Transform Your Agency With a Buffalo Mentality


What in the heck do cows and buffalo have to do with your independent insurance agency? Well, in today's Agent Leader podcast, I'm going to share eight specific differences between a cow mentality or cow behaviors for your agency and a buffalo mindset and buffalo actions for your agency. And of course, quantify the substance, the impact that these mentalities and actions will have on your agency. And you can decide where do you fit in these areas. Are you a cow? Are you a buffalo?

Learn how to shift from a cow to a buffalo with eight specific areas:

  1. Focus on problem vs. solutions. (7:30)
  2. Activities vs. Results (9:00)
  3. Living in the past vs. Focus on what's next (10:07)
  4. Showing up unprepared vs. Preparing and practice for desired results (11:43)
  5. Energy takers vs. energy makers (12:56)
  6. Complacent vs. Charging ahead (14:25)
  7. Already knowing vs. Always learning (16:55)
  8. Making excuses vs. Seeking accountability (19:16)

Welcome to the Agent Leader Podcast. My name is Brent Kelly. I am your host. Thanks for being with me on today's episode. And as I shared on the intro, we're going to be talking about cows and buffalo on today's podcast. Of course, this is an analogy. I'll give some context behind this and some backstory, but more importantly, I'm going to share with you eight specific areas that I see agencies that either operate mindset and actions as cows, which by the way is not where you want to be versus buffalo and what that looks like.

And as I go through these eight areas today, this is a great opportunity for you as an agent leader to listen and take notes. And also a great episode to share with your team, your leadership team in particular, and ask yourself, where do we fit in these specific areas? And of course, how do we move forward to be more of a cow than a buffalo? Now, before I get into the content, I want to remind you that we have a great tool on our website. It's the Agency Transformation Scorecard. This is a simple, yet very powerful tool to give your agency clarity on where you are today in specific areas. So go to sitkins.com/scorecard. That's it. This will take you a few minutes, and then you'll get a detailed report back on where your agency sits today. And of course, it'll have you ask the question.

"Where do we want to go from here?" So go to sitkins.com/scorecard. Alright, some of you may be thinking, okay, he's teased this cow versus buffalo. What in the heck is he talking about? Now, maybe you have heard the story of the cow and the buffalo. It is pretty popular if you look it up on the internet, and you're going to find some things out there. The first time that I heard this specific story has been several years ago. I don't even remember how long ago now. It's been many years ago. I know an agency that we just had a conversation with has taken this on, and I shared this with them somewhere probably in 2018 or '19. So it is been a while since I first heard it. There's an author and speaker named Rory Vaden, very popular if you look him up, has a great business called Brand Builders.

But he was sharing the story and it resonated with me so many years ago that I've shared this story and it's had a critical impact on agencies that hear this to get you to think, then of course, act differently. But to summarize the story, Rory shared from stage that he's from Colorado and no one yet has said this is not true. So if it is, let me know. But he said that Colorado is one of the few areas in the world where both cows and buffalo coexist. So they're in a similar habitat. And he said, what's interesting, although they are similar yet different animals, is how they respond to storms. And he said, cows, when a storm comes, they will turn away from the storm and they will cow walk, waddle, trot, whatever cows do to get away from the storm. Now, of course, they can't outrun the storm, and in fact, what they often do is they walk or run with the storm, right?

They actually spend more time in the storm. Whereas the buffalo, when a storm comes, faces directly in the storm and charges right into it. Now they both face the storm, both the cow and the buffalo, but the cow sits with it longer, whereas the buffalo faces it first but gets through it much quicker. It's onto the next thing. And of course, this is an analogy, you probably know that of where we're going with this, of how we face challenges and fears as individuals. And as I'm going to share today, how we face challenge and fears as independent insurance agency leaders and as independent insurance agency teams, right? As a group of professionals. And the idea that the takeaway from this, and I love this quote is Roy said this, you either face your fears or they will become your traveling companion. You may want to think about that.

