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From the Editor
"Ask an Expert" Briefs
In this section of the VU research library, we include tips for motivating employees, how to be a great boss, how to run a staff meeting, how to manage CSR workloads, how to measure employee performance, dealing with productivity problems, what to do with habitually tardy employees, and many more articles that will enhance your management performance.
11 Requirements for Management Success
Employees are your greatest expense, but they are also your most valuable asset. The loss of great or even just a “good” employee has a tremendous effect on the agency. How do you manage employees according to their style while giving them a sense of place and accomplishment? Follow these rules of management success.
Activity Reporting…Measuring the Heartbeat of the Agency
As agency owners and managers we have the opportunity to train our staff in what we want them to do. Then we “trust” them to do it. But how many of us “verify” that trust? Real managers use metrics to manage the operation of their agencies
Another Look at the 7 Habits
Are you one of the few people who have not read Stephen Coveys’ “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” book? Please purchase and read this book if you haven’t. Re-read it every six months or so to remind yourself of the things that will make you better as a person and as a businessperson. You will not regret the time spent in review.
Boost Your Sales and Life by Setting Goals
Goal setting does not have to be a long complicated process. As opposed to a complex list of daily, weekly, monthly, and annual goals in all the major areas of your life, you can simply set one or two major goals at a time in one or two areas of your life.
Creating Achievable Goals and Objectives
If your staff is confused about the difference between goal setting and action planning read this clarifying article. The process should create synergy among all employees as well as achievable goals for the agency.
Employee Engagement: For Agency Principals and Agency Managers
The term employee engagement encompasses much more than what we may think it does. For all agencies, big and small, a continuous approach to increase employee engagement is key. An engaged employee “is intellectually and emotionally bound to the organization, feels passionately about its goals and is committed to live by its values.” And this impacts your bottom line and your ability to acquire and retain great employees.
Practicing the 7 Habits in Insurance Agencies – Habit #4
While Covey’s first three habits, Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, and Putting First Things First were private concerns to the individual, his next three habits are public habits, reflective of your character and that of your business.
Problems or Roadblocks
Whether you have written plans or informal plans, a key to your plan’s success is how you face the inevitable problems or roadblocks that arise in the course of your personal or business lives. Each time you encounter an issue or reason that a planned course cannot be pursued you have three options....
The Theory of Relativity: The Physics of Working with Family
Too many agencies have “Uncle Larry” working for them in one form or another. We either don’t want to or can’t fire them but we can’t keep them in place subverting the forward movement of our business. Too many agency owners simply give up and live with an intolerable situation because it is more painful to solve the problem than to suffer the problem. They lose valuable employees who lose faith in the agency because they allow Uncle Larry to ruin the morale and workflow of the business.
Virtual Management and Dashboard Reports
We initially created our first Dashboard Report for absentee owners and “virtual” managers of an agency who wanted to know (in two pages) “everything” that were going on in their business. So we created a Dashboard Report that told the owners the following statistics….
10 Warning Signs of Business Crisis
General Jimmy Doolittle once said, 'The problem with Americans is that we're fixers, rather than preventers.' In this article, Al Diamond shares 10 Warning Signs that can signal problems in your agency. If these red flags are recognized soon enough, and the associated problems successfully resolved, crisis can be avoided in almost any small business. Read on to see if any of these warning signs appear in your agency...
11 Ways to Be a Great Boss
Working with a group recently, I asked, 'Tell me the qualities of the best bosses you’ve ever had.' Since we were all seasoned enough to have experienced a few bosses in our careers, the ideas began to flow. Then I asked a flipside question, 'What are the some of the things you really dislike in bosses?' I took my notes and played around with them and saw something neat emerging....
3 Tips for Motivating Employees
It's tough to motivate employees to consistently create the kinds of positive customer experiences that lead to customer loyalty. It's like customer care; you can't 'mandate' motivation any more than you can 'mandate' that frontline employees feel genuine care for your customers. And the challenge can never be fully resolved if managers don't learn more about what makes their employees tick.
A Failed Plan and the Solution
Have you developed a strategic plan then hit a wall, ready to throw up your hands in defeat? What has typically happened is that you are discovering the difference between planning concept and process vs. implementation an management through your staff. You can neither plan alone nor implement a plan alone.
Agency Staff Meetings
'Our agency has set up monthly staff meetings. But, it seems to be getting harder to find topics to discuss at staff meetings that will benefit all employees. I would like to know what most insurance agencies do regarding staff meetings. In your opinion, how often should staff meetings be held? Also, what are some good topics for staff meetings that would benefit all employees and what sources are available for this information?'
Agency Survival in a Down Economy
As more businesses and individuals are economically affected by our Crisis in Confidence, insurance agencies and their owners must proactively alter their efforts in one of two ways. The only sure path to self-destruction in our industry is pretending that everything is all right and changing nothing.
Are You a 'Bus Driver' or a Business Owner?
Why are you in the insurance industry? Are you a ‘bus driver’ or a business owner? It is estimated that 75% of the 40,000 remaining agencies have revenues less than $250,000 – an astonishing percentage! Most of these small agents are in the insurance business simply to make a living. They hope that their businesses can provide some source of retirement income, but they can do little to build or encourage the growth of that value.
Back(wards) From the Future: Goal Setting and Goal Getting
The information in this one article can change your life - but only if you have the commitment and intestinal fortitude to change habits of a lifetime. You see, this article is about how to get things done, done right - every time, and done efficiently. In this article, I'll explore a proven goal-setting process...how to work backwards from your goals to move forwards toward your goals.
Building Better Partnerships
Unjust rewards are the #1 issue of contention in the partnership disputes I’ve witnessed. In most situations, at least one partner believes his efforts are not being duly recognized (financially or otherwise) and/or the other partner is being grossly overcompensated for sub-par results. Either way, the build-up of resentment and frustration can crumble an agency.
Catch 22...Chicken or Elephant? Delegating Your Way to Success
An agency's two most critical assets are its staff and their time. How each of these resources is used determines your level of success. The misuse of these resources causes a Catch-22 type situation in which we cannot get results because we don't have the time, we cannot gain more time because our personnel are not adequate, and we can't upgrade our personnel because our results don't permit it.
CSR Workloads...How Much Can They Handle?
One of the toughest tasks for any agency manager is determining how much work a staff person should be able to handle. Workloads in either extreme can lead to frustration and lost productivity. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers but, in this article, our agency management gurus take a stab at some of the factors that should be considered and 'on average' what some of the numbers may look like.
Customer Care and Employee Care Go Hand in Hand
Creating an environment where both customers and employees want to pledge their loyalty is a function of good planning as much as good intention. As companies compete for qualified personnel (like they compete for customers) we all need to get better at developing and keeping talented staff. Losing talented employees costs you money and often costs you customers.
Do You Mean Your Mission Statement?
Many insurance agencies, like many other businesses in the United States, have embraced the process of strategic and tactical planning. If you still feel that writing down your strategic and tactical objectives, benchmarking them and tracking your process through the year is a waste of time, please call us. You either need some further education, or your business is heading for a stone wall.
All too often, insurance agency management fails due to poor execution: not putting the right people in the right place. Most agencies face a consistent cadre of problems: lack of good people, automation, soft pricing, companies, and poor producers. Every one of these problems can be fixed.
I have seen a full range of hiring philosophies in insurance agencies. Some agency owners place great emphasis in various personality tests, especially when hiring producers. At the other end of the spectrum, I have seen agency owners that believe anyone can do the job if they just work hard enough. Hard work alone though, while obviously important, will not make just anyone a successful salesperson, or an engineer, or an attorney, or a mechanic. People have personalities that make them more likely to succeed in certain endeavors.
