Life Insurance in the Internet Era

A few months ago, as my wife and I were reviewing some of that “important” stuff, we realized that it was time to update my life insurance coverage. Based upon our current situation and our changing needs over the last few years, I needed to ditch the policies we had and pick up some new term coverage.

Now… I’ve heard the radio ads from the “big guys” promoting their websites… and I’ve also done some price comparison. And even though I wanted to handle the transaction online (as much as possible), there’s something reassuring about knowing that there’s a real agent on the other end of the website that you can get on the phone if you need to talk. My term life insurance is probably not the last thing I’ll need from an independent agent, so building a relationship (much like the old-school hometown insurance agent we all grew up knowing) seemed like a good idea. But I still wanted the convenience of instant online quotes and a transaction that didn’t eat up huge amounts of my time.

TermDog.com - the website I used

For all of those reasons, I chose to go with TermDog.com. Even though they’re not based here in Florida (HQ is in Naperville, IL), TermDog is licensed to sell insurance in a number of states. Mike Fry and his team have done an outstanding job of providing a very high level of service. Here’s what my experience was like.

  1. I went to the TermDog site and played with the online quote generator. It’s easy to find, as they’ve stuck it on every page of the site. After playing with a few parameters, I found the approximate level of coverage I could buy and still fit my budget. In my case, I needed more than $500K worth of coverage, but wanted to spend less than $50/month.  Within just a couple of minutes, I had settled on a $750K 20-year policy and got the process started. (I liked the fact that even though I was giving the website enough information about me to generate a quote, I wasn’t asked for my real name or e-mail address until I was pretty sure I wanted to move forward.)
  2. Within a day or so after submitting the quote, I heard back from Michael Fry. He needed to ask a few more questions, which only took a few minutes on the phone.
  3. A few days later, a package arrived containing the life insurance app from the company that Mike had determined would probably be the best fit for me. It’s been quite a while since I bought life insurance, and I must say the length of the application surprised me. But after checking around a little bit, I’ve found out that that’s the new “normal.”
  4. I actually dragged my feet getting the app filled out (did I mention I wanted to spend as little time on this process as possible?). Thankfully, Mike gave me a couple of gentle reminders. I truly don’t like being harassed, and Mike kept me from forgetting about it without being even remotely annoying.
  5. I had the option of scanning and e-mailing the app, faxing it, or mailing it. Ultimately I opted to drop it in the mail because it feels more likely to keep my information secure. Arguable, I realize. But I needed to send a check for the first month’s premium as well as a voided one for the automatic draft, so it made sense just to do it all at once.
  6. After reviewing my app, Mike did me a favor. There were a couple of characteristics about my situation that didn’t match up perfectly with the original company he had in mind, and he’d also had a little bit of difficulty with that particular company. So… he and his team completed a new application for me using the information I’d provided on the first one and they e-mailed it to me already ready to sign. Nice huh?
  7. From there, I faxed in the signature pages from the newly completed app (just for speed).
  8. In no time, I was getting phone calls from a local company here in town who handled the health screenings. They were easy to deal with and even had a location 5 minutes from my house. They took blood, weighed, measured, poked and prodded… all the usual stuff. I was fully prepared for the experience because TermDog had e-mailed me a list of what to expect. A very nice touch.
  9. Within a few days, I received a call that my policy was on its way… and the premium was lower! Evidently my health screening results put me in a different category on the actuarial tables. And that saved me 20%. When was the last time somebody quoted you something and then sold it to you for less?
  10. I had to sign the policy and drop a check in the mail (made out to the new company). Nothing to it. I’m now insured.

The  Bottom Line

The whole experience was virtually ideal. I’m very busy and didn’t have time to visit an agent’s office and spend a lot of time on the phone. With TermDog’s online quoting, I was able to make my own decisions about the level of coverage without being pressured by an agent. Once I had decided to move forward, they handled the whole process very professionally and expediently. I not only highly recommend TermDog, but I plan to use them for future insurance needs.

