Is Your Agency Its Best Version Possible?Jan 17, 2019
At one of our CEO programs earlier last year, Brent Kelly, our vice president, asked me what it takes for an agency to be the best it can be. But it was what he asked me next that changed how we approach everything we do and has become the catalyst for massive, rapid improvements for everyone who attends our life-changing events, including our CEO, Sales Leadership, Producer, and Account Manager programs.
His question: “If you were having a conversation from your heart, using your almost 40 years of coaching the highest performing agencies and producers, what would your message be about becoming the best version possible (BVP) of yourself and your agency?”
This is important for agency owners, of course. But I also believe it’s something all of us as individuals should be asking ourselves. I can tell you it’s had a major impact on me personally, as well as everyone we’ve shared it with.
After Brent first asked me that question, I literally could not sleep, as it hit me that I’m not the BVP of me! The images Brent’s question generated, both good and bad, kept running through my head, eventually forcing me out of bed and to my computer at 3:00 a.m. There I began an online search using the keywords “being the best version of myself” and discovered this:
“Close your eyes and imagine the best possible version of you. That’s what you really are. Let go of any part of you that doesn’t believe it!”
I’m not sure why this idea had such a great impact on me, but maybe it’s because it’s something most of us never think about—or haven’t until now. At that point, there was no way I could sleep, so I began revising the opening for our CEO program. Here’s what I came up with, based on my online inspiration:
“Close your eyes and imagine the best possible version of your agency. That’s what you really want to become. You’ve got to let go of any part of your agency that is an obstacle, anything that’s holding it back from becoming the best agency possible.”
It’s been absolutely amazing to see the immediate improvements our Sitkins Network leaders and producers have begun to make simply by focusing on their best possible version!
Obstacles and frustrations
I believe too many agency leaders and producers sell themselves short and never truly maximize their potential. All too often they are caught up in the business of being busy, dealing with countless day-to-day frustrations and obstacles that prevent them from growing.
That’s why I always ask agency owners: “What frustrates you the most about your agency today?” We’ve been collecting their responses and have found they are strikingly similar. Among them:
- Growth: Why can’t I grow any faster than I am?
- Ease of Doing Business: It sure used to be less complicated!
- Digital Disruption: Is it real, and am I really prepared for it? (yes and no)
- Overwhelmed with Data and Information: TMI!
- Carrier Demands: Carriers all want more of the same stuff, which makes it impossible to satisfy them all.
- Staffing: How do I attract the best and the brightest?
- Adjusting to the New Owners: They sure do want to buy differently.
- Accountability: Getting people to actually do what they said they were going to do.
Do any of these hit home with you? If so, you might want to make a note of it.
Easy vs. hard
In life, in our careers, and in our businesses, we can either take the easy way out or the hard way in. We have found that most people will consistently take the easy way out. They refuse to do the harder things now that will have a tremendously positive impact on their future. For too many people, good is good enough!
To illustrate the point, imagine a circle—the EZ Circle (we spell it that way to help make it more memorable)—inside a square that represents the Hard Box. The EZ Circle represents your comfort zone, while the Hard Box represents the things most agencies ignore.
EZ Circle—The EZ Circle contains the things that keep us in our comfort zone, including:
- Plateaued producers who are caught in the service trap and who hide behind the ITB (I’m Too Busy) excuse
- Part-time clients (writing just one line of coverage for them)
- Empty pipelines
- Practice quoting and unpaid consulting
- Confusing activities with results
- Devoting no time for training or development
- Average results reflected by: retention rates of 85% to 90%; organic growth of less than 6%; and closing ratios of less than 30%
- Ignoring the power of the 80/20 rule, thereby allowing profitable producers and accounts to subsidize unprofitable ones.
As an industry, we are mass producing average agencies that take the “good is good enough” approach to getting results. Average agencies rarely if ever leave the EZ Circle.
Hard Box—Conversely, the very best agencies understand that all growth starts at the outer edges of our comfort zone. They’re willing to breach the edges of their EZ Circle to get great results. They focus their efforts on the Hard Box now, so they can become BVPs and have an easier and more successful life later.
Examples of behaviors you’ll see inside the Hard Box:
- Identifying and pursuing future ideal clients only, not suspects or prospects
- Having full-time clients only
- Installing exit barriers to increase retention
- Rehearsing presentations before—not after—the actual presentation
- Holding effective sales meetings and selling skills practice.
Drawing a distinct line between sales and service activities is one of the hardest things to do. Another is getting producers out of the office and following our Producer’s Perfect Schedule. This approach to time management allows them to have 10 appointments per week with Clients, Future Ideal Clients and Centers of Influence, which dramatically improves their TSS (Time Spent Selling).
What version are you?
One way to identify an agency’s BVP potential is to determine its willingness and ability to do the hard things. We believe all agencies can be categorized according to one of four versions. (Note: Upgrades are contingent on an agency’s ability to work outside its comfort zone.)
- Version 1.0 does 25% of the hard things and gets consistently poor results. Going forward, this version is virtually guaranteed to produce regrets.
- Version 2.0 is an average agency that does between 25% and 50% of what it should be doing. While it’s getting average results, it’s also starting to reduce regrets.
- Version 3.0 does 50% to 75% of what it should be doing to get satisfactory results. Good is good enough; they don’t want to go any further.
- Version 4.0 has reached top tier status. This rare agency does 75% to 100% of the hard stuff the vast majority of the time. Because of that, it produces outstanding results and has absolutely no regrets.
I consider Good to Great to be among the best business books ever. It contains one of the most quoted lines of our time: “Good is the enemy of great.” Similarly, it occurs to me that “good is good enough” is the enemy of becoming the Best Version Possible of your agency! Here’s why: Believing that good is good enough will get you three quarters of the way there and no further. At that point, you stop!
Another of my all-time favorite quotes is: “You don’t choose your future; you choose your habits (e.g., behaviors and strategies). Your habits choose your future.” In other words, it’s not about just looking at numbers to see if you’re the BVP. It’s about identifying and executing the BVP behaviors and strategies that become normal in an agency; the numbers are merely the outcome of that. Success becomes predictable and in fact guaranteed only when you consistently choose the behaviors and strategies that enable it.
The bottom line
We wholeheartedly believe that agencies have a responsibility to provide the tools and training their producers and other team members need to succeed. We also believe that these team members are responsible for executing the behaviors and strategies that result in success.
Are you ready to live a life of no regrets and stop postponing your success? If so, here are a couple of things to keep in mind: (1) nothing changes if nothing changes, and (2) hope is not a strategy. Your BVP is out there waiting for you. Don’t you owe it to your agency to discover it?
As always, it’s your choice.
Roger Sitkins, CEO of Sitkins Group, Inc., developed The Sitkins Network and The Better Way Agency program. Insurance professionals with diverse levels of experience have benefitted tremendously from his training and leadership.
Roger was inducted into the Michigan Insurance Hall of Fame in 2017 and in that same year also received the Dr. Henry C. Martin Award from Rough Notes magazine. He is known throughout the industry as the nation’s top insurance agency results coach. To learn more, visit www.sitkins.com.
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