August 6, 2020
Useful Tips and Advice to Grow Your Insurance Agency
24 min read
Scaling can be challenging. Joining OAA provides independent insurance agents with the connections they need to meet their goals.
Some people join because they are ready to start brand-new, growth-driven agencies, while others have the goal of growing their agencies in order to sell them.
How to Grow an Independent Insurance Agency
It’s not easy to start, grow and survive as an independent insurance agency owner. Most people have no desire to go through the challenges that agency owners face. And some folks want the rewards that come with ownership but are unwilling to take the necessary risks.
So, as an agency owner, I congratulate you on having the courage to start and grow your insurance business!
Now that you’ve started, how do you grow your agency and its profitability?
Continual Challenges Will Test Your Courage
As you grow your business and even achieve success, there are continual challenges you must meet to continue. This takes courage.
I don't think people have it innately or that it just shows up. Instead I think it comes from a vision of the future and a commitment to get there. In between is courage.
Courage Takes Vision
My strategic coach Lee Brawer told a great story to our group that I think illustrates this perfectly. He has a client who is a 48-year-old athlete in terrific condition. This fellow likes to hike in the mountains and on a recent hike was walking strongly on a trail at 13,000 feet.
As he was hiking, he heard footfalls behind him, so being naturally competitive, he began to speed up. Despite this, the person gained on him steadily. As the pursuer drew abreast of him, the hiker realized that the fellow passing him was in his mid-70s!
As he was passed, Lee's client reached out to the other hiker in amazement and said, "How can you do this? How can you be passing me?"
As the man walked on he turned his head and said:
"My vision of the future is greater than my present agony."
It takes courage to build a business and sustain the effort over a long period of time. Your vision must be great enough to sustain you during the challenges that lay before you!
There Can Be No Excuses
Our agency development team recently spent some time discussing the differences between successful, rapidly growing agencies and those that languish and fail. It was a sort of in-person agent survey. As I participated with them in the discussions, it was interesting to hear the reasons agency owners themselves gave for their success or their failure.
I thought of listing a bunch of the things that they said. But then I realized that would just be a waste of your time. You see, every single reason for failure that we’ve heard in our business can be summarized by one word:
We repeatedly see agencies becoming wildly successful, while others flounder and fail in the same community.
- Started at the same time.
- Handicapped with similar lack of capital.
- Headed by owners with similar inexperience.
- Representing the same “uncompetitive” insurance companies.
And on and on.
The difference between successful agency owners in our experiences simply comes down to this: Successful people don’t make excuses. Failures have all kinds of “reasons” for their lack of progress. Really, “reasons” are just excuses.
The successful business owner (and we’ve helped more than 200 inexperienced business owners become successful agency owners) is different. When presented with an obstacle, large or small, they find a way past it. They go over it, under it, around it, or through it. But they don’t let it defeat them. Failures just get stumped. Then they look for something or someone to blame.
The difference between success and failure in life and business is just that simple.
Some of you are thinking, “What about the entrepreneur who goes broke while not making excuses? Sometimes things just don’t work out.”
Yes, that sometimes happens. But in our experience, those people just get back up and try again. They didn’t really ever lose because they never quit. The losers lost because they never really tried and then they quit.
I realize this is pretty stark. But it’s the truth. If you aren’t succeeding, the question is: what are you doing about it? Are you continuing to experiment? Trying harder? Learning from your mistakes and then trying again? If you are, then you’ll get there eventually.
In the struggle that is business, let me urge you to take my advice. No excuses!
Now, Try, Try Again
I can't begin to tell you how many times my grandmother drummed that saying into my head as a child. She had had a challenging life and this was one of her mottoes. It served her well as she navigated the challenges of her life. And it has been of immeasurable help to me in my life and career.
You may have heard it said about insurance sales that it takes seven to ten tries to get a prospect to buy. This is based on solid research and is true in my experience. So why do most salespeople quit trying after one or two efforts?
I think it's because they either don't realize the effectiveness of going back and back to prospects until they purchase, or because they just aren't motivated to grow beyond mediocrity.
See, there are some people who will buy after one or two tries. Usually this is luck. If you get lucky just often enough maybe you don't have to try seven times... unless you want to be truly successful!
