Damn it this one really hurts. Our industry has lost a great innovator, mentor and icon, and I must say goodbye to one of my dearest friends and a man who quite possibly may have saved my life. Bill Zimmerman, LifePro Financial Services, Inc., San Diego, passed away recently from the complications of ALS.
Z, as his countless friends called him, joined our industry in 1967 as an insurance agent in Ft Worth, TX, and soon after relocated to Southern California. Over the next 50 years he grew his individual practice into a thriving PPGA, then a general agency, and ultimately into one of the premier BGAs/IMOs in the country and an organization that stands on integrity, service and honor. He was unwaveringly dedicated to what is genuinely in the best interest of the end consumer and to extensive support of the advisors who deliver it.
Bill found great passion, and engendered it, in the people he met at all stages of his career and all levels of the the brokerage distribution spectrum. His interaction not just with the dedicated producers who looked to LifePro for continued and expanded success with their practices, but with folks he met at local and national trade organizations like NAILBA, AALU, and NAIFA, and while sharing his vast wisdom with countless carrier advisory boards, gave him the satisfaction in business he enjoyed most—interacting with and giving guidance to peers, carriers and vendors alike. He was a true innovator and marketer and loved the energy that he got from being with and collaborating with like minded entrepreneurs. Bill was a member of MDRT and Top of the Table, and his perspective as an insurance agent and his empathy for their challenges gave him both the respect and the admiration of the advisors he and LifePro served. His passion for brokerage drew like-minded excellent people to LifePro, most notably President Ben Nevejans and CEO Heather Ulz, who, with Z, built the company into a powerhouse with 40 employees thoroughly supporting agents with consumer-focused insurance solutions. LifePro joined LifeMark Partners (now part of LIBRA Insurance Partners) in 2003 because of Bill’s desire to always have the right products and carriers for the right situation.
One of the things that struck me most notably was his innate ability to completely focus on your conversation, and the look on his face, penetratingly serious or whimsically bemused, assured you that he was absorbing all and that your serious concerns or amusing anecdotes were the most important thing in the world to him at that moment.
But those that knew Z best saw how much of his life he devoted to helping individuals overcome serious and life-threatening personal challenges. In addition founding the charitable organization 12StepRadio.com, a recovery based, on-line radio site providing solace and resources to thousands, he spent each and every Saturday since 1987 mentoring and sponsoring those in need. He hosted a regular weekly study group at his home for over 30 years and spoke at international and local conventions regularly. He was a true humanitarian who dedicated himself to helping everyone he could and leading a life of service to others.
Therein lies the source of my deepest gratitude and most understandable pain. I’m 17 years sober by the Grace of God, and very early in my recovery He drew Z and I together at what I consider a crucial turning point. It was a LifeMark meeting, I can’t even remember where, and it was my first attempt to resume my duties of attending industry meetings and taking photos for coverage spreads. I was just a few months sober, anxiety-riddled, and every time I slunk into the crowd at the opening reception to shoot a few pics I could not only smell, but identify the alcohol on each person’s breath. I could only last a few minutes before I had to escape to the fringes, hotbox a cigarette, and try to recompose myself. Intellectually I knew I couldn’t, but the obsession to drink was absolutely eating at me when someone, I can’t remember who even, led me to Z. “Here’s someone I think you should meet.” I sat with Bill and his wife Gail for over an hour, talking about how uncomfortable I was, my story, his story, and recovery in general. At the end of that talk I was OK again, and was comfortable for the rest of the meeting, secure in the knowledge that if I got iffy again I could go find Z. For most of the next year I could count on a call from Z every few weeks just to check in and see how I was doing.
If I had not been able to cope at that meeting, or God forbid drank, it would have greatly affected my ability to continue to lead Broker World, and without this job at that crucial point in my life I very likely may have simply surrendered to the compulsion and spiraled out of control. In my mind that reassurance and kinship with Bill Zimmerman was a crucial lynchpin in my ability to continue to function and allowed me to reach where I am today—still sober and sucking air. God Bless you Z. I’m really gonna miss you.[SPH]