Easy vs. Hard


Are you simply making the easy choices in your insurance agency, that are actually making your life harder in the end? As we always say, if you make easy choices today, it'll make your life harder long-term.

Brent challenges independent insurance agency leaders to think through five choices that can impact your business long-term.  

4:30 - Choice #1, Does your agency have a Team Training and Development Plan? 

9:08 - Choice #2, Having High-Performance Teams, which means having clear and consistent communication between your sales and service teams.

12:42 - Choice #3, Producer Accountability to Results  

16:28 - Choice #4, Leveraging the Power of the 80/20 Rule 

21:15 - Choice #5, 3P's - Playbook, Preparation, and Practice  

Are you willing to make some of the hard choices now that are going to make the long-term success of the agency easier?   

Listen Now


All right. Welcome to the Agent Leader Podcast. My name is Brent Kelly, I'm your host. Thanks so much for joining me on this episode. And as I did on last episode, last session of the Agent Leader Podcast, I'm also live on LinkedIn, so we continue to try out this new format. So if you happen to hop in on LinkedIn and you hear this, hey, welcome. Excited to have you live, and obviously for any of our other listeners on the normal podcast platforms, welcome to you as well. Excited today. I've got a very power packed show that I want to share with you about choices that we make. And, you know, to intro this, there's choices that we make every single day, and this is true in our personal lives, this is true in our professional lives. And, you know, we've got to decide on what to do and what not to do.

And some choices obviously, are more impactful and more meaningful than others. But what I want to talk today about is about specific choices that independent insurance agencies make, or maybe even choices that they don't make, which is still a choice by the way, that either is going to make their business, their organization, their agency. It's going to make things long-term easier, or make long, or make long-term make things harder. So, I'm going to cover five choices today that we're going to get into that I want you to think about as an independent insurance agency leader. And again, regardless of your specific role, your title, your position, any agency leader, these choices are impactful. Now, my guess is I go through these choices. There's going to be some of them that maybe you're doing at 20, 30, 40, 50, 60% others, maybe you're not doing it all. Maybe there's one or two you're doing really, really well.

But I want you to think about what is your next choice in this particular area that you need to make. And again, these are very impactful choices as you, as, as you move forward in your agency you know, long-term. And then, of course, some of the short-term things you need to do. So, before I get into choices, as always, I want to, to give the mission, the purpose of the Agent Leader podcast. The mission of this podcast is to help you, the independent insurance agency leader, to help you gain clarity on what's most important to build consistency and key foundational habits. And we're going to talk about certainly some of those today. And of course, make a commitment, a commitment to yourself, to your team, to your clients, to become that best version possible. And always want to do a live promo for our video watchers here on LinkedIn.

 Roger Sitkins, our founder, and CEO and myself, we co-authored the book, best Version Possible last year. And getting some great feedback. In fact, I just was talking to some people yesterday about the book actually share this quick story. It was a group of agency leaders. We were on a Zoom call. There was about six of us. And I had three of the leaders who said, Hey, listen, I, we read your book. Great, great stuff in there. Really appreciate it. And then the fourth person, of course, had to be a little bit of a, a smart Alec, which I appreciated, said, by the way, good book also worked really, really good as a as a table holder as far as my table was wobbly. And so I, it also worked really well for that as well. So we certainly want you to read the book, engage in the book take action steps around the book.

 But if you need it for a, a wobbly table, I sort, I suppose you could use it for that as well. So without further ado, I want to get into the content today, again, about these choices. And if you're taking notes or you're not taking notes, I suggest you do and write these down. These are the five choices. And by the way, there's more than five but these are five choices that really stand out to me, that agencies can make, that will make your agency run easier, long term or harder. And here's the thing about choices. It's something that, that Roger Sitkins says all the time. If you make easy choices today or try to do easy things today, guess what? It's easy, right? That's why a lot of people do it. It's easy, it's pretty easy, but long term, it's going to make things harder.

And, and, and so what I want to talk about these, these choices today that I understand, some of these things I'm going to talk about are hard in terms of, gosh, that will take some energy, that'll take some effort, that'll take some discipline, but the fruitfulness of it is the long-term outcome that it's going to have for your agency. So let me get into this, and I've got little banners here I want to make sure I can show to illustrate the point. But I wanna start off with the first choice. And the first choice is, do I truly have a team training and development plan for all of my agency members and certainly all the client facing agency members? You know, one of the things we see all the time with agencies, if I ask this question is, does your current, does your agency currently have a true training and development plan or process for your team?

