This blog post continues two related S2KM series:
S2KM: Your injury occurred in 1975 - just prior to the beginning of the structured settlement industry in the United States in the late 1970s. Have you had any experience with structured settlements or injury award recipients?
Randy Snow: After becoming involved in wheelchair sports, I traveled and met many persons involved in accidents. Some of those persons received large sums of money. There are many inspirational stories. Personal injury victims who have successfully managed their recoveries and successfully redefined their post-settlement lives. Many of these stories involve structured settlements. There are also many horror stories. Accident victims who have squandered their recoveries and their lives. I have a friend who received a $300,000 settlement in 1980. That was a pretty nice sum in those days. In two years, his money was gone. In my experience, accident victims who are matched with professional financial advisors and settlement planners are much better off.
S2KM: Many changes have occurred for the structured settlement industry during the past several years. Sales growth, however, has been flat. Some experts say "regressive". Some industry leaders characterize the structured settlement industry as "under performing" and "opportunistic". You have spoken to many individuals and organizations about change and growth. Have you ever spoken to an entire industry undergoing change?
Randy Snow: Yes I have. After my injury, the disability community, of which I am a member, determined that wheel chairs, both manual and power chairs, were heavy, limited in options, and with no aesthetic value. When I was injured in 1975, wheel chairs were antediluvian. Everyone who used a wheelchair felt the same way about themselves. Fortunately, I became associated with a company called Sunrise Medical. Sunrise Medical transformed the wheelchair industry.
Sunrise Medical began producing wheel chairs made of extruded aluminum, Dacron sail cloth and eventually titanium. We included many options and colors and many different sizes. We started making sports chairs and center wheel drive power chairs. We changed the entire wheel chair industry. Sunrise Medical analyzed and applied the benefits we acquired and learned about from our sports chairs and applied these lessons and benefits to other mobility devices.
My mentor, Marilyn Hamilton was the driving force behind Sunrise/Quickie. Marilyn taught me to listen to the customer. A novel idea wouldn’t you say? Next, the products we designed had to be the best - or what’s the point? Thirdly, by surrounding ourselves with the best people available, in engineering, design, manufacturing, sales, all the best, we had the best thinkers and ideas. And finally, Marilyn’s signature, we had fun. Marilyn was the driving force behind the success of Sunrise. Marilyn was my mentor. We shared the ride to changing the industry. I was lucky to be part of Marilyn's team. What did I learn? Finding the right mentors and coaches can light the path for all of us.
S2KM: The current structured settlement industry consists of many competing and self-interested stakeholders. Examples: plaintiffs vs.defendants; annuities vs. trusts; primary market vs.secondary market. How can positive change and growth occur with so many competing factions all prioritizing their own self-interests?
Randy Snow: One result of competition is the end product. Of course, self interest will be one motive. The final product, however, will be a stronger industry. Between two opposing and competing forces there exists a middle position. That middle position probably represents the truth. Change and growth are difficult. Choices, however, create opportunities for all stakeholders.
S2KM: What if certain structured settlement leaders don’t want to grow? Or, to state it differently, what if these historical structured settlement leaders perceive change negatively? What if the future is bad for their historic beliefs, relationships and skill sets?
Randy Snow: Charles Darwin said it best: ""It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change".
S2KM: What additional advice can you offer for the traditional structured settlement industry as it contemplates and formulates its growth strategy?
Randy Snow: Nothing takes the place of hard work. When opportunity knocks, be prepared.
S2KM: Randy, thank you for your time and thoughts about the structured settlement industry.
For additional information about Randy Snow, see: