As a consumer, do you ever see a business that is in such obvious need of fixing, or see a huge opportunity for improvement, that you just shake your head and wonder what in the world is the owner doing? How can they possibly miss this?!

If they would just offer (this feature) I would pay a premium!

Or

How in the world can they continue to let that person be their front line representative?! They are losing business as a result and don't even know it.

Or

Why doesn't the coffee shop have someplace to pour out the excess/leftover coffee? Why have it poured in the trashcan only to leak all over the floor? (Admittedly this is a personal frustration that comes from not taking care of the details or not taking the time to experience your own business as a customer does.)

Or

Do they have any idea how antiquated their model is? If I started competing with them tomorrow, they would be out of business by the end of the year.

It's all about perspective

The thing is, from the distance of a consumer or outsider, it is often much easier to see the vulnerabilities or missed opportunities of someone else's business. Sometimes those vulnerabilities and missed opportunities seem to apply to an entire industry. This last point was reinforced recently through a conversation I had with someone brand new to the insurance industry.

This gentlemen had spent 20 years in another industry and was brought in to an independent agency with the task of "making them relevant again". After just a few months in our industry, and 400 hours of analysis (believe me, he analyzed every aspect of our industry thoroughly), here is a partial summary of his analysis.

  • The brokers who are chasing individual and small group business are "dead men walking".
  • The industry is rapidly aging and filled with (primarily) men who had an amazing run of luck over the past 20+ years.
  • Most brokers know little to nothing about how to truly run a business.
  • Most owners are "rugged individuals" who are not going to be able to meet the consultative, technological and cultural changes demanded by the changes resulting from healthcare reform.
  • Providing quotes and answering your own phones and calling that customer services isn't gonna cut it.
  • Because most owners don't really have a "business owner" mindset, they will be slow and cheap to execute any real and meaningful change that the marketplace will demand (i.e. human capital, technology platforms, cultural change, structure/systems, mentorship and accountability) thereby making them...well, like the dinosaurs...extinct.

Is that an overly harsh assessment? I don't think so. I think it fairly and accurately describes some of the fundamental vulnerabilities we have as an industry.

With the exception of the coffee question, I think every one of the questions I ask above could be applied to almost every agency's business model. In particular, the last question/observation I mention above should scare the hell out of you.

Do they have any idea how antiquated their model is? If I started competing with them tomorrow, they would be out of business by the end of the year.

Who is asking this question and making this observation of your business? Is it one of your own employees who could go out on their own tomorrow? Is it a forward thinking competitor? Or, is it somebody you can't even see? It's safe to assume that somewhere there is someone (intentionally or by accidental observation) evaluating this industry and your business. And what they see may have a bright neon sign above it flashing "OPPORTUNITY!!" And with such obvious opportunity, they may now be plotting to take over. Kind of a scary thought isn't it?

Well, instead of being paralyzed by that fear, capitalize on the vulnerability of the industry yourself. As best you can, step back and analyze your agency, and this industry, with the eyes of an outsider (I would also include asking clients/prospects to offer a critique). Do so and you can be the one putting your competitors out of business by the end of the year.

 

Photo by North West Air Ambulance.