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

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Planning for Improvement

If you and your team are hunkered down waiting for the market or the economy to turn around, you may have a long wait. Now is the time to look for opportunities. You can have your best year ever! 
Focus! Focus! Focus!  Plans often fail because too many issues are addressed at one time, not because there is anything inherently wrong with them. How does the coyote eat the buffalo? One bite at a time! There is always a lot to do. So to ensure that you and your team stay focused, identify those things that are imperative to fulfilling the vision of your business. Ask, “What conditions must exist for us to be who and where we want to be?” Think in terms of necessary and sufficient. Concentrate your efforts on the most important issues or Critical Success Factors. Tackling your goals one at a time, you will find your business plans much easier to achieve. 

For most businesses, Critical Success Factors center around people and product. What about your organization – your staff – is critical to your success? What must they be able to do well to ensure your competitive advantage? What about your customers is critical to your success? What are their expectations and how can you exceed them? What about your product/service is critical to your success?  If insurance is just another commodity, what sets you apart? A clear understanding of what is most important makes it possible to set realistic, achievable, smarter goals.

Success breeds success. Improvement generates more improvement. With every achieved goal, your (and your team’s) confidence grows. These incremental successes will inspire and encourage you and your team. You have the knowledge, experience, drive and enthusiasm to achieve your vision. You can have your best year ever!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Finding & Keeping Great Employees

Is it a buyer’s market for employers when unemployment is in the double-digits?  Is finding and keeping the best employees easier when so many people are feeling vulnerable? No. And no. 
Challenge the assumptions. Now more than ever, it’s important to take good care of your employees. You might be working with fewer numbers, so your team needs to cover more territory. If somebody leaves, you want it to be the right people who stay. 
At bare minimum, to engage your employees in your business, you need to ensure your employees have meaningful work to do, and a vision for how that work fits into their world in a meaningful way. Good employees also need the tools to do the job, which includes more than just hardware and software. And good employees expect and deserve respect. 
Of course, you need to pay a fair wage. Don’t assume that you’ll be able to hire quality people for below-market salaries. Don't expect your best employees to help you achieve your financial goals if you're unwilling to help them achieve theirs. It's disrespectful. But it’s not just about the money. Take this fun quiz to discover what is important to your employees. 
Don’t get lazy.  If you are in a position to hire, does this seeming employee glut turn into a bonanza of qualified help for you? No. And no. The best and the brightest were not the ones downsized. So it will still be challenging to find the best qualified people the personality and skill sets to fit into your culture. If you are looking to hire, you’re going to have to put forth the same sincere and diligent effort you always have to find the right individuals.
Again, challenge the assumptions. Individuals who have performed marginally in other organizations will most likely be marginal in yours. Assuming retreads have the experience and job knowledge you need is a mistake. Now may be the right time to look outside the industry for your next producer or account manager. “Hire for fit and train for job knowledge,” is solid hiring advice. All the insurance knowledge in the world doesn’t ensure sales from someone without the fire to sell, or quality customer service without a customer orientation. Sales and customer service are required in most industries. So you may be able to take advantage of the fact that there are good people looking for work. It’s not a buyer’s market, though. Finding and keeping great employees presents the same challenges – and provides the same rewards – regardless of the market or the economy.