Doer or Dabbler



Welcome to the Agent Leader Podcast. My name is Brent Kelly, your host. Thanks so much for joining me on another episode, glad to be with you. And I'm also going to be recording this on YouTube. So, you may be watching the video of this podcast instead of just listening to the podcast or heck you could do both, but thanks for being with me on another episode. The purpose of the Agent Leader Podcast, as every episode, is to help agency leaders regardless of position or title, but to help agency leaders gain clarity, to build consistency and to make a commitment to become your best version possible. Now, this podcast, I'm going to be doing solo today. I want to share with you a conversation from my heart, and I'm going to share some things with you that are a bit authentic and vulnerable from my standpoint as well, to help relay a really important message.

And this is the question I'm going to be asking you as an agency leader today on this podcast is, are you a doer or are you a dabbler? Are you a doer or are you a dabbler? Now, I'm also willing to bet that when I asked that question, there are probably certain areas of your life and or business that you are a true doer. And I'll talk about that in a minute. And there might be other areas where you're a dabbler, so this isn't an all or nothing type of thing. But I do want you just to take some time as you're listening to me and think through your life, and certainly your agency. We'll be talking about this from an insurance agency perspective mainly, but what areas of your agency are you a true doer? Have you truly made a decision to make things happen?

And in what areas of your agency are you maybe just kind of going through the motions or you give it a once over and then you go back to the other things that you've been doing in the past? And as I said, I'm going to be sharing some aspects of what I've learned from my own personal experience, both in life and in business. And also just talk about some of the areas that we see with insurance agencies. Whether a doer or a dabbler. Now, before I get into the content, as always, want to make sure that you have access to a couple different things. Number one, we've mentioned this on the previous podcast that we have an agency transformation scorecard that's available. It's a free resource for you as an agency leader, just go to sitkins.com/scorecard. Sitkins.com/scorecard. And you can complete, I've got a short video on there to explain how to do it.

It will only take you a few minutes, but to go through and really understand certain areas. And then we have 10 key areas of agency development and growth that we see for our agencies. Allow yourself to see where am I today versus where do I want to go? And certainly we would love to have an opportunity to partner with you if there's a right fit to help you get there. And a big part of that is our ProFit experience, which is part of the agency transformation process. And you can learn more about that at sitkins.com/aim. So, sitkins.com/aim. So, with that, I want to get in again to the focus today, which is, are you a doer or are you simply a dabbler? And I think this really goes back to something that I had Roger Sitkins on, as many of you know, is a frequent guest to the Agent Leader Podcast.

And he told a story a few podcasts episodes prior to this about making a decision. And we've had the fortune of working with a lot of great insurance agency partners out there and always helping them to encourage them to grow and develop. And a big part of that is they made a decision. They made a decision at some point to say, we are going to no longer accept this and we're going to do that. And this could be a number of areas in the agency. And a particular story is that Roger was having a dinner with one of our agency partners, and they were featured on the cover of Rough Notes magazine a few months ago, it's Specialty Risk Insurance in Missouri. Great agency. They focus in ag, that's their specialty. And the bottom line is this, is that in this conversation, in my conversations with them and just understanding the culture of the agency as they go, we've made a decision to be this.

And there are a number of different things they've done, but this is a decision. We are no longer or never will accept that. And we are going to be this. We are going to be a doer. We're not going to be a dabbler. Just talked about a bunch of different things and never really makes true progress. And I told you I was going to share with you some agency examples and things that we see, and then some personal examples, because we learn the most. I think one of the biggest challenges that I have, and I've told people this many times, of being a person who is in front of agencies that are doing training, I'm doing one-on-one coaching calls, speaking out in the marketplace, having a lot of conversation with influencers and agency carriers and all kinds of people out there, is that you want to practice what you preach.

This idea of, wow, we're telling agencies to do this. Am I doing this in certain areas of my life and business? And it certainly creates a high level of awareness. And so I was thinking about what are some areas in my life, first of all, that I've dabbled in? And again, this doesn't mean that I'm necessarily, and these areas I'm going to share with you, upset about it necessarily, because in some areas it's okay, in my opinion, to dabble, if that's not what you want to be world-class in. But the truth of it is, is I've dabbled. And because I've dabbled in those areas, I don't have the results that I would love to have. And so number one is piano. This may sound strange to you, but I would love to be a really, really good piano player. I enjoy it when I'm actually in front of it.

