The Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) is an association for leading sales professionals in insurance and financial services worldwide. It has more than 28,000 members from 74 countries, among these are 1,063 from Hong Kong. To be eligible, an individual must reach a productivity target: for Hong Kong, the producers need to earn a minimum commission of HK$433,000 in a year. The amount is set against other professionals, such as doctors or accountants, who are earning a similar sum. An MDRT membership is a career milestone as it indicates achievement and brings recognition. 'It is the commission amount that helps members get into the door. However, upon joining us they are all tied to stringent professional ethical requirements to make them stay with us,' says Richard Sullenger, president, MDRT. To many members, the organisation opens the door to a new world of knowledge, motivation and professionalism. MDRT was established in 1927 in the United States by a group of insurance producers, aimed at creating a forum to promote a high standard and a professional approach to life insurance sales and services. Over the years, the association has been recognised as a highly prestigious one as well as a seal of excellence for the public. 'We must do what is right for our clients. All our members have achieved a certain level of success in their region in which they have demonstrated outstanding knowledge, excellent service standards, and high integrity towards their clients and counterparts,' says Mr Sullenger. From day one of his 40-year practice, Mr Sullenger received continuous help and support from industry peers. This assisted him in not only achieving his MDRT membership, but also in his career. This unselfish and reach-out attitude has greatly influenced and shaped the core values of the organisation. 'It is a premier forum for professionals to exchange ideas and sales techniques for business growth.' In this global networking platform, a lot of members have developed long-lasting friendships and received new ideas, insights and encouragement from one another. This is one belief that was held by the founders some 70 years ago: growth is a result of exchanging ideas. Also, members can refer business to one another. 'I can refer my client from California to a Hong Kong MDRT member for new business and vice-versa, as I know that my counterpart will deliver. This global network can best serve our clients.' Based in California, Mr Sullenger was recently in Hong Kong to prepare the association's annual meeting to be held here next February. The meeting will bring together members from different places and encourage the exchange of ideas, networking opportunities and the sharing of new insights in the business. 'We expect to attract around 6,000 members and their families in the coming year from all over the world to attend the meeting. We call this an MDRT Experience - to let people taste and try out what is MDRT.' This experience will motivate and push members towards higher achievements, to maintain a strong membership in the association, he says. The meeting also runs a number of motivational and educational presentations and a series of workshops on work skills and knowledge enhancement. There are also discussions focusing on personal issues, such as health, family or spiritual life. Renowned speakers are invited to the annual meetings and previous speakers include Christopher Reeve, Deepak Chopra and Barbara Bush. The association provides statistical information on business trends to help members better consult with clients. It also produces publications, audio and video tapes, and a members-only Web site. 'It is very important to be a better person as a whole. Through our lessons and materials, we wish to guide members to become better businessmen, or better fathers, better husbands, or even better community leaders.' MDRT also raises funds for philanthropic pursuits. 'Last year, we donated over US$1 million to charities internationally,' says Mr Sullenger. For those interested in joining the industry, he says: 'One needs to be knowledgeable, professional and ethical. We value very much on building long-term relationships rather than selling products. Product pushers who want easy money will be here for a short while. 'The most effective way to building a business is by referral and by word of mouth. It is also essential for one who is dedicated to excellence in every aspect of his life to be successful in the profession.' Financial rewards aside, Mr Sullenger enjoys meeting people. 'Plus, helping clients realise their financial dreams and offering them peace of mind, while they can focus on building career and family, is what gives me most satisfaction and pleasure.'