The Constant is Change – Michelle Hensley

“Everything is sales.” – Morgan Housel, Author, Same as Ever

Discipline, focus, setting goals, working hard. We could end the story right here when it comes to being successful in business, but where do these traits come from?

We learn them the hard way. If it were easy, everybody would do it.

Just ask Michelle Hensley and her boys. Try a little Tang So Doo, like the Hensley family has and see how those skills transform your life, including your ambition and drive. Tang Soo Do is a Korean martial art that uses the hands and feet to block and deliver blows, similar to karate. It’s a martial art that has its lineage back over 2,000 years.

If you want to be successful, you can’t always simply look at the present and ahead to the future, the greatest lessons for learning, come from looking back, at history. The Tang So Doo martial art has stood the test of time and served the Hensley family quite well, thank you.

“My son Noah started it with his Dad when Noah was around 4 years old,” says Michelle. “He got his first degree when he was seven and second at age nine. Nick and I started later and Nick was also 4-years-old when he began, he got his first degree at age seven as well. I got my first Tang So Doo degree at age 42, then a second degree at age 44, and followed up with a third degree at age 47.”

Martial arts teaches life skills you need for almost anything, and goes a long way to explaining why Michelle’s journey at USHEALTH Advisors has been one of great success, having long surpassed the big USHA milestone of $5 million in individual insurance sales in her career – all with discipline, focus, setting goals and working hard. Sprinkle in a bit of belief, or a lot of belief in yourself, and there you have the recipe for success. And Michelle says it’s not only success in sales, but also success in being able to leverage the opportunity of being self-employed and to be there for her boys.

“My greatest accomplishment is being a mom to two amazing young men,” says Michelle. “They’re my world. They’ve always been my why. That’s why I’m thankful for this opportunity in health insurance that I’ve built over all these years. I was always able to be involved in their lives and have the flexibility to still do my work, and to be there for them, because they are my heart. I’m so very proud of them. My youngest , Nick, is now 21 and is in the Air Force serving our country, and then my oldest, Noah, is actually soon to be 25, and just seeing them bloom and blossom, that’s truly my greatest accomplishment. And I’m thankful for Troy McQuagge and everybody in the home office at USHA, for developing this kind of opportunity twice over. Just being able to have that flexibility and making a good income by helping people in the right way and seeing that grow and then helping and teaching others to do the same thing.”

Michelle’s experience speaks volumes, especially for those just coming into the industry. She has a wealth of knowledge to share, having been in the game for some time now. Michelle was part of another health insurance venture that Troy helped turn around nearly 30 years ago.

“It was a challenge to start because when I started in 1995, I uprooted my life,” says Michelle. “I was living in North Carolina, funny enough, that’s where I’m back now. But I moved to Georgia, did an interview, and came on board in this industry, again with the previous company Troy built, but took a leap of faith at that time, just like most people do now, and the challenge was to build my business, not knowing where I was going and not knowing anyone at the time who was doing that.”

“I got married, had my two boys through all of that too. I did, down the road, get divorced a few years ago, and sadly enough, my ex-husband recently passed away. So the challenge is, again, to be there for my boys through all of that and seeing how that has affected them. But business-wise, the challenge is still making it happen every day. But it’s a good challenge. It’s something that stretches you to see the strength you have amongst any kind of obstacles, and to build yourself in that way. I’m always telling everyone, even agents, I say, “look, if you’re not failing, you’re not doing the right thing, because failure leads to growth and you have to do that to win.” Because the only way you really fail is when you quit. So just navigating through all of that and still continuing to battle is a daily challenge.”

As it is with anyone who wants to accomplish something of value, taking leaps of faith has been part of Michell’s existence. She was an only child growing up in Martinsville, Virginia, in a small town only about 45 minutes from where she now lives in North Carolina.

“I ended up working with Dunn and Bradstreet, my first full real job in Greensboro, North Carolina,” says Michelle. I was the one who called all the companies and got the information, kind of like we do on our end, but I would interview companies, owners CEOs, and CFOs to gather information so I could actually write about the company and put those reports together that vendors and everybody else, banks and what have you, use to see if they wanted to send credit or be a vendor or that kind of thing.”

“That is actually how I transitioned into sales, interestingly enough, because I never thought I would be in sales, just never thought I would be, it’s not my personality. I was doing so well with the reporting aspect. But they had an opening and wanted me to interview to be on the sales team, so I figured, why not? It’s not going to hurt. Go for it, try it. Believe in yourself. So that’s what I did. Did very well there. But then I had met at the time, my fiance, who ended up moving to Atlanta, and they didn’t really have a spot for me in Atlanta with Dun and Bradstreet. So I took another leap of faith, had enough money saved and decided to give my notice. I interviewed and took on a position with what was then a different version of Midwest life insurance. I figured why not take the risk and believe in the product. I had kind of an inroad with some of the businesses with my Dun and Bradstreet background, so I got my license and never looked back.”

