We’ve been talking a lot about taking control of your business model because the status quo is no longer good enough to run a thriving business. It’s imperative for the future of independent benefits agencies to begin thinking differently, and as such, it’s definitely something you’ll hear us talking about quite a bit. Because it’s that important.
My ponderings on this topic have taken me to asking the question,
“Is there a difference between being a benefits/insurance agency and being some other kind of business or company?”
There are some technical differences but more so, I think it’s a mindset difference. That mindset seems to contribute to cultural behaviors expected of an “agency”. And that mindset and culture might be holding you back from thinking bigger.
Agencies are businesses that represent insurance companies to buyers and sell the products/services of the insurance company at the prices determined by the insurance company.
Non-agency / non-franchise businesses are a creation of the owners’ ideas and passions brought together to fill a consumer need.
These non-agency businesses represent their own products, services, and skills. In order to stay in business, they must continuously deliver what consumers want to buy. Staying current with consumer needs and trends is an important part of their business models.
As an agent, someone else does a lot of this for you. The carriers do the market research, develop the products, and also create marketing materials and programs. It can be very attractive from a workload perspective, but relying on that as your entire business model does not allow or encourage you to develop yourself as an autonomous business.
You are a private business as an agency in that the carrier does not employ or own you/your business, but you are not truly independent if you are completely reliant on the insurance carriers as your sole source of income. With the changing industry, it’s time to find your own source of passion around which you can “start a new business.”
Think about one of your best clients and his/her independent businesses.
As a stand-alone business, they are responsible for generating their own income, and they have to hustle to make it happen and remain a relevant and competing business.
Ask yourself -
- What do they sell / what service do they offer?
- What customer needs do they solve?
- How do they earn new clients & retain them?
- How do they drive revenue & profit?
- How do they invest time/money to stay current with trends and customer demands?
Now compare that client business to your agency.
What are you doing about those same things? Are you actively looking for ways to help your clients improve their business beyond selling policies for a benefits program?
If you couldn’t answer a definitive Yes to actively looking for new opportunities, then it’s time to change your mindset.
- In order to be an independent business, you’ve got to think about yourself like all the business owner clients you have. Look at their business challenges and see what resources you can bring together to help them better run their businesses.
- Drop the “Agency” part. Give yourself a new identity that implies to clients, as well as to yourself and your staff, that you are more than a representative of the insurance carriers’ products.
When you realize that you no longer need to limit yourself and your business model to what the carriers offer, it will free you up to look at your clients in a whole new way. Instead of only seeing their insurance product needs, you’ll be able to relate to them on a peer level and have meaningful conversations about the struggles of running a business. It’s during those conversations that the solutions and the model will come clear.
Allow yourself to become an independent business that relies on its own internal ingenuity, vision, and expertise to grow and sustain a successful business model.
Photo by Betsy Webster.