And oftentimes when I ask this question, I'll get, well, I think so, or I, I don't know. Or we do some things, or we make sure that our, you know, our team is licensed and we get the CE's and all these kind of things. And those are all good things. But what I'm talking about is a true personal and professional growth plan for your agency team. And this includes your producers, this includes your account managers, this includes your leadership team that although there may be different functions of that, obviously with their roles that we're unified, that we're all growing together, that we have a true plan. And I was thinking about this as like, why do agencies not do this? Because in my heart of hearts, and I've shared this before in the podcast, the number one asset that your agency has is your people.

It's your team, right? That is the number one asset that we have. We know it's challenging to find people, we know it's challenging to develop people. We know it's challenging to keep people, but that is our number one asset. So the question I think about is, well, why don't agencies have a true team or development plan? And I think there are a lot of reasons for this. Maybe it's, I'm not really sure where to start. I don't really know what to do. I'm not really sure how to do it. I don't know if I'll get buy in with my team, right? All these things are true. But I would challenge you at first, just think about what would it look like? What is the outcome that I want for my team members a year from now, two years from now, three years from now? How can I help them as a leader grow?

Because I believe that the number one job or responsibility of any agency leader above all else, and I know there's other responsibilities besides this, but the number one job and duty and goal of an agency leader is to develop your people, right? If I can develop my people in certain ways, certainly that's going to help our agency grow in many, in many different ways. So again, the first thing I want to hear is, what is a treatment? What is my team training and development plan? The easy choice. The easy choice is, you know what? They'll figure it out. The easy choice is I'll send someone off to a, a two day training program, or I'll send, you know, we'll, we'll, we'll do this one thing, and we'll have a couple people do this. And if this person needs something, if they reach out, yes, we're going to help 'em.

And, and I'll you know, I'll have some conversations with them. Now my phone is going off, of course. So we'll do those kind of things. But the idea behind this is, that's easy. Those are the easy things to do. The harder thing to do is to actually say, what is going to be a plan of development over the next three months, six months, nine months, one year, two years, and three years? And here's the great news of this, and we see this all the time with agencies we work with and certainly agencies that are growth committed, is that if we do some of the harder things upfront, meaning that we are going to invest in our most important asset, our people long-term, we get greater buy-in long-term, we have greater skill development long-term, we can make more efficient pro, we have better and more efficient processes in our agency.

So all these things long-term are great. And of course, what does that lead to? Higher organic growth rate, higher retention rates, higher profitability rates, higher agency value, which is often what agencies want, right? I want these things, but I would just ask yourself today, the choice I'm making, am I making a choice right now to truly invest in my most important asset, my people? However you do that, right? We certainly would love to be part of that journey for you, but it doesn't have to be us, right? There are different ways you can do that. Or am I making an easier choice to say, ah, we're good enough, we'll be okay. They'll figure it out. And by the way I just one thought on this, that's important. I had a conversation with a, an agency this week, and it's interesting, right? Of, of things that people say, if you're an agency leader, and your thought was, well, when I started, all they gave me was a phone or a phone book.

So that's all they need. Then you're thinking about yourself more than your team, right? I mean, listen, you may have had a difficult experience, I get that. But just because that's the way it was done 20, 30 or 40 years ago or that happened to you, doesn't mean that's in the best interest of your team moving forward, right? So think about we versus me and the idea of, well, they'll just figure it out. Maybe they will. Maybe you have a superstar that just is going to be a superstar because that's who they are. But just imagine the power, the choice of saying, I'm going to invest in my important asset in my team and be intentional and be consistent and be accountable around it, right? So that's choice number one. Choice number two, we'll get a little more granular here. Choice number two is the idea of high performance teams.

Now, we teach high performance teams in our programs, in our, in our membership model. But high performance teams at a very basic level is this, do we have clear and consistent communication between our sales and our service team, right? Do we have clear and consistent communication between our sales and our service team that we have an understanding that we have the same goal with different roles? Now, here's the easy thing to do. Here's the easy choice you could make in this area. Sales and service are different. They don't always get along. They have different roles. They'll figure it out, right? Yeah. They're going to butt heads. Yeah, there's going to be issues. Yeah, they may not always be aligned, but guess what? They'll, they'll fight their way through it, right? That is an easy choice, which leads to really hard and difficult outcomes, right? That leads the fact that instead of being prepared, we're repairing both internally.