New location, new business, new life. Change is inevitable, growth is optional. Michelle embraced her new beginnings, embraced the suck, and got to work. It’s easy to say, harder to do, but Michelle says she was up to the task, and her strategy for success was to not complicate things.

“I kept it simple,” says Michelle. “I actually absorbed, listened, and asked a lot of questions. Back then it was face to face, not virtual, so I rode around in the car with my trainer, questioned her, listened to her and whoever else was doing well, and I put blinders on. Again, you’ve got to obviously believe in the product or service you’re dealing with, but you’ve got to put a lot of belief in yourself. I kind of shut all other doors. I just said, “Okay, I’ve uprooted. I’ve moved to a different area, moved away from home.” Not knowing anyone at the time, I really loved talking with companies. I was used to that and I really enjoyed sitting down with everyday people. I just put a daily, weekly, monthly goal together for myself, and I constantly asked, “Hey, how am I doing? What can I do better? What can I do more? How can I raise the bar?”

“I looked at who was doing the best or the most production and kind of mimicked them to ask questions and see if I could compete against them. And when I got promoted to being a training agent, that actually helped me. I think when you teach, you learn, you become better. You’re really sharpening your own skills because you want to bring along someone else. And I’ve constantly told the new agents, I want them to end up being better than me, then I know I did my job, so I want you to be better than me. And that way we can all grow together. So that’s kind of been my strategy. It’s pretty simple. And the funny thing is, even now when we’re pretty “techy”, I am in my 29th year, and I have kept record of every single appointment from year one. I know my very first appointment and I wrote it in my daytimer. So I’m old school, and new school.”

Michelle’s new school of learning came when she was there, at the beginning, for USHEALTH Advisors back in 2009. She was one of the first new agents/leaders when Troy McQuagge took the helm nearly 15 years ago and was once again ready for the constant of life, and change, as she dove in head first and has helped to grow the company significantly, even as the process and strategy shifted. Michelle was smart enough to realize nothing stays the same.

“I’m like, okay, hey, let’s go. Here I go again, jump in with both feet,” says Michelle. “It was an adjustment, as we moved from in-person to the virtual world of sales, and there’s parts of it I miss. You still can obviously do some face-to-face appointments locally. But I found as you’re growing and progressing, it was nice to use your time, and more quality time in the virtual world. You’re not having to drive and run yourself ragged, or maybe drive two hours to get stood up. I did not miss that. So to be able to sell in different states, it broadens your horizon of how many clients you can talk with. And that’s great. Hey, the world’s changed. People actually expect that they want it this way, quick, easy, let’s zoom, let’s do a a screen share. You’re being more efficient and able to work with more people. So it was a transition, but it was a good one. It was a lot of learning. And I think it helps with new agents coming on board too, because that’s kind of what they’re used to and working this way.”

Having been self-employed and worked in insurance for an extended period of time now, Michelle shares the benefits of the one thing you can’t put a price tag on when it comes to working for yourself… time, and the ability to “create and make time” for what is important to you.

“I always tell people this career saw me through every phase of life,” says Michelle. “And will probably continue to do so. There was pre-marriage, marriage, children, and unfortunately divorce. But it’s interesting and fun to see how life has progressed through all of this and how what you do for a living is intertwined into the rest of your life. And so what you do is not separate, it’s part of who you are, which is kind of neat. So yeah, my boys are used to seeing me, what I do, they love the fact I have always had flexibility, a great income and the residual income.”

Helping, serving, and growing… the things that provide purpose and meaning in life and Michelle embraces every piece of it.

“It just gets better and better,” says Michelle. “It’s so great to really exercise your muscles of your own faith and ability and adjust and see what you’re capable of. There’s no ceiling. And that’s again what I tell agents. It’s like, look, the sky is not even the limit. There is no ceiling. This career will help you develop who you are internally and who you can help, not just your fellow agent, but the client you’re talking to and changing their lives as well. It’s a very rewarding thing to know that what you’re doing is so important. No one likes to talk about health insurance, but it’s a necessary thing. And we’re here to guide them.”

It’s guiding clients to find the best healthcare solutions and guiding agents, especially the new ones, who come to the opportunity at USHEALTH Advisors, and to help them to thrive. Even though she recently transitioned from leadership to working as an agent, Michelle has helped and can still help so many agents with one of the secrets to success in this business – paying attention to history – meaning learning from Michelle’s experiences of what to do and what not to do, since history is one of the greatest educators of all time.

“Just leave all your nuances and your thoughts of insurance at the door,” says Michelle. “Retrain your mind as if you’re an advisor, a detective, asking questions of your clients. It’s funny because things that they talk about in our company meetings are things I always say when I’m speaking to someone. 90% of what you’re doing, you’re going to be educating a client. Yes, the act is selling, but that’s actually the final act of it, it’s not most of what you’re doing. You’re actually putting people in better health plan solutions. You’re really just educating. Health insurance is a complicated issue. So I tell the agents, make it simple. Talk to your clients like your neighbor. Just have a conversation. In fact, whomever you talk to, realize that’s a new friend you’re making.”

