Bob Tretter doesn’t run as much as he used to. But he vividly remembers what it was like going to the sporting goods store and looking at the wall of running shoes. “All these shoes at all different prices,” he says. “I’d try on a pair of $200 shoes, and if I didn’t think they were worth the value, I’d buy a cheaper one or go somewhere else.” That’s not exactly a startling insight. But it’s also not his point. “Value,” he says, “is self-perceived.”
Tretter could tell you a pair of running shoes might deliver a 2% increase in your performance. But if you don’t lace them up and run, your performance will be zero whether the shoes are $200 or $20. And this is where Tretter points out, “People want to make sure they’re getting value for their money,” but, he adds, “you have to put something into it first.”
Top performance at any level comes from having a dream and a reason
“Growing up Catholic, my mom made us go to church. It took me a while to realize that going to church and daydreaming about playing baseball meant I didn’t get anything out of it,” he recalls. One day he realized, “If I’m going to go, I need to go for a reason—not to sit and smile.”
Top performance at any task, no matter how mundane or complex, depends on focus and depth. It’s not enough to run a mile every day. Sometimes you need to run two. It’s not enough to merely sit in church. You need to think about the philosophy and meaning of the messages. Likewise, it’s not enough to show up to work every day and shuffle emails and paperwork. You have to cultivate connections and make relationships between people, tasks, and meaningful work.
In 1978, Tretter came out of Loyola University of Chicago with a Bachelor’s degree and an MBA in 1981. And like any college graduate, his goal was “making money.” “Money was important early on,” he admits, “And I wanted as much as I could earn.” But over time he realized this was short-sighted.
He spent time in the C-Suite at several large life and health insurance companies. “I took a job because it paid a certain amount,” he recalls. “And that didn’t work out well.” Tretter could have possibly been a millionaire today, and he’d be the first to tell you he’d like to be one. “But I live a comfortable life, and I give a lot to charity. That’s what I’d do differently from 40 years ago—find what I love to do and just do it.”
Tretter’s father was an optometrist in Gary, Indiana. Growing up, Tretter figured he’d do something similar. His dad, he says, was his hero.
But degrees in math and an MBA in finance led him into the insurance business. In his first decade of work in New Jersey at Prudential in the ‘80s, he transitioned into disability insurance. “Someone told me NAHU had a Disability Council and I should get involved.” In 1990, Tretter joined NAHU, an organization that 60 years earlier was founded primarily as a disability insurance organization.
Practicing his early effort at focused performance, he was named Chair of the Disability Insurance Training Council, granting him a seat on NAHU’s national board of directors. After a two-year stint, he was asked to run for NAHU Vice President against an incumbent. To his surprise, he won, and a year after ascended to the Presidency in 1998.
Tretter moved back home to Indiana afterward and became ISAHU’s president in 2002-2003 while working at GroupLink. He chuckles when he admits it’s not many people who “work backward” from NAHU down to a state-level leadership role. A history buff, Tretter no doubt sees it somewhat like John Quincy Adams serving in the House of Representatives after having already been President. But in both instances, both describe their local work as some of their most cherished. It’s second only to his work running Caitlin’s Cause, a charity he directed that disbursed half a million dollars in ten years in scholarships, treatments, and palliative care for kids with cancer. Today, Tretter resides in Cincinnati but maintains close connections to Indiana chapters, including IndyAHU.
You can’t put a value on many benefits, including the chance encounters you can get
His time away from NAHU wouldn’t last, however, as CEO Janet Trautwein recruited Tretter in 2017 to be the VP of Marketing and Recruitment. “The timing was perfect because I had just taken custody of my two grandsons, then ages 4 and 7. I was going to be able to work from home with them,” he says.
As VP of Marketing and Recruitment, Tretter thinks about those running shoes and the value people perceive in them. “Cost”, he says, “Is almost always the first thing people hear about NAHU. They hear $40 a month and wonder if their employer will pay for it instead.”
“We try our best to implore people to see the value, but value is self-perceived,” he reiterates. I can tell you it’s worth $8,000 a year and you pay about $480. But it doesn’t matter if you don’t believe it.” Or worse, “If you don’t use it.”
Like the young boy sitting in church daydreaming about baseball, you can’t merely sit in the room or ignore the Compliance Corner, podcasts, lobbying efforts, education, advocacy, and marketing efforts and get anything out of it. The “value wheel” of membership was Tretter’s idea to drive that point across.
“People want to make sure they’re getting value for their money. But to get that value, people need to know they get out of it what they put in,” says Tretter.
Tretter is clearly passionate and proud of his “extended NAHU family”. “NAHU helped me grow a line at Berkshire Life in 1996 from $3 million to $25 million in just a few years,” he says. “NAHU gave me a sense of accomplishment and pride. I felt better about myself. I knew I could do the job and had other NAHU members behind me as a circle of influence,” he adds. There’s almost no way to put a monetary value on that kind of outcome.
More recently, the new Medicare Certification course coming out of NAHU means agents and brokers can meet all CMS requirements and it will complement each plan sponsor’s plan-specific training. It has him excited for the year ahead. “I’ve found that being organized and learned makes people successful. Separate yourself. That’s what NAHU offers to a new member, and it will separate you from the pack. When there’s a problem, you’ll be the one people turn to. All the professional development courses, webinars, compliance corner—that does nothing but help you and makes you different from your competitors,” he says.
“I’ve found NAHU members to be some of the most giving, selfless people I know. They will share their secrets and best business practices. When you get this network of people, you can’t buy that anywhere.”
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