#SitkinsIsTheSolution

Specializing for Success - Interview with Joe Vens

podcast sales Sep 09, 2021
 

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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 another episode. I'll be recording this podcast, video and audio so if you have access, whether it's on YouTube or certainly on our website, you can check out the video but obviously we're going to be on the audio podcast as well.

Brent Kelly:

And the purpose always of The Agent Leader podcast is to help you the agency leader, gain clarity, build consistency and make a commitment to become your best version possible. And today I'm excited, I've got a very special guest, someone who I know is committed to becoming his best version possible. I've got Joe Vens of First MainStreet Insurance. Joe, welcome to The Agent Leader podcast. Glad to have you.

Joe Vens:

Brent, thanks so much for having me. Excited about spending some time together this morning.

Brent Kelly:

Well, it's been a little while since I've had a guest. And I've told the audience, sure, I'm going to get more and more. And we've had a lot of again, whether it's agencies going through our All-Inclusive model program or within it certain producers or sales leaders or agency leaders going through other programs. You attended our ProducerFit program this past year and I wanted to bring Joe on because he brings a couple of different things that we maybe haven't had in a podcast, and I know the audience can gain a lot of insight from. Number one, well, maybe number one, first of all, Joe, you're just a cool guy, right?

Joe Vens:

That might be overstated a little bit, but I appreciate the compliment.

Brent Kelly:

Well, he's also a humble guy, that's why I was trying to put you on the spot there. But Joe is one of those people who goes to a program and you can just see is engaged in wanting to learn, he's obviously part of a great agency base in the great state of Iowa, which I was just there a week or so ago. Be back again soon. But he's also a, I call you a younger producer, Joe, you're a young looking guy, people watching the video. And I know you've been with the agency for a couple years, correct?

Joe Vens:

Yes, I've been with First MainStreet actually for about a six-month timeframe. Been in the industry for several years and have a family background that goes back 50 plus years that isn't tied directly to me, but a couple of generations before me.

Brent Kelly:

Wonderful. Well, and again, part of it is you've got that flavor. And then you've also really dug into a niche, into a specialty. And so I want to talk about that and what you're doing in those areas, but you kind of gave a little bit, but anything else you want to add about your background? I think people are always interested. You mentioned you've got a 50 year, kind of long tail track record there. There's been just a recent time with the current agent, but how did you get into the business? Just tell me a little more about your background, Joe.

Joe Vens:

Yeah. So that 50 years is borrowed, obviously, but been in the industry as far as enjoying what it looks like, and kind of as an observer for a long time. So my grandfather started an agency in Clinton, Iowa, where I'm from originally, and that was over 50 years ago. He has since passed, but my father and uncle run that agency today. So I have had grandfather, father, uncles, aunts, cousins, many of us, the joke is kind of it's in the Vens' blood to get into the industry.

Joe Vens:

So even going through high school and college, I knew I wanted to get into insurance at some point. And it was several years ago that I made the change from commercial banking, which is what I did out of school, into the industry. So that's my background, I know that most folks are like, why did you kind of fall into an insurance role? Just out of randomness and life circumstances. For me, it's in a gimmicky way, almost kind of a dream come true to follow in grandfather and father's footsteps and others in our family. So that's my background as far as the industry goes.

Brent Kelly:

That's an awesome story. And yeah, I wonder, I mean, gosh, Joe, if you would have gone a different path, maybe you were the black sheep or something, right? You had a lot of pressure there.

Joe Vens:

Kicked out of the family officially is what they told me, so I knew I just, I would be forced to do it at some point. But I've been pleasantly surprised how much I enjoy the industry. It's been a really, really good move for myself and my availing myself.

Brent Kelly:

Fantastic. Yeah, it typically I mean, the most common things are it's in the family somewhere. Obviously, your roots run very deep. Or it's, yeah, I was just kind of meandering around and I fell into it, and whether it's family or you fell into it or something else in between, it's really hard to leave and the reason why is because it's a really cool business. As we talk about all the time, there are so many opportunities and options and what you get to do and help people.

