“Make time for your family, your friends, and yourself.” With Jason Hartman & Adam Erlebacher

Make time for your family, your friends, and yourself. Your to-do list never ends, and unless you have some guardrails around how you spend time, you’ll burn out, and the people around you will, too. As a part of our series about the “5 Things You Should Ask Before You Purchase a Life Insurance Policy” […]

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Make time for your family, your friends, and yourself. Your to-do list never ends, and unless you have some guardrails around how you spend time, you’ll burn out, and the people around you will, too.

As a part of our series about the “5 Things You Should Ask Before You Purchase a Life Insurance Policy” I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Erlebacher.

Fabric Co-Founder & CEO Adam Erlebacher was formerly COO at Simple where he led Simple’s growth from pre-launch to hundreds of thousands of customers (acquired by BBVA). Prior to Simple, he co-founded PlaceVine, an online advertising marketplace (acquired 2011), and led business development at AI startup Colloquis (acquired by Microsoft). Earlier, Adam specialized in technology, media, & telecom transactions at JPMorgan. He received his B.A. from Tufts University and an M.B.A. from The Wharton School.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thank you for having me. I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of Fabric, a one-stop-shop for family financial protection that helps parents create a free will, organize their family’s finances, and find affordable life insurance. We believe that every family deserves a secure financial future.

When you become a parent, everything changes. All of a sudden you are responsible for this little human, and besides the diaper changing, feeding, and never-ending sleepless nights, nobody gives you a map explaining how to help protect your family’s financial future. Your toaster oven comes with better instructions. Personally, I never thought about setting up a will or buying life insurance before I had kids, and I didn’t know where to start. The process of getting a will turned out to be very expensive and required meeting with a lawyer. It was so hard to find time that it literally took us three years to write a simple two-page document. And when I went to buy life insurance, it took ten weeks, a health exam, and three meetings with an agent who was pushing me to buy a more expensive product that would have earned him a bigger commission.

My Fabric co-founder Steven and I had worked together at Simple, the digital bank, and we had become dads around the same time. As new dads we realized that there was no modern way for parents to confidently check these otherwise daunting tasks off their lists, and that’s why we started Fabric.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting in the industry? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

One of the key challenges that startups face is focus. We had some potential investors ask us about why we were so focused on families. Why not focus on other customer segments? Wouldn’t you create more value if you served a broader audience? Our answer then and now is that if you’re speaking to everyone, then you are speaking to no one. And it’s important to recognize that nearly everyone is connected to a family. So it’s not so much a niche segment as it is a facet of every single person’s life. We speak to that facet.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Traditionally, getting life insurance meant paper applications, multiple meetings and phone calls — over the course of weeks. Fabric’s innovative online approach means that you can purchase coverage on your phone in 10 minutes, from start to finish. If you have a question, you can chat with one of our licensed insurance professionals.

We’ve also helped alleviate the issue of unclaimed life insurance benefits, as that’s a tragedy if it happens even once. In the past, paper life insurance policies were hidden in file cabinets and manila envelopes, and over $1B of life insurance benefits have gone unclaimed due to lost or misplaced policies. That’s why we empower our customers to grant their spouse beneficiaries access to their policy details online so they always have access to up-to-date coverage information and a direct way to access Fabric support.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lessons that others can learn from that?

I started my career in finance and while I found that job to be intellectually interesting, it didn’t feel like I was building something lasting. It lacked the collaboration, coordination, and broad creativity that you find when coming together to build products and businesses. When I moved to working on startups with similarly minded people, that’s when I really felt like all parts of my brain were being engaged, and that was a very exciting realization for me.

What advice would you give to other people in the insurance field to thrive and avoid burnout?

Make time for your family, your friends, and yourself. Your to-do list never ends, and unless you have some guardrails around how you spend time, you’ll burn out, and the people around you will, too.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our discussion. As an “insurance insider”, you know much more about insurance than most consumers. If your loved one wanted to buy a policy from another person, which 5 things would you advise them to find out about before committing to a policy? Can you give an example or story for each?

  • First and foremost, get it done. Don’t wait. Too many people start and don’t finish. That’s why it’s critical to find a provider who can get you covered online. The longer you wait, the more life happens — life insurance tends to increase in cost as you age, and you can become uninsurable if you become sick.
  • Get at least five times your salary in coverage. Think about it as the amount of time you’d want to provide a cushion for your family if your salary were to need replacing. Beyond that, consider future education costs and any debts. Importantly, get the amount of coverage you can afford. Some coverage is better than no coverage.
  • Make sure the policy is issued by a carrier that has stood the test of time and is highly-rated by A.M. Best, for example, “A-” or better. An insurance policy is a legal contract and you want to ensure that the carrier will be there to fulfill its duty to your family.
  • It shouldn’t need to be mentioned but be truthful on your application.
  • Name a beneficiary and tell the beneficiary where to find the policy. Make sure you have a will that names a guardian for your kids, too.

Insurance agencies or companies are often known to be very creative and innovative marketers. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?

The best marketing is authentic marketing. Be real with your audience and you’ll earn their respect.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Steve Klein took a chance when he hired me at Colloquis, an early AI startup that developed bot technology. Steve was the CEO, who was brought in to turn the company around after the bursting of the dot com bubble and I was looking for my first job in technology after working as an investment banker at JPMorgan. Colloquis was running out of money due to the recent market collapse, I couldn’t code, and I didn’t have any product experience. Two weeks after I joined, more than half the company was laid off. Steve agreed to bring me on to help with sales and partnerships. He trusted me and gave me a lot of responsibility. I absolutely loved it and before long, we had worked to bring in Comcast as our first client. That helped put the company on more solid footing and we went on to close many more large clients and sell the company to Microsoft. Steve continues to be a straight-talking mentor and a true friend.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Don’t procrastinate — make a will! About three in five U.S. adults with kids don’t have a will, and that is a major problem. Without a will that expresses who you want to be the guardian of your kids, a court might appoint a guardian as it sees fit. A will is a simple document that takes just a few minutes to complete. Everyone should have one, especially if they have kids.

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