Front of the Pack: Coming Out Ahead in an Everchanging Financial Landscape

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:

  1. Get an insurance agency valuation to determine its actual worth, including your book of business, location, the markets you offer, and your phenomenal staff.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

 

Source:

Insurance Journal

Understanding Contingency and Bonus Requirements with Your Insurance Carriers

Understanding Contingency and Bonus Requirements With Your Insurance Carriers
By: Michael Miller, Smart Choice® State Director

As an insurance agent, your business lives or dies on the amount of new and renewing policies you sign with your carriers. Years ago, how you got paid was fairly straightforward: you got paid a percentage of the premiums you signed. But carriers have changed the way they compensate their agents.

Today, agents earn a complex combination of commissions, contingencies, and bonuses, each calculated a little differently. Understanding the math can be a full-time job, not to mention figuring out how to maximize your earnings.

Contingency Commissions Reward Performance

You’ll always make a little money on each premium you sign, even if you only sign a few dozen a year. But carriers offer sizeable contingency commissions for agents who set and meet goals for production, retention, and profitability. These rewards are contingent on you meeting these goals.

What’s tricky about contingency commissions is that you never know how much more you’ll end up making as you sign on new clients. The contingency is earned after you meet your goals for the year. When you’re writing a policy in January, you won’t know whether you’ll actually meet your contingency requirements at the end of December.

Bonuses Honor Excellence

Insurance carriers often award agents who go above and beyond with bonus income. Sometimes, carriers run special sales contests for agents to compete in. Other times, they’ll allow a loyal agent to charge them interest on any new business the agent brings in for them.

Getting the Most out of Your Appointments

Contingency and bonus income were initially offered only to the largest agencies, which had the staff and book of business large enough to hit production targets. But that’s changed in the last 25 years. Today, small agencies can compete for this extra income if they’re able to meet the requirements.

Joining an agency group can be a way to increase your chances of earning contingency and bonus income. Agency aggregation pools together the resources of multiple small agencies so they can compete with the larger players. That’s why many independent agents choose to join Smart Choice®. To discover why a partnership  is the smart choice, connect with Smart Choice® today.

 Source: Property Casualty 360

Essential Office Supplies For Your New Insurance Agency

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Essential Office Supplies For Your New Insurance Agency
By: Michael Miller, Smart Choice® State Director

The paint’s fresh, the sign’s new, and you’re anticipating taking your first client phone call over your new phone system. You’ve got your staff trained on your new agency management system and remembered to purchase E&O insurance before you opened your doors. Your new agency is off to a great start!

Having these basics in place is no doubt important, but don’t forget the little things: pens, printer paper, sticky notes, highlighters, staplers, scissors, file folders, desk organizers, and even presentation supplies for when you host your first client meeting. These products seem inconsequential, but they are vital to keeping your agency running efficiently.

Here’s my shopping list for essential insurance agency office supplies.

Buy in Bulk

  • Copier paper
  • Envelopes
  • File folders
  • Hanging file folders
  • Ink and toner
  • Legal pads for taking notes
  • Pens and highlighters
  • Presentation folders for client meetings
  • Staples and paper clips
  • Sticky notes

Buy for Each Desk

  • Desktop tray or other organizer
  • Desk or wall calendar
  • Easel and easel pad
  • File sorter
  • Scissors
  • Shredder
  • Stapler

Buy for the Agency

  • Dry-erase board for your conference room
  • Filing cabinet system
  • Projector for your conference room

If you’re thinking the cost of these supplies adds up, you’re right. It’s common for agencies to spend thousands of dollars a year in office supplies. Wouldn’t it be great to get a discount and free shipping? Some office supply companies will provide discounts and free shipping on orders over a certain amount. Make sure you ask!