When Dr. Henry C. Martin abandoned his career in medicine, he faced new challenges in the unwieldy insurance industry of the 1850s. For twelve years he traveled the wild west as a special agent for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee setting up new offices. Eventually he opened his own agency in Indianapolis and became Northwestern’s general agent in Indiana.
While covering the rugged territory, Dr. Martin took “rough notes” jotting down his experiences in an unregulated industry full of “wild cats”. Later, with his wife’s help, Dr. Martin started publishing the field notes in newsletters for his agents. The agents’ response was overwhelming and the newsletters became the magazine, Insurance Rough Notes in 1878. Rough Notes gave the agents what they needed most: practical information about how to sell. But just as important, Rough Notes became the “voice of reform” for the industry. Dr. Martin’s powerful editorials led to better insurance laws and fire underwriting.
Being a man of vision, Dr. Martin saw the need for standardization. He designed and creatively marketed simple, time-saving forms, ledgers and unique sales kits. By the 1890s Rough Notes, Inc. had become the “headquarters for insurance supplies”.
Today, the Rough Notes Company continues to equip agencies in all phases of their operations. We understand the needs of the insurance agent. With new technologies undreamed of in Dr. Martin’s time, we continue to develop innovative products and services to assist the growth of independent agencies in the next millennium.
Dr. Henry C. Martin founds Rough Notes in Indianapolis, Indiana while working as a general agent. The magazine begins as a newsletter to his agents under the title, The Insurance Rough Notes. He distributes the first issue on November 10th.
The Rough Notes Company is incorporated in Indiana.
Insurance conditions in Indiana were very bad. The state was overrun by wildcats of every know variety, and there was no provision in the law code of the state under which reserve companies of any kind could be organized. Rough Notes was started primarily to furnish a voice in leading the fight for reform. It took 21 years, but in1899 laws were passed which put insurance on a sound basis in the state. Dr. Martin was given a fair share of the credit for placing on the Indiana statute books the legal reserve deposit law, passed in 1899, and at the following legislative session, the removal from statutory requirements of the barriers which had prevented capital investment in the fire underwriting enterprise.
Dr. Martin begins to standardize business operations in the insurance field.
RN produces the first state handbook, the Indiana Insurance Directory.
STANDARDIZATION BRINGS ROUGH NOTES NATIONAL RECOGNITION
RN becomes recognized nationally as the “headquarters for insurance supplies,” a reputation it earns by creating time-saving forms, ledgers, and sales kits. RN advertises its new supply department with the slogan, “Everything for the Insurance Man”.
Rough Notes as “Headquarters for Superior Insurance Supplies” for many years was perhaps better than the magazine itself. The Supply Department is almost as old as Rough Notes itself, and the development of time-saving records, forms, files, etc., has been a not unimportant contribution to insurance economics.
The Supply Department received its big impetus under the management of Louis H. Martin, son of Dr. Martin, the founder.
Louis Martin grew up with the business, working during spare time and vacations while he attended high school and Butler University. (In 1894, he interrupted his work for a year at Harvard) In 1890, he took charge of the Supply Department and during the next 8 years developments were rapid.The First Modern Agency System
He designed the Rough Notes Loose-Leaf System for agents which, with minor changes, is still standard and popular, and which initiated most of the fundamental ideas now used in agency records. His account current sheet, designed to correspond with he company account current blanks, greatly simplifying the making up of monthly accounts, preceded by 20 years the duplicate Policy register-Account Current forms now generally used. Standardized Forms and Methods
Young Martin worked out the method of filing duplicate daily reports, which is still recommended for most agencies. He wrote “Right to the Point” a manual for fire agents, the fifth revised edition of which has just come off the press, forty years later. He devised, revised and improved forms and records for all purposes, and by 1898 the Rough Notes catalog showed a complete line of insurance supplies and records for agents, field men and adjusters, as well as many home office supplies. He did an especially good job in standardizing and issuing blank forms for all purposes, such as proofs of loss, adjusters’ agreements and forms, cancellation notices and the like.
