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Apathy is the Enemy: Part One

apathy plateau Jun 07, 2016

During some internal conversations at Sitkins Group, we were discussing what works and what doesn’t work in our business, and why some agencies commit to getting better and others don’t. We also wondered why some owners and producers appear to be so lackadaisical about their business when they have every reason to be excited about it. That’s when one of our team members remarked,

“Apathy is the enemy.”

Apathy is defined as “lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.”

We’ve all seen it. Some people are very excited and involved in their business while others are sort of neutral about it. Everything is just “okay.”

But why would an entrepreneurial business owner ever not be interested and enthusiastic about what they’re doing? What would make them apathetic?

I often wonder why only 2% of people can implement long-term meaningful change. It’s something we see across the industry. If there are approximately 35,000...

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Have You Approved Your Message: Part Two

brand client experience May 05, 2016

Think TED Talks, where speakers have no more than 18 minutes to convey their message. Could you give an overall briefing about what, how and why you do what you do in 18 minutes or less?

  • Email What does your electronic correspondence say about you and your agency? Do your emails look professional? Do you and your staff use a consistent format or is every greeting and signature different? What are you doing to ensure that the grammar and spelling are correct? Are you checking up on how your correspondence appears to your clients and carriers?
  • Stationery I realize that most people aren’t using a lot of stationery these days (and I’m grateful that I’m not in that business). But when the occasion calls for a letter or some other “official” correspondence, does your stationery or corporate letterhead make a great first impression? Is it attractive and current or worn and dated? Does it look crisp and professional or did you design it yourself using a...
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Have You Approved Your Message: Part One

As I’m sure you are painfully aware, this is a presidential election year, which means the airwaves are flooded with political messages (increasingly malicious ones, at that). During one of the way too many broadcast commercials airing recently, I heard the legally required tagline, “My name is __ and I approved this message.” Recorded in the candidate’s voice, this phrase is meant to show that the candidate agrees with what the ad is saying, thereby discouraging false claims.

That got me thinking about the message independent agency owners and their producers are putting out to their “voting public.” Do owners really know what message is out there about their agency and, if so, would they approve it?

Shortly before sitting down to write this article, I was talking with an agency owner and his son (the heir apparent) about our new producer training program, ProducerFit. I began the conversation by asking them about their approach to the...

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Repeat after Me: No Remix!

I just returned from my 11th mission trip to Nicaragua, working with Bridges to Community, several of my consulting clients and their team members, building homes in the second poorest country in our hemisphere. It’s extremely hard work but it helps us appreciate our “real jobs.”

One of the things we do is mix the mortar. First we have to sift the sand and then we add rocks, cement and water that become the mortar. Keep in mind, there are no mechanical cement mixers; this is all mixed on the ground, using shovels. The upside to this sort of manual labor is that it provides jobs for local masons. We’re just there to assist them.

The masons decide how much of each ingredient will be needed for the day, such as eight wheelbarrows of sand, five wheelbarrows of rock, fifteen buckets of water and four bags of cement. However, if we don’t make enough during a particular phase of the job and we run out of mortar for whatever part of the structure we’re...

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Bigger, Better, Brighter: Part Two


  • Great client experience. Being a better agency transcends providing great service. It’s about going above and beyond to create a superior experience for the customer. Remember, the client experience is defined by how the client feels after they’ve met with you. Did you create a “Wow!” as well as a referral?
  • 24/7 client service. I hope that everyone reading this has a way for clients to contact them 24 hours a day, every day.
  • A better website. Have you ever gone online and looked at your agency’s website as if you were a customer? What did you think? From what I’ve observed, most agency websites leave a lot to be desired. Does your website provide clients access to policy information? Does it educate clients and prospects about your agency and what it can do to help them? Does it positively impress those who visit the site? Or is it just a generic electronic brochure like everyone else’s?
  • Beyond risk transfer. You get better when...
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Bigger, Better, Brighter: Part One

One of the best questions I’ve ever heard is from Dan Sullivan of The Strategic Coach program. He asked, “Is your past greater than your future, or is your future greater than your past?” I certainly hope it’s the latter and that you’re more excited about what’s on the horizon than what’s in the rear view mirror.