For the record, I’m not being compensated or otherwise rewarded for telling you about this. I realize some bloggers get paid to express opinions. That’s not the case here. I’m absolutely a TermDog fan. You will be too!

“Caught in the Net” at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre

Sometimes, you just need to laugh and enjoy yourself. And when that time comes, there just isn’t anything better than good food, the company of good friends, and a British farce to do the trick. So when we got word from some friends that a plan had been formulated to take in “Caught in the Net” at the Golden Apple last Friday night, we jumped on it right away.

My wife and I love the Golden Apple. To us it is a “known” in a world of “unknowns.” You can always expect to be treated well, enjoy a good meal, and sample some of the very best local talent (and in a community like Sarasota where local talent is off the charts, that’s saying something!).

However, we knew nothing about the play that was on deck for the night we were scheduled to go. Nothing, that is, except that it’s a sequel to the other production that the theater is currently presenting in rolling repertory. In fact, we’d received a strong “hint” from theater staff that we should really see the other one (“Run For Your Wife”) first.

But… schedules are tricky, babysitting arrangements even more so, and it’s just too hard getting together with these two couples — people whose friendships are measured in decades rather than years, and who we just don’t see often enough.

So… we went for it anyway.

And boy are we glad we did!

“Caught in the Net” is a brilliantly-written play by Ray Cooney that takes place (according to the program) 17 years after the events of “Run For Your Wife.” Set entirely within the living quarters of two separate households (which happen to share the same space on-stage), the fast-paced opening scene quickly introduces the audience to the two families at the center of the unfolding drama. Think of it like a smartly-produced split-screen film segment… for the the stage.

As the scene unfolds, we quickly learn that the teen-aged boy from one family has “met” (online) the teen-aged girl from the other. And as they compare notes, they discover that not only do their fathers share a first, middle and last name, but also that — irony of all ironies — each has a cab driver for a Dad.

Even for those of us in the audience that had not yet seen the first play, it didn’t take long for us to figure out where things were going. Mr. John Smith, it seems, has been keeping up two families for the better part of two decades… and while working hard to keep his secret well-hidden, the determined young teenagers are about to be the undoing of it all. And that, of course, is where the tension begins for Mr. Smith, and where the fun starts for the audience.

The play is a hilarious romp through the chicanery of deception as John Smith and his sole confidante — a somewhat dim-witted boarder living with one of Smith’s two families — try to hold it all together.

No spoilers here — the play is a must-see, as is (I’m quite certain) it’s counterpart. The cast was nothing short of spectacular, and even managed to convince most of our party that their British accents were all authentic. Cliff Roles was brilliant in the role of Stanley Gardner (the boarder), and was — we discovered — the only cast member hailing from the British Isles and thus, the only with an authentic accent. Heidi Davis and Leigh Anne West were strong in their roles as the two Mrs. Smiths, opposite Ernest Weldon as the harried Mr. Smith. Of special delight were the two youngest members of the cast: Geena Ravella as the teenage daughter and Colton Herschberger (on the night we attended) as the teenage son. And Richard LeVene provided lots of comic relief as Stanley’s outspoken and quite senile father.

To round out the experience, dinner was fabulous as always. We helped ourselves to plenty from the buffet, where I personally enjoyed the delicious roast beef and some excellent mashed potatoes. The broccoli was quite good as well. The special treat, of course, was the dessert. My wife opted for a gooey pumpkin cake before curtain time, while I chose to have the chocolate torte arrive at intermission.  Since they were spaced apart, we ended up splitting both, and they were delicious.

All in all, it was a fabulous night out with favorite friends. I highly recommend that you treat yourself to an experience at the Golden Apple with the Turoff family and their top-notch team. You might just run into us there catching “Run For Your Wife!”

David Johnson of Epiphany Marketing Appears on Faith Life Now

David Johnson, founder of Epiphany Marketing, LLC appears this week on airings of the Faith Life Now broadcast with Gary & Drenda Keesee.

