#SitkinsIsTheSolution

Play a Bigger Game - Interview with Todd Lykke

podcast Nov 10, 2021
 

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Brent Kelly:

Welcome to The Agent Leader Podcast. My name is Brent Kelly, your host. Thanks so much for listening to The Agent Leader Podcast, we're so glad to have you with us. And today we have a very special guest. He's an agency owner from the great state of Texas. Todd Lykke, he'll be with us, and I'll make sure I allow Todd to have a full introduction, but before we get to our great guest today, Todd. I want to always remind you The Agent Leader Podcast listener what this is all about. And this podcast, the mission, the purpose is to help you gain clarity and gain clarity in the right things to do at the right time for your agency. Help you build consistency, to make sure that you're doing those things again and again, not just once in a while or when it's convenient. And lastly is to help you make a commitment, a commitment to yourself, to your team, to your clients, to your community, that you desire to be that best version possible.

Brent Kelly:

And I know our guest today, I've had the pleasure of working with Todd, his agency over the past year or so, time flies, and absolutely someone who's committed and his team is committed to being that best version possible. And so without further ado, I just want to say welcome to Todd Lykke of TCL Insurance based in Nacogdoches Texas, hopefully I said that right, Todd. But Todd, welcome to the podcast.

Todd Lykke:

Well, thank you, Brent. I appreciate it. I feel like it's a great honor to be invited to do something like this. So thank you very much.

Brent Kelly:

Well, there's a reason you're on here and Todd, you said you listen to it all the time and have you gotten value out of the podcast. And I know, I absolutely know that you're going to be sharing some information today, some wisdom that other agency leaders can take and use as well. So there's a reason why you're on here. So just, if you could Todd, just give an overview of the agency itself and offices you have and just whatever it is, your specialty, all that good stuff with your agency.

Todd Lykke:

Sure. Brent, we started the agency from a scratch, agency in 2005, January, I think January the fifth. We specialize in commercial transportation, that's all that we do. Our main office is here in Nacogdoches and then we also have a satellite office in the Woodlands, Texas. We have five producers, a total staff of about 18, and that's pretty much my world in the agency.

Brent Kelly:

Well, and I didn't... I have some basic things I told you we would talk about, but if you could, because you were a scratch agency in 2005. One of the things that was fascinating to me when we first started having conversations and you were interested in being part of the Sitkins Network and going through our programs and coaching was... you were having some rapid growth and you want to accelerate that. Could you share? I think it's really interesting because we do have a lot of agency leaders who maybe were a scratch agency or a smaller agency looking to grow. So could you share some of your growth since you started in 2005?

Todd Lykke:

Absolutely. So 2005, we started writing our very first policy. I had experience writing commercial transportation with another independent that I had left as an employee to start TCL. Gosh, for the first several years it was slow, okay? I thought it was going pretty fast, but in retrospect it was okay. All right. About seven years ago. So our revenue at that moment in time all in was probably 300,000 in revenue, seven years ago, we'll finish up this year with about 2.5 million in revenue.

Todd Lykke:

And really what I contribute that to is just information and knowledge that has made all of the difference in the world. And so I've said to so many people, there's no huge change that we made but it was a little bit... It's like taking the steering or the rudder of a ship and it's three degrees to the right, a little bit forward and all of a sudden tuning a carburetor, once you have good advice, once you really start listening to the people that are more experienced than you, the carburetor will start running smoother, right? You learn from others and that's truly what it takes.

Brent Kelly:

Yeah. Well, first of all we've talked before obviously, but congrats on your growth. It's awesome to see that. And I wrote something down that we've heard from other agency leaders and you're one of them, it's a testament to that is you made a decision. At some point you made a decision of, "Hey, you know what? There's a better way." Or whatever that is. So we didn't talk about this, but what... You're nodding your head, yes, when I said you made a decision, you agree with that first of all. And so, what kind of decision did you make with yourself and with the agency around that time?