Brent Kelly:

So Joe, I want to jump right into kind of what you do that's different. And again, I think it's really interesting is, on this podcast many times I've talked about the power of a niche, or a niche, however you want to flavor it, but being known for something. And I do believe that it is such a noisy world out there. I don't believe that you have to niche to have success, but boy, I think it's an extreme competitive advantage. And what you've done in the public space, maybe you could just share with the audience how you got into that. Right? Was there an interest there, did you see an opportunity? And then just kind of currently what you're doing within that space.

Joe Vens:

Yeah, you bet, Brent. So I'm the lead advisor within our public entities specialty group. So just a quick background. First MainStreet Insurance exists throughout the state of Iowa, we have 20, 21 now partner agencies located throughout the state. And so what we identified as a group is, in a lot of our agencies, the key clientele or some of the biggest accounts that we have, are the city, the county, the school district, or other public entity or municipality partnership organizations.

Joe Vens:

And so as an agency, we wanted to identify ways to provide our current client base value, beyond just being the insurance placement agent, but also find opportunities to grow in the communities that we're in that we don't currently serve as the lead advisor on those types of accounts. So for me, personally, I'm fascinated by the public entity world, I think that the risks and exposures are so vast when you're overseeing a community or a county or you have several schools within a school district. So there's a lot there to understand and unpack.

Joe Vens:

And also just the visibility and being in front of the community, when you are serving in that space, there's just something to that, that gives me a lot of drive and motivation and energy. So that's the reason that we chose public entities as far as my specialty, or the area of focus that I have. But I'm just a big believer in that, I go in through the Sitkins program, you guys really reinforced and emphasize the importance of identifying key roles that you could serve in and I think specialization just allows you to do that in a really big way, separates you from the 95% of your competition that identifies more generalist type agents. So it's been fun for me to dive into that space and learn a lot, and excited to continue to serve with those types of clients.

Brent Kelly:

I just had to ask, and as you were saying that, again, being relatively short, with current agency, and then diving into the public entity space, it just hits me, because when I talk to other agencies, I talk to producers, Joe, it's like, well, we're fine to be a generalist and we can help all people for all things at all times. But I just imagine of trying to, let's say you have an opportunity to work on a public entity of some kind, but you're a generalist, and you're just going to dive in and provide a quote, right?

Brent Kelly:

Or go off a bid spec, versus you coming in saying, this is what we do, this is why we do it, this is the impact that it has. Tell me, and again, without bragging necessarily on you specifically, although you can. But just what type of competitive advantage, being able to position yourself in that way has meant for you?

Joe Vens:

Yeah, a couple of things to talk through there. One, the thing that's unique about the public entity space in Iowa in particular, is there's not a lot of carriers or insurance companies that operate in that right business in that space. So you truly have to find a value proposition or a way to make you unique. School districts in particular, there's one carrier in the state of Iowa that writes 95% of the schools. So you're not likely going to separate yourself by bringing in a different quote or proposal. Cities, I'd say it's 50% of the market is written by one kind of pool. Same thing, counties 75 of the 99 are written by that same pool or cost sharing group.

Joe Vens:

So in this phase, we're almost forced to whether you like it or not, find a value proposition in a way to make you different that stands out. And our agency platform has allowed us to identify kind of a pain point for a lot of cities and counties, and school districts historically is they had to make one of two choices. They could either be represented by their local small town agency, and they know that the revenue that their account generates goes back into the community. There's people that are employed there locally. And in doing so they might have recognized, hey, we don't have the market access and the tools and resources or the expertise that we would like or account maybe dictates, but we're being served locally.

Joe Vens:

So they've either made that decision, or they've said, hey, our account has grown in complexity, we need to be represented by an agency based out of Chicago or Minneapolis, or a bigger metro that has the specialization or expertise in our space. I think our platform and value proposition allows for the best of both worlds. When we have agencies all throughout the state, our pitch when we go in is to say, hey, you will be serviced by the local agency here, revenue will be generated through an agency that employs people here locally, they have a pulse on the community, they're here day in and day out.