You either face your fears or they will become your traveling companion. It got me thinking, there are so many things in my own life that I can go back and think of that I was running away from, so to speak, or trying to turn away from, and they never really left me. And maybe it's a day or a week or in some cases years where we don't face some fears that are important to us. And because of that, we just continuing to walk in it. And we see this with independent insurance agencies as well. And where this podcast today is really coming from is I had one of our longtime agency partners of the Sitkins Network. And by the way, if you want to learn more about the Sitkins Network and how we work with members and agencies like yours, go to sitkins.com and you can learn more about how we work and operate.

Love to have a conversation with you. Now, this is a long time agency that's been with us and they've embraced this year is being the buffalo, taking on the Buffalo mindset that we're going to charge into some of these challenges and fears. And the sales leader from this agency wanted to have me provide some more context, some different areas to think about around challenging and getting to some of their producers in this case. And as I was making some notes, it hit me, wow, there are some specific things that relate to all agencies where they could either choose to be a cow, where they just walk with their fears and challenges and always have to deal with them. They never really overcome them or they never really get past them. Or they could be that buffalo where they're going to go and attack it, face it, and move forward with confidence and clarity.

So I want to go through, again, I mentioned on the intro eight of these areas, and I'm going to be pretty brief. I would ask you as always, to take notes, to be ready to listen to this with the idea not of, oh, that's some good information or something to consider, which I hope you do. But to be able to say, where do we fit? And this always comes back. In fact, I've got one of these principles later of not always just assuming that we know things, but what are we doing about these specific things? So I really want you to take that challenge on, and this really revolves around culture. We think about this difference between cows and buffalo. It all starts with culture. And I've defined culture on this podcast before, something we define with our partner insurance agencies, that culture is the language and behaviors that are normal in your agency today.

So as I go through some of these things, you might say, well, we do some of this. Okay, sometimes, well, that's not normal, that's sporadic, right? Or that's the exception, not the rule. So culture is the language, what you say, and the behavior is what you do that are normal, they're consistent in your agency. So as I go through these eight, and again, I'm going to give a reference between the cow side and the buffalo side. Again, ask yourself, what does our culture say? And what does our culture do in this area? Are we really more of a cow or more of a buffalo? And my guess is you're probably going to have some of these, you're going to do better than others. Some maybe you're in the middle, right? You're back and forth, but really take ownership of this, right? All progress, as Dan Sullivan says, and from Alcoholics Anonymous, all progress starts by telling the truth. And this is important to go through and go, where are we today? Alright, what does this look like? So let me go through this.

Number one, I think this is a big overall mindset issue here more than anything, is that cows talk and they focus on the problem, whereas buffalo talk and focus on the solutions. Now, this to me, is an abundance for scarcity mindset right? Now, we all are going to have problems, and I'm not going to sing a song about we all got problems, but we all have problems. We all have issues, every agency does, right? You're not alone if you've got issues and problems and challenges you're facing. So it's not that we're trying to avoid the problem itself, it's what are we focused on, the problem, the thing that's already happened or the solution, the thing that we are going or proposing to do about it to think bigger than the problem versus getting stuck or lost in the problem.

And to me, this is a huge issue. There are lots of things. And then we can just use examples today on the hard market, which we know that's going to change, but it's been around for a while and it's going to be here for a little while longer. And part of that is, again, maybe you look at it good or bad, it depends on your mentality, but just use this as an example. Oh, this is a problem. This is the problem. This is the problem. This is the problem. We're just going to have to wait. We're going to have to wait. Versus, hey, this is what it is. What are some proposed things that we're going to do about it? And again, this can be from anything in your agency, but I just want you to think about from an agency leadership perspective, do we talk and then do things more about the problem itself?

Do we talk about the problem or do we talk and take actions on the solution more often? Number two, this is a productivity question. Cows talk and focus on activities that we're busy, that we're doing stuff, whereas buffalo talk and focus on, they focus and talking on results. So they're focused on results, revenue, outcome. Whereas the cow is, we're busy being busy, right? I'm going to use my cow analogy. We're just out eating grass all day, right? And they're busy, but busy doing what? And of course, if you ask most professionals, not every professional, but many I'll say, and you say, how are things as a professional, one of the most common answers that you often receive is busy. And they may say it's good, good, really busy, really busy though. Really busy, really busy. Which by the way could be an okay thing if it's busy getting results.