Todd Lykke:

I always wanted to grow my agency, but I just didn't really know how. I knew certain aspects of it, the growth that... For my first 14 years or so I felt like it was pretty good. It was just what I understood. But I keep looking, I just didn't stop. And one thing led to the another, and one thing led to another after that and that's what's brought us to this point. Is just that I just didn't want to settle where I was at, it was just always want to go to the next step and what was it? It's hard to define many times. As I like to say, the answers cannot proceed the question, but if you really don't understand the right question, it's hard to see the answer.

Brent Kelly:

Okay. Podcast listeners, write that down, okay? Write that down. That's good stuff. And you know how much we talk. In fact, I talked about this, you're part of our session today about just the power of asking questions and we know that, but boy, the questions you ask yourself really do make a huge difference because the human brain can't ignore a great question. And when you ask those questions yourself, it challenge you to dig a little bit deeper and go, "Wait a second. What am I missing?" It could be a number of things and I do appreciate that you said that it wasn't this mass overhaul, it was some slight adjustments, right? That you had to make with a few different things that you were doing at that time. So, very interesting.

Brent Kelly:

I have to share one thing and you may have heard this before but when you said that, it hits me again. And I am... Admittedly I love my sports analogies and I say them all the time, but it just takes me back to my junior high basketball days, and I thought I was doing pretty good. I knew there was something more, but I thought I was pretty good. In fact, I was one of the better people in my team, right? Or in my area. And then I had an opportunity to play at a higher level with people that I was like, "Oh boy, there's a different way. There's a different level that I didn't really know. I knew, but I didn't really know until I got around." It sounds like a little bit kind of what your journey was, is just continuing to surround yourself and your team with higher level thinking, higher level people, is that fair?

Todd Lykke:

Very fair.

Brent Kelly:

Yeah. Yeah. So we're going to talk a little more about some of your successes and things you're doing well, but I don't know if this is fun, but it's a great learning experience. We also want to talk about some of the failures. The questions I ask agency leaders all the time, and usually I can ask one question and sit back and listen for 15 minutes or 20 minutes, an hour. What's frustrating you right now? Because there's a lot of frustrations that we're all facing. But for you, Todd, what's been one of your key challenges that either you faced or you're currently facing and what have you done, or what are you doing to overcome that challenge?

Todd Lykke:

My number one challenge, and what am I doing to overcome it? Brent, it has always been the same thing and that's what's next. What's the next thing I'm going to do, or next action that I'm going to take that's going to improve the customer experience for my clients? What is going to improve our value proposition and value comes in, I think in many different ways, it comes from education from our staff, educating the clients, improving our points of differentiation, services that we offer. So we find things from time to time that we hit home runs on. It was like, "Man, I am so glad that we are doing this now." But at that same moment, we know that that's going to run a course, whatever that new service that we're offering, the new way that we're doing, prospecting, you name it, right?

Todd Lykke:

You have that success. But what you also know is that in six months from now or a year from now, it's going to start fading. Others will catch on. My competition will catch on, what am I going to do? What is it that's out there, that's going to go, "Wow, this is going to help me once again attract more clients, better clients, educate my staff, inspire the team." What is that going to be? And I will tell you, I don't know. I never know, but I'm always looking.

Todd Lykke:

It's always in the forefront of my mind, what can I do? What can I learn? So the second part of your question was, what are you doing about it? There's four or five areas that I really look at. One, I read Rough Notes every month. I have read Rough Notes for the past 15 years, and I pick up some good information from Rough Notes magazine. Also enjoy reading, some of the books that you've recommended one of which was The One Thing, that's meant a lot. I think everyone should read that. I also try to surround myself with mentor agents, people that are way out ahead of me. They don't see me as a threat. They don't mind sharing wisdom with me, and then I want professional coaching.

Todd Lykke:

And if that's always in your wheelhouse, whether it's something you're always working at, I'm going to find the next action, the next procedure, the next something that's going to raise the bar in the agency. So that question will never go away and it's been there since day one.

