We all know the old saying, "You can lead the horse to water; but you can't make him drink."
Perhaps no better saying applies to agencies and producers changing their model than this. They can surround themselves with people who will tell them all the reasons they need to take a drink; they will even find people to teach them how to drink the water. But we all know they can't have someone who drinks the water for them, someone who wants that drink more for them more than they do themselves. Well, I suppose that sometimes that becomes the case, but it just doesn't do any good.
We all need to find our thirst and do whatever is necessary to be sure it is quenched. As you watch the industry, there comes a point where it becomes obvious some people just don't want it bad enough to take that drink. With all due respect, they need to move back from the shoreline and not block those who are ready.
"We need to change!"
This is something we hear and see from agencies and producers every day in industry conversations. Most everyone recognizes the need to change, but so many seem to be paralyzed by the fear of change that they're willing to die at the edge of the pool getting up the nerve to take a drink.
We see agencies say they are willing to take baby steps toward something that might look like change, but let's be realistic – that kind of "change" will never get you anywhere. Making minor adjustments (picking the easy things) to the way you've always done business will get you more of the same business. And will always result in reverting to the old, tried and true ways, whose days are numbered.
Changes are happening around us
This is not a time to dip your toe in the water; it's time to jump into the deep end. Carriers have made a major change in the way they are doing business, and it's directly impacting agencies. Yet, what we see are agencies just wringing their hands in fear and hoping for someone to save them from themselves. One court battle after another; waiting on yet another election in hopes that things will go back to the way they were.
Well, that's not going to happen. Even those waiting in fear know that it will not go back to the way it was. And if there are some reversals, it will never be the same. The agency business has changed.
Some agencies have already given up. We see acquisitions and mergers every day. For those who are ready to get out of the independent system, those who no longer want to be in control, that may be the right answer. But, unless you want to be one of those agencies, the time has come to stop looking at that pool of water and to take a drink.
What's the worst that will happen? You might fall into the water and get really wet. We're saying, embrace it, jump in before you fall or are pushed. The chances of survival from falling into the pool are much greater than the chances of survival from standing at the edge, fretting over what might happen and dying a slow death of thirst.
As you think about where you're standing and how much fear you've got, don't think about just yourself. It goes far beyond just one person. Think about every other person who is on your payroll and on your list of vendors and partners. When you are in the position of being a leader, you've accepted the responsibility of looking out for the best interests of all your stakeholders. All of those people are depending on you to keep the business growing and thriving.
Being the first one to take a drink is scary. Most will never face the fear of the unknown. As a leader (either by title or by example), you have a whole team waiting for you to take a drink, to jump in the deep end. They're waiting for your signal that, "The water is fine!!"
And hey, when you find yourself at that pool, take a look around. You'll find most people are standing fearfully at the side watching and waiting. Some are drinking. And a few have just jumped right in. What are you and your team going to do?
Photo by João Paulo Corrêa de Carvalho.