Growing Your Agency Through Effective Staffing
Retaining your good producers and losing your bad ones increases your agency growth and profitability without any other changes needed. Adding more good producers and avoiding bad producers can add growth mathematically and profit exponentially.
How to Set and Achieve Goals
With the new year now upon us, most likely many of you have set New Year's resolutions for personal or organizational goals. And, most likely, you've done this in the past with little or no success. In this article, I'll explain why goals are most often not met and I'll present a proven goal-setting methodology that can significantly increase the likelihood that you'll accomplish your goals. As a bonus, included are some downloadable forms and a link to an article called 'How to Increase Commissions by 50%!' that applies these principles to a real-life goal.
If It Happened Today, Are You Ready?
September 11. Some suffered direct hits, others catastrophic claims, still others market disruptions. While you may be fortunate enough to never be stricken with such massive 'destruction and distress,' what other events might cause your agency 'grave misfortune': I/T failure? Burglary or vandalism? Professional liability? Fire? Loss of market? Do you have a plan? We do....
Management Reports Critical to Your Agency
As we approach a new year, I would like to offer agents a Management Information System (MIS) designed to educate managers and inform agency owners. Knowledge of critical information permits proactive, rather than reactive, management. It informs owners when things are going right and when changes need to be made to enhance productivity, efficiency and effectiveness within the agency.
Motivation and De-Motivation
Motivated people can be hired and the motivation can be squeezed right out of them depending on their treatment by the business managers and owners. Conversely, some unmotivated people with the right PMA characteristics can become motivated by the treatment they receive from their managers.
NASCAR and Your Agency
NASCAR has experienced incredible growth these last five to ten years. The rapid growth of this sport though has many teams struggling, especially at the management level. Believe or not, this presents a very real parallel to insurance agency management in a growing agency.
Once and Done...The Keys to Efficiency in Agency Operations
The average productivity in insurance agencies has risen to more than $100,000 (measured in terms of revenue per employee). Yet we still encounter many agencies whose revenue per employee is between $50,000 and $80,000 and can’t seem to advance beyond those levels. Why is productivity important and what can you do about it?
Optimizing Your Mailstream to Gain Customer Loyalty
Customer acquisition and retention, and high direct mail costs are pressing issues that independent insurance agents and brokers face today. In addition, new and existing players in the virtual and traditional worlds are continuing to intensify competition. However, by applying best practices and an integrated, end-to-end approach to mailstream management, you can help gain a competitive edge and stay ahead of the game.
Partnering with Carriers
Motherhood, apple pie & partnering with carriers. We all agree that these things are inherently GOOD, but what does an agency partnering with its companies imply? What are the commitments that an agency should make and what are the appropriate expectations in return? And what should we do and expect if those commitments turn out to be lip service or ‘Good Times Commitments’ (maintained until times get tough, then are abandoned)?
Personnel Productivity Problems
A small agency has two support staff, one a 23 year veteran and the other a friend of that CSR's who was hired 4 years ago. The agency owner believes they have too much personal converstation and would like them to spend that time doing account development. How should this issue be addressed and should it be done individually or together?
Practice Does, In Fact, Make Perfect
How many of us were told to keep practicing if we wanted to be good at sports, instruments, dancing, singing, golf, etc.? Whether it was our mothers, our coaches, or our business consultants, that advice has resulted in ALL of the great performers, golfers, sports players, AND BUSINESS OWNERS that exist today.
The key to the successful agencies, even in this market, is a positive mental attitude that begins with the owners and is reinforced with a vengeance on every employee of the agency upon threat of job loss. Just as one rotten apple will spoil an entire barrel, it only takes one poor attitude to infect an entire staff. And that poor attitude radiates from the individual to those around him, to his clients and his carriers and even to his managers.
If you believe that purposely and specifically planning your business efforts to assure your success is a viable way of operating your business, if you would like a larger, more profitable business whose intrinsic value is building, and if you do not fear working toward your goals, it is not too late to develop a strategic plan for your agency.
