If you are an agent or agency, make sure you do your homework diligently before you join a premium aggregator aka agency network group. One of the key questions to ask is: “What would happen if and when I decide to sell my agency, especially to an agency that is not a member of your network?” Make sure that you get very logical and understandable answers, in writing of course. Actually, it should be addressed clearly in their membership agreement.
It is also a good idea to make up a few sample scenarios and present them to the network representative, asking for clear answers to cover each situation. Again, get the answers “in writing”, email or whatever covers it for you – in addition to what is stated in the agreement. Think of a few agency sales or mergers in the area, of which you have some basic knowledge. Use them as your examples to present to the representatives. There are many different scenarios that could be involved.
Bottom line, take your time addressing this issue and all the others involved when considering membership in a network.
If you are in need of a list of key questions to ask, get in touch with me and I will provide you with my list – for free.
Phil Tuccy – 941-527-7823 – firstname.lastname@example.org
A very successful commercial insurance producer told me this recently. He said that when he is on a sales call, particularly a business luncheon, instead of the usual amount of small talk before starting to get down to business, after exchanging a few general pleasantries, he asks his prospects and clients to help him solve a business problem or issue that is current for him.
“Unrelated to our business today, let me take a minute to run this by you. I’m wrestling with this, to develop a workable solution. What are your thoughts?”
He said that getting their opinions demonstrates to them that you value their thinking on a matter that you have been considering. Nothing too deep or serious of course – you certainly don’t want to destroy your main purpose for the meeting – but he said it has really helped him connect with his prospects and clients. He added that as a valuable side-benefit, he has heard some great ideas that helped him solve some of his outstanding issues.
Especially for people in insurance sales and management roles, there is no doubt that playing golf offers many networking opportunities, especially with existing and potential clients. In fact, that is why some people play golf – It is their sole reason. However, I have always viewed golf as another form of problem-solving and many business people I know enjoy it for that reason in addition to the networking and friendship that inevitably results.
With regard to problem solving, many of those described are used to overcoming obstacles to make the best day-to-day business decisions. Golf is just an extension of their work in a more open environment.
How am I going to hit the ball over that tree? What club do i need? Should I try to go over the lake or avoid it by going around it or playing short of it? To make sure I don’t hit my ball into that huge bunker, should I play to the opposite side of the green even it will put me very far from the hole?
These are examples of questions that golfers ask themselves throughout a round of golf. The golf shots they propose and attempt are aimed at solving the problems at-hand.
It is the same type of decision-making environment that business managers face everyday. However, the consequences of making a wrong decision in business is hardly ever more serious that a bad business decision on a golf course…unless, of course, you bet too much with your friends and lost!
From noted creative thinking coach, Michael Gelb: “Life is a continuous exercise of problem solving.”
I recently had a very interesting conversation with Shane Tatum, the President & CEO of Integra Insurance Services, an organization in Texas which provides agency network affiliation for qualified agents and agencies.
While Shane was explaining the Integra prospecting approaches and overall philosophy for determining the quality and experience of agents and agencies that his organization seeks as possible members, he said something that I had not heard before. He stated that they carefully “underwrite” each prospective member before considering them for inclusion into one the two key Integra membership programs.
Action words like ‘vetting’, ‘analyzing’, ‘evaluating’, etc. are most frequently heard in conversations of this nature. However, after hearing Shane describe the Integra “underwriting” approach, I do believe it is most descriptive of the actual process that needs to take place in order for an agency network organization to make the best educated decision as to who should be a member of a network group.
It is well known that traditional insurance underwriting requires knowledge of as much about the proposed insured as possible and the risks to which they may become exposed. This information is needed to make an informed decision as to whether the company wants to provide insurance coverage. Similarly, an agency network should want to know as much as possible about each prospective member. Most do but some are more about quantity than quality. Those that underwrite their prospects are models for the others. As an agent or agency seeking an agency network group to join, look for the groups that make you feel as though you are being subjected to an underwriting process. It will be to your advantage, in the long-run.
A written marketing that is well-developed will prepare you to be effectively underwritten.
Can it be done? I recently read an article in which the author stated that, as an insurance Agency Principal, he feels that he can teach any employee to do almost any task. He added that the real issue is to teach people to care.
Maybe he was in a low mood when he stated this but his point is well-taken, as least as “food for thought”. It might have more to do with creating an atmosphere where “caring” is a key aspect of the workplace culture.
I am not at all sure that “caring” can be taught.
This week I had an agent tell me that he felt like he was deceived when he tried to leave the agency that had employed him as a producer, for more than five years. He announced to the employing agency principal that he was leaving to go out on his own, as he had a deal to buy a small, existing agency, His next question to the employer was how he could transfer the business he had produced for them, for five-plus years. The agency principal pulled out the agreement that the producer had signed when he was first employed in the agency. It stated that the first full year of the producer’s employment did not count toward fulfillment of his five year qualification requirement. It was considered to be “orientation and training”, although the actual training period seemed to last only a few months, before the producer was turned loose to produce.
So, instead of having satisfied the full five years of vesting, the producer still had a year to go to be able to extract the business for his own purposes. The producer told me that he remembered something about that clause in his agreement but didn’t fully understand the wording and didn’t ask for clarification, before signing the agreement when he was first hired.
He had obviously made a big mistake. The damage was done and now his plan for his own agency is in real jeopardy. He said that he might file a law suit to dispute the validity of the terms but he cannot afford to do so at this time.
The “moral of the story” is of course to make sure you not only read your agreements thoroughly but be sure to get a clear understanding of all the terms. Get a clarifying letter, if you are not sure of any aspect of any agreement. Better yet, ask for some review and clarification help from a third party. You cannot afford to make mistakes like this.
Tip: Some of the State Agent organizations provide contract reviews for their Members.
In my discussions and dealings with agents who are looking to start their own agencies or acquire additional markets and useful services for their existing agencies, I often hear them tell me that their web-designer either does not understand their needs or reacts slowly to their required updates.
I am not saying that all non-insurance web-design entities fail in this area. However I know that one insurance agent almost always best understands the needs of another in this area. Agents understand one another’s needs.
Toward that end, at the Florida Insurance Agents (FAIA) Annual Convention in Orlando, I recently met an insurance agent who provides web design and upgrade services to other insurance agents, along with social media marketing services.
If you are interested in exploring her services, She is Amberlee Easterwood and can be reached at : www.simplysocial.com email@example.com
I also discovered that Amber has an Insurance Blog specifically focused on educating consumers about the importance of understanding the need to have adequate coverage. If you need free content of this nature for your social media accounts, feel free to share her blog posts with your clients and prospects!
Before you join a premium aggregator or agency network group, one of the key questions to ask is: “What would happen if and when I decide to sell my agency to an agency that is not a member of your network?” Make sure that you get a very logical and understandable answer, in writing of course.
It is also a good idea to make up a few sample scenarios and present them to the network representative, asking for clear answers to cover each situation. Again, get the answers “in writing”, email or whatever covers it for you. Think of a few agency sales or mergers in the area, of which you have some basic knowledge. Use them as your examples to present to the representatives.