I had a roommate in college who was a great guy, but he was always looking for a short cut, an easy way out. He was a sucker for any "get rich quick" scheme, magic pill, or most any late night infomercial.
Before spring break one year, he decided he needed a tan. So, of course, he ordered "tanning pills". Not that getting a conventional tan is hard work, but taking a pill must be even easier, right? Well, I don't remember the recommended dosage, but, in his "get there easier and faster" mentality, if the bottle recommended 1, then 5 must be even better! Long story short, his skin turned an Oompa Loompa orange, and the palms of his hands looked like he had been digging in a bag of Cheetos.
He was always trying to figure out how to avoid any hard work. He was a great example that not only will not being willing to do the hard work not get you the results you want/need, but looking for a short-cut, an easy way out, will most often make your situation worse.
It's time to get real
Unfortunately, the challenges our industry are currently facing have pulled back the curtain on an industry filled with "Oompa Loompas".
I'm going to be blunt. Too many insurance agencies are afraid of doing the necessary hard work. Let me repeat; too many agencies and producers are afraid of doing the hard work necessary to ensure their long-term survival.
They want to wave the banner of being Independent, but the reality couldn't be farther from the truth. They have found themselves dependent, some might say addicted, to the overly generous commission schedules of the carriers.
Now, like with any dependency, when the source of their habit is being taken away, we see the predictable reactions.
- Some are in flat-out denial.
- Some give up and quit.
- Others simply go through the motions of healing themselves, pretending things are getting better.
- And there are some agencies/producers out there who are doing some amazing things with their business, but they are far too few of them right now.
The pretenders and addicts
It's the pretenders among us that are the most frustrating to watch. They see the threat, they understand the consequences, and they start to drive real change. However, they stop too painfully soon when they find an easy way out and are really left with nothing more than a superficial fix to their situation.
With their only "drug"/product (e.g., insurance) being threatened, they are motivated enough to go looking for a better way. However, they are easily fooled by a "get rich quick" scheme, magic pill, or 2 a.m. infomercial. And as soon as they find ONE new answer (could be a compliance solution or a technology solution) to take to their clients, they allow themselves to fall into a new addiction and allow their dependency on someone else's product to continue.
The change agents
Just as exciting as the pretenders are frustrating, is the final group we call change agents. Truly the strongest among us; they recognize how unhealthy their dependence has been and are doing the hard work of taking control of their business. They recognize they can no longer be dependent on someone else's product, and it is a fool's game to allow a third party to determine your value. Instead, they are doing the VERY hard work of recovery – changing the very fundamentals of their business model.
The business model of these change agents embraces the spirit of Independence. They recognize that being Independent doesn't simply mean they aren't tied to a single carrier; they understand that it MUST mean they aren't tied to any single way of helping their clients. And, regardless of how many ways they can help today, they are committed to adding more ways tomorrow.
If you are not one of these change agents, you are about to get run over by them. That is, if you don't create your own demise before they get there.
This is not a time for quitting, denial, pretending, or feel-good answers. This is the time to reduce your dependency on someone else's product. This is a time to define your own sustainable, healthy business model. This is the time to get out there and bust your ass every day to make it happen.
Do this, and I PROMISE you will be putting your best days in front of you and rolling over the competition on your way there.
You'll know you've arrived when you can step back, look at your business, and know your success is dependent on nothing other than your continued hard work.
- If you find yourself surrounded by enablers, find a new crowd.
- If you find yourself attending a conference with sessions selling snake oil, run like hell.
- If you think your answer is as simple as just writing a check, put your checkbook away.
This is your business, it's your future, and it's worth you giving it everything you have.
Photo by Martin Thomas.