He redesigned the Rough Notes supply cabinets and made them the most popular item of agency equipment of their day. The old “bed-sheet” policy forms were a real problem for the local agent. “Clark’s O-N-T Spool Cabinets” were practically standard equipment for their filing. Policy registers of that day, with their pasted in forms, the bulky expiration registers and other records were unsightly and difficult to handle. Rough Notes cabinets were especially designed to bring these records and supplied under reasonable control.
Irving Williams becomes Editor of Rough Notes in 1897 and during the next forty years he leads the publication to national prominence among trade journals.
RN captures the U.S. and Canadian markets by pioneering a mail-order catalog and selling a wide-range of insurance supplies and office furniture. Long before the automobile becomes a common sight, agents, most of whom live far from the cities, benefit from the convenience of ordering supplies from RN’s catalogues.
The “American” Insurance Institute Rough Notes might with some justification claim to be the ‘daddy’ of the Insurance Institute of America. In 1902 it organized “The American Insurance Institute.” For supervised study of the educational material appearing in its pages. Examinations were prepared and help annually, a diploma being issued for successful completion of the course. In larger centers examinations were held in board rooms, under the supervision of local underwriters. The Insurance Institute of America was organized in 1909, and Rough Notes’ American Insurance Institute was discontinued. Much of the educational material appearing in its pages was republished in book form, furnishing badly needed text books, among which were: The Standard Fire Policy , Hall on Adjustments, Daniel’s Apportionment of Non-Concurrent Insurance, Electrical Hazards, Chemistry of Combustion, and Irving Williams’ Insurance Definitions.
The San Francisco earthquake demolishes the picturesque city, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless. Agent demands for insurance forms swamp Rough Notes with orders. Overnight, 75,000 proof-of-loss forms are requested by telegram. RN employees work around-the-clock to fill the orders. RN’s efficiency and speed impress agents.
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The “horseless carriage” is making its appearance on the dirt roads of America. The new automobile excites RN editor, Irving Williams, into writing a feature article, entitled, “Could the Automobile be Adopted as a Practical Conveyance for Field Work?”
The company moves to larger headquarters, a four-story 30,000 square-foot building at 220 East Ohio Street.
A NEW GENERATION OF PRODUCTS AND SELLING STRATEGIES
Wohlgemuth continues his strategy of growth. He purchases one of the leading life insurance magazines, The Life Insurance Independent. Subscriptions at 20,000 give it the largest circulation in the nation.
All Star Convention Issue
To solidify RN’s relationship with life agents, the company publishes over thirty life insurance textbooks and creates All-Star, a special issue of The Insurance Salesman which remains a reference tool well into the 1980’s.
RN is keenly aware of the agents’ desire for support and education. For this purpose, RN provides concrete examples of sales techniques. RN features a series in The Insurance Salesman: “How To Sell,” “How to Solicit” and “What to Say.” As a result, The Insurance Salesman becomes the most profitable insurance magazine circulating nationally.
RN moves through the roaring twenties with zest. It takes the lead in agency standardization by successfully developing new products – all for the modern agent. By the end of the decade, supplies grow six-fold. Over 25,000 orders are processed yearly, with annual sales grossing $740,727.
Policy, Form & Manual Analysis Service (PF&M) is introduced. Today it remains one of the Company’s leading products.
RN becomes a leader in the use and dissemination of new photographic advertisements. Bold posters, in black and white, try to convince consumers of their need for insurance coverage. “Photo realism,” a rage in Europe, is used by RN to portray insurance risks such as gangsters robbing homes, cars crashing into houses, and airplanes falling from the skies. These posters, hung in agents’ storefronts, modernize insurance advertisement. RN also gives awards to outstanding insurance advertisements. By 1950, over a million photos a month are sold to insurance companies and agents to promote their lines.
