In a recent post I talked about how the insurance and benefits industry needs new ideas. We're in a deficit of original ideas, having built the independent agency system over the previous 150+ years on the ideas of the carriers. It was in their best interest to develop relationships with local, independent folks who would sell products on their behalf. Not wanting managerial and financial responsibility for the agencies themselves, the independent structure emerged and has been fabulously successful for as long as any of us can remember.
As we all know, we're starting to see some chinks in the box that was the standard business model of the independent agencies. We're seeing carriers:
- limiting contracts to only their most productive agencies.
- reducing or cutting commissions on the products agencies are selling.
- doing an end-around on the agencies, soliciting renewals directly from the employers.
- setting up mobile registration units in front of hospitals and sports stadiums to write individual policies directly.
I really, really hope anyone reading this is not waiting in anxious anticipation for the antics of Congress to change these things and put your business back the way it once was. Those days are gone, and it's up to each agency to create its new normal. Which, if you read our blog at all, you know we think is a fantastic opportunity!
I read a great article in Bloomberg Businessweek about boosting creativity and stretching the boundaries of what businesses sell, and I think it's directly applicable to all agencies today.
The authors suggest creating a new mental box. This is an excellent description and creates a wonderful visual to start thinking about what your current mental box looks like (basically your business model) and what your new mental box could look like.
Current Insurance Agency Mental Box
|We sell insurance products to help individuals and/or companies mitigate the amount of financial risk they have around their property and health care needs.|
What if you explored a different Mental Box? What could some of those boxes look like?
|We help employers manage their employees.||We help employers attract and retain talented employees.|
|We help HR managers become strategic contributors to the profitability of the company.||We help clients build profitable and growing companies.|
|We help develop organizationally healthy companies.||We help build safe companies.|
|We help develop healthy employees and families.||We help create a growing business community by helping businesses get started.|
|We help create a healthy community.||We help build a safe community.|
|We help create happy homeowners / make homeownership possible and rewarding.||We help develop financially healthy employees.|
What could your business look like if you were to explore one of these other boxes as your new normal? As the foundation of your business model? In what ways could you help clients and offer services that are different or in addition to what you do today?
Everyone doesn't need, and shouldn't have, the exact same business model as the guy down the street. "Same" doesn't create a healthy business environment. Focusing on specific niche needs where you see gaps and get excited about filling them is exactly what creates healthy competition and a healthy economy.
The more you focus and specialize in a particular area, the better you learn it, the more in-depth you can go in providing service around it, and the more sought after you become because of that knowledge, expertise, and willingness to make a real difference for people.
Generic, high level information can be gotten anywhere. Just open your browser. In-depth expertise that comes from working consistently in an area and learning from your challenges and successes, and those of your clients, are what create the insight that make you invaluable to your clients.
My challenge to you is to create your own mental box. What does it look like? What things could you possibly fill it with?
And then I also challenge you to blow the walls off that box. Don't just remain in the confines of what it means today, but always be asking, challenging, pushing, observing, making suggestions, taking risks, and asking clients what they need. You'll soon find yourself with a whole new business for which you retain complete control and wondering why you didn't do this years ago.
Photo by Brenda Starr.