Brent Kelly:

Again, a lot of value there listeners, I'm taking... Todd, I always tell you that every program I learn something new and I love these conversations because there's stuff you're saying. It's like, "Oh, that's a great reminder. Something I didn't think about in that context." Because I was going to ask you and you answered it and if you want to clarify more, go for it. But I was going to ask you, how do you choose what's next? And I think what you said is so profound, hopefully I wrote it down correctly because if people didn't catch it... Go ahead, Todd, you can add something.

Todd Lykke:

I'm going to tell you, I don't have the answers, but when I find something I just have to evaluate it. And am I always right? Nope. I'm not. Sometimes it fails whether it's a marketing idea or I start trying to make a point to the staff or we're going to do something new. And sometimes it just doesn't work. Later, we find out, you know what? I think we liked the way we were doing that before we started this.

Todd Lykke:

But the way that I look at that, if I'm not willing to get out there, if you look at actions, you got your really safe side, you've got a timeline, you've got your really safe side and you've got the other side where you're just going nuts. If I'm not staying out there, that front 20%, if I'm not pushing the envelope, one, I wouldn't fail. But two, I wouldn't succeed. I know I'm going to take those failures that's just part of it, but I'll also hit some home runs. And if I have a choice, since I want to continue to grow the agency and improve, I can't play it safe. I can't do what I did yesterday and expect to win tomorrow.

Brent Kelly:

Yeah. I know you're an avid reader like I am Todd and I always, just find it inspiring and very informant to read about other people who have grown businesses or whatever it has had success. And I can't tell you I've ever read any of those books where I decided to do this one thing and it worked and I never stopped. And it was it. I did it one time and it worked. Every time it's - if you would only know how many - I think I heard this from Dave Ramsey and I'll try to say it in a nice way of how he says it, but he's like, "People see me on the top of the mountain in many cases, but they don't realize that I'm in a big pile of poo poo." Right?

Brent Kelly:

It's all been built and all the things that didn't work and here's what I wrote down that you said again, I hope... And clarify if I say this different but what you said is, it's okay not to know, this is what I took from. It's okay not to know, but it's not okay not to search or look.

Brent Kelly:

And you know what hit me there and the idea is what I'm hearing from you, Todd, is your antennas are always up, right? Always up. And that you're willing... You said always willing to try. And the only I'll add to this too is a reference to what you said. This goes back and maybe you've heard the story, Todd. Roger tells the story, Roger Sitkins, our CEO, tells a story it's been several years ago, but we had an agency as part of our network. It's like you were... I went to one of our in person meetings and we broke it down by agency size, just so we would have similar conversations by revenue of agency, I think it was like zero to 3 million, 3 million to 10 million and 10 million up or something like that. And there was a gentleman who... I don't remember the exact amount.

Brent Kelly:

It was less than 3 million, I believe. And he went and sat at the next table, the three or five to 10 million or whatever it was. And Roger said, "Actually, no, you're supposed to be at this table." He goes, "I already know how to be a 2 million agency. I want to know how to be that." Right? And that's exactly your approach. And I just love that is that I'm going to surround myself with other people, peers, coaches, whoever that are going to have a different insight or have done things and seen things I haven't. And I'm going to continue to read and invest and listen and grow at all times. So kudos to you. I think obviously a huge part of why you've been able to have some success and growth.

Brent Kelly:

And maybe you already answered that in this way. If you have something else, let me know. But, and I was going to ask you the flip of the failure, because your failure, you turned into what was working and thinking next, but is there a specific success or maybe it's a strategy or whatever it is that you've done really, really well that, "Boy, this is the one thing that we do need." And maybe there's little tweaks, but here's a success that we absolutely need to replicate. Is there anything you have?

Todd Lykke:

Success that I really need to replicate?

Brent Kelly:

Yeah.