David is a Sarasota, Florida-based author, speaker, trainer and consultant who specializes in helping small businesses communicate and attract customers in the 21st Century. On the program, which airs on the Daystar and NRB television networks as well as on a local Fox affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, David and hosts Gary & Drenda Keesee talk about the opportunities that exist in this economy for new business ideas.

I have a fundamental philosophy. Never waste a good crisis!
-David G. Johnson

As a trainer and consultant, David and his company deliver value to clients in the marketplace by helping small business owners and their teams understand the most effective ways to get the message out about their products and services.

As a speaker, David challenges audiences in both the business context as well as in conferences, seminars and churches where he is known as a challenging and inspiring speaker and Bible teacher. His organization, Nourish The Dream, was established to encourage entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs as well as others who are working to integrate their faith and their working lives.

Learn more about Nourish The Dream and the Kingdom Thoughts audio teaching series being offered on the television program here.

Sarasota Florist Makes Beach Wedding Dreams Come True

Sarasota Beach Wedding

When it comes to brides, dreams are very important. And the dreams they have for their wedding day are as diverse as the brides themselves. Some want a church wedding, others a museum, a gorgeous outdoor location like Selby Gardens, or perhaps a beach wedding.

Regardless of the venue, the dreams of the bride are central to the success of the big day. And one Sarasota florist specializes in making those dreams come true. Having recently refreshed my acquaintance with Becki Creighton, owner of Flowers By Fudgie, I’ve been thrilled to see recent examples of her work and that of her team. In the just over 10 years that I’ve known her and seen her business develop and grow, they have increasingly focused on making the dreams of brides come true.

And having seen their work, no one does a better job. Talking to Becki recently, I learned that not only does she have a degree in ornamental horticulture, she has also worked in a flower shop since she was 16 years old. Having decades of experience (I have no idea how many!), she has cultivated phenomenal taste and an excellent talent for extracting from her clientele exactly what their dreams look like.

Seeing her recently-launched online gallery of Sarasota weddings and talking with her about her brides, I was surprised to learn that Sarasota has become a destination for brides. They’re coming here (and bringing their bridal parties) from all over the country to get married here. Whether it’s on our gorgeous, pristine beaches or in our spectacular museums and other venues, for a wedding, we have what brides want.

Regardless of whether you’re planning an enormous event, the wedding of your dreams in paradise, or you just want want to send flowers to someone, give Flowers By Fudgie call at (800) 338-5983 or (941) 349-9212. Be sure and tell them I sent ya!

Affordable Office Space in Sarasota

Consultants, writers, sales professionals, field representatives and others face a dilemma in today’s world. On the one hand, it’s great to work from home. On the other hand, home can be a place of distractions or be fraught with other emotional and mental hurdles to productivity.

Executive Office in Sarasota

So… what do you do when you really only need an office for yourself and perhaps occasional use of a conference room? Executive suites have always been an option, but perhaps you don’t need a receptionist or you aren’t looking to have your phone answered. What you really need is a place to spread out and work. And if you’re like me, you can work from just about anywhere with an internet connection.

A new option for office space in Sarasota just came to my attention. If you’re looking for a furnished (or unfurnished) room that you can move into quickly and get productive, then this may just be the place for you. White Sands Realty in Sarasota is responsible for putting this together. Just pick a room, sign a no-frills agreement for your inexpensive office, and get working!

Conference Room Access Included

They’re offering great packages with your internet connection, a desk, a chair, and access to common areas like the conference room, restrooms, and a small break room at very affordable rates. There are a limited number of offices available, so you’ll want to make contact with Allen Jenkins at White Sands (941.228.6785) right away so you can have the best selection to choose from. The offices are conveniently located just minutes from downtown and minutes from I-75.

