Is there such a thing as a world winning lawyer?

Three guys walk into a bar. An insurance guy, an investment guy, and a lawyer…I guess the joke is over as anything dealing with a lawyer is not funny.

We have heard many lawyer jokes in our lifetime, and in our family, we hear many, many bad jokes.  However, our family is different, we actually have a world winning lawyer. Did I just say world winning lawyer?  Yup a world winner, here is the story.

My brother Pat is a lawyer and an Adjunct Professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul on beautiful Summit Avenue.  His specialty is negotiation and he is the head coach of the school’s negotiation team.  Although there are many types and kinds of lawyers negotiation is a critical component every attorney should excel at.  Because negotiation is very important in the profession, law schools have negotiation teams to help their students excel as attorneys.

It’s not easy to make the team. There are many students, but only a few can make it. Once the team is made, they practice and start competitions against other schools.  Winners advance to the Regions, and if you win regions you advance to the Nationals. Under my brother’s guidance, his teams have advanced to the nationals three times prior taking 3rd which is no small task.  The 2017 Mitchell Hamline team was special. They advanced to the regions, winning and advancing to nationals.  At nationals they took on and beat law schools everyone has heard of before like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, etc. and won nationals. This is the first time in Mitchell Hamline Law Schools history that they won nationals. By winning nationals this gave Mitchell Hamline an invite to the International Competition in Oslo, Norway.  The international competition is only open to the national champions of each country.  This year, teams came from 32 countries.  Long story short, Mitchell Hamline won the World Championship! This is the first time in the history of the world negotiation championships that any United States law school won.  Yes, all those years of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, etc never won the World Championship until my brother and Mitchell Hamline School of Law.  Congratulations to Pat and Mitchell Hamline School of Law for not only winning the Nationals but to being the World Champs!

Pets, Aging, Costs?

Our dog is a Havanese (a Cuban dog) and her name is “Gucci”. We named her Gucci as she was very expensive to purchase and bring home.  Everything the Gucci company sells is expensive, so thus the name.

Our family fell in love with her and she with us when we picked her up when she was around 10 weeks old.  She has now been with us for 10 years making her not only a great family dog but an age around 75 years old. Recently we have noticed some health issues with her and started “family discussions” about how Gucci will not be with us too much longer.  Toni and I have fielded many questions from the kids regarding the end of life, like how will we know, what will happen, how can you be sure, etc.  These are tough questions even for a Vet to answer.

Therefore, for anyone who owns or has owned a pet, you will be faced with the same situation as our family.  There are people out there who will spend thousands and thousands of dollars out of their own pocket to keep their pet healthy and alive.  While others who love their pet very much don’t have the resources to pay for all the end of life costs.  In this situation, it can be overwhelming financially and emotionally for the family.

Recently I came across a product from one of my insurance companies that will help those families who are not independently wealthy afford to keep their pet healthy, it is pet insurance.  Like human health insurance, it provides financial support to those families who want to give their pet health insurance throughout the pet’s life.  Sudden accidents that cause a vet hospital visit would be covered, but a preexisting condition or cosmetic changes would not be.  If this is something you would like to know more about, please contact us and I would be happy to give you the information and a quote.

So, to end my story, I don’t know what the right answer is for anyone, especially my family.  I guess we will take it one day at a time.  But I can tell you that if we had pet insurance it would help our family deal with the financial and emotional stress at the end of our pet’s life.



What I am thankful for…

Every year the same thing.  It starts the day after Halloween, we start preparing for the big Christmas season.  To find that perfect gift for your loved ones.  We’ve all said it, “this Christmas shopping season starts earlier and earlier!”  I myself have sworn off any shopping on Thanksgiving day and night.  Only on Black Friday morning (after 5:00am) will I do anything.  However, this practice of shopping early hasn’t held water for me for many years since the internet started.  Yup, I wake up when my wife and kids leave at a horrible hour (see other story), and fall back asleep.  When I do wake up, I make some coffee and get straight to my shopping from my desk.  I think I accomplish as much as my wife, but I am warm and cozy with my feet up.  But this is not what I am going to talk to you today about.  Nope, Thanksgiving is the next holiday and it is my favorite and here’s why.