Todd Lykke:

Well I would say double digit growth, annual double digit growth with strong operating profits and that is how I look at things. At the end of the day, all that I do, I want strong growth and strong profit margins, okay.

Brent Kelly:

And we look at our term and you've heard this, is a term that we invented, so to speak. It's GrowFit, which is those two things, organic growth percentage and operating profit percentage. Just from the organic growth side is there... I know there's a multitude of things that are involved, it's never just one. But when you think about the organic growth and having double digit organic growth, is there anything that jumps out of you there, Todd? Here's something we started to do at a very high level that's been the momentum maker in that area.

Todd Lykke:

The momentum maker is really understanding that first and foremost we are a sales organization with strong service. So let me make the distinction there. Other agencies, many times I've heard you said, what's different about you? And just from agency owner to agency owner, our service is really great and you're going to lean with that. And we have sales and we're making sales, okay. From an agency owner standpoint, we are a sales organization with outstanding customer service. If we don't get the sales right, we're never going to have that growth and we're never going to have the operating profit, that's just the bottom line. So you have to start the day off understanding that, and that's how we prioritize our time. And the staff understands their role from the service side and the producers understand they're required. We expect our producers to produce and we hold their feet to the fire.

Brent Kelly:

That's again, so simple. I've talked about it, so profound and powerful and it's just subtle. I love the way you position that. And you're right, many agencies I talk to it's like, "What are you all about?" We've got great service and of course that's important, but as you just indicated, if we're not growing and if we don't believe in what we do as a sales organization, then other stuff's not going to matter.

Todd Lykke:

I've never spoken to an agency owner that said, "We are a high performance agency and we've serviced our way to the top." I just haven't run across that person. Our service is so good. Now I understand you're going to get referrals. I understand your retention's going to be better, but you can't stop people from going out of business. You can't stop people from selling their businesses to larger organizations. You can't stop many times some crazy market or insurance carrier that enters the market at 20 or 25% below market standards, and they're going to suck some clients away from you. You can't stop gravity, you can't control it. But what you can control is your behavior, your processes, your staff, that's going to generate sales. And if your sales are handled, you're going to weather that storm over and over again.

Brent Kelly:

Take notes people, Todd's having... he's dropping some knowledge bombs here, truth bombs. I love it. Obviously you're speaking my language and you were... Again, we did a session today on Sales Leadership and my mentor, our CEO Roger is actually at Michigan today helping to induct someone into the Michigan Insurance Hall of Fame, it's a pretty cool honor. And one of the things that... of all the takeaways and I ask Roger a lot of questions and he talks a lot about VAST insurance and Scott White and so you can look him up, they're in the UPM, Michigan. And he said of all the things they have always said that we are a sales organization, number one. And we don't say that, where some people like, "We do sales." We are a sales organization. We believe in what we do and the impact it makes.

Brent Kelly:

We owe the opportunity to everyone that's the right fit for us to hear our message and to work with us, that's how we believe. And as you heard today, Todd. They've had, I think it was 70 or 71 straight quarterly sales summit meetings where every quarter their sales team gets together and they do weekly meetings as well. But an actual sales summit to say, "If we're a sales organization, we're going to be doing sales summits every quarter." It's top of mind. And that's exactly what you're talking about, Todd, is that it's a philosophy which breeds into the behaviors behind it. So very good. Very good. Well, obviously I have loved our time working with you and just seeing your growth and your thinking patterns on things. What's something, again, just from our relationship Todd, that you've got either from Sitkins or maybe another member of our network, that's really been most beneficial impactful to you as an agency?