Of course, we all know people who live in the past. Their glory days are well behind them and yet they talk about them like it was just yesterday. Maybe it’s the former captain of the high school football team whose conversation will frequently turn to “the big game” from 40-plus years ago.

Similarly, there are producers who wax poetic about “the good old hard market days.”

Let’s face it, as an independent insurance agency owner or producer, your past has been pretty darn good. After all, this is a great business, and that’s exactly why you should expect an even greater future.

Years ago...

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Quantum Leaping Your Career: Part Two

results Apr 29, 2016

Practice and rehearse.

I love the idea that when passion and skill come together, the result is a masterpiece. Now just imagine the result if you added practice to the mix. No matter how great you are at doing what you love, you’ll be better prepared to share your masterpiece if you commit to ongoing practice.

Conversely, when was the last time you saw a presentation so atrocious that it was obvious the speaker was completely unprepared? Have you ever been that speaker? If so, there’s a good chance you didn’t practice enough.

You never want to lose a sale to, or compete against someone who is better prepared than you. If you do, and you lose a sale to someone who studied harder and knows the account better than you, shame on you for even being in that game.

You get only one chance to make a good first impression.

If you’ve ever watched Shark Tank, The Voice or other weekly TV competitions, you know that the contestants have just a minute or two to...

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Quantum Leaping Your Career: Part One

results Apr 29, 2016

In the early days of my Producer Training Camps, we’d have brand new producers— literally just licensed and in the business for only a few months—as well as 30-year-plus veterans who were still committed to improving. I’d always tell the younger producers to pay very close attention to what we were going to talk about in the camp because if they did, what they learned was going to quantum leap their careers by 10 years or more.

Naturally, that would get their attention! And naturally, they wanted to know how. I’d tell them: “Because I’m going to share all the dumb things average producers do to shoot themselves in the foot.”

I’ve been developing these strategies and behaviors for a very long time. So what are some of the best lessons that I have learned and shared with producers that allow them to quantum leap their careers and not be just average?

A problem left unattended becomes a crisis.

We’ve all done it. We see a...

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Stop Losing Millions!

Uncategorized Apr 29, 2016

Eventually, every agency owner will leave their business. Whether or not you want to, whether it’s through internal or external perpetuation, you are going to leave. Knowing that this is going to happen, why leave millions of dollars on the table when you do?

In today’s merger and acquisition environment, every $125,000 of additional operating profit you generate is worth approximately $1 million of value. That’s why now is the time for agency owners to stop doing business and start building their business.

In his original work, “The E Myth,” Michael Gerber popularized the phrase, “Are you working in your business or on your business?” But because that book is now over 25 years old, I fear that it has become a cliché. The idea behind the phrase may sound good and be good, but it appears too many agency owners just aren’t following the advice.

In order to adapt that principle to today’s world, perhaps the real key is to...

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Is Your Agency Broken: Part Two

Uncategorized Apr 29, 2016

Accounts receivable.

If you have an accounts receivable problem, you better fix it.

It's not as prevalent today as it was in the past, because direct bill has resolved problems with collections for so many agencies. However, if you ever have to write off a bad debt, what's the cost?

Let's take a write-off of only $10,000. At an average commission rate of 13% and a profit of 15%, you'd have to write $512,820 of new premiums to replace the lost profit caused by the write-off. Mind-boggling, isn't it? So if you do not have a process for zero accounts receivable over 30 days, you'd better fix it the day before yesterday.

Missed sales goals.

If the majority of your producers are not hitting their annual sales goals, that needs to be fixed. I believe this is rampant in our industry. Goals with no accountability are a joke and your producers know it. There's really no consequence if they don't hit their goal, other than they make less money. But they're not the only ones making less...

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