One of the big ones, is that I don’t have to buy any gifts for anyone, and all the stress that goes with it.  I get together with my families, we eat a ton of great food and watch football.  If you remember last month’s newsletter you know how much I like watching football!  To me, this is the perfect holiday.  Now fun aside, it is a time of year for me to reflect on myself and thank my maker for all that I have.  All of you have different backgrounds and beliefs, and I am a Christian of Catholic faith.  We all see many images and hear stories of bad events going on in the world, these people vs those people, it gets hard to read the newspapers, social media or even watch TV without getting depressed.  I think this last election did it in for most people.  But Thanksgiving is a time of year I thank the Lord for my wife and kids, my parents and my brother and his family.  For all of my other families and their children.  Without any of them to share life events with, or to hope for better things in all of our lives, what do any of us really have?  These are things I am thankful for, the little things.  The little things that make me who I am, and I like who I am.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Black Friday Tradition

By Amanda Zitek

Growing up, Black Friday was always that one day of the year which seemed like a holiday, but wasn’t really a holiday. It took years for me to convince my mom and her best friend to include me on their shopping spree! One year, it finally happened.

Its one of those memories that is forever burned inside my mind. I can remember the night before and all the prepping that needed to be done. My mother, Toni, told me to lay out some warm clothes and set my alarm clock to 4am… 4:00AM! This was the earliest, most absurd hour to go shopping I thought to myself. However, my mom is always right, so I laid out what I thought was considered “warm clothing” which included my favorite Uggs, mittens, and a sweatshirt. Let me tell you, this was mistake #1.

Before I knew it, it was time to go! Running on about 3 hours of sleep I was filled with excitement and adrenaline to go get those deals! We met up with my mom’s friend Merri at Caribou (this was before I knew coffee was like crack to adults). We all went over the game plan. Which stores at what times, what sections people were in charge of, and most importantly who was grabbing what for who. Once we had a solid plan, we were on our way.

Target was stop number one. We pulled into the parking lot and it was PACKED! There was a line of people all clustered together waiting in anticipation to get in. The store wasn’t open yet, we still had about 45 minutes to go! It was cold. Very cold. As time went on, the number of limbs that were going numb started to increase at a rapid rate. Eventually, the doors opened! The light from inside was shining on all of us, like the gates of heaven were opening.

All of a sudden both my mom and Merri crouch over like we were in a split second huddle, “Toni to electronics!”, “Merri to toys!”, “Amanda run, grab the cart and meet us back there!” — Then they were GONE. Never in my life have I seen my mother blitz like that. I started to be pushed into the store by the other deal hungry people. After I found a cart it was like looking into a sea of chaos. Finally, I stroll to the back of the store where I see them both holding more things then humanly possible. They unload the toys into the cart and we were off again. With a quick stop at the check out, we were on our way to Walmart, Mills Fleet Farm, and Macy’s.

After about 8 hours of solid running, shopping, freezing, and standing the spree was over. We followed our game plan to a T and did a solid job at purchasing everything on their lists. I was exhausted! After making it home to glorify in all the triumph we achieved that day, I realized Black Friday was definitely not a holiday. Black Friday was a sport. Next year, I was going to be ready.

Lakeville South Football – 5th Grade – Showcase Game

On Sunday October 2 the Lakeville South Football Association had it’s annual Showcase Football games.  These games are the highlight of the season for the players and coaches. Our team, Bjorklund / Zitek team, played on the Lakeville South High School main Cougar football field.  The game was being called by our special guest and non-other than our own Lakeville South Football announcer, Mr. Carlson!  After running thru the sign and onto the field, Mr. Carlson called out each player by name and used any nicknames they wanted to be called.  I want to give a shout out, thank you to Kim Bjorklund for making the sign for the 2nd year in a row.  You can see the video of them running through the sign below.  Next year our players will get to play on the field at the US Bank Stadium!!  Yes, that’s right, the new stadium of the Minnesota Vikings.  Everyone is very excited for next year.