I think it's a fun challenge and there's beauty in it. And I took piano lessons for several years. I don't know how many years, four or five years as a kid. In fact, I remember one particular teacher that I had, a good friend mine. It was his mom. And I would go to their house. I don't know, like Thursday afternoon after school or something like that. And I would show up and I was like, oh, I got to take piano lessons. And I hadn't practiced very much like a lot of kids. And then my friends were outside in the yard playing football. I'm like, I really want to be playing football, not piano, but I did appreciate what piano taught me. And today I can still read music and I know notes, and I can play a little bit. I can play a bunch of chords, but I still dabble.

Yeah, I grew up. I've got a piano in our house and I'll play around. I dabble with it, but I've never really made a commitment to that. And so I'm a very average, if not below average piano player. I also dabbled in golf and I love golf. I mean, I love sports, but with my kids and my family and my travel schedule, I don't play a lot. I mean, I probably average two, three, maybe four rounds the last three or four years. That's not a lot. And I like it. I'm actually, okay. I'm pretty good. Just for the few about times that I play, but I'm a dabbler. And so when I go out with really good golfers, excellent golfers. I'm not talking PGA pros, but top-level golfers. You can see the difference. There's a difference between dabbler and a doer.

There's average, there's good and then there's the elite, the best. There's a difference. And the last thing I wanted share with you from a personal example is a business experience that I had. And I think there's a lot of lessons to be learned from this. And this is still hard for me, because I don't like to admit failure, or at least I say failure is when you quit. I don't like to admit disappointments or struggles or the fact that things didn't work as well as I'd like to, but after a 15 year insurance production career, which many of you know, I've talked about it in this podcast and it had some good success out there in the marketplace as an insurance producer. I wanted to do something on my own. I wanted to start my own business and do some leadership and some sales and some marketing, coaching, and training.

But here's the problem that I have. And this is where I'm going to get into for insurance agencies is that I didn't really know exactly what the business model was. I didn't really know exactly who I specifically wanted to serve or what was going to be the, my main function of business. Was I going to be a coach or a trainer, or was I going to help with marketing things? And was I going to work with just insurance agencies or was I going to work with any type of business? Was I going to go national or stay local. All these questions. And by the way, for any new business owner, or even if you're a new producer. Or a new agency leader, you know what I'm talking about. There's a lot of those questions that you have to ask yourself. And part of that's learning through business, but here's what I've learned in all of that.

My business, I had some successes, but I had a ton of struggles and a ton of challenges. And if I were to look back and to be really honest, what was the biggest reason for my business struggles? Why did that business never flourish like it could ever work out? Well, I think the thing that really stands to top is that I was dabbling in lots of stuff. It was a constant dipping the toe in the water in different areas. And I never really made a decision. I never said, this is the model. This is what I'm going to do. Now, by the way, doesn't mean that if a model completely not working, you shouldn't change or improve it? Well, of course you should, but you've got to make a decision somewhere along the lines in business of this is who I am. This is who we're going to be.

This is what it's going to look like. I need to have a compelling vision so that I can work towards that and be consistent and stay accountable to it. And I can tell you as a dabbler in that business, I learned some really, really hard lessons. So, why do I share all this? I mean, you might be thinking that's great, Brent. I don't know what this has to do with me or my agency at this point. Well, here's what I can tell you. We see agencies all the time that dabble. They have ideas, they have some form of vision of what their agency could and should be. And what would it look like? In fact, one of the things that we do oftentimes, and we do this in our producer camp, but we also do this in our CEO program as well for leaders.

It's just close your eyes and oh, here we go. But close your eyes and imagine yourself playing at the highest level. Now, for an agency leader, just imagine your agency. And if you want to do this now, hopefully you're not driving. But if you're sitting at home or you're listening to me on the couch or something like that or you're watching this video, take a minute and just close your eyes and just imagine your agency at its peak performance. I mean, the team is cohesive, they're communicating. And this has got to be your vision, not mine, but just to give you some examples. We've got really good internal relationships. Obviously we've got really powerful external relationships, the relationships with our clients, our vendors, our company carriers, all the influencers that we have. We're accountable to each other.

We're having a good time. It's fun. I can go down the line of all kinds of things, but just, if you imagine yourself at that highest level of what it really looks like, what it could and should look like, it means it's achievable, it absolutely is. The question is, are you as an agency leader willing to make a decision to actually make it happen? To make those dreams come true. And I have my air quotes out for those of you that are just listening, but are you really willing to make that commitment to make a decision? Because here's some things that we see. Where do agency's dabble? You may have heard different aspects of this, but here's some things that jumped in my mind as I was preparing this conversation with you today. I think one of the things that agencies dabble in is that are their producers really acting like producers?

