Last month, we sat down with InsureFit RM President and national Big "I" Diversity Council member, Mel Evans, to talk about the process his team went through to become recognized as a leading national Best Practices Agency. Learn how to become a Best Practices Agency here. Mel Evans
President of InsureFit RM
Mel began working at a large independent agency in which he was licensed in 48 states. He eventually became a direct writer for a large carrier before opening Insurefit RM in 2013. As president of the company, he is involved in every facet of the operation including marketing, sales, and service. Mel is a big fan of University of Tennessee athletics. He was a member of University of Tennessee’s (UT) football program in the late 90’s, and his daughter also currently attends UT! Mel says he is most proud of his team and the family atmosphere that they have fostered in the Insurefit RM office.
Before we get into Mel's interview here are some insights on how agency best practices and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) intersect.
"When assessing and implementing a complete set of best practices and tools to aid in the continued growth and success of your agency, DEI must be ingrained in every aspect your operations. Processes that recognize and acknowledge the differences in both the employee and customer base can equip management and staff with the ability to learn more about the impact of diversity on their operations and help them to find ways to enhance the interactions and contributions of all parties. Agencies need to create a best practices leadership metric that defines expectations and clear goals that promote the ongoing full participation and sense of belonging for all employees, customers and strategic partners."
-Madelyn Flannagan, Big "I" Vice President of Agent Development, Education and Research
Interview with Mel Evans
Tell us a little bit about your agency, InsureFit RM.
We're a small but growing agency located in Knoxville, Tennessee. We're getting ready to hit the nine-year mark—so almost at double digits. We take a more focused approach with our clients, so we're not a generalist agency by any means. Some of our targeted verticals are breweries, distilleries, construction, nonprofits and churches.
What's something you learned from the analysis of your agency as you went through the Best Practices process that changed how you do business?
I learned quite a bit going through the Best Practices process, but I'll have to point to sales velocity. This isolates the component of organic growth that we can most influence—new business. This lets us know how good we are at sales and is a great indicator of growth. I pay close attention to this one, since we're still a fairly young agency.
As you look back on the first time you went through the process of gathering data and submitting it to Reagan Consulting where there any “aha!" moments and do you have any tips to share on the process?
No “aha!" moment but I will say: be prepared. There will be extensive financial, operational and sales data to collect. We were fortunate to have a great agency management system and accounting team that assisted in the process. Also plan on having dedicated time to work on it. It's been a couple of years, but if I had to estimate, we spent a couple of hours a week during the data collection process. This was something I greatly underestimated going into it.
What would be your tip to an agency that wants to use Best Practices but doesn't know where to start?
Contact your local state association, the Big “I," or one of your carriers and ask to be nominated.
Have you used Best Practices as an educational tool or marketing tool?
This is an area where we definitely need to do better. Inevitably, the Best Practices data comes to light during a sales meeting and can really deepen the conversation as it relates to certain topics. Regarding marketing, I'm really just now kicking it into high gear and using it as a marketing tool. I've reached out to some local business publications to have them put out a press release. We plan on doing some social media marketing. And maybe a direct mail campaign to let folks in town know there's a Best Practices agency in their backyard.
Being a member of the national Big "I" Diversity Council, let us know why you think building an agency culture of diversity and inclusion is another important step agencies should take to become even more competitive?
Since day one, the agency has emphasized diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and we'll keep doing that. This is a wave that's picking up and will continue to do so. Not only because it's the right thing to do but it leads to building a successful agency. There's value in having a diverse workforce: better performance and productivity, increased creativity, reduced employee absenteeism, to name a few. There's a lot of momentum in the D&I space right now, let's keep it going.
When it comes to staffing, as a Best Practices Agency how are you finding, empowering and engaging new talent?
We use multiple channels when hiring and try to leave no stone unturned. In addition to the traditional job websites, we use our vast network of the many associations we belong to, including the Urban League, Centro Hispano and Knoxville Chamber's Diversity Champions to name a few. We work with several nonprofits and I sit on two boards. We also utilize the University of Tennessee, which is here in Knoxville. All of these are potential avenues to find a new hire.
As the old saying goes, you learn from your mistakes. Early on, I made a few quick hires without doing any due diligence. We now have a process that everyone has to go through and it's extensive. Hire slow and fire fast.
In the next three years, where do you see your agency investing more financial resources and time?
We've purchased a building, which will be close to downtown, and will relocate the agency there, hopefully by the end of summer 2022. This is a major investment and a lot of energy and effort are going into it. It'll be an insurance and risk management-focused space and will be centered around the client experience. Technology is critical in today's environment and it will be prevalent in the agency. We have some ideas on how to use technology and be creative with it in the new space.
What marketing strategies do you think independent agencies need to embrace to continue to grow market share?
There's no one size fits all here. Agencies need to develop a strategy that's relevant to their brand, whether it be digital or using more traditional means. Technologically speaking, there are several tools at our disposal to assist. However, we shouldn't forget this is a people business and there's no replacing the human element.
What's one strategy that could help an agency grow their business?
I'd suggest tapping into the specialization piece. It really helps streamline operations when having targeted verticals. It solidifies your reputation as being the expert when you focus on a particular market—and galvanizes your position within the industry as a major player.