The Road to Predictable Growth Requires Alignment

Two paths going the same direction in an agency


Creating predictable and systematic, not sporadic, growth is one of the goals for most agencies. But if that’s true, why are most agencies achieving only a 5% growth rate?

Here’s a blinding flash of the obvious (BFO): Your current business model is perfectly designed for you to achieve your current results! In other words, if you have a 5% growth rate, you have a 5% business model. If you are happy with only 5%, stay the course. Keep doing what you’re doing. But if you want to have 2X your current growth, it’s time to update your business model.

First, let’s take a look at the characteristics of agencies that get stuck in the 5% business model:

  • They probably have producers who spend most of their time in non-sales-related activities.
  • Their pipelines are dripping with suspects.
  • Their closing ratio is substantially below 50%.
  • They have a high percentage of part-time clients.
  • They ignore the 80/20 rule.
  • Fewer than 5% of their clients give them a referral.
  • Their team uses less than 50% of the capabilities of their agency management system.

Despite all that, it’s still a great business. If that’s the way you operate, you really don’t have to work that hard and you can still be semi-successful, which is great compared to the rest of the world. Of course, you’ll have regrets eventually (I’ve always warned about the semi-successful trap). So if your goal is to be disappointed over missed opportunities, stay the course!

Assuming you want to 2X your growth, you’ll need to create a predictable and guaranteed 2X business model. What might that look like? As I envision this, it should consist of four phases: Alignment, Green Zone Focus, Retention and Referrals, and Obtaining New Ideal Clients.

Phase One: Alignment. Have you ever been driving along and noticed that the vehicle in front of you is obviously out of line? You can see that the body of the vehicle and the wheels are not properly aligned, yet the driver continues moving down the road, seemingly oblivious to the situation.

This is something we see way too often in agencies—the lack of alignment between the various departments. Think of these departments as wheels on a car: Sales, Service, Leadership, and Administration/Operations. To achieve a 2X growth rate, all four must be properly lined up.

An aligned agency realizes that all of its departments should have a common goal, but it also appreciates the different roles within the organization. The common goal should be to retain and obtain ideal clients. Further, there must be constant communication between four departments, and a culture of accountability. Finally, as proof of alignment, there should be a one-page business plan (a summary of the overall business plan) that everyone can rally around. Otherwise, your agency is out of alignment.

Regrettably, most agencies don’t have a strategic business plan, or if they do, it’s a voluminous document that gets filed away electronically and rarely, if ever, read. However, when agencies have a dynamic document that can be summarized on a single page, it becomes something that people can easily access and discuss. It should include a mission statement, a vision statement, critical success factors, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and, finally, The One Thing (the single thing you do that enables everything else to fall into place).

We’ve seen that when agencies are aligned according to a plan that everyone supports, employee engagement grows dramatically. And when employees care about their work, productivity soars.

Phase Two: Green Zone Focus. You may recall the two different zones I discussed in a previous article: Red Zone and Green Zone. As the name suggests, The Green Zone consists of the four key activities and strategies that create more “green” (a.k.a. money). They are Sales, Relationship Management, Continuations, and Pipeline Development.

Having an aligned team creates a strong division between sales and service, which frees producers to invest the majority of their time in the Green Zone. Time Spent Selling (TSS) is a new KPI. Our 2X model calls for producers to be in the Green Zone 80% of the time.

Phase Three: Retention and Referrals. Once we have the two foundational phases in place, Alignment and Green Zone, we focus on retaining ideal clients and earning referrals from them. As I’m sure you’re aware, retention starts with changing your focus from renewing accounts to continuing relationships. While I know you’ve heard this before, what have you done in this area? How have you changed?

My focus here is on the top 20% of your accounts that generate 80% of your revenue. It’s about having a critical path that you actually follow. This should include your policy installation appointment, your risk management plan, your six-month promise/stewardship report, marketplace strategies, and guaranteed continuations.

It’s about delivering such an amazing client experience that they all become raving fans and multipliers. By that I mean they multiply themselves when you ask The Ultimate Question: “On a scale of one to 10, how likely are you to refer a friend or associate to me?”

If you rate an eight or higher, ask them for a name. However, if the response is five or less, that’s a red flag. You need to find out what’s going on with that account. (FYI: The Ultimate Question is a book of management case studies by Fred Reichheld, showing the link between customer satisfaction and long-term success. If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly urge you to do so ASAP.)

Imagine how extraordinary it would be if even 50% of your top 20% gave you a referral to your future ideal clients? Most agencies couldn’t handle that amount of new business, but what a great problem to have! You’d grow your revenue by 40%.

Phase Four: Obtaining New Ideal Clients. In case you haven’t heard, commodity-based/price-only selling is a tough game to play successfully. To play at a higher level today, you must have a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) that totally differentiates you in the marketplace. Your USP leads to obtaining new ideal clients.

If you don’t have a unique message and you’re still selling based on price only, you’re in a race to the bottom, and that’s a race you do not want to win.

Maybe you’re used to hearing, “You insurance people are all the same!” or, “Sure, you can give us a quote.” That’s a sign you’re playing the wrong game. You can easily be replaced and, trust me, you will be.

Here’s a question for you and every producer in your agency: How do you think your next great new client wants to meet you? If your focus is on securing future ideal clients, not replicating average clients, they want to be referred to you. They want someone they trust to make an introduction. And they want an expert in their industry or specific business type to provide advice and guidance that their current agency is not providing.

The bottom line

How would you describe the way your agency operates? Is it aligned or misaligned? Are all four wheels out of sync and giving you a rough ride? Or are they lined up perfectly, with everyone moving in the same direction so that your agency runs smoothly?

Remember, same goal and different roles equals total alignment.

What’s keeping you from operating optimally? What adjustments are needed to get your agency aligned? Are you committed to achieving significant, ongoing growth or are you just spinning your wheels?

It’s your choice.


The author

Roger Sitkins is the CEO of Sitkins Group, Inc. After over 40 years he has truly become an icon in the insurance industry having trained and mentored thousands of insurance professionals.

Roger was inducted into the Michigan Insurance Hall of Fame in 2017 and in that same year also received the Dr. Henry C. Martin Award from Rough Notes magazine. Roger is among only six people to have the honor of receiving this prestigious award.

Recognized as the nation’s top insurance agency results coach and renowned leader for improvement, he believes that if you improve the life of one person, you improve the world. To learn more, visit

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