But just think about what your agency talks about and what your agency does. Are you a busy activity agency or are you a result agency? When you get to the end of the day, do we talk about how busy we were or do we talk about what result or result we generated? Right? There's a different mentality. And of course, actions on that. Number three, cows tend to live in the past, in my analogy here, okay? Cows talk and focus on what they have already done, whereas buffalo talk and focus on what they are next going to do. Again, there's some overlap in some of these that I'm going to share with you today on this podcast, but are we talking more about the past, what we've done or the future? Of course, easy example of this is talk to people who were, I don't know, a high school football hero and they're 46 years old like me, and they're spending more time talking about what they did in high school and college than what they're going to do this year or next year.

We're living in the past, and oftentimes we'll see that with agencies. Well, 20 years ago we did this. 10 years ago we did this maybe as a producer, right? We're talking about the accounts we've sold years ago versus the next account we're going to write. Give you a great example of this. One of my favorite conversations I've ever had been part of is when a question was asked to a really elite producer, very good producer, big book of business, he had written many big accounts, and it was just a general curiosity question of, Hey, what's the biggest account you've ever written? And of course we're expecting to hear, oh, it was this $1.7 million account, or whatever the case is that I wrote, and here's how I did it, and let me tell you all about it. That was not his answer. The answer to this question of what was the biggest account you've ever written was, I don't know, I haven't written it yet.

Now that may seem not like a big deal, but it is how we think matters in cows. Talk about the past and Buffalos are focused on charging into the future. Alright? Number four, cows show up and give what they have. They just show up and give what they already have. Buffalo prepare and practice for their desired outcome. Now, this is certainly very true for insurance producers, insurance production teams that we show up. The example of the joke we give at Sitkins is you show up, you throw up, and then you blow up. You just show up and give what you already have. This is who I am, this is where I am. I'm going to show up and just do what I do. Versus the Buffalo mentality in action is no. Every opportunity deserves my very best. I'm going to be prepared, practice and rehearsed for this next opportunity.

Yes, I've come so far, but now it's a matter of preparing and practicing myself for the next great opportunity. I'm not going to just show up and hope things work out. That's what average performers do. That's what cows do. In my analogy, buffalo prepare and practice for their next great opportunity. Number six, if I got the no number five, I'm sorry, number five. This is a bit of a mindset, but I think you can relate to this. I believe this, and my analogy here, cows take energy from others, whereas buffalo give energy to others. Take energy versus give energy. And I think you think about this, and John Gordon writes about this in his books about the energy vampire. Well, I guess in this case it's the cow energy vampire, if that makes any sense, which it probably doesn't, but it has to follow my analogy, right?

But the idea then again, the cow mentality of the cow actions is, I'm going to take, take, take, take, take. I need this, give me this, you give me this, I'm owed this, right? This idea. And from a culture perspective, is that what we talk about? All the things that we need and I have to have, and me, me, me, me? Or is it, what can we provide and give? And I know that may sound like, okay, yeah, duh, we know that. But again, from a culture perspective, there is a difference, distinct difference. And not only is it a great growth model for you to be a person agency that gives to others and gives energy, not that you'll never take anything, right? But that we're focused on giving, but it also helps you add value to those around you and yourself at the same time, right?

When you give to others, you create more value. There's more back to the solution oriented approach. What can I give you? How can I solve more problems? If I'm a producer and I act like a consultant to give you more, I need to find more ways to create things for you. It's just an overall abundance on this idea that I'm not going to be a taker. I'm going to be a giver. Alright, now we're on number six. And again, some of these overlap, but I want to hit, these are important. Cows are complacent, good is good enough. buffalo are always charging. Now, I want to give a caveat to this because again, that may sound pretty simple. I do believe that complacency is, if not the most toxic word in insurance, it's right there at the top. In fact, several years ago I did a keynote that was the title of my keynote, the most toxic word in insurance because I continue to see it.

