Don't Run Your Agency on One Wheel




Agency leaders, I have an unusual question to ask you, which will be the premise of today's episode, is your agency, which is likely the most important or valuable asset that you own, or at least you're part of, is that agency, if it were a vehicle, if it were going down the road, would only have one wheel. My name is Brent Kelly, welcome to the Agent Leader Podcast. I'm honored to be with you on this episode. And yes, we're going to unpack that unusual question that I just asked on the intro. Is your agency going down the road with one wheel? What in the heck does that even mean? Why does it matter? What should I do about it? I'm going to talk about all those areas today because you're going to see the significance of this analogy that I'm putting on the table right away of is your agency driving down the road with one wheel.

Now, before I get into all of that, I do want to make an important announcement. We are now open for registrations and membership for the second quarter with the Sitkins Group. We're excited. We're rolling through quarter one here. We have a number of new agencies we've onboarded and agencies that are continuing to work with us in all of our programs and our ongoing meetings and Deep resource library. In fact, a major enhancement that we made this year for all of our Sitkins members is we have a complete sales playbook that's released for all of our agency members. So really excited about that. It's interactive in depth what takes you from A to Z, and agencies are really loving what we've done with this. So second quarter registrations. If you want to learn more about Sitkins, what it means, how your agency can get involved, are you even a good fit?

Go to So learn more and book a call with one of our coaches today. Now, with that, let's get into the episode. And of course, I've been teasing this now for a while. What is this one wheel type of thing that we're talking about, this one wheel concept? Well, it's pretty simple. Many agencies that are looking to grow, train, develop their people. And by the way, I'm going to take just a brief aside and we're going to get back to the one wheel, but training, developing and growing your people. And I mentioned it on this podcast, I truly believe and I see with agencies that is the number one role or responsibility of agency leadership, the question that we should always be asking. How can we help grow and develop our number one asset in our agency, which is our people? How do we help grow them? And quite frankly, most agencies and the stats prove what I'm going to say here. Don't do a great job of this. Or at least they don't think it's very important, at least with how they invest time and money into this. In fact, the recent best practices study that was put out there was a slight update and it went up 100th of a percentage point. It went up from 0.024 to

0.025% of an agency's revenue is invested into training, growth and development of their people. And oftentimes that's typically license, those type of things, certifications, which aren't bad things. But as far as true growth and development, typically we see about one quarter of 1% of an agency's revenue going into that key area. So that's step one. So agencies that are doing that, congrats because I think you're leading with integrity, leading the fact that I know that we've got a team of people and as leaders and as an organization, we owe it to our people to be a culture of growth. And we're going to talk a lot about that today. So that's part one. But I want to get into the meat of what I want to get into today is if you are doing levels of development, how are you doing that development? What does it look like?

Because oftentimes what we'll hear, and I'm going to give the most obvious example, is that an agency will come to us or others or other places that do this and they will say something like this, we're looking for some sales training, we need some sales training. Which by the way is not inherently a bad thing. I think that's great. It goes back to development. We want to help grow and develop our salespeople love that. In fact, we do a really, really great job of sales development in our ProducerFit program. But what we've learned time and time out and over a period of years is that is only one wheel of the vehicle. And if we only have this one wheel of the vehicle, I mean quite honestly, it doesn't drive very well. We're kind of dragging the rest of the car along or we're spinning in circles.

I can give a lot of different analogies to this, but we look at sales training, we know the importance of sales training. We love doing sales training. But if we don't align this with our service team, with our leadership team in particular, sales leadership, and as I'm going to talk a little bit today about marketing, our marketing operations, it simply isn't going to be nearly as effective or impactful as it can and should be. So let me say this first. If you do sales training for your team, kudos, your salespeople with any good sales training is getting better. They're learning new skills. Hopefully they're enhancing processes, they're changing the mindset. That's what we believe in. But as I really want to stress today, the downfall or the negative part of this is that most traditional training doesn't work. And one big reason why traditional training often doesn't work is this concept is that we aren't training and developing our entire agency.

And I know that can seem a bit overwhelming. Like, gosh, we just want to get our salespeople. I mean they're really important. I'm using this example. It could be service too. It could be just leadership. But let's use sales because I think that's the most common is that we just need to get our salespeople, our producers trained and develop. We need to get our unvalidated producers, we need to get our current validated producers at a higher level. We need to get our highest level producers or producers that may be thinking about retirement. We got to get them to finish strong, whatever it may be. And those are all good concepts. But again and again we see this is that sales training by itself isn't nearly as effective as when we get the entire team to be part of this. So let me share why this matters so much.

