NY Cornell/Pres and many others. I have orchestrated more than 120+ fundraising events for charitable organizations of all sizes and have helped them raise more than $15,000,000 in the last twenty years.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Well, I’ve experienced many setbacks, and made attempts at new things, which didn’t work out the way that I had hoped nor planned. I fell short of my goals many times. I have been proven to be wrong more times than not, yet when I learned to view situations from opposing perspectives and empathize with other’s viewpoints, I created new opportunities for growth and expansion. I gained valuable experience, knowledge, and a greater confidence in every attempt which has continued to push me further towards where I want to be.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
We all are figuring out how to juggle working remotely, schooling from home and the overall stresses of quarantine and global uncertainty. In my family, I have to admit, that while having a 21 year old and 18 year old isn’t always the easiest, I am grateful for my kids’ relatively high levels of independence and commitment to maintaining their school and social interactions. It has afforded me the additional bandwidth I need to figure out how to navigate this new world for our family and for my clients. We are in an exciting period of transition to an economy with many more purpose-driven businesses, lead by entrepreneurs looking for ways to deliver impact as well as financial results. I would encourage everyone to think about how their company can make a difference. Dare to be different, embrace profit and purpose, and build a business that really matters.
The Covid-19 stay at home rules, the closing of physical offices and meeting spaces, the postponement of trade shows and networking events and the suspension of business travel has halted business as usual.
As we have all been experiencing, isolation has created a greater demand than ever for real social interaction. Mere networking and linking will not satisfy that demand. Neither does posting in social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and the like. The experience in those media skew more voyeuristic than truly interactive in any meaningful way. In-person meetings and networking events are stalled, and for many, networking events already were impersonal and unsatisfying, and, by definition, hit and miss. And with businesses failing, unemployment rising, work at home becoming a norm, and the future uncertain, traditional networking does not and will not satisfy the powerful human need for effective and satisfying interpersonal interaction and building business.
The pandemic has led to the emergence of a new era of personal and business communication — rather than being the exception to the rule, virtual video meeting has become the primary channel for business and personal communication. And there is every indication it is here to stay, and grow, in that role.
Myself and three of my cherished colleagues recently launched V5O (Virtual 5 O’Clock), a business membership organization founded during the pandemic that had as its mission “moving business forward.” Starting with a virtual cocktail hour each Tuesday and Thursday at 5:00 PM Eastern that offered speakers on a variety of topics relating to personal growth and growing businesses, the V5O executive team realized that more interaction, both personal and professional, was needed, and with it the need to collaborate so that no one in the V5O experience would be isolated or ignored, and that these talented members could share their skills, knowledge and experience in building business together.
Can you share a few of the biggest work-related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The Covid-19 pandemic will have far reaching effects on most business sectors, and my insurance brokerage had to pivot in real-time to continue to help our clients navigate through these turbulent times, dealing with a wide range of insurance and risk related issues.
The current situation gives rise to additional risks for my brokerage and our employees as well, bringing into sharp focus their core duties in meeting our clients’ insurance demands and needs during such unprecedented times.
My firm has been inundated with queries & claims from our clients relating to the impact of Covid-19 and the extent that the losses they are suffering are insured. Covid-19 has already impacted a large number of lines of insurance, with common queries & claims related to travel, physical damage and business interruption and/or contingency insurance.
In addition to the challenges we are facing face in dealing with insurance claims, we are also quite mindful of potential risks associated with advising our clients moving forward. We are fortunate that many of our employees worked from home and remotely pre-covid-19 which inevitably lead to an almost seamless period of adjustment for our brokerage to go virtual.
Our Fidens employees who work from home on a regular basis already know the drill, but some of our employees who are not used to telecommuting were entering an environment that’s emotionally stressful and could potentially cause major internal issues for our brokerage.
Most, if not all of our correspondence has taken place over electronic platforms, rather than face to face meetings. We’ve had to train and in-service our teams on new protocols and procedures for working remotely. One leading concern for our brokerage when the Pandemic hit was a host of cybersecurity issues, including concerns over the security of our workers’ personal computers and vulnerability to phishing attacks. In addition, data lines may be strained as the number of staffing corporate systems remotely surges. We worked closely around the clock during the onset of the pandemic to reinforce the need for employees working from home to follow best cyber-practices, including implementing two-party authentication; assuring all internal systems have the latest security updates and patches; employees back up their data; and that they are warned about the proliferation of phishing scams as cyber criminals try to turn the crisis to their advantage.
