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Perpetuating Growth with Shane Ideus

agency growth podcast Feb 23, 2022
 

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Brent Kelly:

Welcome to the Agent Leader Podcast. My name is Brent Kelly, your host. Thanks so much for joining me on this episode. Today's episode, I have an incredible guest and I'm going to let him introduce himself here just in a couple minutes. He is a producer, a sales leader, agency expert. He's probably smiling as I'm saying some of these things, but all around great guy. And I know he is going to share some fantastic information that you can use as an agency leader in some capacity. So stay tuned. Stay tuned for that. We have a great conversation.

Brent Kelly:

Before I get into that, I always want to mention the mission of the Agent Leader Podcast. Why do I do this? Why do we do this as a group? Well, our mission is very, it's very simple. We want to help you, the agency leader, whether you are the principal, a sales leader, if you're a producer, claims, service professional, you all have influence and I want to help you get better clarity, build consistency, and to make a commitment on becoming your best version possible.

Brent Kelly:

And if you're watching this on video, most of you are audio listeners, but if you're on audio, I've got a shameless plug behind me. It's our new book. Roger Sitkins and myself wrote a book called Best Version Possible. You can get your copy out there. It's specifically in our Sitkins page. You go to sitkins.com/bvp for best version possible. And I would love to get that out to you and learn more about how we can help your agency succeed.

Brent Kelly:

I know a person that I have on with me that definitely knows a thing or two about agency success. He probably won't say it too much because he's a humble guy, but he has been very, very successful and I was really honored to have him as part of the podcast today that he agreed to come in and spend a few minutes with me and you, the agency listener. I've got Shane Ideus with the UNICO Group in Nebraska, the great State of Nebraska, right Shane? And again, Shane's got multiple hats and I'll let him talk about that. But if you could, Shane, maybe just give the audience a little background about yourself, the agency and whatever you feel is most compelling. How's that?

Shane Ideus:

Sounds great. Well, thanks for having me on, Brent. I'm an avid listener of the podcast, so I'm humbled to be a part of it. So yeah, Shane Ideus. As Brent mentioned, with UNICO Group in Nebraska. We're a full-service independent agency headquartered in Lincoln. Some offices spread across the state and then some remote offices across the country. So most of our client population would be local, regional, and then we have a couple national programs that take us all over. So we've got a great shop, a great culture and we're working to remain independent and continue to grow.

Brent Kelly:

Shane, if you could just tell the audience, because we've got, I'm doing more and more interviews here with some of the people that we work with and just good agency leaders, great agency leaders out there. Give me the scope of the agency. What's the approximate size of the agency? How many employees, how many team members do you have at UNICO?

Shane Ideus:

Yep. We're hoping to eclipse about 30 million in revenue this year. So we're a good sized firm. I think that puts us pretty easily within the top 100 agencies in the country by some of the publications. About 130 employees. We are probably heavy on the property and casualty side as far as our revenue, but also have a really solid growing benefits book of business and then I also do personal lines, some financial services. Yeah.

Brent Kelly:

Hey, that's good. You got it. I just wanted to give some size and scope again because we've got, as you know, Shane and the agencies you work with and our listeners. They range from agencies that are getting started or some real communities that are a little bit smaller up to agencies that are 50, 60, 70 million in revenue and bigger in some cases. And again, you guys are a great shot for many reasons, but size-wise, again, just getting past 30 million. I think that's what I heard you say, Shane. Right? And again, there's been some great growth there, and I'm sure we'll talk about that in different ways.

Brent Kelly:

I always want to start off these interviews and not to start them off on, maybe a negative note by any means, but at least to know, one thing that I know and that you know, Shane, is that we all have challenges and we have frustrations. And so I'd be curious just to ask you, and again, whether it's, could be you or your department, but certainly overall for an agency, what is the biggest challenge or maybe a few, but what would be the top challenges or frustrations that you're seeing, you're dealing with at UNICO and just in the marketplace today?

Shane Ideus:

Yeah, that's a great question. And I'll probably sound like a broken record to some of your listeners, because I'm sure the challenges that we have at UNICO are very similar to a lot of our peer agencies across the country. But the thing that sticks out to me the most would be we have experienced a lot of growth. Our agency was formed in 1988. It was a merger between two large agencies in Lincoln, but at that time it was a couple million in revenue.