We’ve recently added two customers to our business who we have been trying to get for 10 years! These are both great additions and well worth the multiple efforts over time. They are also not unusual.
In my career as an insurance agent, my best customers usually took three-to-five years to buy the first policy. Going back over and over again may seem like a waste of time – except for the really successful, who know that determination, perseverance, and repeated effort are the keys to successful selling.
Do you go back? Do you have a plan for repeated efforts to secure good prospects as customers? If you don't please think about my grandmother's advice, "If at first, you don't succeed, try, try again!"
Never Surrender: Inspiration from Winston Churchill
I recently watched a terrific movie about the beginning of World War II entitled, “Darkest Hour.” The movie features the tremendous challenges faced by Britain and its new Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. It opens with Churchill after twenty years of being out of power as a result of the Gallipoli disaster in World War I.
He is immediately faced with the collapse of Europe, the imminent defeat of France, 300,000 British soldiers trapped on the beach at Dunkirk, a king and cabinet that despised him, and defeatist attitudes on the part of virtually the entire population and politicians. All of this and many other urgent and difficult problems. What a way to start!
In one early scene, Churchill is in the toilet talking to, well, begging really, President Roosevelt for any kind of help. It is a pitiful thing to watch and shows how truly desperate and despondent Churchill was.
How did he get from there to the defiant radio speech where he vowed to, “Never surrender?”
He did it by recalling that Britain, in its 1,000-year history, had never given up before. He got there from developing a resolve that regardless of the outcome, Britain would only move forward, and that defeat was preferable to surrender.
As you look over how your agency is doing, it’s time to make decisions:
- The year is not working out as planned
- Sales are not what they need to be.
- Income is tight
- New employees have not been hired
- Bills cannot be paid
- Carriers are demanding more than can be provided
- Other problems, small and large, loom and the end of the year does not look the same from here as it did in January.
What should the business owner do?
There are only two choices.
- Fight on, never give up, and work to correct problems is one choice.
- Accepting a lesser fate is the other.
Churchill’s case is instructive for the business owner. He made the choice not to accept defeat and to fight. This led to creativity and solutions for the many problems he faced. He organized a fleet of boats to rescue his army, the U.S. provided help and his team (the cabinet, Parliament, and people) rose to meet the challenges with him. While the war didn't end that year, progress was made, and most importantly, the groundwork was laid for an ultimate victory.
How will you decide to finish? Will you give in and give up? Or will you work even harder to carry the day? Churchill’s answer to his people is inspiring. You can read it here.
Commit to Growth and Plan for Success
Lessons and wisdom are everywhere.
I recently reconnected with old friends I worked with in Scouting; one friend and I felt old as we reminisced about starting a Boy Scout troop 35 years ago.
We were serving on an Eagle Scout "Board of Review" where we reviewed several young men's scouting careers and determined whether they had duly earned scouting's highest rank and honor. As you may know, an Eagle Scout is the creme de la creme of Boy Scouts – only two percent of all Scouts achieve this pinnacle.
Take Some Tips from Eagle Scouts
What makes it possible for a young man to achieve such a remarkable achievement are the same things that make for a successful insurance agency:
Vision. These boys saw at some point in their journey the future they wanted, the accomplishments they coveted, and they sustained that vision over many years. In some cases, as the Eagle must be earned by age 18, those visions were sustained over 12 years!
Remarkable Commitment. Obviously, in the life of any young person, there are lots of opportunities and distractions. But these young men decided they were committed to high-performing achievement and made the sacrifices necessary to do that.
By the way, "to decide," comes from the Latin word meaning to "kill alternatives." They "decided" and focused on achievement in Scouting as a primary goal of boyhood. This didn't mean that is all they did by any means. But it did mean that they did what was necessary to achieve in Scouting at a high level.
They had help. I asked each candidate, "Who was responsible for your being here besides yourself?" Each had a list of people who had helped them along the way, and in each case, one particular individual who they felt was most responsible. These people had encouraged, taught, motivated, prodded, or nagged. No one, not even Eagle Scouts, gets to the top without help.