On our season, as standings go, we were undefeated.  That is great, but the players developed beyond our expectations.  We were given the high school football playbook and had to teach them formations with long named plays.  We also had our guards pulling on plays.  It was an exciting season and can’t wait until passing league starts at the end of the school year.


Here is a classic example of how taking initiative can pay off:

How a Mexican Janitor Invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos
The Frito-Lay janitor is now an executive vice president at PepsiCo, all because of a spicy snack.  By Cynthia Than Founding member, Cross Circles


Richard Montañez was born in Mexico and grew up in Guasti, a small town close to Ontario, California, picking grapes with this family. They would have dinner at the communal table in the kitchen they shared with six other families.

As a child, Richard had no idea that he was poor. “No one ever taught me what was on the other side of the tracks,” he says. And on his side of the tracks, the aspirationsweren’t very high: Most of the kids he knew hoped to get a job at the town’s factory.

Richard had trouble learning English and he dropped out of high school because he couldn’t understand the teachers. Without a high school diploma, he got a job as a janitor at the Frito-Lay Rancho Cucamonga plant in California.

Richard came from humble beginnings and had modest ambitions (“No disrespect to anyone, but my dream was to drive the trash truck”) but that all changed when someone told him he could have bigger dreams. The president of the company sent a video message to his employees and “he told us to act like an owner,” says Richard. “I looked around and didn’t see a lot of reaction from my co-workers, but for me it was the opportunity to do something different. ”

One day, a machine broke in the assembly line, causing some Cheetos to not get dusted with the bright orange cheese powder, so Richard took some home and put chili powder on them. He created his own recipe for a spicier version of Cheetos that was inspired by a Mexican street snack called elote (corncob).

“I see the corn man adding butter, cheese, and chili to the corn and thought, what if I add chili to a Cheeto?” Richard remembers. His family, friends, and co-workers all loved the new creation and they encouraged him to tell the plant supervisors about it. Richard called the president and talked the secretary into putting his call through. Richard told him that he had an idea for a new product and he got a chance to give a demonstration.

“I had two weeks to prepare a presentation to company executives,” says Richard. He had never given a presentation before and knew nothing about marketing, so he and his wife went to the public library and copied a strategy from one of the business books. He bought a $3 tie, his first ever. (A neighbor helped him tie it.) He put the Cheetos in sample bags that he designed himself and he went to the meeting.

The company executives loved his idea and the Flamin’ hot line of products was born, including Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, which is Frito-Lay’s top selling snack. Today, Richard is the executive vice president of multicultural sales and community activation for PepsiCo’s North American divisions. He also helped influence Hispanic products and marketing promotions for KFC and Taco Bell.

“Latinos who have made it like myself have a responsibility to open doors to younger generations and teach them that they can do it,” says Richard, who provides college scholarships to young Latinos. He also gives back to the community through food, clothing, school supplies, and other services. “I do it because I can and I know what it is to be hungry.”

Firearms & Personal Liability

In today’s uncertain times, people turn to firearms for family protection.  It seems a day does not go by when some sick individual preys on the innocent.  As humans we naturally feel violated, threatened and fear for our safety and the safety of our families.

Many people own a firearms for protection or hunting.  Others think owning a firearm somehow sets our society back in time to wild, wild, west.  I’m not going to debate the 2nd Amendment (which I am a firm believer of, an NRA member and a right to carry permit holder), no, what I’m going to do is discuss how insurance plays a role for firearm owners.  We know there are millions of firearms in circulation but we do not hear much about how insurance can play a role in your protection.