Are they full-time producers? Meaning that the definition of a producer is one who produces. Are they out in the marketplace? And we talk at Sitkins about is, you should be producing or in that producer mold sales and pipelines, proactive relationships, proactive continuations, sales stuff. You should be doing that 80% of the week. That's how the best agencies work. It's what they do. That's what their job is. That's the role. We've got to stay committed to that. And to do that, we've got to have a high-performance team. And you've probably heard me talk about that before, that we have sales and service aligned. We have sales and service that appreciate each other. We have sales and service that have good rapport and respect. We have sales and service that have trust. They have teamwork. One thing that I always say is they have the same goal, but they have different roles.

Same goal means we're going to retain and obtain ideal clients, but we all have different roles of what those are. And it's not one is better, or one is even necessarily more important. It's just that we have to understand that we're playing different positions on the team. Our goal, if we're using football's analogy is to score a touchdown, but we may have a quarterback and a wide receiver, an offensive lineman, whatever terms you want to use and sorry for my non-sports friends out there, but you get the idea. Same goal, different roles. So, one of the things that we see agencies dabble in is that producers are part-time producers. They kind of produce, but then they get stuck in the service trap or they get stuck in distractions. The clicks and the rings and the pings and the dings and everything is a reactive mode.

And then goes, boy, I'd really like for us to make a decision and have that sales service balance, our sales people are relationship makers and our service team are tremendous client service people. I mean, they are giving great service. They're thinking ahead and they're talking. And we're having good proactive communication. But so often agencies, they kind of dabble. Yeah, we kind of do some of that and we'd like to do more. And we've got a few producers that are pretty good at it, but some others that they don't really want to do that. And then they're frustrated. They're dabbling. What else? I think agencies dabble in the true idea of differentiation. Are we truly different than our competitors? Or are we another me too agency? Meaning the fact that you say something and other agencies go, oh, me too. We can do that too.

And of course we talk about the generic five, which is most agencies. You've got really good service. We have really competitive pricing or great rates. We've been in business a long time. We're local. We represent all the markets. We're independent. Of course we have the best people. And there are truths or half-truths to all of that. But if we're not really understanding how we as an agency help businesses and or individuals move their business or life forward, and we're not differentiating truly what makes us unique and compelling in the marketplace. And we haven't taken time to really understand, discuss, identify the true impact of what we do that's different that helps our clients lives and businesses. If we don't have evidence that we've built or used to support that, if we're not asking true questions, we call POD questions that make people go I don't know, Brent, no one's asked me that before. That's a really good question. I haven't thought about it that way.

Are we truly different? And are we willing to make a decision to really identify that? Because this is a hard thing. It is. Are we going to make that decision or are we going to dabble and go, well, we still do kind of stuff and we'll be okay. Can never fully break away to be that category of one. We're kind of trying, but we're dabbling. Another one, and I'm sure many of you have dealt with this, is pipelines. Are we dabbling in pipeline development or really make a decision and doing pipelines? Everyone talks about it. I could tell you that if I took a hundred agencies, a hundred agency leaders and I talked to them on the street. They're all lined up or there's some event.

And I say, tell me your three biggest challenges or three things you want to accomplish, whatever it is, something around that question. I'd be willing to guess that 80, 90% of agencies would say something in the aspect of, we need to do a better job in building our pipeline. We've got to have more first appointments. We got to see more quality people. Something around pipeline and pipeline development. So, we talk about all the time, ah, that would be great, but have we really made a decision? Are we doing pipelines? What does that mean? What's expected in pipelines? How many people or businesses should we have? What is our target account strategy plan? Are we truly earning and then asking for referrals? Have we built a true influencer list? Are we going to networking events online or in person the world opens up with true intent or are we just showing up if someone told us to be there?

There's a difference between dabbling. Yeah, maybe kind of, sort of and doing when it comes to pipeline. Which really leads to the last thing. And this would be, I guess, the top of the pyramid, so to speak when it comes to doing or dabbling, I see with agencies and that is this, are you dabbling in the idea of accountability in your agency? Or are you doing accountability in your agency? Meaning that when we say the culture of accountability, the culture is the language and behaviors that are normal in your agency. The cadence of accountability is how frequently are you talking about that. But the bottom line is this. Do your people do what they said they were going to do? Number one is, do they even know specifically what they should do? And then of course, are they doing the things that they said, is it aligned?