Joe Vens:

But our public entity specialty group does this every day, we understand the markets really well. We're focused on the pain points that you're facing and finding solutions to what those are. And so that's kind of our value proposition, as we're thinking through how do we serve best in that space, that's what we identified. And it's been really fun for me to just be a part of it in a small way to watch the value that we can bring. It's important to our team, and we think our clients are finding a lot of value in that message.

Brent Kelly:

I love that for a lot of different reasons. And obviously going through the ProducerFit program that you went through recently, we have a whole section just on PODs, points of differentiation, and what that means. And I think as you know Joe, a lot of people talk about it, like we're different or we want to be different. I find it interesting too, like in your space, very similar, a lot of times to our benefit agents that we work with is, when you got one main carrier, so to speak, or one provider or something like we better not be fighting on price.

Joe Vens:

Totally.

Brent Kelly:

... because we've got no extra value. And I love that combination of hey, listen, we know our stuff, but the fact that we're local in your market does matter. Because there are agencies that will say, like we're local. And what does that mean? Well, it just means we're local, it means we're here in your community. Yeah, but what does that mean for me? It means that we're local.

Brent Kelly:

So what I love is there is and can be impact if it's shared the right way, and what you do is bring that to another level. I think, Joe, is that every producer that I've ever spoken with, unless they're just a liar, they've had both successes and they've had failures. And I said, I'd be interested in asking you this question, because I know you're a humble guy. So you won't want to brag about successes, but you had them. I wouldn't have you on if you hadn't been successful. But I also know you've probably stubbed your toe and learned some things.

Brent Kelly:

And I'm just a big believer that we need to replicate success, and we need to learn from our losses. And so if you could maybe share an example of where you were able to position yourself or whatever it was, you've had some success in your space and maybe one of those that didn't go as well, and what you learned in that process as well.

Joe Vens:

Sure, yeah. I was going to try and frame myself as probably the first guy in podcast history to say I've had a lot of failures and no successes to kind of share my failure story. But I'll try and hearken back to one or two. From a failure standpoint, I mean, that stuff happens all the time. You work on accounts, you feel like you're in a winning position, you get blindsided, but those are the ones that I've actually learned a ton from. I can remember working on an account early, it was in a community that was close to home, to my heart, it was actually close to where my wife grew up.

Joe Vens:

And this was years ago, it was a brewery risk. And I just remember having meeting after meeting with this group, real good rapport, presented a quote. Felt like we were in a good spot, and a week removed from that I'm thinking we're finding the policy. And I got an email from the carriers saying, we received an agent of record letter on this. And that was pretty early on in my career, so it wasn't a huge account, but I was devastated by it. But what I've learned since and I think this Sitkins program is so valuable in this way, is I didn't take them through a process. I didn't set rules or expectations up front.

Joe Vens:

I didn't really understand their pain points. What I did was brought in a proposal from an insurance company that was, had some slightly enhanced coverages and it was slightly cheaper. And so I presented that thinking I'm the man in that setting and I learned the hard way that their agent, who they've been with for 10 years had access to that market too. So when they went to deliver the bad news that, hey, we're leaving, it was a pretty easy defense for them to say, well, I can provide that same thing to you.

Joe Vens:

So lessons learned in that are the value of process, the value of discovery. And I know that Sitkins talked a ton about that. And so that probably leads into one of my, or one of our recent successes as a team is being in front of a group, we're doing our executive brief meeting, which is the initial meeting for our team, where it's a 15 to 20 minute, just quick, hey, we want to get to know you and the history of your account, what you're doing in the risk management and insurance space, and talk about how our team operates and some of the value that we bring to clients.

Joe Vens:

And so we learned about them, I shared with the group that we're across from the fact that we take them through a 60 to 90-minute discovery meeting, we present a plan, from there we implement and then we manage the relationship ongoing. And the group was not excited about the discovery meeting, they just said, "Hey, we're incredibly busy right now, we don't really have time for that, but can we just give you our policies and can you show us an apples to apples comparison." And one of the development, some of the development stuff I do outside of insurance, I've learned that in negotiating, you're always in the best position when you're willing to walk away from an opportunity.

