While most organizers of successful events prefer to “not rock the boat,” the founders of CSB/Envision are expanding the most eagerly anticipated conference for frum insurance and financial professionals on numerous fronts.
“We’d like to take credit for the expanded scope of CSB/Envision IV, but the truth is it’s the direct result of numerous requests by countless Orthodox legal and accounting professionals who wanted to know why their professions weren’t included in the original vision that begat CSB/Envision,” said Yoel Bodek. Bodek is the driving force who created the original CSB/Envision after realizing that Orthodox insurance and financial professionals like himself had no industry conferences that reflected their needs and target markets—this despite the disproportionate number of them who were considered “top producers” and members of the “MDRT” (Million-Dollar Round Table).
“At the level most of our core attendees operate at, there is considerable crossover between their skillsets and those of accountants and attorneys who specialize in estates and business planning, so the attraction is natural. But as we focus on delivering a superior product, we didn’t take the easy way out by just expanding our message to target them…we also worked to expand our scope and content to connect with them and ensure they leave this year’s conference every bit as satisfied as past attendees.”
Mr. Bodek also pointed out that “quality of content” was the reason the conference had doubled in size in just three years. “We target top professionals, in communities from Lakewood to Long Island and Brooklyn to Westchester. These are professionals to whom time is money; every day they’re not “out there” is a day that “costs” them. For them to be OK with giving us a day—not to mention the $500 conference fee—speaks volumes in terms of quality of product they feel they’re getting.”
This year’s attendees can look forward to:
Added seminars and presentations. Tailored towards the increasing number of accounting and legal professionals who specialize in estate, business planning, and eldercare related issues.
Master class in “Improv at Work.” Market leaders like AXA, BNP Paribas, Deloitte, E&Y, KPMG, McKinsey, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and Proskauer (among others) have engaged the services of the critically acclaimed Upright Citizen’s Brigade to teach this class. Like all other aspects of the day-long event, the UCB seminar is tailored to the unique needs of the attendees.
Expanded presenter/speaker base. Presenters include known names, or icons, like Bill Cates, Ira Lipsius, Jacob Rosenberg, and Rod Miller, and a “notoriety” name—as in a keynote address from Jack Abramoff, the former lobbyist who, through drive and resilience, has become a catalyst for change in the very arena that first embraced then ultimately indicted him. While these individuals are usually used to addressing larger groups of professionals, the CSB/Envision track record spoke for itself. The event’s ever-growing stature is remarkable in an industry where conferences are almost as common as calendars. Past events had the gravitas to attract icons like Scott Ginsberg, Joe Jordan, and Willie Jolley. Individuals of their caliber do not want to be part of an unproven start-up.
A Great Day for a Great Cause. While the main objective is providing an intense series of events and seminars chosen for their ability “to make the best even better,” attendees also get the chance to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate as well. That’s because sponsorship and admission fees are used to support the very special work of CSB—a truly one-of-a-kind organization that enables vision- and neurologically-impaired individuals to read and communicate in both English and Yiddish/Hebrew at a level that was until recently unnamable to all but a small segment of the Anglo-only market. “Anyone who knows of CSB usually knows them because of the large-type siddurim, Chumashim, Gemaras, etc., but the truth is they’re at the cutting edge of adapting the latest technology to literally see and speak for those who can’t. There’s a three-year-old child in Brooklyn who until recently thought his father was literally a “statue” due to the advanced level of impairment caused by his ALS. Thanks to CSB’s ability to adapt existing technologies, this child can now discuss the parashah and daven with his father. This is just one of hundreds, if not thousands, of literally life-changing differences CSB, in their unassuming, utterly dedicated way, calls “business as usual.”
It’s More than Courses, CE Credits, and Contacts. For most, the inspiration to create a concept like CSB/Envision would be either personal or professional. Personal, as in seeing firsthand the amazing work CSB does and realizing it’s an organization in need of wider support and recognition, and professional, as in realizing that despite the large number of Orthodox professionals, the insurance and financial products/services industry has no event geared to their specific needs.
For Bodek, it was both. Because of his wife, who is vision-impaired, he learned about CSB firsthand, and as managing partner of Montebello-based Broker’s Central, he was privy to “front row seats” in terms of watching how little was done by carriers and service providers in terms of addressing one of the professional demographics that is actually growing. “In the secular world, becoming an insurance salesman or broker is rarely an aspiration for inbound college freshmen or graduating seniors. They usually end up in the industry because they need a job in a tight market. In the Orthodox community, insurance sales and related services are looked at as an opportunity rather than a default, because it’s a respected white collar industry that requires no college or extended formal training and also because the upside is in the individual’s hands. The more dedicated and motivated, the better they tend to do. Combine that with the larger-than-average families—a key element in closing on a sale that’s about securing financial peace of mind—and it’s easy to see why virtually all major carriers, for example Guardian, Mass Mutual, Met Life, NY Life, etc., have MDRT members and top producers who are Orthodox. I recognized I was part of an underserved and potentially receptive market and decided to do something about it…while also doing something to help an under-the-radar organization,” Bodek concluded with a smile.
What Bodek omitted from his narrative was the fact that he himself is a wheelchair-user. While the world would understandably ‘give him a pass’ in terms of going for the “brass ring,” he chooses to view his handicap as a challenge rather than an impediment. Today, the only challenge one faces when dealing with this extremely driven husband, father, and executive, is keeping up—more often than not he finds himself slowing down so that his mobile counterparts can catch up—both literally and figuratively.
The Ideal Venue. Given the higher-profile nature of the presenters and the expanded professional markets being targeted, the organizers chose the Sheraton Mahwah as the site of the August 19 conference. As it’s next door to market leaders like Sharp Electronics, management is highly skilled at running conferences and presentations at maximum efficiency. Plus, it’s a popular simcha and event venue for nearby Orthodox markets, including Monsey, Teaneck, Englewood, upper Manhattan, Westchester, and Riverdale, so the staff is equally well-versed in all the nuances and sensitivities of Orthodox guests. An added benefit is that attendees who prefer to start the morning fresh rather than drive (the day-long program begins at 8:00 a.m.) will be able to take advantage of specially negotiated CSB/Envision rates.
Why This Event Is a Must. In summing up the vision behind CSB/Envision IV, Mr. Bodek simply said, “Regardless of the community they call home, Orthodox individuals have no shortage of events which make demands on their time. Between parlor meetings, lectures, dinners, breakfasts, melaveh malkas, weekends, etc., social calendars fill up fast as worthy causes vie for attention and funds. If we’d decided to help CSB by creating a purely social event targeting our industry, that may have worked—but only short term. So instead we decided to create an event that benefits both the attendees and the organization—something where the takeaway is way more profound and compelling than a journal. Our growth—and ability to continue to help CSB grow—is because of the value we deliver. You can’t “sell” salespeople; they’re about real results—we make them better at what they do and we do it on their terms, that’s why we’re on the ‘must list’ of any professional looking to take their career to the next level.”
Bodek concluded by saying that between the high-profile firepower of this year’s line-up, the always-inspired conference topics, and an early-bird discount, interest in CSB/Envision IV was high and reservations were coming in at a rather brisk pace. While predicting an early sellout didn’t seem to be in his nature, he did say that the organizers were optimistic about reaching their attendee projections. “Our best marketing effort for CSB/Envision IV took place on October 30, 2013,” he said with a smile, referring to the date of CSB/Envision III.
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