Is it agreed upon? Is it documented? Is it followed up? Not as a penalty, but because we all know that without accountability we will go our separate ways. We're all human. Now, some people are more naturally inclined to that than others. I would agree with that. But the bottom line, if you're going to build an elite agency in today's world, we've got to be accountable to ourselves. We've got to be accountable to each other as a team so that we can be accountable to our clients and people outside in the marketplace. It's a culture and cadence of accountability. And many agencies that I see, again, their intent is, oh gosh, I would really like for us to be more accountable, but we just haven't got there. What are you doing? Well we talk about that we need to live up to expectations.

Well, has it really been discussed specifically what that means? Are there defined roles or, again, different things that each member on the team has expectations? Is it written out? Well, no, no, no, no. But we do talk about it time to time. And of course, if you're an agency leader for any length of time, you always have new ideas and thoughts. And I will tell you that once you have a new thought of the week or the month, your team looks around saying, does he or she really mean it this time? Probably not. And they look at each other and go, don't worry, this too shall pass. And then we can go back to doing all the stuff that we've always done. And that's the team's thinking, of saying if the agency leader isn't consistently holding you accountable to what's actually been addressed.

So, here's some things to think about. Why do we dabble? And maybe you already know some of these and it's already come into your mind, but I want you to think as an agency leader again, are there some areas maybe that I'm talking about specifically that I've mentioned, or maybe other areas in your agency that you've been dabbling too long? You've been floating along dabble, dabble, dabble, dabble, dabble. And you've always thought that you could be better. Much improved in a certain area, maybe transformation a certain area, but you just never made the commitment. Why don't we do that? Why do we dabble? Well, again, there's probably more than three, but three things I wrote down. Number one is this, because it's easier right now not to make a decision. I mean, that's probably the biggest. It's easier now. And I can go back to the examples I gave in piano and golf.

I can think of things even from workouts where I've dabbled in workouts. Going back to the business example I gave, it's easier now not to make a decision, because if I make a decision, I say, I'm all in. I'm going to do this. Guess what? I've now committed myself. And there's pressure around that. There's expectations. There's my own accountability that I mentioned. But here's the thing. And we all know this. If we do the easy things right now, the easy thing. Well, it's easier. It'd be easier if I didn't look at my finances today. The hard thing later is why am I so broke? The easy thing is, do I really want to have this conversation with this employee who I know there's so much more, this team member that got so much more potential, but you know what?

They can be a little bit abrasive. I don't want to rock the boat. I'll just let it go. And then we sit here in two months and four months and six months and two years in 10 years and go, why am I still dealing with this? Because if we do the easy thing now, things are hard later. Yet, if we can do a few of the hard things right now, make a decision, you know what? I'm going to do this hard thing right now so that longterm, my life can be "easier, better, more fulfilling, more freedom." Whatever that may mean to you. And the second part of this kind of goes along with what I just said, is that it's really hard to get uncomfortable. We all have our own comfort zones. This is the way I've always done it. This is what I know.

This is what I understand. Whatever that is. So, I'm just going to kind of live in that comfort zone, because ... And this is what happens to many of us is that even though I know outside of this comfort zone there's so much more available for me and my family, my team, my future. There's so much more. And I know it. I know at the heart of my heart, I know there's more there, but ... and even though the comfort zone isn't really where I want to be. At least I know what it is. So, I'll just stay there. And you've heard this, I'm sure, before, all progress starts on the outer edge of our comfort zone. So, I think that's a huge factor. The last thing is this, I think there are too many options. I think there's too many options.

And that's one of the challenges. It goes back to the business example I gave, I see the agencies all the time. It's like, listen, I'd like to decide, but I don't even know where to start. There's too many things that I could do. Roger Sitkins says this all the time, "There will always be more great ideas than there is time or capacity to implement." And that's true. You may want to write that down. There's always more great ideas than there is time and capacity to implement. So, what do we need to do? Well, too many options. We need to simplify and we need to focus. Something you've heard me say before. I'll say it again. We've got to simplify and we've got to focus. In fact, one of the things that I always tell insurance agencies, as they begin, or maybe we have some introductory calls and they're learning more about specifically how we help agencies thrive out there in the marketplace.

I said, "Listen, I want you to understand something, because one of the things you may be thinking is that, oh my gosh, now I'm going to have all of these things that I've got to do on top of what I'm already doing." What I'm going to tell you, the podcast audience, as I tell agency leaders, is this, the truth of it is, this is not about adding more things to do. In fact, it's less. But it's about doing the right things better. It's about doing the right things more often. It's about doing the right things with more focus and intensity. We're not going to say here's 80 more things to do. Here are just a few things that I want you to try to remove the distractions and just focus. There's certainly something called decision fatigue. We have a paradox of choice. There's a book written about that.

