This is the fourth in a series of blog posts inspired by a conversation I had via webinar with Brett Rosen, VP of Mergers & Acquisition at Digital Insurance. During our conversation we discussed the “5 Surefire Ways to Catapult Your Benefits Business”.

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One of the most self-damning aspects of the insurance industry is that the financial reward for mediocrity has been too high. It has allowed us to succeed, often times in spite of ourselves and without a focus on growth. That’s changed. Growth is no longer a luxury. There have to be growth goals, aggressive goals that come with accountability.

There are certain things that high-growth insurance agencies are doing to drive success, and through a series of blog posts, I am addressing each of those five ways. I will also share some action items you might use to help catapult your own business.

Previously posted strategies

Surefire way #1 – The best agencies embrace collaboration.

Surefire way #2 – The best agencies find a way to stay young.

Surefire way #3 – The best agencies invest, wisely.

The next strategy

Surefire way #4 – The best agencies put their people in positions that allow them to make their greatest contributions possible.

Jim Collins’ observation of the importance of having the right people in the right seats of the bus is critical for agency growth. Nothing will slow growth down faster than having weak team members or even strong members who are in the wrong role.

Role clarity

Before you can know if you if you have the right people in the right seats, you have to know what the ideal seat looks like.

It must be explicitly clear and documented what contributions are expected from every role in the agency and that everyone is expected to make the contributions as defined by their role. The stakes are too high to allow for results to be diluted. The most common place for dilution to happen is in the producer role. As producers build a book of business, they often (almost always) dilute their producer role with service activities. You must make it painfully clear that services issues lie with the service role.

Alignment

Once you’ve documented what your ideal seats look like, you must understand what skills/behaviors are necessary to successfully occupy the seat.

We all understand that we must have the skills of individuals aligned with the role they are filling. While it’s easy to focus on that alignment when hiring someone for a role, we have to be aware that, over time, misalignment can occur. Sometimes an individual pushes him/herself hard and outgrows the role. But, especially in times of growth, the role can also outgrow the individual. Ensuring alignment of roles and individuals is an ongoing process that requires regular monitoring and adjustments.

Accountability and Consequences

Expectations are meaningless if there are no accountability AND consequences to go with them.

The behaviors you tolerate may as well be the behaviors you promote. If you allow anyone (including producers) on your team to perform below expectations, you are signaling to the rest of the team that they can get away with poor performance as well.

We also convince ourselves that our team is filled with professionals and they just want to be left alone. The reality is the best performers want to be part of a culture of accountability, one that comes with consequences when expectations aren’t met. They reason that if there are no accountability and consequences for them then they must not be that important to the organization’s success.

High-growth agencies have accountability and consequences at a high level; it’s why they attract the highest achievers, which is also why they are high-growth.

Compensation rewards the right behaviors

Compensation must reinforce required behaviors for every role.

For sales positions, agencies typically pay too much for renewals and too little for new. High-growth agencies recognize that they need to keep their producers focused on new production. While still compensating producers for renewing their existing book, they pay much higher percentages for new business and even larger bonuses for “over the top production.”

Of course, high-growth agencies understand that using compensation to reward the right behaviors doesn’t stop with the producers; they create incentive compensation programs that reward the entire team for revenue growth.

Producers must produce

Sales people must continue to do the job they were hired to do, not simply until they are satisfied with their level of personal income.

Slow/no-growth agencies allow producers to become complacent, sit on a book of business, and basically become over-paid, under qualified service people. However, high-growth agencies expect their producers to produce, always. Period. End of story.

Rehire your best talent

High growth agencies know where to make the right personnel investments.

Making a successful producer hire is difficult. While slow/no-growth agencies will go looking for more producers, high-growth agencies first focus on rehiring their best talent. If a high-growth agency finds that a producer is getting legitimately bogged with non-sales activities, they will hire a non-sales person (which can be done much more predictably and for much less money) to take care of the non-sales activity in order to get their proven sales talent back in the game.

Leadership seat

High growth agencies have the right person driving the bus.

High-growth agencies recognize that the idea of having the right people in the right seat starts with the seat up front. They never assume that the owner is necessarily the best equipped to run the day-to-day operations, and when he or she isn’t, they bring in a professional to fill this critical leadership role.

Action Items

  1. List the critical few (the top 3 or 4) results, along with the driving behaviors for each result that you need from each role. Make sure this is reflected in the respective job descriptions.
  2. Now, make a list of the skills possessed by each member on the team and compare it to the results/behaviors you need to see in each role.
  3. Review your compensation formulas for every role to evaluate if you are intentionally rewarding the behaviors/results you need from each role.
  4. As an industry, we are horrible at firing people; even when it is obvious to everyone that it is the necessary next step. If you don’t have the right people in the right seat, you either need to provide them the training they need, re-assign them if there is another seat that they can fill successfully, or get them off your bus.

Yes, this is going to be hard work, but it is this kind of hard work that is catapulting others to unprecedented levels of success. You may need help with this process. If you feel that’s exactly what you need, give us a call; we may have a few ideas of how to help you get your team aligned with your goals to make you a feared competitor in your market.

Photo by Chris.

 

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