The Covid-19 pandemic comes against a backdrop of a hardening insurance market for some lines of business, such as professional indemnity. The fallout from Covid-19 may lead to a further hardening of the market in some areas, or restricted cover for particular risks. Again, a decrease in capacity and greatly increased rates in some areas underline the needs for brokers to leave more time to deal with the clients’ renewals.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
This is a really challenging time for families. Parents are experiencing a sudden change in their lives and routines — and are having to balance children being home full time alongside jobs, employment and health worries, financial concerns and care for vulnerable family members. This is inevitably going to feel stressful at times — and my mantra to my family, loved ones and to my work-family is, it’s okay if things don’t always feel okay at the moment.
We’ve all experienced sudden changes in our lives and routines — and we’re living with lots of uncertainty about the current crisis and what the post pandemic landscape will look like. For some, the coronavirus pandemic may also worsen or trigger anxieties they were already struggling with.
First and foremost, as parents of a 21 year old and 18 year old,, we’ve tried to keep as many regular routines as possible to maintain and assure stability in our home.
From the onset, my wife and I began to speak regularly with my two children about what’s going on. To simply check in on how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking about, let them know it’s okay to feel scared or unsure, and try to answer their questions and reassure them in an appropriate manner relating to a 21 and 18 year old. We’ve had professional therapists work with both kids to help them to reflect on how they’re feeling and encourage them to think about the things they can do to make them feel safer and less worried.
We constantly reassure them that this will pass, that we are there for them, and that we will all get through this together. Whether it’s a family puzzle, board game reading, painting or cooking a family meal together, any / all of these activities have helped reassure them and reduce their anxiety.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
There is no doubt that the current pandemic situation with COVID-19 is changing our world. Not only are our daily routines shifting, but so is the way that most consumers view businesses. Ways of doing business have had to change and adapt quickly. This sets the stage for significant enhancements, innovations, and emerging business trends. Things will never be quite the same in our world, so we are implementing many different new ways to communicate, transact and stay relevant while leading the way when we get back to business as ‘normal.’
While nearly every business has been impacted in one way or another, the businesses who are smart, agile, and creative will win and emerge as new business opportunities in a post-pandemic world.
Medical — Telehealth, insurance, personal protective equipment and other medical supplies, and pharmaceuticals (like vaccines) have been hot topics throughout the pandemic, meaning that innovative solutions here that protect us from future outbreaks are in high demand.
Financial — From lending and online banking to digital payment platforms and blockchain, the way we bank and use money has been forever altered.
Education — With schools and universities across the country moving all classes online, this field is ripe for the picking.
Personal/Home Goods — Home sanitization practices and products will continue to be needed, as well as home delivery services, home fitness solutions, online shopping, and online dating platforms.
Food and Beverage — We’ve had to change the way we eat, meaning that restaurants, coffee shops, food delivery services, liquor stores, and grocers have also had to adapt.
IT/Technology — One of the most affected industries, technology has been highlighted during this pandemic. Cyber and data security, computer hard- and software solutions, AI to replace human face-to-face interactions, VOIP services, digital signatures, and video conferencing platforms have had to meet significantly increased demand. This also means that the backend of the internet, IT services (like SAAS solutions), and computing infrastructure (like the cloud) has had to step up as well.
Entertainment — Being quarantined means that we’ve streamed, read, gamed, video chatted, shopped online, and relied on media outlets more than ever before. Advancements in this area are a welcome reprieve from social distancing.
Entrepreneurial/Business — As businesses rush to respond to the changing environment, innovative support solutions like online/affiliate marketing, outsourcing, and creative HR and employment fixes will be required.
Communications — Never before have we had to communicate like we are now! This new landscape is wide open to new ways for humans to connect.
Manufacturing — Hands-off processes like 3D printing and dropshipping have never been more important!
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
Our new ways of interacting with each other — salutes instead of handshakes, video chats instead of conference-room huddles — are also likely to stick to some degree. The old social norm of shaking hands, hugs, fist bumps and close proximity chats are evolving as I write this.
But what lingers most after a pandemic, or any large-scale catastrophe, is a pervasive sense that the world is fundamentally unpredictable — that life feels more fragile than it once did.
Following a disaster, the tendency to believe that a threat is imminent may be magnified in some people.
Those with more obsessive personalities, become hyper-avoidant in an attempt to construct a smaller, safer world for themselves.