I know some of the relationships, right? Or, and or externally, meaning that maybe they were promises made through the producer or the service team, usually the producer that isn't kept because it wasn't communicated, it wasn't delivered efficiently. So because of that, instead of high performance teams, we have high maintenance teams that were always dealing with issues in crisis, right? So the choice to make is, am I going to think about and implement and execute a high performance team? And the way that we look at, at Kins is a weekly meeting with a specific agenda between sales and service, that there's accountability to both parties on this, that we understand the goal, which is to retain and obtain ideal clients, knowing there are different roles. What do you need from me? Here's what I need from you, right? And the other person says, here's what, here's what I need from you.

Here's, you know, what I need to give you all, there's an exchange of values, ideas, and responsibilities. So that at the end of the day, it's about the client experience. But we can't have a great external client experience if we don't have a good and a great internal experience and a great internal relationship. One of the things I've shared on this podcast before is there's an art to high performance teams. And art ART is an acronym. Is there an Appreciation? Is their Respect, and there's their Trust between sales and service. Now that is earned not given, but if we don't have an intentional high performance team format that we're going to make sure sales and service are proactively communicating, we will be living in chaos, right? We will be always picking up the pieces versus building this to begin with, right? It doesn't mean it's going to be perfect.

There's always going to be struggles. And by the way, I know from experience and working with agencies is certainly initially that setting up high performance teams can be challenging and frustrating. Why? 'cause we've never done it before. But once we do it, it becomes much easier long-term for every single person involved in the agency, right? We get things done more effectively and more efficiently. And I can tell you one of my favorite stories of one of our agencies, when they started with us, the high performance team concept was a choice they made. And when they made that choice, there was some initial friction because there were some problems between sales and service. Looking back several years down the road, it is the best and most impactful thing they have ever done. They've also had three of the top sales years ever in the history of the agency.

And a big part of this is because now there's a marriage between sales and service. Marriages aren't always easy, and they're not always perfect. But when we join with the same goal in different roles, it's really, really powerful. So, choice number two, high performance teams. All right, let's get to choice number three. And this is a again, a bit obscure to a degree, but I want to, I want to get a bit granular in this. It's producer accountability to results. Now, what do I mean by this? There's, there's a couple choices you could make here as an agency. Number one is, producers are going to be producers. We're going to let them just go out there and do their thing. Yes, we're going to have some conversations, yes, we're going to help 'em in different ways, but hey, if they're out there doing whatever they're doing, you know, we'll support 'em how we can the best that we can, right?

That's not accountability, right? There's a lot of freedom in that. And freedom is good, but freedom is earned. The choice you have to make is listen, if you're a producer, advisor, risk management, whatever term you want to give, if you're a producer on our team, you earn the right for freedom by being accountable to delivering on results, right? One of the things that we often share at Kins is this, we can't allow our profitable producers to subsidize unprofitable producers, right? And part of that becomes that every producer is accountable to result. Now, if there's a producer who's been in the game for a long time, they built a nice book of business, they fit with the culture, they're a good person. They're, again, profitable. We'll give you some wiggle room, of course, but anybody who's trying to grow their book of business, there's going to be certain levels of accountability.

And the choice that you have to make is what are the non-optional behaviors? What are the specific things that we agree upon are most important? And by the way, the word accountability, which is here in my banner, if you're watching the video, is a word that the best performers, the best producers, seek and desire accountability. Why? Because they want the best results. They want the ultimate growth. And without accountability as a human being, we will fall short. So accountability allows us to say, listen, I'm going to give everything I have, but I want to be accountable to certain things because I know there's going to be a week or a month even particular where I may fall off the tracks a little bit and I wanna make sure I get back on. 'cause I owe it to myself, I owe it to the team, I owe it to my clients, I owe it to my family, right?

So having producer accountability is not an easy choice to make up front, because if you ask producers, Hey, listen, we need to find some metrics and ways I want to help coach you. I want to help build you up, I want to help empower you. And part of that is we need to have some accountability around these areas. You're going to have some grumbling, but listen, there was a, an agency I talked to this week, and you know, part of the question was, how do we get greater buy-in? Here's a question I would ask to every producer, maybe. Here's a couple questions. Number one is, do you want to get better? Like, do you, do you seek to get better? And I would hope that every producer, regardless of age, experience, and book of business would say, of course, yes, as humans, we should all desire to get better.

Now, here's another question you could ask a producer who's plateaued or said, I'm, I'm good. Are you done? Like, are you done yet? Like, are, are you done? I need to know this. Right? that changes the conversation. But these are the things that oftentimes aren't asked and agencies, because they can seem challenging. But if you see yourself, remember I said the very beginning of this podcast, if you understand that the role and the value of a leader at the highest level is to develop your people development comes through accountability, right? There are no sports organizations or music events that don't have certain checks and balances of accountability, even the highest level performers. I need accountability because I owe it to myself to be that best version possible. So choice number three, again, the easy choice. Ah, run free as much as you want, and we'll pick up the pieces later, the harder choices.

