November 2015 Feature Story

All in a life’s work

Bob Gould, left, is retiring from Northwestern Mutual afer nearly 30 years, and also served as the mentor and recruiter of Cliff Davis, right. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

Bob Gould, left, is retiring from Northwestern Mutual afer nearly 30 years, and also served as the mentor and recruiter of Cliff Davis, right. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

Bob Gould will always shine at Northwestern Mutual

By Joleene Moody, NNY Business

When Cliff Davis met Bob Gould in the hallway of a downtown Watertown office building, he had no idea that selling insurance investments would become his life.

Mr. Davis is a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel. He knew when he left active duty at Fort Drum that he wanted to buy a business of some kind. A franchise, if he could find a decent one. So when Mr. Gould sparked his interest in Northwestern Mutual some 23 years ago, Mr. Davis listened with deep interest.

“Meeting Bob Gould was a happy accident,” Mr. Davis said. “I was supposed to meet with a headhunter that day. Headhunters recruit military officers for Fortune 500 jobs, and I was to interview with a company out of Detroit. When I went by that Monday morning to interview, no one was there. Bob Gould saw me waiting and invited me to have a seat in his office. I asked him what he did and he told me. That’s where it began.”

That inviting gesture gave Mr. Davis a future. But what’s more, it was an introduction to mentor and top insurance salesman Bob Gould, a man who knows what it takes to succeed in the financial services industry. He knows how because he lives it, and like most who plunge headfirst into the world of entrepreneurship, Mr. Gould recognized the only way to build a deliberate, successful life was to step up and work for it.

Mr. Gould was 23 years old when he was about to take a night job as a manager at Friendly’s restaurant. He killed that plan after talking with then-SUNY Oswego college director Bob Brutsch. Mr. Brutsch was very driven and very successful as a Northwestern Mutual agent, Mr. Gould said, and that success was attractive. In turn, the college director saw gumption in the young man and gave him his first shot as an insurance agent.

“What Brutsch saw in me was work ethic,” Mr. Gould recalled. “He made it very clear that if I did what he asked me to do, I could do good work, too. He knew I was a caring person and that I was a competitor. And he knew, because I grew up in foster homes and on farms that I respected hard work. He gave me an opportunity to become a college agent at the time.”

Mr. Gould was a second semester junior when he began his contract with Northwestern Mutual. To date, he’s been with the company for just over four decades, an exceptional feat, considering longevity is hard to come by in most industries today. In that time, he’s written approximately 5,950 policies for families and businesses across the north country, a testament to his faith, commitment and belief in the Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual.

But now the time has come to hang his hat. After 40 years, Mr. Gould wants to slow down. Semi-retire, as they say, and manage his accounts until other agents like Mr. Davis can assume skillful responsibility of them. Leaving his work behind won’t be easy. He’s got years of honest, meaningful relationships with longtime clients under his belt, and he wants to keep it that way.

“I’m going to miss my clients. Forty years makes for strong relationships. Some are with people I’ve done business with for more than 20 years. It’s an awesome responsibility,” Mr. Gould said, “but I’m confident in the agents like Cliff.”

Mr. Gould has mentored many men and women over the past 40 years. His passion for the business is palpable. It’s the same passion he was able to ignite in Mr. Davis.

“I knew how to farm and I knew how to fight,” Mr. Davis said. “I knew logistics. But I didn’t know anything about selling insurance. I was inclined to be self-employed, so it intrigued me. Bob gave me the spark to check out the industry. Here I am some twenty years later helping other people because I know it’s the right thing to do. That’s what Bob taught me.”

The right thing to do is serve clients with the best product that fits their needs. Everyone is different. Every business is different. Mr. Gould believes the key to serving a client is simple: Show up with integrity and knowledge and genuinely care about the person you intend to serve.

“If you have expert training, a great company and discipline, you’re going to be great. Here in the north country if you want to be successful, you better talk to everybody and you better be talking a lot,” Mr. Gould said. “The only ones who are going to make it are the ones who are truly compassionate and care about people.”

Bob Gould leaves Northwestern Mutual with a myriad of recognition in his wake, including being named at the Million Dollar Round Table 31 times, an accolade that puts him in the top 5 percent of all insurance producers in the world.

Joleene Moody is a creative coach, author, comedic speaker and freelance writer who lives in Oswego County with her husband and daughter. Contact her at