I mentioned the four wheels, sales, service, leadership. Now I'm going to add a fourth wheel here. Marketing, sales, service, leadership and marketing. I also know in some agencies there may be some overlap. We know that we have some player coaches. You may be doing leadership and sales, you may be doing some marketing and sales or maybe some marketing and leadership. I get that with some agencies. But even if you have multiple roles, there still needs to be specific type of development, training and growth areas around all four of those wheels. So let me share three specific reasons why this matters and then I'm going to share some ideas within this of how you as an agency can help uplevel this and make significant improvement in enhancements. Because at the end of the day, what is it about? Well, certainly the number one asset we have is our people.

Our role and responsibility is to develop our people. Why does that matter so much? Results. Results, we're in the results business. If our agencies don't get results, we don't stay in business. So at the end of the day, it's about results. So I don't say that the people in all four wheels just because it's lovey-dovey and good feeling and good vibes, although it does provide that, I say it because it provides you and your agency the best opportunity to get the best results. It's a results business, and that's what this is about. So lemme go through three things that really jump out to me of why this is so impactful. And then again, throw some ideas to you as agency leaders of how maybe you can take the next step. What's a thing you can do? And as always, if you've got a pen and paper, get it ready.

Take some notes on this and jot some ideas down in your mind of, Hey, what's the next thing or one thing we could do in this particular area to help get our team at a higher level, to go faster, to go further than we are right now? \Our best version possible side plug. Why not? It's my podcast, our best version possible book, it's available. Just go to and you're going to hear and see all of this. It's all jam packed in about a hundred pages that you can go through on a plane flight.

So if you haven't read it or want to listen to it, it's on audible. We go through all of, but that to me is a commitment. When we say, listen, all four of these wheels are important. We're going to make a commitment. And let's face it, human nature says this. If you're part of a team, and again, I'm just going to use sports because I use sports a lot and it's easy, but let's just use football because right now we're gearing up for the Super Bowl depending on when you're listening to this. But just imagine in football, we've got, let's just say offense, defense, special teams. Could you imagine a football team? And we know they have specialized coaches, certainly in the National Football League at the professional level, but if you can imagine they come out and the only group that gets coached or trained is the offense, the defense just they show up and like, Hey, just hang out in the back the game is Sunday.

So be ready. But we're going to really focus on the offense, right? We're going to really focus on the offense. And better yet, we can even segment this more. The offense comes out and they go, Hey, we're just going to work with the running backs and the quarterback today, line, receivers. Just go ahead and go and get in the shower or head home, whatever you want to do. We're going to really focus on the quarterbacks and the running back. Now, why do I say that? Because a lot of times the agencies, not only is it for example, only the sales team, but maybe it's only a couple individuals in the sales team. Well, we just need a couple guys or gals that need training. Everyone else is fine. Now, again, I understand there are specifics and certain things that you may need to do, and there's certain areas and certain people that might need more attention.

I get that. But again, as far as the commitment goes, which is my number one area, is are we really committing to continual never ending growth for our entire agency team? Are we committing just fragmental type of development? Are we committed to that? And again, to me, this comes back to more than just the people themselves, but a commitment to the overall agency, the commitment to our clients. And here's a commitment, a commitment to our culture, which by the way happens to be part of number two. So number one is commitment. Number two is the culture. Now, one of the things that we speak about at Sitkins all the time is that culture has a definition. Culture is the language and behaviors that are normal in your agency. That's the culture, the language, what people say, and the behaviors, what people do that are normal in your agency today.

That is the culture. And you can walk into an agency and very quickly understand what the culture is. Even in the remote world, what are people saying? What are people doing? And by the way, if you've got a fragment or a segment that's hearing one message and another area that's hearing a different message or no message at all, what does that do for the language and the behaviors for the culture? They're disconnected, right? They're not aligned. And we believe in the culture and cadence of accountability. So there's the A word, which by the way, the A word is not a four letter word. Accountability, culture and cadence, meaning what is the frequency? The culture and cadence of accountability. And again, if we have sporadic or fragmented training development, it becomes really hard to build a really good culture and a cadence of accountability because some people are doing it this way and some people are doing it this way.