“Tell your clients, “Hey, I’m here to help.” Let’s kind of chitchat a little bit about what your situation is and let’s see, we’ll put the puzzle pieces together to find the right plan for your needs. And if not, I’ll hold your hand and show where you need to go. But keep it simple because things that are new, it’s our human nature to tend to complicate them. A new agent thinks, “I need to know everything before I do anything.” I say, “no, you don’t.” I don’t know everything and I’ve done it for years. Let’s take it one step at a time. And I explain to the agents, your clients will actually teach you. You can learn from them because you’re there, having a conversation. You’re going to learn and gather what they’re looking for to help you guide them, and that teaches you where you need to go and how you put plans together and things like that.”

Life is always like a puzzle and Michelle, like any one of us, is always trying to make the pieces fit. So while she navigates a new world, back near her hometown where she started, she is making sure that not only her business thrives, but those she loves thrive as well, because the puzzle can change from day to day.

“The thing is just knowing that you can streamline your mind on what you’re really focused on,” says Michelle. “And with my boys, they’ve been amazing. It was only five years ago, they were in high school and college. And so they’ve been supportive of everything as well. Nick just came back from combat training in Texas. The first week of April he is supposed to go to Jordan. He’s going to be deployed there. He works on radar systems for jets. And Noah helps produce acts, in fact, he’s an acrobat in Dolly Parton’s Pirate Voyage Show in Myrtle Beach. He graduated with a degree in physical science. He wants to get his masters, maybe in physical therapy, but he’s into fitness. He can do amazing things. He’s a certified parkour coach, (parkour is a sport that uses balance and power to overcome obstacles). I’m so very proud of both of my boys, they are so close.”

Michelle says, “Another wonderful change that came into my life and stole my heart is a wonderful man, Bobby. Bobby and I connected in 2019 when he messaged me… we went to high school together and he still lives near the area in North Carolina. We dated long distance for years in the beginning… because of my planning on moving to be closer to my parents and my son Noah. I was so excited about one day being local so I could also be closer to Bobby. It took longer than planned due to COVID and the housing market situation which was very hard!”

“All I know is to be able to make more special memories and build a relationship with him and with our families is my deepest desire. The thought fills my heart every day. God blessed me with this opportunity to do just that, to be able to work anywhere helping others to continue to have a good career but most importantly it affords me to have a full life surrounded by the people I love most. My family, my amazing boys and my honey, Bobby.”

The circle of life continues and Michelle says she made her recent move as well to be closer to her parents because she says she wants to be there for them as they get older.

“Like I said, I’m an only child,” says Michelle. “I have two aging parents and so to be there for them and move here, meant stepping out of leadership, which was very hard for me to do. I didn’t want to leave leadership, but stepping out and just concentrating on myself and building, that is key. My parents are still in the same house that I grew up in. My dad is 81. My mom will turn 80 in July. They both have a lot of medical issues, but they’re getting along. I just know that being the only child I want to be close to them before it gets too late. So there’s a lot of sacrifice. But you have to go with what your gut and your heart tell you, knowing it’s not necessarily always a permanent thing. I mean, change is constant. You’ve got to be flexible and believe in yourself. That’s really what it boils down to.”

So many experiences, in her personal life and business, and so many more to come. Michelle’s story is her own, but we all can learn from what others have been through, and overcome and then are willing to share. So Michelle is ready to impart some of her greatest wisdom.

“What I want to share with anyone is no matter who you are, you’re valuable, you have a lot of worth. And if you can just improve one person’s life in some way, you’ve made a huge difference. It’s what I used to always tell my boys, because no one is perfect. You will make mistakes. Learn from them, move on, be forgiving, be compassionate. Take every challenge as that, and if you can improve or touch someone’s life to make it better, give them a smile, whatever it is, that to me is the greatest legacy, bar none. So it’s like our HOPE mission, helping other people everyday. That’s it, the basics.”

“If you can give even a smile to someone, give hope to another person, in some form or fashion. It’s not money that makes all the difference. Your possessions don’t matter, or where you live, it doesn’t matter. They’re nice and it’s nice to have things like that. But how you affect someone else’s life is what matters. Because like my dad’s always said, nobody’s an island. No matter what you say or do, I don’t care if you think they don’t hear or see you, they do. You’re going to affect somebody which is going to affect somebody else. It’s a domino effect. So do it and be willing to change as well.:”

Because like Michelle says the only constant is change. And if you can weather every storm, and yes, you can, if you believe in yourself, then you win.

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Your Storyteller,

Mark Brodinsky

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