Front of the Pack: Coming Out Ahead in an Everchanging Financial Landscape
by Michael Miller, State Director Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa
The stock market has climbed to new heights over the last few months. Recently, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed over 26,000 points, a record high. While this is great news for the country, it overshadows some serious challenges the insurance industry faces.
While stocks climb, insurance companies are hurting after billions of dollars in losses after several major hurricanes last fall and wildfires and ensuing mudslides in California in December and January. The latest tax bill gave businesses substantial breaks, but left a wake of uncertainty regarding healthcare. Meanwhile, distracted driving is a persistent problem, driving claims and premiums up.
How does an independent insurance agent stay ahead of the game, despite the multiple financial challenges facing our industry? Here are a few ideas I’ve shared with my agents to help them get ahead and stay ahead.
Diversify your offerings and demonstrate your value.
One of the first things I recommend agents do is review the range of insurance products they offer. Many independent agents get into the business writing personal lines, but few expand into commercial, life, and health markets. They do so at their peril. Selling personal lines insurance is a great way to learn the insurance business, but there’s heavy competition from online brokers and captive agents. Adding commercial carriers and learning how to write a great life insurance policy can help you stay in the black, even when the personal lines market is in a downturn.
Regardless of what insurance products you offer, make an effort to demonstrate your value to every client and potential client who walks in your door. Your agency isn’t just a place to buy insurance, it’s a risk management consulting firm. Help your clients understand the risks they face as homeowners, business owners, spouses, and parents, then offer them custom insurance solutions that cover that risk. That’s a level of expertise and service the online brokers simply can’t provide.
Identify your lead generation strategy . . . and work it.
The most successful agents will all tell you that they never take their foot off the gas. They are always sourcing and reaching out to new leads, even when they’re running at or near capacity. Creating and implementing a consistent lead generation process ensures you’ll never run out of new business.
Where is your current business coming from? What opportunities are you ignoring? Identify them and create a plan. Will you join a networking group to get referrals or buy a list of leads? Once you have leads, will you reach out to them by phone, mail, or email marketing? How often? The answers to these questions will help you develop a lead generation strategy you can use all year.
Don’t leave talent on the table.
No agent is successful all on their own. We all rely on teams to grow our agencies, whether they’re outstanding producers and CSRs at our office or our families at home. Who are you underutilizing on your team? On the flip side, are you so overwhelmed with work that you need to hire someone? Make the most of the human talent available to you—your own and that of your team.
Think a year ahead.
The most successful agencies think long-term. It helps them stay focused on their goals and whether short-term financial downturns. Envision where you want your agency to be this time next year. What will you do to reach that goal? Consider subscribing to trade magazines and newsletters to stay ahead of trends in the insurance industry. Use these insights to recalibrate your goals and adjust your plan.
When It’s Time to Move On
You’ve spent your career helping families and businesses mitigate risk and protect their assets and loved ones. You have a full book of business, wonderful staff, and a great office. Have you ever wondered what will happen to the insurance agency you’ve worked so hard to build once it’s time to move on?
You’re in the risk management business, so chances are you’ve thought about this quite a bit. But if not, here are a few tips to take the mystery out of selling your agency:
- Get an insurance agency valuation to determine its actual worth, including your book of business, location, the markets you offer, and your phenomenal staff.
- Create a plan to sell your agency at least three years before you plan to leave the business with the help of a good business attorney.
- Know your sale options, from selling your agency for free through Smart Choice® to identifying a buyer within your agency, your family, or your professional connections.