Shane Ideus:

Fast forward now to almost 30, it's taken a lot of growth to do that. And we always talk about internally, to go from 10 to 25 was a big step and a lot had to change and happen to make that step. But now we talk about our next evolution, our next chapter to go from 25 to 30 to 40 to 50 is a completely different step in growth. And the things that we need to do to get to there are going to look different than they did to get to 10, to 25.

Shane Ideus:

So back to your biggest challenge, I think the biggest challenge we have is we're still run like a smaller organization. And what I mean by that is our leaders are still wearing multiple hats. Me, for example, one of my primary roles is to produce. I'm an advisor and I have a large book of business. I still write a lot of new business or want to write a lot of new business. And as we all know, that takes time. But on top of that, I have sales leadership responsibilities.

Shane Ideus:

I've got the executive team responsibilities and I'm on our board of directors. And so my biggest personal challenge is how do I find and prioritize the time to give to each of those buckets? Working on the business rather than working in the business all the time and then still trying to remain balanced at home too. I've had three young children. I like to coach their youth sports. We're a super active family. And so I can't give all of my time to work because I want to make sure I'm still a good husband and father at home too. So my biggest challenge is just prioritizing time.

Brent Kelly:

Yeah. And actually we've talked about that just in some non-podcast conversations certainly. And it's a challenge for so many. I think you're in that position. In fact, I just did a podcast a few episodes ago, depending when this one airs about just some of the challenges I see in sales leadership. I get the opportunity to talk to a lot of sales leaders and it's just that, you're right, that challenge, that balance of, hey, I still got a production goal and I like to produce, and I'm pretty good at it, but now I've got the responsibility of helping others do things that I'm doing.

Brent Kelly:

And then just some of the pressures that come with that. And like you said, oh, by the way, yeah, I've got a family too. And I like to see them. They like to see me. And so kind of putting that together. One thing that hit me as you were saying that, and I wrote this down and I've heard this before and I probably said this before in different places. But like for agency leaders out there, we all get stuck. It just depends on where you get stuck. And I think what you're talking about, Shane, is, I would say there's agencies that can be stuck at one million. You could be stuck at 10 million. You could be stuck at 30 million. You could be stuck at 50 million.

Brent Kelly:

Now, some people go, "I'd rather be stuck at 50 than one," which we get it. But the bottom line and what I wrote down after that, I think this comes from John Maxwell or somebody, I don't remember where I heard it, but it says, "What got you here is not going to be the exact same thing that's going to get you there." And I think part of that challenge is there are some things you need to take with you, but there's also things you got to let go. So I know this was part of some of our pre-conversation, Shane. I don't want to throw a curveball at you, but just from your perspective, what are some of those things that you kind of evolved?

Brent Kelly:

Because you mentioned like we were here and now we got to here and now we're approaching 30 million or just past 30 million. Now, what got us to 30 is not going to get us to 35 in growth. So what are some things that you're seeing as an agency, maybe it's yourself too that maybe you've got to give up or let go or move past? I don't know if that question makes sense, but anything jumping out at you, what have you seen?

Shane Ideus:

Yeah, it makes a ton of sense. And you hit the nail on the head. I think as we look at our strategic plan and getting to where we want to go, it is going to have to look differently than it did to get to this point. And one of those things is taking a real hard look at our executive team and our leadership team and the roles and responsibilities of each. And so is it really the best use of my time per se to be working on a book of business or should I be allocating more time to recruiting new advisors, recruiting our next generational leaders, working on strategic partnerships with carriers and other agencies and those types of things?

Shane Ideus:

And probably from a value standpoint, it is more of a value to allocate my time there. So we're looking at that right now, just roles and responsibilities and maybe potentially having our executive team not have books of business or reduce books of business. So that's definitely one thing. I think expanding our leadership team and letting go of some of the things that we've done in the past is another one. And we have created that team and really started to turn over the keys to the car to the members of the leadership team and most of them are not in a production role.

