Strategic Management for Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers: Positive Change for Sustained Excellence

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Profit Improvement

There is nothing more important to your bottom line than attracting and keeping great people. It can mean that your business is more profitable – as much as 30% to 40% more profitable.

Even if you think the economic downturn puts more employment chips on your side of the table because jobs are scarce, the best people will have opportunities to move on if they are not happy. If you’re like most business owners, you’re asking people to work harder with less. There is no money for extra rewards – you may have cut back or freeze salaries. It’s more important than ever that your employees are committed to the job they’re in – and working hard to keep it successful.
For tips on finding and keeping great employees see our recent newsletter. Read it here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Uncover Undercover Boss to Get Better Results

I must admit, I'm not a fan of reality TV. It's way too contrived. So I ignored all the hype about "Undercover Boss" as just another in a long line of cheap television. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to see how may of my friends and business associates actually watched. I was surprised to see write-ups and reviews and posts and comments in many of the business blogs and journals following the first program. And as I read about the program - after the fact - I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like it. Too contrived. And the implication that a good manager was 'set up,' not in the name of improving company performance but as a cheap entertainment trick, is disturbing. But conceptually, the ideas of the boss dropping back into the ranks to do the jobs that employees are asked to do and try to overcome the obstacles that employees are expected to overcome - now that is appealing. As a line manager in s large insurance office, it's something I used to do regularly. And it almost always paid off.

  1. First, the process got an objective look. As someone who was trying to follow procedure, and who didn't do the work all the time, I was able to see things about the process that didn't work or didn't make sense. Employees are often too busy to even think about how to what they're doing better or faster or more accurately. And if they do come up with an improvement, they're hesitant to bring it forward.
  2. Second, and in some ways even more important, the relationships grew stronger. There was always a good exchange between me and the employees sitting around the desk I occupied. I asked them questions and engaged them in my effort to understand their issues. They responded, sharing frustrations and sharing ideas for improvements.
I wasn't undercover. Being right out in the open, working side by side with people doing the work I usually supervised, had the potential to be constraining - to make them uncomfortable. It almost never did. They felt more respected. It gave me a chance to show them that I valued their effort as well as their ideas about the job itself - much more so than just saying it.

An engaged workforce is worth more to your bottom line than pretty much anything else you can have in place. People are much more likely to care about you and your company and your goals, if they believe that you care about them - as people not just as assets or liabilities. When your employees care, your customers benefit.

If "Undercover Boss" catches on, will we see more business owners and managers snooping around? If they're paying closer attention to what's really going on in their business, that would be a good thing all around.