Todd Lykke:

What's been the most beneficial part of working with Sitkins organization, but I'll tell you something that I really like, it starts back with the monthly meetings that we have, monthly sales meetings. So I'm part of that. Our sales team is part of it and the other agencies that are on the Zoom calls part. Every week we have a sales meeting with our team or it's one-on-one, one of the two. But the things that we discuss in the monthly meeting gets brought down to the weekly meetings and we start discussing that's where our topics come from and whether it's the 80/20 rule, green zone, red zone, whatever it is, we start talking about that. What ends up happening after several months is that the culture changes. Now, all of a sudden everybody understands when we start looking at the terms of averaging your book up 80/20 rule, risk management, all of these topics that we talk about every month, every week becomes part of the culture.

Todd Lykke:

This is... I can walk down my hallway and I can start speaking, how are you accountable today to make sure that 80% of your time is spent on sales, Mr. Producer? Let's talk about that. They know exactly what I'm talking about, right? Okay. When I go to my CSR team or the producer and I want to talk, I would say something about, tell me what our pods are and if someone asks you what's going to make you different. What are our top four points of differentiation? Tell me about it. This becomes everyday conversation.

Todd Lykke:

And then we have another monthly sales meeting, and that gets reinforced. So now our culture is being reinforced. It's being talked about on a daily and weekly basis as the agency owner and maybe the sales manager. A lot of times, I just don't really know which direction to go. Everybody's at a different level. They have different concerns, but this brings us to one point, every month there's a different topic and we just learn from that and bring it right into the culture. This is great. This is how you can go from two producers to five producers to 10 to 15.

Todd Lykke:

This is huge. This is a roadmap. This helps build the culture, build the knowledge. It is so nice to see when I speak with one of our high performance sales leaders for them to be absolutely on point to say, "Today, here is my schedule, and this is why I'm doing what I'm doing. This is how I can make these sales." They're focused. And we have the vocabulary to speak that language. That is one of the most important things that we have learned from the Sitkins organization.

Brent Kelly:

Well, thank you. First of all, it's funny because I don't ask that question because, "Oh, well he asked that question, because they want Todd to brag on what you do." No, I really don't. I appreciate it. I just... I find it so interesting to see the things you're doing, because yes, we are introducing philosophies and strategies and trying to reinforce that constantly, but to your credit and this is to make sure you do get the credit is you're the one implementing, you're the one doing the work. You're the one that's there day to day. And I'll tell you a lot of agencies, there are some agencies that hear the message and go and do whatever they want anyway like, "Well, I don't know." Right? But to take that and make that part of the culture says a lot to you and your commitment, Todd, so appreciate that.

Todd Lykke:

What we talk about in the group, informational moving to transformational. How many times... And I think about this just personally, how many times do I read something, hear something and I think, "Gosh, that's great." And I take that and I stick it up in my brain somewhere and I pigeonhole it to things that are really cool, wouldn't that be great? Gosh, I'm so happy for their success. I sure wish I could do that and then it ends, okay? What about taking the information and actually making a change? That's tough, but if you don't do it, you're not in that 20%, that top 20%, you're not out there pushing the envelope and that's difficult. So yeah. Informational and transformational and walking that walk.

Brent Kelly:

Yeah. And as you said that and we talk about it all the time, you're right. Because I'm with you, I'm raising my own hand and nodding as you say that, because in the same way I read books and my wife's even like, "Why do you always have to listen to something or read something or whatever?" Because I'm like, "Well maybe there's one more thing." And I think as good as that is to your point, Todd, the challenge is, "Okay, what am I going to take out of a all of that and actually execute?" Because as you've heard us say, you can't implement all of it, right? You'll drive yourself nuts, you go crazy and you wouldn't be very effective at it.

Brent Kelly:

And so I think what you have done is being able to take all of that and say, "Okay, of all the things that one, that one we're doing and we're going all the way and there's no..." As we always say that we love our friends in the south, but there's no, "Hey, we're fixing to do that someday." It's, "This is it. And this is why we're doing it. This is how we're going to do it. And this is the execution strategy behind it." So kudos to you. Todd, you got time for one more question?

Todd Lykke:

I do.

