First, please tell us a bit about yourself and the path that led you to create Angela Adams Consulting (AAC).
My undergraduate degree is in accounting, my masters is in Marketing - I worked in an agency in Augusta GA, and then formed a from scratch agency with 3 producers. In 1997, I was an independent contractor to Vertafore to help move agencies to AFW before Y2K.
I started Angela Adams Consulting in 2001 with two “whys" – 1) I wanted to work from home when my son was small, and 2) I wanted to help agencies optimize the way they used technology to better serve their customers.
Once I realized that having a work/life balance was possible – I wanted others to have it as well. I taught my husband to do DB statements and my sister to do bank recons and we were off. We now have 81 employees in 21 different states working in three segments – Accounting, Consulting, and CSR services.
We now shine the light to success for 700 agencies – helping them utilize technology to provide a better experience for their customers
Angela Adams Consulting covers a LOT of territory across the services you provide – from general to specialty. Is there one main type of workflow issue that agencies come to you most often for help addressing, or is it all over the board?
The reason we cover so much territory is that we try to find ways to say “yes" to clients. We figure out how to address their needs, then find that other agents need the same services. This just organically expands our reach and support structure.
An example of this is the reason we have a CSR segment; there was an agency in Atlanta that only insured Churches and that data was not going to convert when they implemented the management system “AfW", he asked if we could manually convert the files for him. I asked a friend who worked in an agency if she could help, and our CSRs services were born. It is as unique as each agency and we enjoy delving into every one of them. We've helped many agencies move to paperless workflows, we help them implement new technologies – not just the management system – but incorporating imaging programs, payment programs, and Microsoft Teams, just to name a few. We love helping each agency find the best workflows that fit their needs and culture. They call us independent agencies for a reason – no two are the same and that is part of why I love this industry. Each agency owner brings a different personality and goals to their agency. Some want customer service to be 'Ritz Carlton'-level, and others focus on volume quoting and don't worry about what they lose on the back end. Some are generalists and others have found niches they are passionate about. We love them all and always incorporate what makes them unique into our recommendations.
Emerging technology like insuretechs has impacted our industry greatly – lots of pros and cons. Though AAC services seem more workflow-related, technology intertwines with everything. Has technology acceleration over the last couple of years impacted you? If so, what are the pros and cons from your POV?
We love all tech that makes workflows easier for agencies and frees them up for more client-facing time. We teach agencies how to incorporate these exciting new technologies into their daily work. We have had a lot of third-party vendors try to pay us to recommend their software to agencies, but we have always refused any compensation. We want our agencies to know that if we recommend a vendor, it is because we believe it is the best solution for them – not because we are getting anything out of it. We do look at a lot of solutions – vendors are always wanting to show us how their tech will make agencies more efficient – some of these are very exciting and we often make recommendations to the vendors to improve their solutions.
Okay, let's talk about the elephant that just won't leave the room – COVID. How has this impacted Angela Adams Consulting? Increase in requests for services? Have you had to adjust your services or have you seen opportunities because of the pandemic?
In 2020, we had a growth rate of 19% over 2019. We are very blessed to have the three segments that complement each other very well. Our CSR services grew by 52% last year as agencies need us to fill the gaps for them, our accounting grew by 9%, Consulting actually grew by 21%; despite our onsite consulting dropping to zero for April through August. We have been a remote company for 20 years, but we were still impacted – now our employees had their spouses and children working from home with them and this greatly added to their stress. We had employees who had to move from FT to PT to become teachers to their kids. But I will say, our group of 80 people stepped up in incredible ways – taking care of each other and our customers - finding ways to make things work.
We helped our clients learn to work from home and agency owners get comfortable that they could monitor their employees who were working from home – I suspect many of those employees will not be coming back to the office. We had to find ways to do things remotely that we always did onsite -like write procedure manuals which is so dependent on really understanding an agencies culture and goals.
As an aside, it seems like AAC was custom-designed to flourish for the current WfH/pandemic environment – What key components did you focus on when developing and growing AAC to take advantage of the 'remote experts' in your group?
Completely by accident, our three segments are very complimentary. In hard times, agencies choose to outsource accounting and CSR services – particularly in situations when you need a one-half-time person, but agencies cut back on training and workflow improvements. In good times, agencies spend more on training and workflow improvements. We have a lot of people in our group who are crossed trained – if consulting slows down, these people switch to accounting or CSR services. Conversely, if we have higher training demand, some of our accounting or CSRs are capable of providing training. And actually – some of these people who do the work every day make great trainers.
You have a long history of supporting and being active during the Vertafore User Group (NetVU) national conferences – first ARCom, then AMSUG, NetVU, and now Accelerate. Could you share with us a bit how this not only provides visibility for AAC but also how you're able to help agents to a greater degree because of your presence?
I first became involved in a user's group in 1985 when I relied on the Atlanta Chapter of AMSUG to help me. I have been a huge advocate of user groups ever since. We love seeing current and prospective customers at industry events – including Accelerate, and have really missed those that have cancelled due to COVID. We love teaching classes at events and sharing our knowledge with others. And we love meeting with other technology providers and learning what they are doing that we can share with our customers.
You have a love for helping people so I think I may know the answer to this question, but I have to ask anyway: What brings you the greatest joy in leading your team?
In May of 2020, we started an internal Leadership Development program – something we had talked about for a while, but the pandemic gave us the time to actually do it. We have nine employees under 40 years old who are going through this year-long program which includes, readings, projects, seminars, discussions, and a monthly one-on-one call with me. Watching these folks grow into our future leaders has been so awesome. We also implemented an “ESP" (employee success program) in 2020 where we group all the new employees hired during a quarter and have them meet and learn together. We also started career tracks in 2021 to grow the skill sets of current employees to meet the needs of our clients, and I am really enjoying that as well. We have someone who joined our team as a CSR four years ago and has grown to be a regional manager in those four short years. So, I guess the answer is watching our team grow and develop.
How do you see technology impact the way agencies use services – particularly yours – moving into the future? More opportunities, more need to adjust, or both?
When I first started doing accounting for agencies in 2003, I used a dial-up modem and GoToMyPC software – we have come so far since then and I know we will go even further, even faster in the future. I think any agencies who had reservations coming into 2020 about remote services have learned that yes it does work as they made all of their own employees remote! I think more agencies will look to us to fill gaps they have in personnel and will rely on us to shine the light on their success as they navigate the changing technology landscape in the future. I think one of the characteristics that has made us successful for 20 years is adaptability; Our group thrives on challenges and adapting.
Why do you love being part of ACT?
I feel it is very important for both agencies, carriers, and vendors to get out of their daily weeds & fires and get a different perspective and come together to solve issues across the industry. It provides a forum for all to share their challenges and insights!
As a parting shot, what are you personally looking forward to doing in the coming years?
As our company continues to grow at an amazing rate (and because of COVID) – I am turning my attention to internal projects – developing our staff for the future, making sure we have the right internal structure to give our clients a 'wow' experience as we grow. Making sure that as we grow and there are more employees that I don't know, that ensuring our culture remains true to our values.
I would love to offer Leadership and Management training to agencies, similar to the Leadership Development program we do internally. Especially during a generational transfer, we find that the next generation has been taught how to sell insurance but not how to run an agency or how to lead an organization.
Angela Adams is President of Angela Adams Consulting Services, https://www.angelaadamsconsulting.com/