A service mentality. Each boy, without exception, was eager to help others. They all want to "give back." They each recognized that they owed the people who had helped them a debt that can only be repaid by helping others.
How does this affect growing an insurance agency?
I hope the answers are obvious. I was inspired by these young men as I always am in the face of remarkable achievement. I think the things they demonstrate, at such a young age, are all things to which we can rededicate ourselves.
Two Hallmarks of Success
I’ve also noticed that there are two hallmarks of the most successful agencies.
The first is that the people making the most money are taking great care of their customers, and they’re writing a lot of business as a result.
A second thing is they’re taking really good care of themselves. They’re focused on putting their business with our strategic partner carriers – those that we have special relationships with, who pay us more commission, more profit sharing, and more bonus income.
The agents who put their business with our strategic partner carriers made on average a two-to-one return over agents who did not.
So, it’s something to think about.
Take great care of your customers, but take great care of yourself, too. Write the business with the companies that reward you the best.
Focus on Carriers Before Prospects
Our business is helping agencies develop and grow. The basis for that business was, in the beginning, being successful in doing the same thing ourselves. Since then we've worked with hundreds of agents as they work to build their agencies.
One of the biggest mistakes I see new agency owners make is not focusing their efforts on where they are worth the most.
I was talking with a new agency owner who asked question after question about market availability for one kind of prospect after another. This agent is spending all day every day learning the risk management needs of one kind of business after another. Then enormous time must be spent trying to find a carrier with the right appetite. Then, after all of that, this agent has trouble being competitive with the incumbent.
What an incredible waste of time and opportunity!
In addition to everything else, this agent, who has access to a dozen or more of the very best insurance companies, complains because the risks they are trying to write don't fit those carriers’ appetites, so he is therefore forced to try to write them with E&S carriers. Does anyone else see a problem here?
The way to build income, volume, and success in a growing agency is to figure out what the insurance companies you have can write competitively. Then go find the prospects for that!
This is the easy way. It's a FOCUSED way. Finding prospects and then going to look for carriers is backward, counterproductive, and a guaranteed recipe for frustration, slow growth, and likely failure.
Do the Hard Work of Planning First
I’ve written before about the importance of planning. But for most of us small business guys, planning is just so hard. We don’t know how to do it. We don’t know what’s possible. We don’t know what the elements are.
But if we don’t do it we won’t achieve anywhere near what we can otherwise.
With the future of many agencies in doubt, being a survivor means we need to reduce risk by planning.
First, Set Goals
The first element in the plan is setting goals. I suggest quarterly and annual goals with a three-year time horizon. Too much can happen past three years to meaningfully plan beyond that.
Make the goals simple. How much production do you want, either in premium or commission, at the end of each period of time?
Now, with a set of revenue goals by quarter and year in mind:
Figure out your average account size
Now divide that by your goal number. This is how many accounts you need.
How many have you got?
Subtract that from what you need. This is how many you need to go get. Simple.
Then, Plan How You’ll Get Accounts
How do you get accounts now? May I suggest that you start from scratch with this?
What kind of business does your carrier base excel at writing? ONLY DO THAT! Don’t waste time working on insurance products that you don’t have good markets for (Duh, but you’d be surprised how often I see this). Now we are setting up to do “niche” marketing. Simple huh?
How do we get them? Buy a list and cold call? Automated emails? Trade shows? Community events? Advertising? Word of mouth? Referral? Content marketing? All of those work.
Decide what you’re going to do for your insurance agency marketing strategy, write down your marketing ideas, and set weekly and monthly goals for each activity. Also, set a budget for what it's going to cost.
What About Employees?
Plan for how many employees you’ll need, as well as and when. Use your productivity per employee – quoting, servicing, accounting – to determine, based on your growth plans, when you’ll need more people. Hire them early. Simple!
What else do you need to plan for? Do you have a good quoting system? Customer management? Agency management system? Accounting? Good. You’re all set!
Make the Commitment to Grow… Or Go!
What are insurance carriers going to be demanding of the agencies with whom they continue to do business?
Their record profits mean an incredible increase in capability to improve their loss prediction capabilities. This means less reliance on agents.