Shane Ideus:

And then lastly, it's just continuing to work on what's going to make the agency grow. That's bringing in new talent, recruiting that talent and then just creating efficiencies internally to continue to grow and remain getting better.

Brent Kelly:

Yeah. Those are obviously critical and just things that hit me... This is in our book as well, but I just, it's like, it's easier said than done. And I know that, but it's the idea of like kind of switching your mindset in a leadership. It's are we going to go from addition to multiplication? Addition is okay, Shane, we used to be like, okay, here's the one more thing I need to do. Here's the next thing I need to do. Here's the next thing I need to do. We're growing more. So now I got more things I need to do versus saying, whoa, one second.

Brent Kelly:

And this actually, it reminds me too of a great book out there in the marketplace from Dan Sullivan, who talks about "Who, Not How." It's moving from the thinking of who will be best at this versus how do I do it? And there's so many stories out there. You talked outside of the insurance industry of businesses that started from scratch and are entrepreneurial. It's like, when I started the business, I was sales, I was service. I was the janitor. Whatever it was, I did at all. And it's like, well, I'm not the janitor anymore. It doesn't mean that that position's a bad position. It means that's not my highest role.

Brent Kelly:

That's not where I can bring the most value to the company. And I think that's what you, and I know at UNICO, we've had conversations we're consistently looking at it. And I would ask the listener to think about what's your most vital role? What's your highest capacity? What's your greatest function? Where do you get the most return and be honest about it. And you're going to be at different places. Everyone's different, but what's that next level? And the thing that hits me too, Shane, and what I know you're working on and kind of what you said is you got to find places you got to give up to go up. Which isn't easy because you've always done them and you're probably pretty good at them, right? And you can do them.

Brent Kelly:

So I appreciate you sharing that. I want to move from kind of some of the challenges to heck, you guys got to 30 million. You're doing something right. What has been, would you guess, I know it's more than one, but what has been your number one, or again, a couple of the key successes and things that you've done as an organization to get to where you are today, Shane?

Shane Ideus:

That's a great question. Obviously when we're in it all the time, sometimes we fail to really look back to look at their successes and how we got here. But I would say what comes to my mind is just the level of talent within the organization. It really is our people. I know that's cliche a little bit, but we're really big on hiring self-starters, people that just get it, that are smart, that are hungry. And then we give them the tools and give them the resources and let them go. So I think that's been the foundation of UNICO and our success. I know again, to get to the next level, it's going to have to look a little different.

Shane Ideus:

So we're going to have to continue to hire that talent. But we're trying to get better with insurtech and being more efficient and using technology to really help our service platform. We're looking at other ways to grow and new profit centers and those types of things. But what comes to mind with our biggest success is the people, we've got a really dynamic culture. We all love working alongside of each other, going into the trenches together. And at the end of the day, I think that's what's driven our success, Brent.

Shane Ideus:

Obviously, there have been more tactical things along the way that probably have played a big role. But when I look at philosophically, what that could be, the biggest driver of success is our people.

Brent Kelly:

Yeah. Well, and again, knowing many of your people, or at least having some introductions in different ways to many of your people, I would agree. And some people are listening, well, that must be nice. I just got to find the right people. But what hits me in working with you, and again, what I wrote down is I believe in this toxic word out there, insurance. And I did a keynote on this like five years ago, six years ago, it's been a long time ago, but it's complacency. And I think one of the things that I appreciate about you, Shane, and your team is that you guys could be like, we're pretty darn good. Life's pretty good. Like, okay, let's enjoy it.

Brent Kelly:

And you could, and it would be all right. But I think part of that, what I take and what you said yes is about people, but the reason why you're finding people, attracting people, developing people is because you know there's more, and it's not just out of ego. There might be some of that. I think we all aspire to do more, but it's the fact that think about how many more communities and people that internally and externally, that you can help and serve by doing what you guys do at the highest level. It's pretty darn cool.