And some people have these type of accountability metrics and these people really don't. And we know they may be different, but are they aligned? Right? And we're going to get to the second part of this. The last part of this is just communication. And I'm going to tie all this together. So there's commitment. Are we really committed to all of our people? Number two, what do we really want our culture and cadence of accountability to be and the language and behaviors that are normal and the accountability behind that. And the last part here is, and this one is everything ties us all together, is communication. Communication. When I look at most agencies, we work with agencies from all over the country, different sizes and shapes. And this is not easy, right? It is not easy, but it is vitally important, is that if we do not have good internal communication, we will not have great external communication with our clients.

And a lot of that comes back into having training development that is all four wheels in my analogy, that everybody is hearing or being part of something in some way. And the concept that we talk about is this same goal, different roles. That as an agency, do we have the same goal? Which by the way, at a very simple level can be to retain and obtain ideal clients. That's a pretty common goal. Our goal is to retain and obtain ideal clients, clients that we want for our agency. But now to do that, we have different roles that are important to accomplish that mission. But if we don't communicate effectively, how in the world do we expect that to happen? Again, we hear that all the time. So let me give you three specific examples to dive a bit deeper. Let's just, again, we're going to use sales as the group that's getting the training or development, whether it's all or a few of the salespeople.

Again, I think that is the most common, maybe in your cases, leadership or service. Maybe you've got marketing people doing stuff, but they're not doing things together, they're not aligned. So let's start with sales and service. Sales and service. Now, this seems obvious, but it is missed. And this has happened certainly with us because if a producer says to me, Brent, I really want to go through your ProducerFit sales training program. I've heard great things about it and I want to go through it, we are not going to stop somebody from doing that, but I will be very clear with them is, Hey, how is your service team involved with this? "Oh, they're not involved at all. This is just me." What about leadership? "Oh, they're not involved at all. Yeah, I'm just taking this on because I want to get better." Now, kudos for getting better.

You can certainly go through our program and get better. We've had people that do that. But here's some things to consider when we talk to producers in particular about building a high performance team, about a frequency of proactive meetings with sales and service so that we are clear on the roles and responsibilities, that we don't interrupt each other, that we don't make multiple mistakes, that we don't make promises that we can't keep, that we have a true client experiences based on a service hand up to free up producers to go out and do what they should and do best, which is sell stuff that our service team isn't interrupted or not impacted by producers who are quite frankly distracted with everything. And I could go on and on and on, but the idea of this is that if we don't do this, our teams are never high performance and sales and service.

They're high maintenance. And because they're high maintenance, we never reach anywhere to the level of growth that we could and should have. So number one, just think about this, sales and service. How well sales and service are your teams aligned? I've had guests on this podcast, and I love when guests get to share their stories that are members of Sitkins. We've had several, we had a few that were released in November, December of 2023, and a few of them said in particular, the biggest thing is that our sales and service teams finally understand each other. And here's another one that really I can't stress enough. And this sounds, this is where it gets like, "oh, well, it's just kind of high level and it feels good." We use an acronym named art, ART. And this isn't drawing pictures, but it's based on appreciation, respect, and trust.

You cannot build, this is an all areas a level of appreciation, a level of respect for what we do and build trust. If we've got two separate, complete separate ways and things that people are hearing, things that are learning how they're communicating, it just doesn't work. It just doesn't work. So think of the power of the communication if we don't have alignment in sales and service. What about leadership? This is something that some agencies don't like to hear when I say this. And people are looking and they're thinking, Hey, we're thinking about working with Sitkins. How are you going to manage our producers? How are you going to hold all of our producers accountable? And I stopped them right there, and I said, listen, we are not a substitute for management. That is your job and it should be your job. And by the way, you are the agency leaders and managers who are there day to day.

You need to do that now, however, we're going to empower and equip and educate you. We have a program called Coach the Coach that does just that. We're going to help foster some of this communication. We're going to share principles and ideas that you can collaborate around. But here's the bottom line. If a producer goes through ProducerFit and they're leaders of any kind, sales leader, maybe it's a player coach, maybe it's whatever it is, someone who should have some level of accountability or someone that they report up to in some form or fashion, and they have no idea what that producer just heard or should be doing, it won't work very well. There are a few

Exceptions that you've got a producer who just does it no matter what, but think about what's missing. I guess that's what I want to get at, is that yes, you could drive the one wheel car and you're still going to have a wheel at least, but what are you missing? Right? You're missing so much. And when we have leaders that go through our Coach the Coach program, and they hear about how to have these conversations, how to create a two-way, promise, what is it you want? What is it that we do? What is it that we want? How do we work together? How can I best communicate with you? Where do you really want to go? What does that look like? And of course, back to speaking the same language, right? Some of the key principles that we introduce, yes, I know what you mean by that.