A.D. Lange is hired to manage the new Insurance Advertising Service Department which later becomes the Pictorial Division. In 1945 Mr. Lange left the company to form Pictorial Publishers.
At the Insurance Advertising Conference held in Hartford in May 1927, the Rough Notes Company donates and presents the Insurance Journal Advertising Trophy to the winners.
RN introduces the 1-2-3-4 System, which standardizes agency operations. In addition, RN also produces marketing tools, such as sales kits that include post cards, blotters, booklets, letterheads and folders.
RN introduces The Estate-O-Graph which told the story of life and health insurance to the public. It grew faster than all other RN publications gaining a circulation of 165,000 within six months.
The Great Depression brings hardship to the country. To keep businesses afloat during this trying period, RN creates cost-cutting techniques and promotional campaigns via advertisement and sales kits.
RN publishes Coverages Applicable which becomes the industry standard and remains in print.
RN responds to its clients’ needs by evaluating different classes of risk; RN begins publishing magazines and books on insurable hazards and unusual risks.
The first edition of Boeckh’s Manual of Appraisals is published by RN. It quickly sells out and a second, larger edition is printed the same year.
Rough Notes National Sales Force
By 1935 Rough Notes has a national sales force.
RN introduces Insurable Hazards Illustrated (IHI) which reports insurance in action – the actual daily losses.
RN pioneers an Insurance Correspondence Training Course for agents and fieldmen.
RN creates easy-to-use cancellation tables for agents to calculate pro rata earned or return premiums with RONOCO
RONOCO Slide Chart
Richard J. Layton becomes manager of the Agency Supply Division and develops Rough Notes, Inc.’s agency manual billing and accounting system which remains in use today.
Rough Notes celebrates its 60th anniversary with a profit sharing plan, enabling employees to share in the company’s success. The Insurance Pictorial produces over 5 million advertisement sales magazines; Life Pictorial produces 900,000.
RN introduces What It Costs the highly successful book still published annually.
Albert J. Wohlgemuth is elected president after his brother’s death. He launches a buying binge that helps make subscriptions to Rough Notes soar and its mail-order customers increase. By 1953, Rough Notes becomes the largest general insurance magazine circulating in the nation.
Buys Thomas & Evans.
Buys new headquarters in Indianapolis Indiana.
DISCOMPUTER Universal Cancellation Wheel
Buys DISCOMPUTER and introduces the Universal Cancellator which is still sold today.
ROUGH NOTES MAGAZINE CELEBRATES ITS 75TH ANNIVERSARY!
Rough Notes concurrently celebrates its 75th anniversary while Albert Wohlgemuth celebrates his 40th anniversary with the company. Albert leaves a legacy of growth and prosperity behind him: Seventy-five percent of all insurance agencies in the United States use all or part of the Rough Notes Manual System.
His son, Edward succeeds him as President, the post he will hold for 22 years.
RN introduces The Insurance Marketplace and Specialty Coverage Market Reports.
Edward Wohlgemuth takes the company into the automated accounting field. Five years later, RN sets up its own computer center, Rough Notes-AAA, Inc., (Automated Agency Accounting). RN is the only company offering both automated and manual systems.
In 1972 ACORD, Agency Company Organization for Research and Development, is created to standardize insurance forms throughout the industry. ACORD asks RN to assist in its early development phase since it is the largest distributor of industry forms.
The Rough Notes Company elects Walter Gdowski as president. He quickly redesigns the company’s lifeline, Rough Notes magazine. As a result, revenues soar from $200,000 in 1988 to $900,000 in 1993. Gdowski takes advantage of new technologies and improved products to turn the company around.
January Launches the newly redesigned Rough Notes magazine with an agent on the cover.
PF&M goes from loose leaf to CD-ROM. It is distributed by Silver Plume.
Offers state-approved pre-licensing courses for insurance agents.
In an environmentally conscious attempt to reduce paper waste, RN creates its own software called “Three-Part Harmony.” Its goal is to keep independent insurance agents informed of the changing rules and coverages offered by different insurance companies.