Shane Ideus:

Yeah. That's such a dangerous word. And we talk about it a lot internally because it's human nature to get complacent at times. And how do you challenge each other and get out of your comfort zones to continue to derive growth? And so that's a really valid point to bring up. I would say too, maybe to add up upon my earlier comment about our success, Brent, I think our organization's done a phenomenal job of perpetuation, handing the keys over to new leaders and just making sure that we have really solid leadership that is spread apart in age. And so you consistently are turning the organization over with really, really solid people.

Shane Ideus:

And that's a challenge too. We've got to find the next leaders and find the generations below us to continue to perpetuate this thing. But I would give my partners and mentors a lot of credit for doing a great job of perpetuating the agency.

Brent Kelly:

Yeah, absolutely. You guys have done a great job and I mean, perpetuation, there's two parts. There's personal, right? There's personnel and there's financial. And I see a lot of agencies, they may get one or none of them done very well. Typically, financial comes first, but then they're like, wait a second, who's going to leave this thing? I don't know. And obviously we know there's a lot of acquisitions and sales and things for a lot of reasons. There's a lot of money in that, but a lot of it is I don't really have another option. And it takes time to develop that. Part of that is that forward-thinking of, hey, where are we going to be a few years from now and beyond?

Brent Kelly:

And who is going to be potentially that next level of leadership and how do we equip them? How do we empower them? How do we develop them? What does that look like? What are the conversations we need to have? And that's something I really appreciate what you guys do there at UNICO. Very proactive in that area. One thing I ask and I hope this doesn't come across as self-serving, but we've worked together for several years now, been together in a partnership. And that's where hopefully it feels a partnership is that we're both trying to grow together.

Brent Kelly:

What would you say from just our experiences in working together, Shane, has been some of the biggest takeaways you've had just in working with Sitkins and with your team? What does that look like for you?

Shane Ideus:

Yeah. First of all, thank you for the relationship. You working with us, your whole team working with us, it's done a ton for our agency. There's been so much value created with the partnership with you guys. The biggest thing for me about what we've gotten out of the relationship is, a word that pops up is clarity. Going through the different classes and what you guys teach, the behaviors and strategies, to me aren't rocket science. You're not reinventing the wheel. They're just tactical insurance related activities, behaviors, and strategies. But if they're not done, you're not going to be successful.

Shane Ideus:

So it's getting the blocking and tackling right, creating the discipline to do so, and keeping those high payoff activities in front of the team. So for me, I think it really comes back down to clarity and you've done a great job of working, not only with our advisor team, but really with our leadership team too on doing that. With us wearing multiple hats within the agency, it's really easy to have all these balls in the air. You don't know which one to pluck down to work on next. And you're excellent at helping us drill down. And what is that one thing that is the most important thing for you to get done right now?

Shane Ideus:

And so that at a high level, Brent, I think just the blocking and tackling the behaviors and strategies, that clarity that it's added, there's been so much more value creation that you guys have helped us with with naming our sales process and creating that. Our scorecards, some of the other metrics that we track with KPIs. I could go on and on and on.

Brent Kelly:

Please do, Shane. Just keep going.

Shane Ideus:

I think the biggest thing is that clarity piece, just helping us focus on what's in front of us, what's the most important thing that we can be doing either today, this week, or this month to help move the agency forward. And that's paid off in dividends.

Brent Kelly:

Well, first of all, thanks for saying that. I appreciate that for many reasons. And again, we always say this too. We want to have members and partners that we're just proud of to have on our team. And you guys are, are certainly one of those and it's just been a really fun relationship. And I've had, just like you have had, outside of business, but just athletic coaches or if you're in a different endeavor, right? People that, what does a coach do? And I think for me, it's interesting. As you were saying that, I'm just thinking back to whether it's athletically or business coaches that I've had is a lot of times you kind of have all the pieces or at least a pretty good idea of it.

Brent Kelly:

You just haven't put it together very well. Or you're missing, sometimes you always say the blinding flashes of the obvious. I've been on the other end of that so many times where it's like, well, Brent, you already got all that. Why don't you just do that? Or what would that do? What would that mean? Well, that would mean a lot. Why don't you just do that? Oh yeah. And it's just kind of getting some confidence around that. And I heard something today and it came from another podcast and it I'll probably get this a little off, but I thought it was really interesting. Because one of the quotes that I've always shared is that people don't resist change, they resist being changed.