Strategic Planning in the 21st Century
The components of Planning remain the same, but the importance is now on the long term goals of the company more than on the tactical (annual) operational plan. If you continue to concentrate only on the annual planning process, you may succeed on a regular basis only to find yourself obsolete within a short time. This article presents a primer on how to move from strategic to tactical planning in the coming century.
The 7 Maxims of Time Management
I've been a time management disciple since my sophomore year in college when I realized that, if I didn't become more organized and develop sounder study habits, my educational environment would move from Southside Chicago to Southeast Asia. This article is based on my seminar by the same name and I have a book in the works on the subject...anybody insure a book publisher? :-).
The Art of Management
The greatest problem for most agency managers lies in the area of management of employees and employee relationships. Even the most enlightened agency managers tend to take their employees for granted and do not give them credit for what they know nor empower them to do their job without significant management intervention. The worst of the owners and managers treat their employees in an almost robotic fashion...
The Cost of (Not) Training
If we look closely at companies that are doing well in the long run, they almost always have in place a well thought out and executed training program for their people. They understand that the price for not training is the real expense of training. In this article, Dr. Wetmore demonstrates the true cost of not training.
The Elephant Hunter
I was recently contacted by a smart young agent who had come into the business through his father, learned the trade, and received a promise of financial backing for the acquisition of an agency. He had formed a relationship with a strong local agency and now felt capable (after one year) of going after much larger “game”—'elephant hunting' was his term for it—with respect to agency size. I’d like to share my answer to him with you....
The Four "R's" of Business Survival
A few generations ago the three 'R's' -- Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmatic were the keys to education and success in the business marketplace. While these are still important (and rarer to find than in the fifties, sixties and seventies), the survival of businesses in the American economy now depends on the four new 'R's'...Restructuring, Reorganization, Re-engineering, and Reinventing.
The Great Compromise
The great compromise involves working smarter rather than harder. Of course, twelve hours of working smarter is always going to pay more than ten hours of working smarter but many people that worked twelve hours per day did, and do, because they are not working smart. By working smarter, a lot of agents can generate as much revenue and profit by working ten hours per day rather than twelve.
Time Management for Insurance Agents
The smartest agents get a lot done, make a good living AND still have free time for family and community. Agents who are consumed by their business role tend to be much busier but less productive and less economically rewarded than their smarter counterparts. Here's how the smart agents make money rather than just being busy....
Triage...A Backlog Reduction Program
There are many agents who choose to worry about backlogs, but not attend to them until they become crises. These are the “firefighters” among us who are too busy to teach fire safety because they are constantly fighting fires. What they don’t realize is that taking care of the fire safety issues is what avoids many of the fires in the first place.
Understanding Employee Personalities (Part 1 of 2)
Understanding the five basic insurance agency personality types can help an agency principal or manager hire the right person and properly motivate existing personnel, thus achieving optimum performance. The five basic personality types are the CSR, the inside salesperson, the commercial salesperson, the health/life salesperson and the underwriter. This article covers the first two.
Understanding Employee Personalities (Part 2 of 2)
Understanding the five basic insurance agency personality types can help an agency principal or manager hire the right person and properly motivate existing personnel, thus achieving optimum performance. The five basic personality types are the CSR, the inside salesperson, the commercial salesperson, the health/life salesperson and the underwriter. This article covers the last three.
What to Do With Tardy Employees
One or a few employees seem to be congenitally late. One or more of them are even valuable or essential employees but other tardy employees are just marginal. You want everyone to be at work on time but you also want to be flexible, especially to your valued employees who seem to put in more time at the office than most. What do you do that is fair, consistent, but not insensitive?
So much about insurance agency management success has nothing to do with strategy. Success is more about execution than strategy. Success is about hard work. Success is about accountability at all levels. Success is about standing up and accounting for something. Are you asking what else can be done to attain success or are you finding excuses and crutches?
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