Joe Vens:

And I just didn't feel like we were in a good position to win the business on trying to show them a different insurance option. So I just said, "In order for us to best serve our clients, it's really necessary to go through that discovery process, we find that clients find a lot of value in that. So if you don't have the time, or you're not willing to, no big deal, it just might not be a good fit to work together." And so we're getting ready to leave the meeting and then they kind of stopped and said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, like you won't work with us without doing that, you require it?" And we just, we kind of stuck to our guns. And yeah, this is the process we work with clients on, and it's to their benefit.

Joe Vens:

They're best served when we understand what their company looks like, and how we can best support them. And so since then, we've actually done our discovery meeting and it went over two hours, it was a success. They found a lot of value in it, and we present our plan to them next week, we're really excited about the opportunity to do that. So I think just buying into the things that Brent, you, Roger, others teach us about process and about being different than the others, that's been some of my recent successes and grateful to your team for teaching us that, because that's a newer concept to me, full transparency. So that'd be failure and success.

Brent Kelly:

Yeah, no, those are awesome. And I mean, I was sitting here, if you're watching video, I'm sitting taking notes, because there's just, hopefully, as an audience, listener or a viewer, there's some big takeaways there. And I certainly got that and listened to you, Joe. And obviously, the first thing is, whenever you get an AOR on the opposite side, or a BOR, I mean, a punch in the gut is a light term, right? Like that hurts. And by the way, I've been there. It's just like, like almost takes your breath away, right? To a degree, but it isn't-

Joe Vens:

But just to jump in there, though, perspective is a great thing, time is a great thing, because this was years ago. And I remember at the time being so frustrated at the other agent, the prospective client, how could they do this? Why would they do this? I can't believe they handed this over. And having time and perspective on it, it was not the perspective client. It wasn't the other agent, and they operated probably in the capacities that they should have, it was my lack of due diligence, process, setting rules and expectations.

Joe Vens:

So it's funny that time, and a change in perspective, and just, it's brought a lot of clarity to me since. So those are not always the fault of the person signing or the person offering, a lot of times you have to do some reflection and recognize your role in the situation, so.

Brent Kelly:

Yeah. Well, I mean, that says a lot about you. And let's face it, everything is a little bit easier when you're further away from it as far as to go back and look at things that weren't fun, to say the least. But you're right. And I mean, one of the things that we talk about in our program, if you recall, is having absolute personal responsibility. And that's not always fun or easy because a situation like that, and it could be an AOR, but it could be anything else. You just got lost.

Brent Kelly:

You lost an account, you didn't have an opportunity, whatever the case may be, internally, with your team something gets dropped or whatever, or there is a miscommunication, the first response and natural human response, it doesn't mean it's the right human response, is, what did you do? Why did you do that? How could you do that to me? Right? It's all external, pointing in some direction. But the truth of it is, is you were looking at reflection and time as, how could I have dealt with this better? Where did I fall short? Where did I miss the mark? And most importantly, what I love about it is, what can I learn to make sure that doesn't happen again.

Joe Vens:

You got it.

Brent Kelly:

So those to me are all critical. So again, hopefully, as a listener, you're like, okay, we always say that all progress starts by telling the truth, which comes from Dan Sullivan. But I say, the truth shall set you free, but first, it'll make you really uncomfortable. And to go to, let's say, again, it was an agency leader or someone in your office and go, I screwed this up and own it, that's how you grow. And I think one of the things too, just to go on that, now we're getting the success side of it and what we can learn from that. But I think the other part too, it comes back to just communication. And one of my favorite quotes, and I forget who said this is that the greatest myth in communication is that it actually occurred.

Brent Kelly:

And I think oftentimes I see producers, I see agencies that, well, they said this or had an opportunity here or whatever, I'm giving a quote, like I said, you know how much we don't like those terms, in certain cases, as you learn through, but it's like, oh, I think, I hope, I assume that this is what they're going to do. But you've never really walked them through your process, you've never really established the rules. We've never really gone deep enough. And one of my favorite terms from another podcast that's called Selling From the Heart, they talk about is, you have commission breath. Right?