I heard that too. This is what we're going to do together. And by the way, the best producers and leaders together, they want to have accountability because they know what it means. And we talk all about that. But again, the idea is the communication between leadership and sales is crucial and often missing. And let me hit the last one. I'm not going to spend a bunch of time on this, but it is important, marketing. Now, sometimes we'll look at operations of an agency, but we've introduced this year with the help of Kari Glennon, who I interviewed on a podcast recently, and she's fantastic. Our senior consultant, we've introduced a Business Development and Marketing Center. And by the way, this isn't just about us. I mean, I can only speak on what I know and what we do with agencies, but our Business Development and Marketing Center is the right hand person for a producer.

It's a marketing arm, both internal and external. And you think about it, we know the power of marketing, and obviously marketing in the insurance world has a couple different connotations. We think about carrier marketing, but also just external marketing. And a lot of that is to make sure that we're all running together. So the function of a Business Development and Marketing Center to have a marketing person, a marketing team that supports producers and obviously communicates it with leaders and also understands what service does, it is extremely powerful. And I guess I'll just leave it at this. Just imagine this from going one wheel to all four wheels that are aligned. They're brand new tires. They're going down the road, the power, the frequency, the duration, how streamlined you are that you can be. And by the way, no agency is perfect, right? We've got to consistently reinforce some of these things, but I can't stress this enough because I will tell you, and maybe you're already thinking this, I get it. I really just want sales training, or I really just want some leadership training, or I really just want to get my service people some training. And again, kudos to you because you're doing more than a lot of agencies, quite frankly. But what's missing? What's possible? Just imagine for a minute, if you had sales, service, leadership and marketing, all with a level of commitment to each other, with the culture built around common language and behaviors with communication that

Is proactive and intentional, deliberate, what can that mean? I mentioned at the beginning of this program that we're opening for second quarter. I would love, and we would love to have a conversation with you, and it's just from today's podcast. If you can take this and go, what can I do internally? Great, take that step. But if you really want to get this together, we've made this really easy for agencies, and the analogy I give is we want agency leaders and agencies to do this. I know not all of you are watching me, but maybe you can hear me. I want you to do this exhale, because part of it is the pressure of, "gosh, how am I going to develop all these people? How am I going to do all this stuff? How can I," no, no, no, no, no. This is about finding partnerships, and we certainly would love the opportunity to do that if it's right for you.

But partnerships that will help facilitate and foster all the things that I'm talking about today. And to give you an idea of this, if you have a conversation with us, things that you're going to hear is in a quarterly basis, we run our core programs. Now we do things above and beyond. We have sales playbooks and monthly sales meetings and ongoing conversations that reinforce all of these core programs. But we have our ProducerFit program, we have our account manager fit program, we have our Coach the Coach program. And once you go through that, you have the option of adding on the Business Development and Marketing Center to get your entire agency aligned and going down the road. So again, if you're interested in that, go to and you can learn more about it and also set up a call to see if it's a fit for you.

I know this was a bit of an unusual analogy. Hopefully you can sense my passion because as much as I'm saying this is, we would love an opportunity individually to have conversations with you and your agency. The bigger part of this, and from my heart, is that I just see agencies who struggle with this, and it's a different way of thinking, and I know that by saying, "oh gosh, the service and the leadership and potentially marketing needs to be involved with sales. That's a bit of an undertaking." I know that that will turn some people away. Oh, we don't really...but I'm just going to ask you again, what's possible, what's really possible? The insurance game is not a one person or two person sport. Now, if you're a one or two person operation, maybe for you right now, it is, right? But for agencies with multiple people, this is about getting on the same page and not just driving fast, but driving far together. Thanks so much for listening. Appreciate you being a listener. If this episode and others are adding value to your agency, I'm going to do the thing that everybody does subscribe, leave a rating review. We certainly want to grow this and fulfill our mission to educate and empower and equip independent insurance agencies to become their best version possible. Thanks for listening.


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