So many agency owners have been completely heads-down, focused on bringing in new business for years and years, and it’s time to bring your head up and look at your business from a whole new perspective.

When we work with agencies, we have many in-depth conversations about the business, sales process, messaging, vision, and team development. Consistently we find agencies are at the point of growing pains. They are doing some things right, but honestly, quite a few things could be better.

This doesn’t mean these agencies are being led by bad business owners. Quite the opposite, in fact. It often means that the owner has done a good job of growing the company through their sales efforts over the years. And now they’ve reached the point where it’s time to stop running it like a one person sales shop, and start running it like a consulting business where clients turn for advice.

These are two different animals and they need to be led and managed very differently. So many agencies are at this critical juncture and need to make strong changes to the way they run the business. But more often than not, they don’t know how to go about making the necessary changes, let alone even knowing what those changes would be.

Two key ideas will get you started on successfully transforming your business.

Looking inside: Understand and communicate why you do what you do

And as we dig into conversations to help agencies uncover the answers, I’m often moved by the passion and empathy the leaders feel about their business, specifically their employees and clients.

This may not sound surprising, and it may not event seem noteworthy. But it is actually quite significant. It’s from this passion and empathy that the very foundation of the business model, the vision, and the messaging is born. It’s from these strong personal connections that the brand differentiator is developed.

Yet, time and again, we see agencies touting their “differentiators” as things like their strong carrier connections, proactive renewals, and ability to save the client money. However, none of these things actually differentiate you from your competitors, and I’m not convinced that the agencies themselves believe the rhetoric either. But there is perceived industry pressure to have a list of differentiators, and so they get published.

What we see as the true point of differentiation comes back to that passion and empathy we see in the owners. Why do they love this business, and why have they poured their heart and soul into it for so many years? Sure the money has been good, and we see many good lifestyles that have been created, but we also see the emotion that pours forth when these owners talk about their teams and their clients. And it almost always comes back to how they help the individual employees – theirs or their clients’. Which means THAT is the reason for being in this business and what they need to be conveying to their employees and clients.

A word of caution here: it is also from this strong empathy that we see owners blindly holding onto things that are no longer working for them as the business grows. We see many cases of holding onto poor performing employees and continuing to pursue clients that are no longer a fit. You can’t take care of the people in your charge until you take care of the business.

Your whole heart and head have to be in the business in order to truly be able to go the distance. If you’re not fully in, then it’s just a transaction. And there are many other business opportunities where you can pursue transactions without all the headaches of the industry today.

Looking outside: Be valuable by seeing the bigger picture

The next step of the transition is learning how your work impacts your clients by understanding what is happening outside of the insurance world.

Owners who make it their business to keep up with general business practices and trends and are genuinely interested in how to run a better business are the ones successfully transforming their agencies.

Those that focus their time solely on the insurance industry are living only in their narrowly focused world and will have a difficult time ever making the transition.

Knowing what’s important to today’s workers and clients is imperative to business growth. It used to be enough to just know your insurance products well and be a successful producer. But now as a business owner, you have to know far more than insurance. You have to know how insurance fits into the bigger picture of being a business owner so you can effectively consult with your clients and grow your own business.

Reading business publications will allow you to get a handle on what your employees likely want and what clients most likely need for their own organizations. (Hint – use your company as a testing ground for trying out good business solutions/practices that your clients might want to incorporate.)

As an owner, you need to step outside of your own myopic insurance processes. Delegate responsibilities. Make time to work ON your business.

  • Read non-insurance publications and think about how the ideas might apply to your business.
  • Set aside time to simply think about your business – what’s currently working well and what’s not working so well?
  • Talk to others – your leadership team, your staff, your fellow business owners. The more you discuss ideas and challenges out loud, the closer you get to finding viable solutions for your own business and for finding alignment with your clients’ businesses.

I love getting articles and videos and questions from clients who have seen a great idea that inspired them. That gives me hope that they’re going to not only survive this massive industry shift, but they’re going to be the ones thriving on the other side of it.

Trust me, you are probably much better positioned for future business growth than you may think you are today. But without making the mental transition to from “sales guy who hung up his/her own shingle” to “business owner and team leader”, you’ll never actually know.

Make the time to really evaluate your business. What do your clients love about you? What do you get excited about when you work with clients? What gets your team excited? If they answers aren’t obvious, then seek some outside help. A fresh perspective can be invaluable to helping you see your own strengths in a whole new light. Because I’m quite certain you’ve got many strengths that may be just what you need to spark a whole new era for your company.

 

Photo by Edith Soto.