Brent Kelly:

All right. So my question is this and this is my favorite question because it's either talking to your younger self or maybe a younger you that's in similar position. So, if you could give a piece of advice to a... Let's say you... I'll rephrase this just because of what you said earlier, you could go back and talk to yourself in 2005, how's that? 15 years ago.

Brent Kelly:

Yes. You're going back to that person and then you're saying, "Todd, I got one thing. This is Todd from the future. I got one thing I got to share with you as you start this journey." And it is what?

Todd Lykke:

I'd probably speak very quickly. And I'd probably say buy Google, Amazon, Bitcoin, and Apple as quickly as I could say it. And then we wouldn't be having this conversation, that's true. Everything would be different, right?

Brent Kelly:

Well, played. Well played. I agree.

Todd Lykke:

Okay. And I guess if I could go back, that's what I would say. But from the agency standpoint, as an agency owner, what would I say? I think it goes back to, I would encourage myself to play a larger game and think bigger, to seek out people that are way out ahead of me and learn from them. I think you said something about this earlier on, but it's certainly very true. You hear people make comments about what did you do to become so successful? Whether it's just anyone out there. There is no silver bullet. It doesn't exist. It's a thousand good decisions over and over and I'll tell you what, coaching or a mentor agent what they can provide to you is to say, "Look, I know these are the three options that you're looking at right now, because this is where you're at, but I've been there. I've done it. And this was my decision and it worked out well, or I did something else that didn't work out too well. I'll tell you what, you need to do this."

Todd Lykke:

Just that alone helps you put one more good, small decision on top of the next one. And if you do that a thousand times, it helps. That's what makes a difference. If I could go back, it's get out there and learn, learn, learn, think big, dream big and go for it. That's what I would say.

Brent Kelly:

That's fantastic. Love it. And I appreciate you sharing it. I always think about these interviews that I have. I was like, "Is there a theme?" And I don't know if this one is just surround yourself with people ahead of you or play bigger. They're both part of that, but I think what I appreciate that Todd is those two go together, right? I think that's what you're, as I'm listening to you, it's when I surround myself with people ahead of me, I'll think bigger than I'm thinking today, right? And at the same time is when I begin to think bigger, I'll be able to find people who are ahead of me, right? They go together in different ways and whether it's one or the other, I think it's both and.

Brent Kelly:

And I credit you in so many ways because just going back to just the numbers of the agency and this isn't, like I said, everybody's got to do what's right for them and we're all different and human beings and we have different goals and dreams and all that is fine. But I just love the fact as you said on our conversation today that you knew there was something bigger for you, for your future and for the agency. And instead of saying, "That's maybe for somebody else," you said, "Why not me? Why not me?" Any final words to add to that, Todd, then we'll wrap up. Appreciate it.

Todd Lykke:

I don't think so. That's pretty how I feel about it. Those are the things that I think about and I keep trying to live that every day.

Brent Kelly:

Well, I don't, I plan on continuing to do this podcast for a long time. And I know you'll continue to grow and flourish and learn things and you'll make more mistakes, but you'll make more good decisions and all those things. And definitely at some point love to have you back and you can share your next level of success and things that you're doing.

Todd Lykke:

Brent, I would enjoy that. So, I hope somehow this helps other people. And thank you so much for all the help that you've given to TCL.

Brent Kelly:

Oh, well thank you. And I have no doubt. If you were listening as long as you weren't driving, then you didn't take notes from what Todd said today, go back and listen and take some notes because it's valuable stuff. It's important stuff. It's mindset, but it's strategy. It's discipline. All those things that we see that may not always be the most glamorous, but darn they work. And again, I appreciate you Todd. And by the way, if you're an agency leader out there that's looking for the next level for you, right now our waiting list is open for part of our Sitkins Network until November 15th, our waiting list. So you can go on there and learn about that. If you go to sitkins.com/aim to learn more about what we do and how we help agencies, just like we're able to work with Todd. So with that, thanks for listening. Wish you all the best in your success.

 

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