They are relentlessly focused on expense control, which means they can make money with higher loss ratios. In turn, this means lower commissions AND lower profit sharing for agents.
Increased competition from non-traditional sellers of insurance means less market share for agents.
Finally, carriers who can make money without agent expertise still need and want agents for organic growth. So, they are going to increase pressure on growth to maintain relationships.
So, agents who want to survive in the future – let alone thrive – must grow!
This is completely obvious. But the average independent agency doesn’t do that. If you look at the average agency they increase their book of business at about the industry's core growth rate of 3% per year. THIS ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH for survival anymore. These agencies have “forgotten” how to grow!
There are things that ANY agency can implement easily to ramp up growth!
Let’s Begin With Commitment
As I learned with the Boy Scouts, achievement takes commitment. If you truly want to survive and thus grow your business, you must make a commitment to do it.
A commitment means it is something you are going to do no matter what.
It means that growth will happen before anything else.
It means you will absolutely do what it takes.
Are you willing to commit the time, effort, resources, and patience to grow?
I think this deserves serious consideration. Growing a business is not a simple, or easy, thing to do. It does take work! It’s easy to say you want it, it’s another thing to persevere through to success.
As you think about whether you want to make the commitment, consider that if you don’t grow your agency significantly over the next few years you will likely not survive. If you can’t make the commitment then may I make a suggestion?
Today is the best time, from a financial point of view, to sell an insurance agency in a generation. Get out now while the getting is good!
Or, commit to grow!
You Commit to Growth, but… How Are Your Relationships?
I’ve written before that the independent insurance agent’s traditional value proposition has always been the choice of products and the relationship of the agent with the customer. In the current marketplace we see consumers moving steadily to researching, then purchasing, insurance online or through direct, low cost, sellers.
What have many agents done in response?
– Chirping Crickets –
Right. Nothing at all.
That is why the independent agency channel has lost 7% of its market share in a decade.
Now, it really isn’t fair to say they did “ nothing at all,” because some agents actually have reacted to these market changes by trying to be the cheapest all the time. You can recognize these agents because they quote everything through companies like EZLynx or other similar rating systems. They are the agents who are obsessively concerned about representing the cheapest carriers. They think their success, or lack of it, is because they do or don’t have “the most competitive companies.”
Recently, one of our members was very upset because one of his agents had lost a customer because he hadn’t been able to respond with a cheaper price quickly enough when the customer called to complain about a renewal price increase. The customer called at 9:00 a.m. and changed agents at 1:00 p.m. On the same day!
Did that agent have a relationship with the customer? If you think they did, I have some sand in the Sahara Desert I want to sell you!
Hell no, they didn’t have a relationship! That customer was focused on price and speed. Two things that the agent couldn’t deliver on that morning. There are lots of people like that. There will be more all the time.
But there also are lots of people who still value choice and relationship. They respect an agent that cares enough about them to meaningfully stay in touch.
See, our products are commodities. Really, this isn’t new. They’ve always been commodities. All auto insurance policies, for example, say pretty much the same thing. So, the difference is, and always has been price.
But agents aren’t commodities. They are people. And they can be unique.
Now, if agents all do the same thing as other agents then they are commodities too. But if agents take the time and the trouble and make the investment in a real relationship with someone then they can be something other than a commodity to their clients and prospects.
People in relationships with other people get more than four hours to fix problems. They get second chances. They get to keep relationships long term. Heck, people will even pay MORE for products they can buy elsewhere when they get to buy them from people when they have a relationship.
Independent agents can’t win the speed or price battle.
Can’t win it now. Won’t be able to in the future.
But we can absolutely have enough relationships so that doesn’t matter.
Leverage Your Relationships by Account Rounding
If the average independent agency increased the number of policies it sold its average customer by one-and-a-half, it would double in size.
Let’s marinate in that for a moment, shall we?
Would you like to have an agency twice the size it is today? Of course you would! The average personal insurance agency in America writes one-and-a-half policies per account. So, adding a couple more doubles the size.
By the way, do you know how many policies YOU write per account? If you don’t….
Account rounding is simply the fastest, easiest, most cost-effective way to grow an agency. Period.
