DBL Center president and CEO Michael Cohen was recently invited to speak on the Principal Insurance You Belong in Business podcast, discussing “how business valuation and succession planning go hand in hand” with host Kyle Munson and Principal advanced solution director Lance Hennesay.
Appropriately, Munson started off the podcast with a “dad joke” style pun (we will spare you the details – you’ll have to listen to the podcast), which led Michael to lead off with an anecdote about his father, DBL Center founder David Cohen. Michael and David met famous comedian Don Rickles at the legendary New York Friar’s Club when Michael was a member.
My dad tells Don Rickles, “I loved watching you growing up…” and Don looks right at my father and asks, “What do you do for a living?”
My dad says, “I sell insurance.”
And Don Rickles says to my dad, “Show business is my life. When I was a kid I sold insurance, but nobody laughed.”
Leaving Entertainment for Insurance
Unlike Rickles, Michael Cohen left his own stand-up comedy career behind – except for the occasional December appearances on-stage during DBL Center holiday parties – to follow in his father’s footsteps as DBL Center CEO.
Since 2017, Cohen has made great strides to:
- Modernize DBL Center’s operations and streamline renewals with The Broker Dashboard
- Build business value and ramp up marketing efforts through a top-ranking website, featuring resource centers, news pages, and informative blog posts
- Expand offerings across multiple states with the growth of Paid Family and Medical Leave in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut
However, Cohen wasn’t always so dedicated to the statutory insurance business. “I used to tell my father, ‘The more you ask, the less I want to do it.’ I told him, if you’re such a good salesperson, why don’t you give me a pitch on why I should get into it?”
Cohen continues: “I was graduating high school, prior to entering Boston University, where I wanted to pursue film and television. In the beginning I didn’t know specifically what I wanted to be, but I was very struck by [the film] Jerry Maguire and I thought maybe I’d be an agent.
My dad kept asking me, ‘If God Forbid something happens to me, your mother wants nothing to do with the business. So why don’t we keep the money in the family?’
From a financial planning perspective, he wanted me to be involved.”
Cohen says, “After doing a stint in the entertainment business for six or seven years, I found a way to parlay my passion into helping him make money in his business. Now I’ve been doing this 17 years come July 1, 2021.”
Michael Cohen Discusses Business Sales in Today’s Environment
The podcast continued with Cohen and Hennesay sharing ideas on selling a business in today’s market, where 2020 will always stand as an exception to all rules or trends on profitability and valuations.
Hennesay noted that many valuation specialists will downplay the significance of 2020 numbers in a weighted average scenario, but that business owners looking to sell at their peak may choose to wait until 2020 moves further into the rearview mirror.
Munson pointed out that only 31% of business owners said they feel confident selling their business right now, while 72% are confident about their ability to adjust to shifting demands, even in the last year.
Cohen falls into this second category, pointing out one of his father’s favorite adages: “Stick to sewing” or “stay in your lane.”
“I never knew what that meant, growing up, but it’s just a simple way of saying don’t be a jack-of-all-trades,” Cohen said. “I sell plenty of lines of disability here – in a good economy you’ve got New Jersey TDI / NJ TDB, New York DBL, Hawaii TDI, enriched DBL in NY, FMLA, STD, ancillary benefits… that’s plenty on my plate. I don’t need to take on major medical. I’ve got enough going on for people to take me seriously as a consultant in the niche that I’m in.”
Modernizing and Growing the Business
Since founder David Cohen’s passing, technology has become a driving force behind The DBL Center’s success. With the 2017 launch of The Broker Dashboard: Net Revenue Tracker, The DBL Center disrupted the niche insurance sector with cutting edge technology.
“I didn’t know, back then, that the Broker Dashboard would expand into apps in The App Store and the Google Play store, for both iOS and Android mobile devices,” Cohen said. “It’s a revenue tracking system, essentially, and that’s what most business owners care about – the bottom line.”
Today, Cohen keeps his eye on the bottom line and satisfies his urge to entertain through podcasts, including his Rep Roundtable discussions and “On the Mic with Mike” sessions where he interviews DBL Center employees and brokers.
To hear more, including more David Cohen wisdom shared by Michael Cohen, listen to the full Principal podcast here. You can also view more DBL Center interviews in our News section.