Brent Kelly:

It's something I've heard is that people, "Hey, Mr. Advisor, Miss Advisor or agency, do you want to grow by X percent next year?" "Yes. I'm open to that change." Well, here are some of the things that you have to do. But the podcast was talking about another reason why people resist change so much isn't that they mind change. They don't like uncertainty because change sometimes, well, I don't know what that really means. And I think what I've seen, and this is a testament to you, Shane and Chad and Ryan, the team that I work with, Mary, everybody there at the leadership team at UNICO is helping provide greater clarity and some from our conversations but you as leaders being clear on what that means to them.

Brent Kelly:

And I think when people get that, there's much greater buy-in. So I wanted to give you a kudos to that as well, because it's hard work. It really is. All right. I've got one last question, Shane, are you ready?

Shane Ideus:

I'm ready.

Brent Kelly:

All right. This is the question that is the question of questions maybe. All right, here it is. If you could give advice to the younger Shane, I don't know how much younger you want to go. We could say 15, 20 years ago, but the younger Shane, he's starting off, he's ready to begin his professional career. And you're talking to your younger self, what do you tell him?

Shane Ideus:

That's such a great question. First off, I don't have any regrets. I feel like everything happens for a reason. So I've gotten to this point because of all the things that have happened in the past, both good and bad. But if I did have to give advice to my younger self, I would probably give the advice of be a giver without expecting anything in return, make more deposits than you do withdrawals. And really, if you're going to do something, do it with enthusiasm, with energy, with passion and do it. Right?

Brent Kelly:

Yeah.

Shane Ideus:

And then lastly, I think just because of the stage of life I'm in right now, which is just crazy and chaotic every day, right? You and I are in that same kind of walk in life with our kids and work and all that. It's just slow down and enjoy the ride. Life is going to pass us by and no time in the blink of an eye. So if we're not enjoying the current chapter that we're in, we're missing out on a lot of life. So I gave you a few nuggets there. They all kind of tie together a little bit, but those would be the things that I'd want to remind my younger self actually and remind myself now too because I think we apply at any chapter of life.

Brent Kelly:

Well, I tell you, it's interesting. First of all, when you speak those things, you're right. It's like, oh my gosh, I should remind myself of some of those things. Although they're thoughts, they come out a little bit. And the reason why I love that question is again, I just think like one of... I'm a big believer in mentorship and coaching as you know. And when I get guests on here, it's like, think about how much value that is to anyone. Again, it could be certainly a younger advisor, producer, leader, but it could be anybody that goes, "Oh my gosh, am I not slowing down sometimes to enjoy where I'm at?"

Brent Kelly:

And I think that last part was so critical and it is missed. And I don't care if you got kids running around like we do or not. We can all find ourselves getting busy and taking for granted what today means and who is in front of us. In fact, I'll just share with you, Shane, every year I come up with a word and this has been out there, kind of my theme word for the year, my word for 2022 is present. Which just means if you're with your child, be with your child. If I'm talking to Shane, talk to Shane.

Brent Kelly:

And I tell you what, how can something so easy be so challenging? But in the world we live in, it is. And it's just a reminder of that. So I thank you so much, Shane, for sharing all that. That's some great wisdom there. Any last things you want to share to the Agent Leader Podcast audience, Shane, before we depart? I know you got a big meeting you're getting to in a little bit, so I don't want to keep you from it.

Shane Ideus:

I don't think so. I'm just, again, humbled to be a part of this, Brent, thanks for the invite. We love you and your team. We appreciate everything you do for us. So let's continue to grow together.

Brent Kelly:

Love it. Well, thanks again so much, Shane, and I appreciate being part of this. Again, if you are interested in the book, that's what we're continuing to get out there. We're finally getting our shipping coming in. We've had some problems, but go to sitkins.com/bvp. We'd love to get that on your hands. And also, if this podcast is adding value to your life, whatever platform you're listening on, we would love a rating and review so we can impact more agencies. And you could be like a Shane, right? At some point in your life. So Shane, thanks again. Appreciate it. I wish you all the best in your success. Thanks for listening.

 

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