Let's connect, let's create accountability areas of behavior that we can agree upon together to help you achieve the highest results possible. Alright? Choice number four. You've heard me or other guests, or Roger Kins when he is been hundred on here with me, talk about the choice of leveraging the power of 80/20. And, you know, 80/20 is a thing that, again, I'm just, I'm not surprised anymore. But it is interesting the fact that even the agencies that know it and understand it, and again, at a basic level, we've done thousands of studies in 80/20, we know that 20% of the clients of an agency produce about 80% of the revenue, right? So we know that, we see that time and time again. The question is, how are you leveraging that? How are you, how are you making that something that's part of the d n a of the agency to make sure that we are rounding out our best clients, that we certainly are retaining our best clients at the highest level, in fact, retaining them at such a level of client experience that we've earned the right to ask for referrals.

So we're replicating our best clients. So when you think about this as two choices, the easy choice is this 80/20, it's probably real in our agency. I've seen some numbers. I know our best clients give us most of the, of the revenue, but you know what, it is, what it is, we'll be fine without it, right? We know what's there. We'll try to pay some attention to it, but eh, we'll be okay. That's the easy choice. Now, the problem with that is long term is you run into problems. You run into problems like the tutu syndrome, which is you have too many clients paying you too little money. You run into capacity issues with your sales team. I don't have time to sell anymore. I've got too many clients that I'm trying to deal with. It bleeds into the service team, which is their role.

We have too many clients to take care of, and they're not paying us very much money, right? So we run into this problem of horizontal stagnation that we just kind of peter along a little bit. Very minimal growth. So that's the challenge of it. We can do the easy thing now, and it leads to these frustrations later, or we can do some of the harder things today is let's really know our 80/20, let's run the book of business by the agency, by department by producer. Let's analyze the 80/20 at least every six months, and then let's identify those top 20% and create action plans around those top 20% of our clients, right? Do we have a relationship management calendar with those clients? Are we installing? We continue, we, we call the continuation process, which is a proactive renewal process that we're trying to make the renewals on here.

A non-event. Are we given a true stewardship or promise report to our best clients to ensure the fact that not only are we going to retain them, and we've, we've got a, a scorecard that we can go off of, but we can also talk about marketplace strategies and be really intentional in how we earn and then ask for referrals, right? Those are harder things to do upfront, but when you do them, it creates such leverage and momentum that long term you're going, why didn't we do this years ago? And I'll tell you, there's been many agencies we work with saying, you know, we've heard about 80/20 for years. We just never really did anything with it. Now that we are, we see the power behind it. And by the way, one thing to this is interesting is, is we teach in our programs, you know, our programs run simultaneously, simultaneously to producers, to account managers and sales leaders.

You know, producers will often see the eight to twin and go, wow, this is an opportunity for me to really leverage my time, energy, and effort to not only have more clients pay me or less clients pay me more money, but obviously more freedom in my book of business, more growth, all those kind of things. They're looking for higher commission dollars, right? Oftentimes people will say, well, the account managers don't really care about 80/20. I will tell you in the agencies that implement this, they're one of the biggest fans of this, because I can tell you, they know when the phone rings, when there's certain clients they don't want to deal with, they don't pay 'em a lot of money, they always are a nag in different areas. And again, these are, you know, clients. We have to think about how we're going to deal with them.

But if we never leverage the power of 80/20, we're treating in essence every client the same, regardless of what they pay, regardless of our relationship, regardless of the risk advice that we provide. And so we're treating oftentimes transaction or commodity based accounts the same as we are with our highest level accounts, and it doesn't make sense. And we're sucking up the energy and the skillset of our account managers, right? Versus freeing them up to have deeper level conversations with relationships they truly appreciate and align with at a deeper level. So again, there's a producer and account manager area of this as well. So again, leveraging the power of 80/20, how are you doing that? Easy choice. It is what it is. We probably know it's true. Whatever the hard choice is, let's take a very deep look at this and create action plans to leverage the power of 80/20, which leads me to number five, the fifth choice to make.

