In December 2008 a small freckle appeared upon my face. I ignored it. In March, Floyd saw it and asked if I had been examined. I answered, "No and I don't plan to go." Floyd became agitated. He insisted I see a doctor. I ignored the freckle and Floyd's protestations.
The next day Floyd called with the time and date of my appointment. Since he had made such an effort (he called several doctors to get me in on an immediate basis -- the local doctors were all booked up), I consented to the visit.
My doctor took a skin sample for the lab. At 1:30 p.m. on April 20, 2009, my phone rang. I answered and heard, "Mike this is Dr. Patout -- its malignant melanoma."
I responded, "That's the one I don't want?" She agreed.
Days later she took a scoop out of my face, had it tested to confirm that she got it all and a week later another doctor sewed me up. Today I'm cancer free, much wiser, alive and a believer in doctors. But I'm also a believer in self-examination.
Here's the parallel to the world of agency. Today there are many conditions that will lead to a company's ultimate demise. Unfortunately for them, my doctor can't work her magic on those conditions. The best I can do is offer a format for self-examination.
In the interest of your agency's health, I offer the following:
Leadership: Organizational Balance and Decision Making
1. What are your purpose, vision, values, expectations, perpetuation plans, etc.?
2. Does everyone understand these and do they live them on a daily basis?
3. Does the culture align with these?
4. Are you willing to transition out those individuals who don't play by these rules?
Operations: Scale and Efficiency
1. Are you using proven systems for maximum results at minimum expense?
2. Is your operations team accountable for innovations and contributions to profit?
3. Have you eliminated redundancy in your systems and inside carrier relationships?
4. Do you require your team maximize Tech + Knowledge + Y (a.k.a. - Technology -- by aligning the possibilities of the "e-world" [social media and Internet], the wisdom and experience of your "gray hairs," and by encouraging all to constantly ask and answer "Y" [why and how can we do this better])?
Marketing: Scope / Efficacy
1. Are you an expert in your clients and their industries (more than in products)?
2. Does your process focus more on facilitating "their buying" than "your selling?"
3. Are you client defined and client driven (vs. producer defined and driven)?
4. Does your team work for your client (multiple "touches") or for the producer?
Intimacy: Anticipation of Needs / Speed to Market
1. Are you converting data to useable information to actionable knowledge?
2. Are you experimenting with this knowledge -- falling down and getting back up?
3. Are failures learning experiences or reasons to criticize?
4. Have you tested or measured every client, carrier, program, product, system, office, etc. that exists today against a background of 2020? Will what you do today work well in 2020?
Here's the rest of the story. When I first noticed the spot on my face, the first appointment available to me was in August 2009. My doctor told me if I had waited those extra six months, "I'd be dead today." I saw the freckle on my face the day it appeared and ignored it. I was feeling good -- dumb, fat and happy -- and dying!
Most agencies are doing well. I am absolutely certain that tomorrow will be significantly different than today. The changing demographics, culture and beliefs of our society, social media, technology, transparency and a government ready, willing and able to intervene with legislation, regulation and litigation are as real as was the "freckle on my face." If you are willing to bet the future on the way you live today, you are dumb fat and happy and dying!
In a world economy with limited growth, hyper-competition, scarcity of local talent, a continuing soft market and narrowing profit margins most agencies can't survive by continuing to do what they've always done. Innovation is required to live.
Here's one example of "life-saving" innovation:
There's an innovator here providing processing support services to insurance agencies by streamlining workflows and providing very smart people in China who work for less money than you have to pay your locals.
His clients are alive and thriving on dollars found in "expense reductions" and "process improvements." These are profits earned. Equally important local talent and working capital are freed up to reinvest into production and sales growth.
Most agencies would celebrate writing a Chinese account yet never consider having work done there. Don't be afraid to innovate!
Examine EVERYTHING you do? Act on what you discover!
October 17, 2012
Copyright 2012© LRP Publications