This is a really, really good business. We all hopefully know that if you're listening to my voice right now, this is a fantastic business, a fantastic business model. And because it is, you should thank God or your higher power and say, thank you so much. Now the question is this, are you going to take that and be okay with it? Or are you going to go, how do I take what I've been given and continue to grow and move forward and not be complacent on things that I've already done or be complacent on where I'm at? But to understand there's a bigger, better, brighter version of me waiting to arrive? And something that we talk about all the time, at Sitkins, and our model and our experience is best version possible. See, when you compare yourself to others, which by the way, comparison is the thief of joy, it's really easy to look around a room.

I'm use that as an analogy as well. Maybe it's your situation, an association, a group of cohorts, whatever it is, and you go, huh, I'm at least better than them. I'm doing okay. That's where complacency creeps in. But when you challenge yourself of, Hey, what's my best version possible look like? And none of us are ever going to attain perfection. This isn't a never ending quest for perfection or that we aren't grateful for things that we have accomplished or things that we have done. I think that's all part of it. But we know at our soul, at our deep level, there's more waiting for us that best version possible. So cows are complacent. As an agency, are we just okay how things are going? Or are we saying, what can we do to solve another problem? What can we do to help another client?

What can we do to make this internal culture better? What could we do to help inspire and lead people at a higher level? By the way, that should also provide, even just saying those words, provide some excitement and energy back to an agency. Maybe that's a bit stagnant. Alright, two more left. And these are huge, so I saved them for the end. So thanks for listening. Alright, and I sort of referenced this, I teased this earlier, but I want to go deeper. Cows say things like this, I already know that, or I've already heard that before. buffalo will ask a question, how well are we or am I currently doing that? Now? Just take a second here. Have you ever, and I'm raising my own hand here, heard something from someone like me, or read a book or watched the video or had a conversation with someone and they tell you something or share something with you. And your first reaction is, I already know that. I heard that before. Yeah, I heard that years ago. Heard that last year. Heard that two weeks ago. I already know that. That's what cows in my analogy do. buffalo would say, huh, I have heard that. I wonder how well am I, or we currently doing that?

Now, this is something that I'm very passionate about, especially what I do in my lineup. Work as a coach and consultant and team developer at Sitkins. Why? Well, because many of the things that we talk about at Sitkins are not complicated. That's why they work, by the way, but they're often not done. Simple does not mean easy. And I've done podcasts on this. This is a great example of this. The why is because a cow agency, a cow mentality is I already know it. And that's where they shut down. I already already heard it. A buffalo says, yeah, I've heard it. Now let's take this deeper. How well am I, Are we actually doing that? And let's be honest about that. Listen, there are people that go through our programs and I get it. There's a lot that goes into this and everyone's situation is different, but one of the big reasons they come back again and again, and again, and again and again, it's not that they're stupid.

It's that executing these simple behaviors, mastering basic activities is not easy, but it's also extremely powerful to continue to challenge yourself. There's a reason why foundational principles and fundamentals work. You know why? Because they work. When you do the work, that's the issue. It's not knowing what they are, it's doing what they are. That is the key difference. So versus I say that or I know that the difference is, how well am I doing that? Alright, here's the last one. I'll wrap up here. Last one. Cows make excuses. They always find an excuse. Cows will always find an excuse. This is true with agencies, this is true with producers, this is true with anybody. Any insurance professionals that are listening to this make excuses. Listen, we've all done it. Every single one of us, whether we've verbalized the excuse or we've internalized the excuse, we make excuses.

