I have the privilege of regularly speaking at industry events. I often start with a quick literature quiz by asking the audience, “Who can yell out the opening line from ‘A Tale of Two Cities?’”

Several are always quick to shout out, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." This is always followed by some knowing, yet nervous, laughter in the room. The audience has an immediate appreciation for the relevance of the line.

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” There isn't anything that can more accurately describe the state of our industry.

With all of the disruption, change, and craziness of fourth quarter, it's easy to see why some fall into the trap of feeling it's the worst of times. And, to be fair, for many, that will prove to be the case. There are already, and there will be countless more, casualties from this transformational era through which we are moving.

However, for countless other agencies, there has never been a time of greater excitement, growth, or potential.

Is your glass half full, half empty, or shattered on the floor?

How is it that agencies that have been so similar now have such dramatically different paths to follow? Agencies who have been so similar in every aspect of operations? These agencies:

  • Have grown at similar rates
  • Worked with the same carriers/partners
  • Have similar talent on their team
  • Compete in the same or similar markets
  • Are challenged by the same industry forces

We must face the reality that our industry is being challenged in ways it never has before, at least at this level of intensity. It should be no surprise that the challenge of change paralyzes some and energizes others.

Panic mode

I received a call from an agency owner who was quickly approaching the point of panic. He felt he was doing many of the right things.

He told me he had:

  • Found some new insurance products he thought prospects/clients would like
  • Signed up with a technology partner
  • Hired a telemarketing company to set appointments for him
  • Engaged a marketing company
  • Procured additional value-added services he felt would help him differentiate

Despite all his activity/efforts, he felt further behind and less sure than ever. And he was.

Why do you do what you do?

I asked him a few basic questions.

Why did you feel any of these were the proper steps? How do they fit into your strategic plan?

Answer: “I don’t have any kind of master plan.”

Who on your team will be responsible for the execution and implementation of these new resources?

Answer: "I'm not sure; everyone is already SO busy!”

Does your team even know when to use them?

Answer: “No.”

What makes you think your prospects/clients want/need them?

Answer: “They just felt right to me, and I'm pretty sure my competition has them."

How does your pipeline look?

Answer: “It’s empty.”

If you start randomly piling new stuff onto an unstable foundation, you can't be surprised if the structure begins to crumble under your feet.

You can’t buy your way out of this one

What’s particularly frustrating about this situation is that I had talked to him several months before when we talked about the need for strong leadership, and he needed to:

  • Create a vision of the agency he wanted/needed to become
  • Build a plan to ensure the vision becomes a reality
  • Share the vision and plan with the team and discuss their progress regularly
  • Get his pipeline filled
  • Establish processes and procedures for everything in the agency that happens repeatedly

These are the actions that build a strong foundation. All of which required direct involvement and leadership on his part.

I asked him about his progress in these areas. He admittedly said, “I know I need to do those things, but I just can’t seem to make it happen.” He started to explain and rationalize his actions, but I cut him off.

I said directly, “You have to participate in saving yourself.”

I know he felt he was saving himself with his actions, but, at best, he was trying to buy his salvation. The reality was that he was digging himself into a deeper hole.

I can appreciate how difficult it is to put the foundation in place; how enticing it is to get pulled into the temptation of trying to buy yourself the right answers; I understand the hard work can suck.

But, you have to ask yourself, what sucks more: doing the hard work that is so critically necessary, or having to face yourself in the mirror each morning, knowing that you are slipping a little further behind with each passing day?

An obvious answer, right?

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Photo by natavilman