When you have more policies per customer your retention rate goes up. This means you have to sell less new business to grow at a given rate. It also means that you have higher revenue per account, which means that not only are sales higher, but marginal profits are too, with less overhead cost per unit.
The very first marketing you should do to grow your agency is to increase the number of policies per account.
Nurture Growth Through Efficiency
Every good gardener knows you have to prune to grow a beautiful rose bush or a fabulous tomato plant. The same thing is true with your business. As we get busier, we find that what we do every day just becomes a collection of habits, so let’s take a look at those and how they affect your agency growth. Can you prune what you’re doing and give those tasks to someone else?
Many times those habits were tasks that you needed to do in the past that you no longer need to do now or in the future. But, it's your habit, so you keep doing it. So those who want to make continuous progress and grow rapidly, continually sit down with themselves and ask, "How could someone else be doing some of what I'm doing?"
Don’t Do Everything Yourself. It’s Not Efficient.
The way I look at this is: I want the work in our organization done by the person who is best suited to do it at the lowest cost.
What I've found is that agency owners who get trapped or stopped in their progress would be making a lot more money as a producer of insurance. For example, they might be great at selling life insurance policies. But, they're doing other work that they could hire someone else to do at a much lower rate.
Imagine if they spent most of their time selling high-commission life policies, instead of dealing with all of the other stuff that they might not be good at and someone else could do for less money? Immediately business growth!
They haven't recognized that and they haven't made that shift. What that lack of pruning does is stop their growth.
And not only does it stop their growth - it also stunts their future.
Set Hard Deadlines to Increase Efficiency
I think successful people, highly effective people, are those who give themselves short deadlines. You know work is said to expand to fit the time you give it, so give it less time.
When you give something less time you still get it done. But now you have this surplus of time on your hands so you can do even more things. It's really about being efficient, and efficiency begins with challenging yourself to do things faster, to do them quickly, and then to give things that you don't need to do to someone else to take care of.
Eliminate Difficult Customers for Growth
In any agent’s book of business, 80% of his revenue comes from 20% of his customers. If that’s true, get rid of the bottom 80% of your customers and keep the top 80% of your revenue.
What this 80/20 Meant for My Agency
So, I printed my commission statement. I ran down 80% of my total. I drew a red line across the bottom and with a pair of scissors. I cut the page in half, and I took the bottom part of that page, gave it to somebody else and said, “I never want to see these people again. They're now your customers.”
I always love to ask people the question: How long do you think it took me to make that money back? It took me about six weeks. I've been doing that every year in my business.
And it's the number one secret to building a really large book of business.
Continually upsell yourself and focus on growth by focusing on the people who pay you the most money.
So it's addition by subtraction. It's growing your business by eliminating the customers who don't pay you very much. They're probably wonderful clients or customers for someone else, but your people in the future are going to be bigger, always
I remember after I had made that decision, my phone wouldn't ring, and I didn't have a lot to do for a little bit. It was uncomfortable. Because, we're all creatures of habits, and I was being driven to mediocrity by my mediocre habits. It was very, very tempting to run back to those for a while.
But, I persevered, and pretty soon I found that I was busy again, but now I was busy talking to people who were paying me a whole lot more money, and who I enjoyed because the level of the relationship was better.
Giving Others the Opportunity to Create Growth
It's about focus, and, even in your agency, it's about giving other people a great opportunity to pursue their gifts. So the people that I no longer took care of, I used to seed a new producers' business, to help him get started. I encouraged him then to do something just like I had done after a couple of years in the business.
Use Your Unique Ability to Create Growth
Dan Sullivan's business, the “Strategic Coach,” has a concept called “Unique Ability.”
It's the idea that all of us do one or two things really well. We also do a few other things well, and there's a lot of things we don't do well at all.
When you sit down and you figure out, "Okay, this is the thing that I'm gifted at. It's the thing that drives the income that I make, the success that I have, the happiness that I enjoy." You realize that you're only spending 10% or 20% of your time doing that.
It's fascinating what happens when your personal growth, as well as your financial growth, just absolutely skyrocket. The 80/20 principle applies in personal life and in your relationships just as it does with your money.
