Long-term Sustainability in a Changing World

Doug Witcher | July 2, 2020

CEO Newsletter

Doug Witcher, CEO of Smart Choice, a network for independent insurance agentsIn the midst of month five of our ongoing pandemic, all businesses have had their resiliency tested and put on full display. Whether you anticipated our country still being in this situation or not, it has been an interesting test of our ability to adapt rapidly to meet changing needs in a changing world. In recent years, tech and security companies have stressed the importance of cyber security and planning. For years our own industry has seconded those recommendations and stressed the importance of all forms of disaster planning. In that respect, as a profession, the insurance industry may have been better equipped to deal with the far-reaching repercussions of a pandemic long before anyone else. We are accustomed to circumstances completely out of our control (such as weather and other natural disasters), effecting our customers and our profitability each and every year. We know risk, inside and out!

Resilience is not just about perseverance

Being resilient and adaptive, however, is not simply about attitude and perseverance, it’s about being prepared for anything that comes your way, and your adaptability over the course of the trajectory change. We have to recognize, for instance, that our success does not merely rest on whether or not we can continue working, but on whether our partners and our customer base can remain in play as well. This phenomenon has been illustrated widely by economic instability due to disruption to supply chains, and by changing demands, needs, and wants from consumers. By way of illustration, consider restaurants who were closed for eight weeks or more, and are now operating at 50 percent capacity. They have had to adapt to several things: 

  1. Supply amounts
  2. Staff reductions
  3. Operating procedures.

All in a very short period of time. It’s nearly impossible for them to predict how many customers they’ll be serving daily, in a half capacity restaurant, with patrons encouraged to stay home if possible. Furthermore, their customer base is affected almost daily by new developments. This uncertainty in demand makes it difficult to order supplies and have adequate staff on hand to handle both the new cleaning regulations, and normal service. They’ve had to shift menus due to food supply availability. Farmers have had to destroy crops and livestock due to transport shortages. And this is only in the food and service industry.

Planning for the Future in a Bigger Way

However, the fact remains that we are all in a new era of uncertainty until our economy stabilizes. And not just us, but the entire world. We are all navigating uncharted territory both professionally and personally. We must change our thinking from short-sighted goals, to long-term sustainability in a changing world. When short-sighted yearly goals have sufficed for so long, it’s difficult to learn to alter our behavior and plan for the future in a bigger way. Years ago, I stressed the fact that the independent insurance market portion of the insurance market as a whole, was shrinking — being taken over by captives and banks. We recognized early on, when building Smart Choice, that our success depended solely on whether or not we were able to help independent agents thrive and grow. Because if the independent agent base continued shrinking, we would be out of business as well. Now, more than ever, independent agents hold an important and unique place in the industry. We can adapt more easily because we have less restrictions and more choice to offer consumers. With the consumer need base changing, we have even more opportunity to be a new, superior solution for them. And, we have the opportunity to help everyone be better prepared to face future risk — if we are willing.

Cover of 2020 Issue 4 Smart Choice Magazine titled "Agent Education: Adapting to Changing Needs in a Changing World"Agent Education: Adapting to Changing Needs in a Changing World

Being in the insurance industry, we've grown accustomed to navigating circumstances completely out of our control (such as weather and other natural disasters) — but the pandemic has really tested our resilience. For more on how agents can adapt to changing needs in a changing world while still providing exceptional service and products, check out the 2020 Issue 4 of Smart Choice Magazine.

Read the Magazine