Get Motivated Seminar Sarasota – New Location

Just in case you haven’t heard about this yet, I wanted to make you aware that the venue for the Get Motivated Seminar in Sarasota on May 14th, 2009 has been changed. Our previous post mentioned the originally-scheduled location (which was Robarts Arena on Fruitville Road.)

The event is now officially taking place at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Convention Center at 8005 15th Street East, Sarasota.

That location is on the east side of the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport on the road known as “Old 301.” Since it’s North of University Parkway, the site is technically in Manatee County.  And since I’m not connected in any official capacity with this event or with its promoters, I can tell you what they can’t: the building is the former location of Sam’s Club. For those of us who have been in the area for a little while, that can certainly help!

Here’s a map for you.

The official schedule says the event runs on Thursday, May 14th from 8:00am – 5:00pm. Doors open at 6:45am. I’m guessing that you’ll still be able to get in if you haven’t already purchased a ticket, but it may be worth a call to the Peter Lowe organization just to be certain: (800) 248-7640.

See you there!

Good Mental Food – Get Motivated Seminar Sarasota

**UPDATE** The Get Motivated Seminar in Sarasota on May 14th, 2009 has moved to a new location. The event will be held at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Convention Center. Details here.

World-famous motivational speaker Zig Ziglar is coming to Sarasota on May 14th

No matter what your business or occupation, getting ahead and being successful requires a steady diet of good mental and emotional fuel. Having a great attitude — something so critical, especially in a tough economic environment — isn’t something most of us are going to be consistently good at without some outside input.

So… I’m looking forward to next week’s “Get Motivated” seminar. Formerly known as the Peter Lowe Success Seminar, this event has begun making the rounds to smaller venues in the last several years. And it’s great to see the whole crew coming to Robarts Arena the Sarasota-Bradenton International Convention Center in Sarasota on May 14th.

In particular, I’m excited to see one of our clients, Zig Ziglar. Zig will be focusing on “How To Stay Motivated,” which is one of his all-time most impactful messages. Since his head injury a couple of years ago, Zig’s short-term memory has been affected. So, expect him to be onstage with his daughter, Julie, for an interview-style presentation. This configuration has been extremely well-received by audiences all over the nation since they started doing it, and it should be the highlight of the day.

Also in the lineup:

  • Sarasota’s own Dick Vitale
  • Dr. Robert Schuller
  • Governor Rudy Giuliani
  • Dr. Earl Mindell,
  • and, Tamara Lowe (wife of Peter Lowe), who is speaking in support of her new book, Get Motivated, which she co-authored with Giuliani

Should be a great day. According to the literature that came in the mail, admission can be had for only $4.95 for an individual, or you can bring “the whole office” for $19. The registration number is (800) 248-7640. Tell ’em we sent you!

See you on Thursday, May 14th!

Photos: Sarasota Tea Party April 15 2009

Arriving at the “Unconditional Surrender” statue today at 12:45pm, I was surprised to find that already people were leaving. Apparently, the first wave of lunch-breakers had done their protesting for today.

Of the hundreds that remained (no official word yet on numbers), many held signs, sported creative apparel, and generally demonstrated a remarkable level of passion about the spending habits of their elected officials. Protesters lined the roadway from One Sarasota Tower to Main Street, and a significant crowd gathered closely around the statue to hear various people sound off through a weak tailgate P.A. system.

It was an historic day, and it was a privilege to have participated. Here are some of the sights as seen through my camera’s lens

[nggallery id=4]

Unfortunately, my schedule didn’t permit me to make it to the Lakewood Ranch Tea Party gathering. I welcome to the opportunity to hear from some of you who were there!

Sarasota Tea Party – Tax Day 2009

Update: Photos and a report from the downtown tea party are posted here.

I have a question for you:

Is it “Taxation Without Representation” if your elected “representatives” vote on a $500 Billion tax bill without even reading it?

