Thirty-two years ago, Tom Leix left Ohio State University with a masters in athletics and came to the burgeoning amateur sports capital of the world. At that time Indianapolis was still best known for the 500-mile race, Reggie Miller had just started with the Pacers, the Colts had only just been swept away from Baltimore, and the title of “nap town” was still a disparaging truth than a badge of honor.
Having spent just over a decade at the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), enjoying the fast life working on an Indy Car team, and moonlighting as a sports writer, Leix was recruited by Kiwanis International to handle PR and marketing operations at their Indianapolis headquarters.
“That’s what really brought me into the insurance business. Working with Kiwanis I was exposed to the men and women leading the organization across the country. I met a lot of people successful in insurance and other people-facing businesses such as finance. They liked what they did, they were upbeat, and the back of my brain started getting this message that maybe there’s something to this insurance business,” says Leix.
To start, Leix purchased a study guide for life and health insurance. “I studied it in my spare time, not really sure if I was committed. I didn’t go through a class or training. I was transitioning between where I was and where I was going. The actual test didn’t seem to start out well and after a few minutes, I thought I had wasted a lot of time. The questions weren’t written the way my brain works. It seemed like it was set up to trick you and asked questions that made you think, “What’s not the worst answer?”.
Leix passed his exam the first time and at the age of 43 had his Indiana health and life insurance license. “I had no clue what to do with it,” he recalls. However, that same year in 2006, Medicare Part D plans become available.
“I had no idea what the significance of that was but got contracted to sell Medicare, and little by little I started to experience the satisfaction of commission income and meeting with people who truly showed their appreciation because what you were doing is helping them,” says Leix.
“I remember driving home from appointments thinking this was pretty cool. I kept meeting people that needed help with Medicare and one day, just on a whim, I went to a networking business meeting for lunch. I met with the initial sales director at United Healthcare who was looking for someone with marketing experience. He hired me, and three months later he returned home to the west coast and I was elevated into his position.” Today, Leix is the Sales Director for Medicare and Retirement at United for Indiana and Kentucky.
Like the millions of other people who sometimes start, stop, and re-start a commitment, Leix bounced in and out of NAHU. But in 2008 he settled into a pattern that allowed him to recognize NAHU, like most things worth doing, gives what you put into it. “I’ve invested in it personally because I believe if you’re going to be in this business you should be involved. I attended the first Medicare Summit, for instance, and wanted to help grow the event moving forward,” says Leix.
The Medicare Summit, happening this May 8, 2019, at the Marriott East in Indianapolis, is the culmination of work by a group of volunteers, of which Leix proudly serves.
“It’s been a very positive experience. It isn’t all about meetings. I take advantage of a lot of the material I get online. The networking opportunities are always important. When you meet fellow members, there’s a higher level of understanding. It’s not that people who aren’t members are any less capable, but I do think it shows a commitment to the business we’re in and the lifestyle we lead. I really think you get out of it what you put into it.”
Since 2008 and his role with United, many of Leix’s professional goals now revolve around NAHU. “I’d like to find ways to be more of a leader in the industry,” he says, adding, “I’d like to attend CapCon. I want to keep working with agents all around the state to help people become agents. I don’t know if we have enough agents for the coming Medicare applicant deluge.”
Leix points out some markets are overflowing with agents, but like other aspects of the healthcare industry, many counties are underserved. “We have to encourage young people to get into this business.”
For a generation saddled with higher debt than most before them, many young people may balk at the notion. Leix has experience there, though, too. “I was scrambling during the day to build a book of business and not making money. I was a sports writer in college, and I knew some people from the IndyStar who used to see me at the track (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) and refereeing high school basketball around the area. They had a part-time opening, so I took a copy editing position working nights while I was building my insurance business during the day. That’s obviously helpful, and not everyone has that luxury, I understand that. But that’s how I was able to make my way into this industry.”
“I remember when I first went on a sales call and the first time I had a commission deposit in my checking account. “You mean I could do this as much as I can get successful at this? That I get rewarded for how persistent and hard I work?” That was an eye-opening experience. Know that there are plenty of opportunities. There are people who are looking for you. If I can do starting 43 and have such a good run with it, I know there’s a lot of room in this business.”