ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

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

CREATING A PROCESS OF CHANGE IN YOUR AGENCY

DOES YOUR AGENCY NEED TO CHANGE?

If you’re happy with the way the agency is running, don’t be pressured to change just for the sake of change, itself?

But if you’re gut tells you something is wrong – if you have some sleepless nights over the condition of your agency – if your growth and/or profit are declining instead of growing over time and the only way to remedy the problem is to change the agency for the better and find comfort for the future.

Question: Why haven’t we found extra-terrestrial intelligent life?

Answer 1: Because the Universe is infinitely large and there is so much “noise” that we can’t distinguish between the important from the unimportant.

Answer 2: Because we haven’t found evidence of terrestrial intelligent life yet.

But what keeps SETI (Search for Intelligent Life) scanning the sky is the expectation that amongst all the “clutter” in space, that there will be a few kernels of evidence that we are not alone.

The insurance agency business is much like the search for intelligent life. There is so much information and “noise” that we can’t seem to distinguish between the valuable information and the junk being thrown at us daily.

We know that our businesses can run better. We know that we can and deserve to lead happier, more productive and profitable lives. But we can’t seem to find a solution that works for us.

Why?

We can’t find a solution because we are searching for a single answer instead of searching for a process that would solve our problems.

I contend that there is no single ANSWER. There is no single UNITY. There is no ONENESS in the universe or in our business lives.

But we do have a finite number of issues that keep our agencies from attaining the growth, profitability and productivity that would satisfy us and make us proud of our businesses. Our goal should not be to seek a single solution, but to identify a PROCESS by which we can 1) Identify the REAL problems – separating them from the myriad of noisy symptoms that plague our lives, 2) Identify the solutions that would address the problems in our agencies, not those that generically affect everyone (death, taxes, bothersome clients and carriers, employees picking at each other, etc.), and 3) implement real change that addresses the specific problems affecting our happiness with solutions that are tailored to address and solve those problems.

4 STEPS YOU CAN TAKE IN YOUR AGENCY TO BUILD AND IMPLEMENT A PROCESS OF CHANGE.

1. Analyze the key aspects of your agency’s operation as if you were a consultant with open access to your organization.

2. Create common sense changes that, if implemented properly, would use the agency’s Strengths, avoid or strengthen its Weaknesses, take advantage of the Opportunities that face us daily, and avoid or overcome the Threats (universal and specific) that face every business.

3. Implement the changes, one at-a-time, to change your business from the model that if found wanting to one that satisfies both financial and spiritual goals of its owners.

4. Monitor, fine-tune and manage the changes to assure their success in the short- and long-term.

I would love to give you a ‘Silver Bullet’ or a single way of solving all problems. But I would be as guilty as all the others about creating NOISE instead of solutions and those of you who know me understand that I’m all about achieving goals and solving problems.

So I’d like to explain to you exactly how we at Agency Consulting Group, Inc. successfully convert so many agencies to the successes that their owners so richly deserve.

You’ll notice that these four points are simple in statement but you’ll find that they are complex in their performance. That’s why it’s so important to us that you KNOW HOW WE CONTINUE TO ACHIEVE OUR SUCCESSES EVERY YEAR FOR THE LAST 30 PLUS YEARS!

1. Analyze your agency.

Don’t reach for the obvious conclusion based on where your pain is greatest. It is quite likely a symptom of a deeper problem.

a) Look at your financial performance compared to your peers and compared to your expectations.

b) Survey your staff (in the blind) asking them to identify the best and worst parts of their job.

c) Analyze your New Business and your Retention to determine if you are bleeding customers or building a stronger base

2. Create Specific Changes that would likely change the problems that you evolve in your organization. If you don’t know how or what to change, seek professional help. But most problems are so clear when isolated that the solution becomes obvious.

3. Prioritize your changes to take advantage of the agency’s greatest Strength or address its greatest Weakness first. You may have a long list. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you address the issues in priority order and not try to change more than one thing at a time. The temptation will be great to do several things simultaneously. This will RARELY work.

4. MONITOR – FINE-TUNE as you go – MANAGE the process

The greatest weakness that most agencies will experience is their inability to implement their own changes over a long period. The most successful agencies are constantly in a process of change. It never stops. Whenever they run short of CHANGES to be made, they re-do their SWOT Analysis and begin again. We have NEVER seen a business for which positive change cannot enhance lifestyle and/or performance.

a) Monitor – The metrics of an agency is not just important, it is as critical as monitoring the heart-beat of someone with a serious heart condition. You would never consider taking him off the monitor. Nor would you stop monitoring when you attend to his other vital signs.

b) Fine Tune – No one can assure that a process will work as designed. However, if the process is right for the organization, it WILL work if fine-tuned properly. Don’t discard the process if you encounter a problem -- Fine-tune it.

c) Manage – Unfortunately, this is like telling an overweight person to ‘eat less.’ Most agencies are not managed well and we’re not necessarily suggesting changing management with this segment of implementation. We are suggesting that even if you don’t manage anything else, manage the process of change in order to keep your staff aligned with your goals. Otherwise you will likely abandon a perfectly good solution because of reluctance of staff to change.

If you create your CHANGE process the way we describe above, you will have cleared away the NOISE and addressed your problems instead of your symptoms. If you want to DIY (Do It Yourself), this is the process you should follow. If you find that you are a better insurance technician and agent than you are a CHANGE AGENT, read on.

For many years we have been the “CHANGE AGENTS” of the insurance agency industry. Agency Consulting Group, Inc. has specialized in tailor-made (rather than generic) programs made to solve specific problems of specific agencies to achieve specific goals of each client.

Where we have fallen short has been in the implementation of change because we always counted on the agents, themselves, to conduct the implementation with our guidance and counsel. Too often, the agents are wonderful technicians and knowledgeable relationship managers for their clients, but fail as implementers of change in their own organizations.

Last year we solved that problem by associating with Brandi Hinen of PowerHouse Learning who has spent several decades helping agencies implement change. Her team specializes in HANDS-ON implementation and management of change for agencies. We found that our process of problem identification and the programs that we establish to solve agency issues have readily fit into Brandi’s implementation programs with involvement in the agency’s operation also tailored to the needs and desires of the specific agency in question.

When you are done trying to pierce the noise of the ‘Idea-of-the-Month’ club and the hundreds of generic programs vying for your attention and are ready to (finally) address and solve the problems in your agency that stops it from performing to your expectations, please call me (800 779 2430). We’ll discuss your situation first to determine if we can help you. Then we’ll analyze your agency, define the challenges who’s solution would accomplish your short term and long term goals and implement changes with as much in-depth, hands-on management as needed to guarantee the success of the programs and the achievement of your goals.