Brent Kelly:

It's like I just want to shout the quote, you start thinking about how much money you might make and all those kinds of things. But to transform that, Joe, to what you talked about with the success that you had, and what that meant. First of all, I hope all the listeners were noting. And Joe, I don't know if you even realized you said it, but when you were talking about the failure, it was, here's what I messed up on. And when you went to the success, you said this was a team victory. That's leadership. Right? And it doesn't mean that you didn't do a great job. I'm sure you did, but it was a team approach.

Brent Kelly:

And that's one of the biggest things that obviously, we practice and preach with agencies, is that if we're going to have external success with clients, we've got to have internal success with our team, that we're aligned, we're on the same page. Doesn't mean we're always going to be singing Kumbaya together, we're going to have conflict, but we've got to be working in the same direction. So kudos to you. And then could you just share, you mentioned it, and I don't know how deep you want to go into it, but you mentioned that executive briefing. And again, this is something that we talk about in our programs, but it's kind of that first step, so to speak.

Brent Kelly:

And maybe I'll just, I'll preface this a little bit, Joe. But what I wrote down, and what we talk about is, when you go into that first meeting, you should have a real clear idea, this is our purpose, this is our unique process and this is the payoff when we do it. And by the way, here's the big one. And by the way, this may not be a great fit. I don't know if you would qualify for this. It always seems like the hardest thing to get into but then people are like, what? You mean you're not just going to give me a quote? Isn't that what you all are supposed to do? You insurance people, darn it. So could you expand on that a little bit, of just how you see that approach working in your business?

Joe Vens:

You bet. Yeah. I have learned so much from the Sitkins program and Matt Hughes, a quick shout out to him. He is our sales leader here at First MainStreet within our organization. I think he's been through the Sitkins program about a thousand times.

Brent Kelly:

Probably.

Joe Vens:

He is a huge believer in what you do and what Roger teaches. And I've just, I've learned a ton in that. I think a couple of notes on executive briefs, specifically. I remember having a pretty hard conversation with Matt, just saying, you know what? In relationships that I already have, people know what I do. So I don't want to go to a meeting and just have it be an executive brief, where I'm just going through what I do. I want to kind of hybrid that with a discovery meeting and maybe even present the plan and try and figure out all the solutions in that meeting.

Joe Vens:

And I remember him just sharing your approach. "If you don't buy into a system and process, you are going to be everybody else. And if you're fine being everybody else, do that," he said, "But if you buy into these systems and processes, Brent and Roger have created hundreds, if not thousands of million dollar producers that serve their clients and communities really well. So this works. You can buy into it or not." And so I just said, "Okay, I'll try it out, I'll commit to at least seeing what this is all about." And it has been just eye-opening to me to go into those meetings with intentionality, knowing what the goal is of that meeting.

Joe Vens:

And oftentimes, it's to move a prospective client from that meeting to a discovery session. But just bringing ultimate clarity to the person that we're sitting across from as a team during those meetings and saying, here are our goals and objectives for today, we want to learn a little bit about you and what you do, we'd love to share with you our proprietary and unique process and how we serve clients. And then I think at the end of this meeting we'll look now, if we're a mutual fit to move to the next step in our process, which is the discovery session. Does that sound fair to you? And it's kind of amazing to see those folks say, oh, wow, this is organized, it's professional.

Joe Vens:

And most times we get to the end of those meetings and it is a mutual fit to move to the next step, but not always. And I think having that walkaway power if you're just being used for a quarter to be shop, so they can bring something back to their golf buddy, and you're not actually going to win the business or attain it anyways, the best time to lose business is in the first meeting. I remember you said that. And I believe in that. So I think just setting rules, expectations, being very clear about the purpose, that's been world changing for me, it saved me a lot of time. And it's brought a lot of value and success to our team. So I'm a big believer in the systems and processes that you all teach us to implement.

Brent Kelly:

Well, and to your credit, Joe, you and your team are the ones that are executing it. I mean, there's a lot of people that hear the message, well, I don't know, we'll go on our own way. And as you alluded to, you can do okay, doing what everyone else does, but is that really where you want to be? And I mean, long term, certainly. And short term as well. I would say this, and again, I know most of you are probably listening to this via audio, but if you can just hear in Joe's voice.

