ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

PRACTICING THE SEVEN HABITS IN INSURANCE AGENCIES - HABIT TWO

Begin With The End In Mind

Most readers know that we are living practioners of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as codified by Stephen R. Covey in 1989 when he was 57 years old. We lost Stephen to a bicycling accident in 2012, but the principals he wrote in the “7 Habits” have been and continue to be life-changing for those who subscribe to an ethics-based life in both personal and business matters.

We believe so firmly in the principals of the 7 Habits that we re-read them and act upon them regularly. We recommend that you pull it down from your shelves (at 25 Million sold, I know that most of us have at least one copy somewhere) and re-read it yourself. If you can’t find your copy invest in a new one. The message never gets old.

But for those who may view the 7 Habits from a generalist’s standpoint, we would like to re-iterate the habits specifically for insurance agents. As you will see over the next eight months every Habit applies to us within our own industry.

Agency Consulting Group, Inc. has incorporated the 7 Habits in all of its consulting and training modules. Many of our clients will find these principals very familiar indeed.

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The first three Habits that Stephen Covey covered are called Private Habits, because they are internal to the individual. Last month we covered Habit One, Be Proactive. This month we will cover Habit Two- Begin With The End In Mind.

Have you ever tried Visualization? Visualization involves concentrating on something so frequently and so focused that it seems that the action visualized actually happens. Would it have happened anyway? Maybe. But, I recently found a table saw for $15 because, while I didn’t need the saw, I wanted it and didn’t want to pay the price for a new saw. I “saw” the tool every time I opened the ads in the newspaper. I talked about it with my friends and it happens that one was a part of an estate that was breaking up and the owners just wanted to get rid of it. Since I and everyone around me knew that it was something I wanted, I was given the opportunity to get it. Who knows whether anyone would have mentioned that the tool was available had I just wanted it but never concentrated on it? That, in a very minor way, is an example of Visualization.

Beginning with the End In Mind is a form of visualization. And, converting this to our business, Beginning With the End In Mind is why Agency Consulting Group, Inc. so strongly supports Strategic Planning.

People who don’t understand this concept feel that Planning is a waste of time. After all, we “always” try to do the best we can, keep as many of our customers as possible and write as much new business as possible. What does projecting numbers or actions have to do with working hard? Many feel that this exercise is actually a waste of perfectly good sales time.

In reality, they FEAR planning because they don’t want to assume the accountability for actually reaching some form of goal. If they set goals they might fail. If they never set goals they can say that they always did their best, win or lose.

Napoleon Hill was not the first person who said, “Whatever man can perceive and believe, he can achieve.” The bible also states, “If you will it, it is no dream.” Covey restates this principle by speaking of two creations, the first mental, followed by the physical. In the business world, what you want to accomplish defines the leadership necessary to create the mental goals. How you accomplish those goals is the management function of the physical efforts needed to achieve your desired end points. Pointing again to the Strategic Planning model, the agency’s Mission and Vision are the ‘mental’ goals that define what needs to be done to achieve business success. The Strategies and Annual Objectives are your second creations, the physical activities necessary to accomplish the larger goals.

Many agents forego the planning process in favor of directed activities that, they hope, will result in profit and growth. However, they have not determined their own definition of success. Nor have they created a yardstick against which they can measure their results. These agents define being busy with being productive. These agents have set out to travel without a specific goal or a road map. Their definition of success is measured by their odometer. “Are we moving forward,” they ask? But they don’t know what direction they are going and don’t even take the time to put gas in the car. Eventually, they will run out of fuel and have to determine whether where they ended up was a satisfactory end point. Normally, it isn’t.

Covey’s principle of beginning with the end in mind reflects the need for both a personal and business Mission Statement to solidify one’s definition of success in the long term.