“Three Part Harmony” becomes standard with major insurance companies and is now RN’s third-leading product.
Establishes the Marketplace 800 Service, which assists agents with difficult-to-find markets.
Gdowski revolutionizes Rough Notes by adopting state-of-the-art computer facilities to replace outdated equipment and materials. Sales reach $5.5 million.
RN reformats its technical information products for CD-ROM, hyperlinking it throughout.
RN uses the Internet as a quick information tool for agents by making such products as Policy Form, Manual Analysis, Insurance Marketplace, and Specialty Coverage Market Reports.
Windows® versions are offered for RN software products.
Increases Internet news coverage of Property/Casualty insurance conventions and conferences to twenty-eight.
Introduces the 1997 Insurance Marketplace on the Internet with a more user-friendly search engine allowing easier access for agents.
RN web site is experiencing over 38,000 hits per month with Rough Notes magazine, Insurance Marketplace and Specialty Coverage Market Reports publications receiving the highest number of hits.
Introduces a comprehensive Commercial Risk Management Survey with 26 categories in which over 700 risks are described, coverages are recommended and questionnaires are provided.
Reintroduces the Automated Calculator Wheel in a new electronic format. In the 1930’s RN introduced the short-rate and pro-rate calculator wheel, In 2001 these calculators are now electronic and available on disk.
Publishes new editions of Coverages Applicable, and Insurance Words and Their Meaning.
Introduces Cases and Coverages, an innovative educational tool for training insurance professionals.
RN reintroduces What It Cost with financial data supplied by the Marsh Berry Company.
Introduces E-marketing a unique marketing tool for agencies. E-marketing contains educational articles and is designed for agents to use with on web sites for their personal line clients
Introduces the Agency Online, a software product that integrates eight products that are vital for prospecting in a new market or uncovering exposure in over 700 business risks.
Policy Form & Manual Analysis Service (PF&M)
Insurance Words & Their Meanings
e-marketing for Agencies
Business Building Letters
Rough Notes magazine
The Insurance Marketplace
Al Singer, of Singer, Nelson, Charlermers Insurance Agency of Teaneck, New Jersey is the winner of the Community Service Award. Singer was responsible for having raised enough awareness and money to deliver nearly 300,000 pounds of food to needy families throughout the United State. One out of four children in America go to bed hungry, and Singer wanted to make a difference. He partnered with Feed The Children, a nonprofit organization to deliver the truck loads of food across the country.
The hospital in Pana, a city of 6,000 persons in south-central Illinois, serves a population area of approximately 34,000 in Christian, Shelby, Montgomery and Fayette counties. Its antiquated emergency room could handle only two patients simultaneously. Private citizens and local businesses quickly came to the rescue, with Dick Lees, among others, at the forefront of the effort. The 2,700-square-foot addition is nearly 10 times the size of the old emergency room.
The Boys & Girls Clubs provided safe havens for young people to go to after school, havens that would change lives. Ken Felten began his three-year task of bringing the club to Indian River County. By 2000, because of Ken’s diligent efforts, Indian River County had its first Boys & Girls Club. Today there are two clubs where some 400 youths can enjoy indoor and outdoor activities. In addition, the “power hour” provides time for children to do their after-school homework in a safe setting.
RN establishes the Community Service Award, an annual tribute to agents’ volunteer activities.
Rough Notes magazine annual circulation increases to 52,000.
Insurance Marketplace reaches a 50% growth in advertising revenue in one year.
Rough Notes’ Web site receives over 450,000 hits a month.
Publishes a new edition of Homeowners Analysis.
BIG “I” RENAMES THE PRODUCER ONLINE PRODUCT AS THE VIRTUAL RISK CONSULTANT
The National Independent Agents and Brokers Association market the “Virtual Risk Consultant” to their membership.
“How To Insure” … training courses are added to Rough Notes Producer Online product.