Brent Kelly:

Again, he's a younger professional, if you see the video, he's younger, but I do think it's important. I mean, this is true for anybody of any age or any experience, I think out in the marketplace. But Joe, I mean, and you already address it to a degree. But when you come in as a younger professional, I mean, you're in the public entity space. My guess is there's probably some more experienced people that you're competing against, right? They've got some more gray hairs like I'm getting, you've never have. Right? And so there's a little bit of that, where a lot of younger producers in particular, kind of say, oh, thank you just for the opportunity, I'm just so privileged even to be here.

Brent Kelly:

And maybe that you should be grateful, certainly, but part of it is I think what you've expressed, and I hope younger, newer producers can hear this, if you're listening is you deserve to be in that room, but you also need to act like a professional. And what you said, Joe, is that I'm a professional because we do have a unique planned process. We do want to really understand and be a risk advocate, not just another quoter and floater. And we bring value to, in this case, public sector businesses, public entities, but businesses or anybody like you, individuals like you, whatever it may be and who you're working with.

Brent Kelly:

And by the way, what we do is unique and different. I don't know if it'll be a fit. And all that is 100% accurate. I think one of the things I wrote down again, that you've heard us say, but I think the audience if I haven't said it before, I'll say it now is the idea of prescription without proper diagnosis is malpractice.

 

Brent Kelly:

Right? Remember that?

Joe Vens:

I love that comparison. It's one of my favorites. And it rings so true. If you give the example of a physician taking some other physician's diagnosis from 10 years ago, and saying, I believe that, that was accurate 10 years ago, so I'll just, I'll give you a new drug that we had that's a little bit cheaper and have that filled and now I'm your new doctor. Assuming things have changed, or changed over a 10 year span, which they're almost guaranteed to have changed in that timeframe, that would be malpractice.

Joe Vens:

And it's amazing that our industry is riddled with stories like that where unfortunately not everybody in our role is trying to really do discovery and identify what has changed since they put their insurance package into place. And so you almost have to kick me off my soapbox here, I talk about it a lot. I just think there's so much opportunity for young advisors and young people that are finishing up school or looking to make a career change, this industry, I don't think everybody from an outside perspective always hears insurance and thinks that's the most attractive or glamorous role.

Joe Vens:

But the way that we can serve clients, the complexity, different businesses and coverages and carrier relationships, there's so much fun to be had in this industry. And I think that there is such a gap and need for young people to come in and serve and be different, in an aging demographic of insurance. It's a great time for any young person to consider a role in this world. So sorry to jump up on the soapbox, once again, but I love to share that story as a younger individual myself. I love being in the business and I think that there's a ton for anybody who is a talented young person looking to grow a career, this is a good place to be considering doing that.

Brent Kelly:

Amen. No, I appreciate you greatly for sharing that. And I feel the exact same way. And although I'm not, I don't know what the age group is, but a certain point like you wouldn't qualify to be a young agent, so to speak, you just aren't 40 anymore. I've surpassed that. But I'm kind of in that middle role where I see, you're right. I mean, it's known, I mean, there's an aging demographic of advisors, producers, agency leaders who are kind of on their way out. And I think there is still a mindset and a philosophy, or whatever you want to call it out there that oh, yeah, it's just that old, stale business.

Brent Kelly:

And part of that I think, comes to the fact that if we're running our business where we're just quoting and floating, the term that we always use, and we're just like everyone else, and all these things that we could go into, and I've shared before, well, if I was 25, or 30, or 32, or 20, I don't care what the age is. Or if I'm 42 and I want to go to a new career that has opportunity, whatever that is, I wouldn't be excited either.

Brent Kelly:

But when you start to understand the value that you really provide, and what it means, obviously in your sector, Joe, with public entities, but it could be again with individuals, it could be the benefit side, it could be the PNC side with businesses, whatever it is. So let's be great at it and make it fun. And by the way, we can be really successful, and make a really incredible living and help a bunch of people on the way. Right?

Joe Vens:

Amen to that.