Now, maybe it's an excuse of blaming someone else or giving a reason, right? Pointing a finger, not taking ownership. Those could all be aspects. It also could be internal excuses. Well, yeah, but it really wasn't that big a deal to me, but I didn't really need to do it, but I really didn't want it anyway, right? There's a lot of things that happen with excuses. Now, buffalo, they seek and desire ready for this word, accountability. buffalo, seek and desire accountability. It's because they just want to be micromanaged, right? They just want to have people tell them to do things. No, that's not why. Great insurance agency leaders and agencies and producers and professionals buffalo seek and desire accountability. They seek and desire accountability because they know they're human. They know there are goals and objectives and outcomes and emotional states that they want to attain to, and they know on their own they won't be able to do it again. Why? Because they're human. Even the most dedicated,

The most disciplined, the most accountable, self-accountable person. And I would challenge you all to be self-accountable. Where it starts looking in the mirror, being honest with yourself, even the most dedicated in this area, still have coaches, still have people around them to challenge them, to encourage them, to tell 'em the truth sometimes when they don't want to hear it. You have probably had a leader or a coach or a teacher or someone in your life that at some point, maybe you didn't like the specific situation. You didn't want to show up for the call, didn't want to have the conversation, didn't want to look at the film review. If you played football like me, you didn't want to do it. Why? Because you know, didn't accomplish some of the things you said you were going to do or wanted to do. But after you got through that, you realized, wow, that made me better.

That made me stronger, that helped me grow, that allowed me to do things. I'm going to look back and say, thank goodness I had that person or that team to challenge me, to hold me accountable to the things that I really wanted, versus finding ways and excuses in every situation to get myself out of things that even though I may really desire them, I can find excuses to give myself some emotional support, which by the way, isn't the right kind of emotional support to say, eh, it's okay. One of the most impactful things I've ever been told and ever heard, and I know I've shared it, maybe on an older episode of this podcast a while back, was the definition of hell on Earth. And this is powerful, and this is really where this stems from, is someone said to me, do you know the definition of hell on earth?

And I said, no, I don't know that I want to. But of course I said, please share. And it's the definition of hell on Earth is that when you get to the last day of your life on this earth, the last day of your life on this earth, you come face to face with the person that you could have become. If only, just think about that for a second. The definition of hell on earth is that at the last day of your life, and hope this doesn't happen for you or me, right? That you get the last day of your life on this earth and you come face to face with that person that you look at and you go, oh my gosh, that is who I could have become. That's who I was meant to be. But because of excuses or because of lack of accountability, or because I just became complacent because I was a taker and not a giver because I focused on the problems versus solutions, because I was just busy versus focusing on the results I could achieve.

All these things that I talked about because of all of this, I now have regret. Now listen, I don't say that to hopefully, oh my gosh, this is kind of a sad end to a podcast, but I care for you. I mean that our mission at the Sitkins Group is to help educate, empower, and equip you to become your best version possible. And the type of people that we want to work with and the agencies that we work with seek this. Not because they're perfect, they won't be. Not because they're not going to make mistakes. They will, but because they know they seek a higher expression than themselves and their agency, that there's more out there. And even if they're doing good enough or doing pretty well, or maybe even doing great, that they know they need mentors and coaches and peers around them to help them seek that higher expression and to allow them to obtain that higher expression of themselves that they'd never look back with some form of regret.

Alright? So those are the eight things that I share with today. And again, as an analogy, using the Cow versus Buffalo idea, the story that I heard years ago, it's something that I want you to take a look. If you didn't get 'em all, we listen to this podcast and go, okay, Brent mentioned eight things. How do we fare on this? Are we truly a cow? Are we a buffalo in this area? Do we sometimes do one of both? How do we move towards that? Because all of these things I share with Buffalo, again, none of us are perfect. I've said that 15 times now. None of us are perfect, but moving towards that buffalo mindset and buffalo actions are going to allow you to move towards that best version possible, and that's what I and we are all about. So I want to thank you so much for listening to this podcast. If you would like to learn more about, again, our partnership, our membership that we have to work very close with agencies to help empower you, to equip you to educate you, go to sitkins.com. Again, you can also take that transformational scorecard, a very quick way to get clarity on where you are today. So with that, I wish you all the best and your success. Thanks for listening.


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