I don’t like “no” for an answer. I won’t burn bridges and I avoid most confrontation. I’m hard working and like to put in the time to analyze issues and really have a full understanding before a decision is made.
With an extensive background in the engineering field, Eugene Houchins has positioned himself as a leader in the life settlement private equity market. American Life Fund Corp. is responsible for assisting people who need to liquidate their existing life insurance policy. As president and founder of this five-year-old company, Mr. Houchins is dedicated to providing the best service in the field that he serves.
Previously, Eugene Houchins embarked on an opportunity to travel worldwide while pursuing his engineering career. He holds a Master’s of Environmental Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and a Bachelor’s of Science in Civil Engineering from Auburn University. His broad background aides him in providing thought-out, strategic solutions to best service his client’s needs in the field of life settlements.
When he is not hard at work, Eugene Houchins is traveling with his family and coaching little league sports.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
I heard of the idea by happenstance from my banker one day and was fascinated by the fact that someone could own someone else’s life insurance policy. Most people in the US don’t know that’s even possible. It’s an underserved market so I started a brokering company that did exactly that for larger investment firms. We brought them policies to look at and to purchase. I saw that there was a need for policy flow in the industry and that continues to be the case.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start with a daily list. I either end the day by making a list for the next day or I start each day by making a to-do-list first thing in the morning. I rate each task in order of priority. That’s what I strive to get accomplished each day. Also, I don’t use my email for the first hour of the day in order to avoid being unproductive, and I think most people can relate to getting bogged down with emails. That’s part of my strategy in order to stay productive.
How do you bring new ideas to life?
The nice thing about this company is that we can make changes very rapidly. We’re a somewhat of a modestly-sized company that stays light on overhead and since I’m the owner, we can change courses on a dime. We talk strategy often and my engineering background helps in deciding which avenue is more efficient. We’re able to make effectuate these changes by group planning that then leads to setting short and long-term goals.
What is one trend that excites you?
Technology excites me. Having medical records available electronically would really speed up not only our process, but the healthcare industry’s process as a whole. For instance, if we have to work with governmental entities, like the VA, that can really be arduous and yield a lot of unnecessary delays. It would be nice to be able to help the healthcare industry streamline that process, and it’s moving in that direction but still needs a lot of help. The current administration has been making efforts to help out with that process, and I really wish that trend would continue.
Another trend is the consumer advocacy groups that are trying really hard to get the message out to life insurance policyholders that this option is available. The reason why that information isn’t readily available is because some of the insurance action groups do not want policyholders to be aware of this option because it hurts profitability, whereas a surrendered policy is a lot cheaper than a death claim. There’s a lot of advocacy that needs to be done and is being done to make people aware that this option is available to them.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I don’t like “no” for an answer. I won’t burn bridges and I avoid most confrontation. I’m hard working and like to put in the time to analyze issues and really have a full understanding before a decision is made. I don’t want my name, Eugene Houchins, to be associated with knee-jerk decisions.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I was too conservative when I was young. I was afraid of overhead and overexpansion. Sometimes when you know you have the right formula, it’s alright to go out on a limb and hire that extra person or two. Although it may be on the costly side, it would make your life as CEO a lot easier and your business more efficient. That efficiency would ultimately lead to more revenue and income that far exceeds what you’re paying in salary. I wish I was less conservative when it came to that several years ago.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I would say the can-do attitude. In engineering, you’re taught how to solve any and all problems, no matter how big the problem. If you have enough resources, money included of course, you can fly to the moon and back if you think about it. And if you have the desire and passion to do something, matched with the resources, that’s a great combination.
As an entrepreneur, what is one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Planning ahead would be something that I highly recommend. At the end of my day, I usually sit down and create a plan for the next day. Therefore, if I have a rushed morning, I never fret because I already know what the plan for the day will be since I already planned it. That’s a good habit to get into and helps you focus on the more important things to get accomplished, and not necessarily just the fun things to do for that day.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Taking educated, calculated risks has helped. In earlier days, I was conservative with decision making because I was afraid of getting overstretched. Now, I enjoy managing risk better and even leveraging assets when it makes sense. Overall, that has helped me.
What is one failure that you have had as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?
I didn’t see the financial crash coming in late-2008. We overcame that by hunkering down and eliminating any extra costs that wasn’t beneficial to the business. There were a lot of businesses in our industry that shut down at that time and moved onto other endeavors. At the time of the crash, we thought that our industry wasn’t correlated with the economy and that just wasn’t the case. When money dries up, almost any industry, not just the financial industry, suffers. Patience and waiting out the crisis helped us overcome that difficult period of time.
What is one management idea that you are willing to give away to our readers?
Allow yourself to delegate more and do some of those work activities that you find more enjoyable. Allow your employees to take over some of those less liked work duties for you so that you can free up your time. Live a little.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? On what and why?
I spent it on a new pair of basketball shoes so I could play more with my 10-year-old son. Instead of just helping him practice, I actually got out there on the basketball court and played hard with a brand-new pair of basketball shoes. We have a half-court at home, which was also a great investment. We just poured a concrete pad in the backyard and put an adjustable goal in. We play in the backyard almost every day if the weather permits. It’s great exercise and it’s a great time to spend with my son.
What is one piece of software or web service that helps you be productive?
We have different services we use that allows us to see what other key websites are doing and how productive they are. For example, there is software that keeps track of marketing expenditures for us and keeps us updated on what we are doing on a monthly basis. It helps us stay on top of what’s going on in case we need to change our marketing strategy.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would recommend Dale Carnegie’s, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It’s a very easy, quick read and you can always refer back to it to refresh your memory on why you are always selling somebody over the phone or in person, no matter what role or job you have in the company. Again, you’re always selling something, always.
What is your favorite quote?
“If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.