Brent Kelly:

Is that okay? Yeah. And so I'm with you, I just think, and part of that for agencies listening is to say, hey, listen, like what can we do that ... And I always say this, people don't want to just go somewhere and do something, they want to be part of something that matters. And we can say, well, that's cliche, and whatever. But no, I think it's really true. And I really hope Joe and again, people like you, that's what's exciting to be able to have an impact on your life, because you have an impact on mine, is to say, hey, listen, there's something here and together we can do really cool things. So I appreciate you sharing that.

Brent Kelly:

I have a couple questions, thoughts. One is all you think about, I want you, whether it's a newer advisor, new producer, or just anyone in the industry, what would be one piece of advice that you would give them? And then I want to ask a question about college football. So go ahead.

Joe Vens:

Okay, one piece of advice for newer individuals, I would say, spend time and thought and be intentional about if you're starting out, what risks or what opportunities do you really enjoy spending time in? What are some of the opportunities that lit you up when you had a chance to work with those folks. I would be intentional about where you want to spend your time, and then just make the decision to specialize in that space and commit time.

Joe Vens:

Allow yourself during working, selling hours to have a focus around where do I want to be? And how do I brand myself and market myself as somebody who, whether you feel comfortable calling yourself a specialist or an expert, maybe that will take some time, but it is true if you are focused on it to outwardly be telling people, I have a focus in manufacturing, I have a focus in general contractor risk. I have a focus in retail, whatever space that you enjoy being in, that it might take some time to identify that but make a decision that you're going to have a focus in that space.

Joe Vens:

And it's not that you can't write business outside of that, but I think identifying where you're at separates you. And so I spend some time and thought in that, and then making the decision that yes, I'm an expert, a specialist or I have a focus there. I think that will help grow your career at a quicker trajectory than just being the generalist or not having a focus. So long answer there, but that would be my piece of advice.

Brent Kelly:

No, I love it. I mean, that's I think kind of the focus, if I could use that word of this podcast. And I think it's always great to have people on because I talk to people all the time that have a different focus or a niche that they work on, and it's just, it's, I see so many examples. And I could get countless numbers of successful people and there's just a higher level of success and those that focus and have a niche in a certain area. And there's a reason why specialists make more than generalists, doesn't mean generalists are bad people or can't make a decent living. But, part of that, Joe, and I've done a whole podcast on this, but something called the law of compensation, which basically, the most important part of that is what is the difficulty in replacing you.

Brent Kelly:

And when you have a specialty, and they care much more that you understand their perspective, their business, their viewpoint, their struggles, their bottlenecks, whatever they are, that's what they care about. They expect you to know insurance, and risk advice, and that's your license, right? You're with an agency, like you should know that, but do you know me? And do you know me so well that you can ask engaging questions and offer solutions that no one else is willing to go there, right? And when you can do that you become really hard to replace, and your value rises. And as you've learned, it's kind of fun, because you have a competitive advantage. And you can talk shop, and you feel more confident. So we could go on and on and high five on the power of the niche, but anything you want to add to that, Joe? 

Joe Vens:

My only add there, one of my favorite quotes is people won't care about how much you know until they know how much you care. And so that's once again, if I'm across from someone saying well, I know everything about commercial insurance, and I have a background and I went to this school and I had this designation, I don't think they will quite care until they know that I'm across from them because I love the public entity, the city space, the county space. And here's why. Here's our agency footprint. And we've identified that clients just like you are the reason that we can do what we do. And you face these challenges, and we have dove into these things. We've noticed this. I think people won't care about how much you know until they know how much you care. So having a focus on them as opposed to what you know. I wholeheartedly agree with that.

Brent Kelly:

I don't want to add anything to that, because that was so good. So I could, but I'm not going to because that was well said, Joe. Here's my last thing, we'll keep this brief. So obviously you mentioned Matt Hughes, Matt's an awesome dude. Sales leader there. So Matt, shout out to you if you're listening to this, I'm sure you will at some point. Obviously, Matt played football for the University of Iowa. I know you are an Iowa, grad. Right, Joe?

Joe Vens:

That's correct.