It's so true. The more choices we have and that are floating around in our mind, the more challenging it gets to make a decision, because we just feel paralyzed. Just the paralysis by analysis. So, these are some things that I want to share with you. And again, I'm going to ask you this as I wrap up this solo podcast today, again, my conversation or a conversation from my heart to you. Because ultimately, I mean, and this is at the core of who we are and what I do, what our team does at Sitkins is we just want to help agencies sell more than they ever thought possible, retain more than they ever thought possible, earn more than they ever thought possible. How do you do that? Well, it's by becoming their best version possible. And to do that is to find an area where I am willing and able to make a decision.

I'm tired of dabbling. I don't want to look back in six months or a year or 10 years or 30 years and go, I dabbled. And there was so much more that I could have accomplished, that I could have done for not just me, but that I could give back to the world. However that you want to view that. Now, I do want to share this. We designed at Sitkins, the ProFit experience, which is our agency transformation process to do this, to help agencies with that idea, this idea of making a decision. And to help you, as an agency, get to the vital few versus the trivial many. And the process is a three-phased process. Now these processes, these phases can and are ongoing, but to help agencies, let's just give you a guided roadmap, a process. And the first phase of the ProFit experience is clarity in core.

Clarity is something I mentioned at the beginning, which is a transformational scorecard, but a big part of this. You just thinking about your agency for a while to get in the way and saying, wait a second, let's actually see where I'm at today. All progress starts by telling the truth and where do I really want to go? And the last part of clarity is, well, how am I going to get there? And what we've designed for agencies is a holistic model where every member of your agency team has access to all of the tools and resources and the programs, the live interactive programs that we have, whether it's your producer training, which is what we're best known for, our world-class. Our account manager program, our sales leadership, and our agency leadership programs are all part of this core training. The first 90 days of this phase, we would ask agencies, hey, say, listen, understand where you are, where do you want to go and get your team and all the core training so they can hear this message that is going to be truly transformational and understand and get better by it.

That we can start to speak a similar language that we understand what really works up in the marketplace. And then the next phase is about consistency. More importantly, going DEEP for 90 days in one, and I'll say this again, one particular area. We've talked a lot and DEEP is an acronym, we've used it on this podcast, DEEP as an acronym for delivering excellence in every process. How do we deliver excellence in every process? Well, we understand this. If you've got seven different processes you're trying to go DEEP in, it ain't going to work. Just what I said before. There's too many choices. So, of all the things that we teach in our core programs, we want your agency to go, okay, in the next 90 days, what's one area we want to master.

We want to really get efficient. We want good. And maybe it's pipelines. Maybe it's positioning that I mentioned earlier. Maybe it's installing a sales and or a continuation process in your agency. Maybe it's just focusing on that high-performance team. Let's get one area, get laser-focused and begin to master that. And then 90 days after that, you can choose another one, or you could repeat if you needed to continue to go deeper in. Whatever your agency process is. Phase two is to find one area and be consistent. And phase three, and this is an ongoing phase, number one is we have some mastery programs, but we have ongoing networking. I do believe it takes a community. Part of that is your peers and your coaches like me and Roger and our team. Mentors, that you're going to meet along the way, these communities.

So, in our ongoing programs, we do a number of round tables. We do ongoing sales meetings with all of our agencies. We do leadership forums. We have our annual ProFit net event, which by the way, if you're hearing my voice right now is coming up at the end of September, cannot wait for this event to get back in person, share ideas, have a blast, a roundtable, learn, grow. So, if you become one of our members, the Sitkins Network and the ProFit Experience, you have access to ProFitNet. The idea is let's unleash the collective genius. Let's unleash the collective genius.

So, again, all of this that I mentioned, you can go to sitkins.com/aim to learn more about the all-inclusive model, which is the ProFit experience and be one of our network members. We'd love to see if it's a fit for you and your agency, because at the end of the day, as I shared on today's podcast is that we want you to move from dabbling to doing. It all starts by making a decision. And if this podcast has added value to you and your agency, really would appreciate a rating and review or talk to share with other agency leaders out there, we want to continue to fulfill our mission to help your agency sell more, retain more and earn more than they ever thought possible. And ultimately become that best version possible. Thanks for listening and all the best in your success.


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