The Asset Protection Model

“More than eight out of ten workers plan to look for new jobs when the economy picks up,” states a December 2003 survey from the Society for Human Resource Professionals. A January 2004 ad hoc survey of 23,688 participants reveals that “70 percent of workers plan to look for a new job if the economic recovery keeps up.”

If your agency has turnover, where do the people go? Do they leave the business or do they find a better fit for themselves within the insurance business? How does turnovers affect the stability of your insurance agency and its revenue stream?

This article is the first in a three-part series dealing with the critical importance of the workplace, the business environment, or the “corporate culture” of an agency and what it means to your top line and your bottom line.

· Defining an agency’s “corporate culture” (this article)

· Retention of staff

· Communications and individual management

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Components Affecting the Agency’s “Corporate Culture”

Independent insurance agencies vary in many ways:

· Age

· Location

· Size

· Growth rate and growth commitment

· Degree of skill and formality in the management system

· Personalities of the managers and other key players

· Age: The older an agency, the more tradition-bound it is likely to be. Traditions, or “the way we do things around here,” are like an entirely distinct set of controls and rules. There is certainly a place for traditions and we hope they will be beneficial to our future. We must ask two questions:

· Do all of our employees really thrive in an atmosphere of control and rules?

· What if only some of our players thrive in an atmosphere of control and rules? How do we manage the others?

We find that start-up agencies are often more entrepreneurial than established agencies because they are not yet constrained by a set of rules. The founding owner of the new agency is busy selling insurance and not administering the business- he or she will rely on a limited staff of highly motivated employees to do that.

· Location: “Geographical” refers to more than place. It also refers to the environmental differences between an agency in Brooklyn, New York and Park City, Utah. Cultural demographics, industry mix, and lifestyle differences all play a role in how an agency will approach business. An agency with locations in multiple geographies may employ different hiring, marketing, and managing philosophies in each territory.

· Size: Size is similar to and often related to an agency’s age. The work environment of a small agency is like a family where everyone has access to dad and mom and decision-making is quick and consistent. In the larger agency, because of the number of employees and the value of the business, there are more levels of management, controls, rules, and guidelines. The larger agency may also offer better benefits, training and career opportunities, and these may be important to some employees, but probably not all employees.

· Growth rate and growth commitment: Most independent insurance agencies say they are committed to growth and most agency principals will say that profitable growth is an agency goal. However, not everyone defines growth the same way. How motivated is the agency principal to achieve high levels of growth, or is the owner’s real goal to sustain personal income and freedom? In recent years we have witnessed intense competition; agencies are merging, and large agencies develop into much larger agencies through aggressively managed growth plans.

· Degree of skill and formality in the management system: Business schools spend little time teaching managers how to manage the individual. There is no “Standard User’s Manual” for employee management and motivation. Nor is there one method of managing all employees. People are different; managers are different and their motivations for working and thriving in the agency are diverse. In the third article in this series, we will discuss a few simple management systems that genuinely empower employees and lock them into accountability for their results.

· Personalities of the managers and other key players: The single greatest “wild card” in a workplace is the personality of the manager. Quite often, a successful commercial lines producer will start his or her own agency. Success as a commercial lines producer requires superior listening and problem-solving abilities; this personality is usually an “analytic” by nature. Analytics can often be uncomfortable as cheerleaders. Some employees who need cheerleading are uncomfortable being managed by a serious, no-nonsense (no fun) analytic.

Despite these differences, we have been led to believe that one “producer profile” will work to help us build our specific agency. In the sales area, we are supposed to look for ego drive and ego strength. Apart from the likelihood that these can be readily discerned in an interview and confirmed in a résumé, this profile is often too simplistic for it doesn’t look at you, your agency, your goals and the other people that work in the agency.

One management system does not work for all. Again, just as there are differences in agency personalities, there are differences in employee personalities. Therefore, before hiring producers or other employees, the agency must assess its own environment and workplace. Will an ego driven producer thrive in this agency, or is a different kind of sales personality required? Will the person who becomes a good personal lines producer in the agency become equally successful as a commercial lines producer? Is the outstanding CSR who wants to become a producer (because it means more money) really cut out to be a producer? Will the producer who is successful in an agency across town be successful in your agency?

Assessing the agency environment helps the agent to find out “what is working now.” When assessing potential employees, the agency looks for candidates who can meet the success profile of the agency, not the one size fits all producer profile.

One tool, The Omnia Profile® from The Omnia Group in Tampa, Florida, measures both agency environment and employee fit. This online assessment evaluates your current staff, management, work environment, job description, and candidate for a five-way fit in your agency. To assure longest possible relationship with your agency, you have to measure all of these aspects. Hiring the right person in the wrong work environment is essentially hiring the wrong person for the wrong job.

About the Author:

Carletta Young works for The Omnia Group, 601 South Boulevard, Tampa, Florida 33606; (800) 525-7117. The Omnia Profile is an analyst-written Profile that is customized for each agency based upon its work environment. It takes 15 minutes for a candidate to complete the form. Then, Omnia will provide employers with a 8 to11-page report on not only work and workplace compatibility, but also analyst-chosen interview questions for the second candidate interview and tips for managing this candidate.