There are two parts of insurance for your firearms.  One is to protect it from damage.  Simple, just talk to your insurance agent and they can add it to the policy.  We can talk about that coverage in depth later.  What I want to discuss is this, does your homeowner’s insurance liability policy respond in the event of a firearm discharge?  We have two scenarios.  Carrying a firearm away from home and you have a discharge, or a firearm discharge in your home like in a home invasion.  I’m going to discuss the home invasion.  There are many insurance companies, but they are not all alike.  The insurance policies I sell to my clients are reviewed by me for just this type of need.  We look for coverage or an exclusion buyback so we have liability regarding the use of firearms.  When you discharge your firearm it comes with serious consequences.  Criminal and personal liability.  Your insurance policy must be sure to have the coverage to defend you personally for any lawsuits that arise, criminal is something else.  As I said before, not all insurance companies are the same.  There are many out there that do not cover you if a firearm is discharged.  You’re thinking no… really?  Yup it’s true.  Take out your policy and read the liability section to see if you have coverage or exclusions regarding firearms.  One of my insurance companies has language in their liability section under the exclusions sections that has a “buy back of coverage”.  It reads, “…this exclusion does not apply to “bodily injury” or “property damage” that arises out of the use of reasonable force to protect people or property”.  What this means is the policy “will” respond to bodily injury or property damage if you are protecting your family and/or your property.  Remember every claim is different, not all home invasions are the same.  You must remember the word “reasonable force” and the meaning behind those words.  You shoot a bad guy in the back after he broke into your home and they were not coming for you or your family, then more than likely criminal charges will be forth coming as well as civil.  In addition, you would not have any insurance protection as the insurance policy will not respond because your action was deemed, “not reasonable”.  Flip that around, a bad guy breaks in, has a weapon, coming for you and your family and your firearm is discharged, the insurance policy should see this as reasonable force.  Heck, most people would see this as reasonable force.  Now nothing is set in stone, there is no guaranty of coverage as laws and perceptions change daily, and guess what, so do insurance policies.

If this topic is concerning then please give me a call and let’s set up a time to sit down and see what you have for coverage.  If we find you policy does not provide the coverage you want, my agency can find you something that makes sense for you and your family.


Property Values For Businesses and Homeowners

Today we are going to discuss property values for businesses and homeowners.  I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve heard of this term, insured to value or proper valuation.  I would like to break down this term so you can understand why it is so important.

Regardless if you are a business owner or personal home owner, property values affect you the same way.  Some of you may be rolling your eyes and think this is just a fancy way for those nasty insurance agents and companies to make more money.  I assure you this, it is not a tactic to squeeze every dime out of you.  It really is about looking out for your best interests.

Be it business / commercial accounts or personal homeowners, it is very important to keep these values as close to the actual value of the building.  The example I like to use is Hurricane Katrina.  We all know about Katrina and its destructive aftermath.  After Katrina, claims adjustors raced down from all over the United States hitting the streets to handle all of those claims.  Stories surfaced about building owners being paid the full “policy” limit and not what it would take to replace the building.  Why did this happen?  The mindset of many building owners at that time happen to believe these areas have not had a strong Hurricane in 50 years.  Besides, we can save money on our insurance costs if we lower the value of the building.  Temporarily yes, you’ve succeeded in lowering your premiums but it comes at a price.  Here is an example of what I mean.  Let’s use a value of $250,000 for a building.  Let’s say the replacement value of this building is $350,000 so you underinsured its value by $100,000.  You might be thinking why not, you haven’t had a loss and you don’t foresee a loss so let’s save the money.  The real cost of that $100,000 valuation difference equates to roughly $250 per year.  So if you take the example above, 50 years will get you a total savings of $12,500.  I think we can all agree on a couple of things.  One, no one usually has their building or home that long and two the value of materials and labor will increase over time.  So for argument sake, everything stays the same.  You save $12,500 over 50 years and live with the building valuation short by $100,000.  This means is you are now personally responsible or think of it like this, you became your own insurance company for the difference.  In my Katrina example the insurance companies paid building owners the $250,000 and were happy to do so.  I’m sure you know why, they saved $100,000 per building!  This is real, even today some of those homeowners are still living in a government provided RV/Trailer with no home rebuilt because they cannot rebuild with the money they received.  Someone lost, and someone won.

What should you do?  Have your agent run what we call in the insurance business a Marshall & Swift/Boech report.  This property valuation report takes into consideration your location, square footage and many other particulars of your building and comes up with a valuation.  This process is not 100% accurate all of the time, but it is the only thing in the insurance world we have to value properties.  So ask for it, look it over, make sure it takes into consideration everything your building has to offer.