Turn Challenges into Opportunities
Most, if not all, independent insurance agencies say they want to grow. After all, we’re in the business to continually grow our revenues, profits, and overall value of our firms. However, the actual organic growth rate for most agencies doesn’t reflect this.
What Slows Agency Growth? (by Roger Sitkins)
According to a recent report, even the national brokers had an organic growth rate of only about 3% last year. While their 3% translates to a much greater dollar amount than the average agency, it’s still only 3%. Considering these are the agencies that are supposed to have the best producers, the best markets, and the best everything, to me that’s a truly lackluster figure.
Consistent, organic growth can increase an agency’s value even more than profit.
Someone who actively buys agencies can make them profitable very quickly, usually by making the tough decisions that will eliminate agency waste, drive productivity and boost profitability – decisions that the previous owner didn’t make, either because they didn’t want to do it or didn’t have to.
However, indecision often correlates with agency bloat, which inhibits growth and curbs profitability.
Any agency that’s growing just enough to stay ahead of the ever-increasing cost of doing business is barely maintaining profitability. This means there’s little or nothing left to invest in obtaining the best people, automation, and outside services.
So the need for organic growth is self-evident – or is it?
Key Reasons for Slow Growth
As I began to ponder why more agencies aren’t growing at a greater rate, it occurred to me that the better question might be, “What makes so many independent insurance agencies slow down?”
Based on my years of experience and observation, I’ve come up with the primary factors that cause agency growth to slow to a crawl.
Back in the “old days,” it was pretty easy to make a great living in the insurance business. All you needed was a nice office in a good location, attractive signage, a big ad in the Yellow Pages, and an active presence in community groups and organizations. Upon request, you’d provide quotes on insurance and your agency would grow. But in the wake of increased competition and multimedia marketing, that traditional approach has fallen by the wayside.
These days, potential clients are bombarded with advertisements from large insurance carriers. So even if you’re well known and very active in your community, and have a state-of-the-art website, prospective customers can easily get another quote from a growing number of competitors.
Commoditization of the Business
There’s never been a more convenient time for consumers to shop around. Theoretically, a person could spend an hour on the phone or online and get four competing quotes. In fact, in many cases, they can get a quote almost instantaneously without ever having to speak to a human being! With so many time-squeezed, price-focused prospects willing to sacrifice personalized service for low-cost insurance, writing new business is a growing challenge.
Let’s look at some other factors.
When you look at the average age of your producers, you’ll find that the vast majority are closer to retirement than not. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: as long as they’re profitable, their age is irrelevant. The ones I’m talking about are your RIP (Resting in Place) producers. Typically, they’ve been in the business for quite a few years, they’re making more money than they ever thought they would and they live quite comfortably. They aren’t terribly motivated to grow their book of business because they don’t have to. They’ve plateaued.
Staff Age and Energy
As with producers, I’m not targeting productive staff members of a certain age. After all, in our industry, a 40-year-old might have been with an agency for 20 years. What really matters is not so much the number of candles on your birthday cake or years of agency employment, but the amount of energy you bring to the table.
When I used to consult one-on-one with agencies, I could tell so much about the business based on the energy of the internal staff. If everyone was slump-shouldered and less than enthusiastic, that usually signaled a problem.
Employees that lack energy are a drain on an agency. If they’re not excited about what they do, they’ll have no desire to provide an unbelievable client experience. It gets down to the culture of the agency:
- Are customers considered an annoyance or are they valued by the entire staff?
- Is the staff enthusiastic about coming to work?
- Or are they simply biding their time until they get to go home?
If the staff seems lethargic and disinterested in learning new ways to be more productive, the agency is not going to thrive.
The Semi-Successful Trap
Companies may find themselves in the semi-successful trap when they exceed their own expectations. This can happen, for example, when an agency grows larger than projected, has better automation than the owners ever thought they’d have, represents an abundance of carriers, and/or has more employees than anticipated.
The agency may be successful, but if it’s not in the top 1% or 2% of agencies in its marketplace, it doesn’t have financial freedom. If the agency doesn’t have financial freedom, neither does anyone associated with it, whether they’re a receptionist or the CEO. They may all be making good money – but not great money – so they’re semi-successful.