Now I've got three P's in here Playbook, Preparation and Practice. And although these are a little bit different, I think I can summarize this in one choice, right? The choice to make is this, do we have a, the choice is do we have or need a playbook that we can prepare around and practice to? Or do we just say, Hey, listen, the easy thing is every producer, every team kind of does it their own way. They're doing a decent job. You know, I don't wanna mess with it too much. We'll be okay. Now, here's the problem with no playbook that we prepare to and practice around, is that you can't replicate winging it. You can't. We know that every producer in particular is going to have their own style, right? Flexibility without dilution. So there's going to be some flexibility, but we can't dilute our unique process or playbook and how we prepare for things, how we practice at the highest level, which our skillset, right?

So the, so the choice one, the easy choice is let's wing it and we'll be okay, which of course leads to what Well, frustration. 'cause You can't replicate it. Frustration because you've got a scattered a producer's doing different things. It's really hard to manage that. It's really hard to train back to the first one to develop around just sporadic everything. And what are we practicing towards? Like what, what does the skill development look like if we don't have any of these things? So that's the first choice. The easy thing is, I don't hands off we'll be okay. The harder choice is, listen, we need to create a playbook and or process. There's a fourth p I guess, that we are preparing for, right? For our clients and we're practicing towards, and it's going to change the game. Here's what I believe. Every sales meeting, every sale sales meeting, every conversation that we have with our team, that producer in particular should leave the meeting a better producer when they got there.

And part of that is having a distinct playbook. It's being ultimately prepared and it's being able to practice around some of these things at the highest level. And I've talked about some of these things before, but let me emphasize this even deeper. Doing practice and preparation around a playbook is not easy. And for some agencies, they may have never done it before. Very small bits of it. It's not easy. It is hard. But to watch the development and growth over the course of weeks, months, quarters, and years, and this group and producers and your entire team look back and go, because of this, we are an entirely different agency than we were a year ago because of this. Our level of confidence is at the highest level it's ever been. Because of this, we are more able to recruit and develop and keep our best talent because we have something here that no one else has.

That's powerful, right? That's exciting. So again, I, I say this not just as, oh, wouldn't that be neat? But we see agencies do this all the time, right? Playbook, preparation and practice. Easy choice, eh, hard choices. Let's do it long-term. The results are incredible. So those are the five choices. And again, as a, as a reminder, if you're not taking notes or haven't taken notes, here's a summary of this choice. One, do we have a true training development plan for our entire team? Choice? Two, are we going to make a choice to implement high performance teams that we're going to have sales and service communicating at a minimum on a weekly basis with intentionality? Choice Three, are we going to have producers that are accountable to results-based things? Or are we going to have producers do whatever they want and we just hope they figure it out? Choice four, are we going to leverage the power, the predictable imbalance of the 80/20 rule or 80/20 principle that we're going to leverage the top 20% of our clients at the highest level?

Or are we just going to every client's the same choice? Number five is, are we going to create a playbook? Are agency playbook that is encompasses deep preparation and practice at the highest level? Are we going to model excellence? And as I said just a minute ago, allow ourselves not only to retain and develop our talent, but also give us a tool to recruit higher level talent as well. Now, I would say, again, it's summary of this, whether you're doing some of those things really well maybe you're not doing any of them really well. Maybe it's, you know, you've got some better than others. I would just challenge you to ask yourself in the next week, the next month, the next quarter, am I making easy choices that are going to make the long-term progress of our agency hard? Or am I willing to make some of the hard choices?

They're going to make the long-term success of the agency? And I won't even say easy, but I will say easier and I will say predictable and in many cases, done the right way, guaranteed. Now here's the last thing I'll say, and it's a bit of a tease. We've worked really hard at Sitkins over the past many, many years. And again, if you go back to the history of Sitkins 40 plus years, the history that I've been with Sitkins the last six years, to create something that's very unique in the marketplace that takes these things that can be hard and make them easier for your agency to do. 'cause Here's one thing. I know that your agency wasn't created due to training and development. That's not what you do every single day. So we're looking at ways to make this easier and we've, we're creating something for agencies.

We're going to announce this in the coming weeks. Be on the lookout. That is a true game changer in the industry. A way for you to take your agency from where it is to where you want it to go, and knock down some of the barriers of how do I do it? What's the best way to do it? How do I get buy-in? What's going to be the value of this? So again, a tease here for you. Be on the lookout in the coming weeks for something that's going to be a true game changer in the industry. With that, I want to thank you for listening to the Agent Leader podcast. If this podcast is adding value to your life, to your business, to your agency, certainly whatever platform you're listening on, and for anybody on LinkedIn, thank you feel free to drop a comment. If you could leave a review or share it with another agency that's looking to grow like you are, we would much appreciate it. With that, wish you all the best and your success. Take care.


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