Back to my Katrina example.  In my example of using 50 years of ownership, most of us don’t own the building that long.  Maybe 10 years making your total savings only $2,500 and gambling the other $97,500.

Thanks for reading, if you have any questions please drop me a note.

What to Do When You Are In an Auto Accident

As a trusted insurance consultant or what others will call me, an insurance agent.  There are times we get phone calls when a client of ours is involved in an auto accident.  No one likes auto accidents, not the person involved, the employer and/or the parents for those of you who are our personal lines customers.  Our first thoughts are, “Is everyone alright?”  We are all human and we do naturally care for other humans in a traumatic event.  Once we know everyone in the accident is OK, our second thought is, “What do I do now?”

Today I am going to speak to our clients regarding a non-fatal, non-injury auto accidents.  I tell my clients to take pictures of everything.  Most of us, if not all of us have a cell phone with a camera.  Assuming you can get out of your vehicle, start taking pictures.

  • Take pictures of your vehicle inside and out, and go all around the vehicle.
  • Then take pictures of any people who were in your vehicle as you might forget who was there.  It has been proven when we see or suffer a traumatic event, we will forget many important facts.  With pictures, it helps us to remember and it helps the claim adjustors/police figure out what happened.
  • Once we are all taken care of, then take pictures of the other vehicle(s) just like what we did on our vehicle.  If you can’t get inside of the other vehicle, no issues.  It is nice to get it especially if the other vehicle is engaged with any illegal activity.  Don’t push it, if it does not feel right move along.
  • After those pictures take pictures of the intersection or the road where the accident occurred.  Take at least one North, South, East and West.  Focus on any signs on all four roads.  This can help determine who is at fault.  More importantly, it can help you in the event of a citation or lawsuit.

Let’s face it, if your insurance company can get out of paying a claim they will, if it’s the right thing to do because it was someone else’s fault.  If you can prove it was someone else’s fault, you should not be assigned those driving points on your driving record/MVR or company loss runs.  Pictures will assist the insurance claims process and could lead to a subrogation against the other vehicle either fully or partial.  Just remember, the claim and any payout of that claim will be with you on your next renewal.  If you decided to market your account, reducing the loss costs will help us “trusted consultants” get you the best coverage and price.

Take care and drive safe.

Should you buy Liability Insurance for ATV’s, dirt bikes and snowmobiles?

Some of you like me have an ATV.  I just recently purchased a newer ATV and absolutely love riding.  I use it for hunting and mudding with friends.  Some of the guys I ride with have older ATV’s and do not carry liability insurance as they think it is not necessary.  After discussing with them all the reasons why you should, I thought to myself if these guys have this perception, then others do as well.  So today’s blog is about liability and your toys.

Everyone feels they are a good driver and will not get in an accident.  However, the very definition of an accident is that you will.  If you ride your own ATV and no one else will ride it, and you are on your own property, and not riding with anyone else, then you can make a case not to purchase liability insurance.  But I still insist you purchase it as liability insurance is for third parties and this coverage is for them, you are considered first party.

The problem with the thinking above is not so much you, but what if you ride into someone else?  What if someone else rides your ATV and hits someone else?  Who is on the hook if something goes wrong?  You are….  You might think your homeowner’s policy will cover you as it has Personal Liability and Medical Payments so you should be good.  Not really, your homeowner’s policy has many exclusions and liability for motorized vehicles are one of those exclusions.  This means you will be personally responsible for that other party.  In the end you might still be fine with this uncovered exposure but what about a serious injury or death to someone else?  Do you still feel the same way?

Don’t let cost stop you from buying liability insurance for your toys.  ATV, dirt bikes and snowmobiles do not cost an arm and a leg.  Annual premiums (depending on many variables) can be as low as $100.  And if you have a personal umbrella policy you can have these toys included for a small charge giving you at least $1,000,000 more in coverage on top of your primary liability limit.

So purchase liability insurance for your toys, enjoy and have fun mudding or riding the snow trails this year.