Furthermore, the owner(s) may not be investing back in their own company. So at the end of the day, not only are they NOT growing, they’re not improving profitability and they’re not increasing compensation at the level they should. They’re caught in a trap.
Past Greater than Future
I once heard that when your past is greater than your future, you’re in trouble!
You see this in a lot of former professional athletes reminiscing about their golden years on the field or court. That’s all they seem to talk about – their past. The same is true with agencies. The ones that slow down tend to revel in their history more than their present. Too much time is spent reflecting on the “good old days” when there was a lot less competition and a lot more opportunity to make a great amount of money. They’re so busy living in the past that they can’t grow.
Conversely, the agencies that are growing have a future that’s greater than their past. Their entire staff is always looking forward, eagerly anticipating what lies ahead.
Lack of Commitment to Grow
Another reason why agencies slow down one is that the owners accept it as a normal part of being in business. There’s not a real commitment to grow. In many cases, growth has occurred over the years simply because the agency was there. In other cases, the agency has purchased its growth through acquisitions.
Lack of Capacity to Grow
Often, agencies will blame their lack of growth on what they don’t have, such as too few producers or ineffective marketing. The reality is there hasn’t been sufficient reinvestment in the agency. They don’t have the capacity to grow because no one has invested in the resources needed to grow.
Spend some time and resources are executing effective marketing. Learn how to best leverage your agency’s website, SEO, and social media.
Spending Money on the Wrong Things
Agencies that invest vast sums on “stuff” they don’t use are wasting their money. As obvious as it sounds, we see this many times in agency automation. The agency will invest in the latest and greatest automated system, but then never get around to learning how to maximize it. That’s like joining a gym and then never going to work out! Spending money on something you don’t use sure is wasteful.
Lack of Discipline
The problem is, there’s really no discipline to work ON the business vs. IN the business.
One of my most successful clients was also one of the most disciplined. He committed to spend every Wednesday working from his home office primarily on strategies, not tactics. He made sure he dug into his numbers and analyzed what was working and what wasn’t. As he often told me, that one day a week he spent away from the office had the greatest positive impact on his business. Obviously, he understood the power of discipline.
As I’ve noted many times, 90% of what you do out of the office is better than 90% of what you do in the office. From a management perspective, I don’t know many people who have had a significant professional breakthrough while sitting at their desk dealing with hysterical activity!
When agencies lose their energy or their commitment to growth, it’s usually because they’re not disciplined to work on their business. Many will use the excuse that they’re simply too busy in the day-to-day to get better. However, if you spend just one day out of every quarter, that’s only 1/90th of your time! One of our best agencies just had its 44th consecutive quarterly sales retreat, that’s 11 years — now that’s discipline!
The Bottom Line
Agencies tend to stagnate and then slow down without understanding why.
Well, it’s really pretty simple. They’re not reacting to the things that are slowing them down!
For instance, if you have increased competition, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to just walk away from it and not try to compete? Or if you want to compete, how will you do it differently?
If you’re not reenergizing your producers and staff, bringing in new people and new technology, you’re not going to grow. You’re going to keep slowing down. It’s your choice.
Tony Caldwell is a modern “renaissance man,” who is not only immensely successful in the field of insurance, but is also a writer, children’s advocate, mentor and even a licensed pilot.
Always keen on helping others make their dreams come true, Tony and his team have helped independent agents grow into more than 250 independent agencies. This has made OAA the number one ranked Strategic Master Agency of SIAA for the last 5 years, and one of Oklahoma's 25 Best Companies to Work for.
Tony loves to share his knowledge, insight and wisdom through his bestselling books as well as in free mediums including podcasts and blogs.
Tony and his family are members of Crossings Community Church, and he is very active in community initiatives: he’s chairman of It’s My Community Initiative, Inc., a nonprofit working with disadvantaged people in Oklahoma City; and chairman of the Oklahoma Board of Juvenile Affairs., and he has served through many other organizations including the Salvation Army, Last Frontier Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the Rotary Club.
In his spare time, Tony enjoys time with his family. He’s also an active outdoorsman and instrument-rated commercial pilot.