Brent Kelly:

Okay, good enough. So I'm an Illinois grad and our team has been terrible forever. So two things, number one, Joe, and our audience probably isn't going to care. So we're going to keep this really brief. How's Iowa going to be this year? And number two, is our new coach, which is an Iowa guy, is he going to help us get better? Go.

Joe Vens:

So really brief answer. I have a six year old and a soon to be four year old at home. So if you would have asked me the question 10 years ago, how's Iowa going to be, I would have been able to give you a full scouting report on their quarterback, their receivers, their defense, everything and would have been able to give you a solid answer. Honestly, between insurance, keeping my wife happy at home, our two kids, I just have not spent a ton of time scouting the Iowa football team. So fingers crossed for a great season ahead, but I don't want to give you any answer without the background, so that's the answer to that question. As far as your alumni, I don't know if there's a coach in the country, including the Nick Sabans of the world, the Dabo Swinneys of the world, that could help the Fighting Illini football team. They were destined to be where they are.

Brent Kelly:

Oh, come on, Joe.

Joe Vens:

So that's my feedback.

Brent Kelly:

Come on, Joe.

Joe Vens:

I don't want to be too harsh to you this morning, but-

Brent Kelly:

Hey, we just beat Nebraska, give us some credit here.

Joe Vens:

We all need to live in reality-

Brent Kelly:

All right.

Joe Vens:

... and keep in mind that Nebraska is Nebraska. So that was a great win, congratulations to you for that. But we got to be honest with ourselves-

Brent Kelly:

All right.

Joe Vens:

... you have a quote on starting with honesty, and so please stay there.

Brent Kelly:

All progress starts by telling the truth. Is that what I say?

Joe Vens:

There it is.

Brent Kelly:

Well, I'm an eternal optimist in lots of things which is good, but could get me in trouble. So I hear you there, I appreciate it. And I also applaud the fact you're part of it is funny as we go through life and change. I'm like you, like years ago, I'd be like, oh, this and all this kind of stuff. And now I'm like, I don't even know who's on the team. I don't know what's going on, but I hope they do well.

Joe Vens:

You have four or five kids at home?

Brent Kelly:

I got five.

Joe Vens:

Yeah. The fact that you can have any hobby outside of helping insurance producers and your family, that would be incredible. That's got to be so busy. So credit to you for raising the next generation, we have two and that feels overwhelming. So I'm sure five is quite the challenge, but probably the super fun one to have.

Brent Kelly:

Well, I'll tell you, Joe, as I told many people, especially as I had done more travel, not so much in the last year or so, but a little more now. And people like to tell me, I got five kids, are you guys crazy? I got two, or I got three, or I got one. I'm like, first of all, I don't believe it's a competition.

 

Brent Kelly:

And if it was, I don't know that I would be deemed the winner. So there's no need to say anything. But yeah, it's crazy. Whether it's two or five, we always want to be our best version not only for our business, but for our families, right? And for ourselves.

Joe Vens:

No doubt.

Brent Kelly:

So thank you, Joe, so much for being part of this. I'll just say one kind of closing thought to the audience, if you're looking to transform your agency, obviously Joe had mentioned his experience as part of the Sitkins program. Their agency is part of our all-inclusive model, which allows Joe and every other advisor and producer to attend our programs on an ongoing basis. We have programs for service team members, we have programs for sales leaders, like Matt, to dictate and kind of sharpen the saw of agency leaders. And the goal is again a holistic team approach for the process.

Brent Kelly:

A starting point of that is just go to our website and download our scorecard. It's an awareness tool to see where your agency is today. It's a great starting point. You can do it for free. Just go to sitkins.com/scorecard, and get your transformational scorecard. You complete it and see where you're at. And we'd love to continue the conversation moving forward. So without further ado, Joe. Thank you so much for being part of this podcast. I wish you continued success. I know we'll stay in touch. The audience is better for you being with them. So thank you very much.

Joe Vens:

Brent, thanks so much for having me. This was a blast this morning.

Brent Kelly:

Awesome. Have a good one and to everyone else, all the best in your success.

 

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