Some of the thousands of protestors gathered for the March 21st Tea Party in Orlando, FL

If you think so, then the time has come to throw another tea party. When in colonial America, the British “representative” government (Parliament did, after all, claim to represent all British citizens… including the colonists) tried to ramrod the monopolistic East India Company’s tea down the throats of the colonies against their wishes, without consulting them, and while outlawing “free market tea,” the colonists famously dumped the tea in Boston harbor.

There’s no practical way to dump what’s being shoved down our throats anywhere — it’s too freaking much!

So… in a symbolic act, you are invited to join us for the Sarasota Tea Party (or the Lakewood Ranch Tea Party, if you prefer) on a fabulously symbolic day: April 15th.

What better way to spend tax day?

Here’s the skinny:

Sarasota Tea Party

  • Wednesday, April 15th, 2009 at Noon
  • Marina Jack on Sarasota Bay near Downtown. (In fact, the group will gather at the Unconditional Surrender statue, which is either more symbolic or more ironic… I’m not sure which.)
  • You are encouraged to dress creatively (i.e. to appropriately attract attention).
  • Bring signs.
  • Bring tea bags. Lots of tea bags.
  • Prepare to be photographed and be interviewed. Do us a favor… read up on the current events, the history of the tea party, or anything else you may talk about on camera.
  • Do us another favor: spell-check your sign(s). We really don’t need to look stupid on TV or in the media.

Lakewood Ranch Tea Party

  • Wednesday, April 15th, 2009 from 3pm – 7pm. (Nice if you want to come hang out after work.)
  • Ed’s Tavern on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch.
  • You are encouraged to dress creatively (i.e. to appropriately attract attention).
  • Bring signs.
  • Bring tea bags. Lots of tea bags.
  • Prepare to be photographed and be interviewed. Do us a favor… read up on the current events, the history of the tea party, or anything else you may talk about on camera.
  • Do us another favor: spell-check your sign(s). We really don’t need to look stupid on TV or in the media.

Not from around here? Here’s one good place to check for a location near you.

This information is subject to change. And, since I like a good discussion, do me a favor:

Leave a comment below with your biggest current hot-button that motivates you to join us for the Tea Party. Be sure to check the box that says “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.” That way, you’ll hear from some of the other folks who might be joining us… and, I’ll be able to leave a comment if anything changes… which of course means that you’ll be notified.

Incidentally, I have no affiliation with this company (for the record), but here’s some great Tax Day Tea Party Apparel (think “Don’t Tread on Me”).

See you there!

Fondue in Sarasota: The Melting Pot vs. Dylan’s Fondue Fusion

*Update* It looks like Dylan’s has closed. They were a great addition to the Sarasota restaurant scene. We’re sorry to see them go… (Thank you to Sharon, one of our readers, for tipping us off.)

The Melting Pot’s reservation line is (941) 365-2628. Always a great experience!

My gorgeous wife, Jill, and I really enjoy going out for fondue. For whatever reason, it really rings our bell. I think perhaps the slower-paced, more intimate dinner experience is a big part of it. But of course the chocolate finish is guaranteed to be a big part of it.

But for us a long evening out isn’t very commonly an option, so we were quite delighted when the opportunity came up to celebrate Valentine’s together without being concerned about time constraints and babysitters (thank God for grandparents who live nearby!). And, of course, fondue was at the top of the list.

We’d heard about Dylan’s Fondue Fusion — the upstart contender here in Sarasota — from some friends who said they had a good experience. And, when a coupon arrived in the mail on the front of one of those “clipper” magazines, that iced it for us… we decided to give it a try.

Now we’re not really gamblers where food and restaurants are concerned. Me? I’ll try anything… but you know keeping “Momma” happy is more important than anything else on evenings like this… and she likes what she knows. So, I was thrilled she wanted to try it, given that we are both huge fans of The Melting Pot in Sarasota.