In the wake of COVID-19, certain hygenic habits we’ve adapted will likely stick around for years to follow. Our vigilance to disinfecting surfaces will most probably continue as well. Our ways of socially interacting with each other will consist of salutes instead of handshakes, video chats instead of conference-room meetings — commuting on mass transit will be second guessed. Far less people will travel for leisure or work. Consumers will buy a lot less in the aggregate, and shift their buying to online channels. Elderly Americans have adopted online shopping for the first time. There will be fewer restaurant outings, continued increase in grocery shopping, fewer spa treatments and massages, more eSports & video games, fewer movies in theaters, more streaming video, and no live in-person concerts. Americans will cut corners and become frugal, many from necessity, and some from personal choice. Paradoxically, the savings rate will increase, as the recession takes hold and unemployment increases.
Past pandemics have resulted in major governmental shifts. After British colonial authorities failed to protect India from the worst of the 1918 flu pandemic, the population’s distain helped fuel the Indian independence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi. It’s possible that fighting the coronavirus will inspire this kind of unity-seeking in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Moving forward in 2020 and beyond, one of two things will happen in a post-pandemic world. A vaccine will be available and be widely administered to Americans (much like a flu vaccine) or before that, collectively, we will achieve herd immunity to then-current strains of COVID-19. Here are three predictions for consumer behavior in the post-COVID-19 era.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
The Covid-19 pandemic brings insurance brokers’ duties and obligations into sharp focus, both in terms of dealing with existing queries from their clients and the advice they provide on future renewals. To protect ourselves from the risk of claims, my Team needs to be carefully considering the practical and commercial implications of the pandemic on our clients.
Brokers are likely to find themselves advising more clients in relation to protecting against similar events and it is crucial that brokers are able to advise on the difference in terms and cover that may be available for a particular client. They will also need to be aware that there may be increased scrutiny on policyholders from insurers and a tightening of some wordings, together with a reduced capacity in certain lines.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Be vigilant, The COVID-19 pandemic won’t last forever. Eventually, this will all end. The “new normal” will fade away, and we’ll go back to “business as usual.”
However, somethings will never be the same. Lives have been lost, jobs obliterated, companies bankrupted — it’s going to take a while to pick up the pieces. But while the future may look bleak for small businesses, I try to uplift spirits and empower the bewildered with calming reassurances that this is the time to reevaluate, reinvent, pivot, pursue lifelong passions and find their groove.
The choice is theirs, I ask, “Will you rebuild and come out stronger than ever?” Or will you wallow in “what could have been” and sink further into the coronavirus mire?”
I remind them, they’re not alone. The coronavirus crisis has impacted businesses big and small, industries near and far, citizens rich and poor. No country has escaped unscathed. Everyone is recovering and licking their wounds.
I’ve shared these tips with many of my clients, colleagues and friends:
If your small business is desperate for some cash to stay afloat, consider the SBA Coronavirus resource center.
Due to COVID-19, most small business plans have become outdated aspirations. If the pandemic has rendered their gives obsolete (or if you never had one in the first place), it’s time to start fresh.
If you laid off employees to keep the business from going under, it’s time to rebuild your staff. You’re going to need to find, hire, train, and retain a new team. You’ll likely be able to get previous members of your staff back, but some will have moved on. It’ll take money, and it won’t happen overnight, but you’ll eventually rebuild your team.
Be ready to reactivate your marketing campaigns and execute your communications strategy. Communicate by email, text message, social media, blog posts, physical signs on your storefront, flyers — anything and everything to keep your customers updated.
A big step in rebuilding your business will be reclaiming your loyal clients. You’ll need this predictable income to sustain your business’s recovery. Make your customers one of your top priorities.
Once businesses return to work, there will be the need to restock the shelves and rebuild inventory.
Keep in mind that customers have likely been going without your product or service for weeks or months now. When your doors reopen, there may be an initial influx as customers stock up on goods they’ve missed out on. To avoid turning away clients, there will be the need to make sure you have sufficient stock from the get-go.
Most businesses learned how to get lean, cut costs, and operate on the bare minimum during this crisis. Once doors reopen, continue with that frugal mindset and watch profit margins soar.
Many businesses had to step out of their comfort zones and offer revolutionary services to stay afloat. Now, they’ve proven they’re capable of adjusting on the fly and can provide out-of-the-box solutions. They should continue to do so to remain diversified!
We need to remember the lessons learned. What went well? What didn’t? What do we regret? What are we grateful for? What would we do differently next time?
Record the lessons learned from this pandemic.
And most importantly, It’s easy to think things couldn’t get worse, but the harsh reality is that they can. Things can get much worse.
Take this opportunity to start preparing for the next disaster.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
If there is not the war, you don’t get the great general; if there is not a great occasion, you don’t get a great statesman; if Lincoln had lived in a time of peace, no one would have known his name.”
– Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States & former Army Colonel
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Alan M. Kaye
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