The Melting Pot has been a regular haunt of ours on special occasions for years. In fact, just a few months ago we ate there on our 10th Anniversary.  We love the food — the beer-based cheese fondue with cheddar and Emmenthaler,  the Coq Au Vin cooking style, and most definitely the chocolate at the end (we haven’t tried one we weren’t absolutely thrilled with) — and the atmosphere. When they moved to their new home downtown a few years ago, we made the move with them — the new place has great ambience and is even reasonably easy to get in and out of with parking in the building.

The New Kid on the Block: Dylan’s Fondue Fusion

What about Dylan’s Fondue Fusion? Well… we didn’t know much other than the report from friends, and since the budget is important this year, the coupon helped. It’s located in a storefront on US 41 just a little stretch south of Bee Ridge Road. Not the most elegant location — at least on the exterior. So… all things considered, it was a gamble.

We made our reservation almost a week in advance — a good move, given that we wanted to go on Friday night before Valentine’s Day (which was, of course, on Saturday).  We opted for an early time slot to give us plenty of time to enjoy the entire evening. So… we pulled up at 5:30, almost on the nose.  We were greeted by someone who was clearly a hardworking young man. Later we learned his name is Dylan, but he didn’t let on that he was the owner when he greeted us.  His was somewhat casual attire, with a black t-shirt and apron… I took him for a staff member.

We were seated right away in the already busy restaurant, and learned from our conversation that they were completely booked with reservations and would be turning people away until very late in the evening.  The ambience and decor turned out to be quite nice — low lighting and darkish colors on the walls gave it a fairly elegant feel. The reservation was clearly a good idea, since waiting wouldn’t have been overly welcome to us.

Given that the restaurant has been open for only about 6 months, everything was new — the seating and the in-table burner and so forth.  We were treated excellently by our server, a highly professional yet warm and friendly young lady named Ashley.  She anticipated our every need, was proactive with the drink refills (something I tend to notice), and neither rushed us nor left us waiting between courses.

The food?  Excellent. Not only was it on par with The Melting Pot, but Dylan’s Fondue Fusion may have even come out on top in this category.  The cheese course was tasty — we went for a beer-based cheddar & Emmenthaler combo, which we were delighted to spot on the menu.  The veggies and breads that were served with it were fresh, tasty, and well-prepared.  The salad course gave us plenty of choices, and though both of our salads were a little heavy on the dressing, it was nothing to complain about.The options for the entree were plentiful and diverse, including a “we can’t decide” option they call “Everything But the Kitchen Sink.”  That was the one we chose, because we were able to select from a list of favorites rather than choosing one of the main sets of entrees.

Being experienced fonduers (is that a word?), we appreciated the presentation of the foods and the clear instructions. You always need a bit of a reminder on things, it seems, no matter how many times you’ve done fondue. And, of course, in a new restaurant, you want to make sure that even what is familiar will still apply. Ashley took great care of us in this department and presented us with a stunning array of sauces.  Again, very much on par with our expectations.

The chocolate course was fabulous, with cheesecake, lots of gorgeous fruits like strawberries and pineapple, and some brownies and other tasty morsels.

All in all, with pricing that is strategically less than that of The Melting Pot, Dylan’s Fondue Fusion has won us over. We’ll definitely go back.  I highly recommend the entire experience, and since you can have an experience that is just as good (if not better) than its cross-town established competition for a little less money, why wouldn’t you?

As we were on our way out, I heard someone refer to Dylan by name. Of course, being lightning-fast in my brain I put 2 and 2 together. I had to shake his hand and let him know how much we enjoyed it and how much we’d been fans of The Melting Pot.  He was glad to know he’d won us over.

Definitely give Dylan’s a shot if you’re looking for a nice, slow-paced, intimate evening out with some great food and great service.  And let him know I sent ya.

Here are the important details in case you need ’em:

Dylan’s Fondue Fusion
4141 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL, 34231
Take my advice, make a reservation: (941) 926-1289

They’re on the east side of 41 in the brick plaza behind Chili’s.  There’s a Sprint store closest to the road… and plenty of well-lit parking close by. Enjoy your fondue!