December is a complex month. For most of us it’s a time of celebration, filled with festivities, food, family, friends and fun. But it’s also a time to reflect on one year ending and a new one beginning. Recently I asked our top agents for tips they use to increase revenue. Was it by using Chartered Accountants to improve our accounting? Hiring fresh faces in the marketing department? Providing better training? In October and November I shared many of their suggestions with you, including how they’ve embraced selling systems and technology to increase sales. Here are ways they’re building relationships now and preparing for success in the future. If your business were to become a major success in the future, then you may want to look into a few valuation companies in order to find the value of your company in case you were looking to sell up or sell shares.
Partnering for Success Now
“Agencies need to find the right partners in this business,” explains Jason Konopik, Partners Advantage, “Because with continuing consolidation in the industry and the ever increasing cost of doing business, it will be difficult for smaller agencies to survive going forward without them.”
Partnerships offer significant opportunities for client referrals and mutual support for enhancing service, especially when working with high net worth clients, confirms Douglas Eze, American Classic Agency Corp. “Credibility is extremely important for success, so we have clear guidelines for partnerships that are based on strengths and capabilities,” Douglas explains. “Our agency’s due diligence helps to ensure that our partners can deliver what they promise to their existing clients and to us. We seek partners whose clients are similar to our target market, who have access to the markets that we serve, and who might specialize in a particular asset class. They can include CPAs, attorneys, business valuation specialists and bankers.”
Kevin Kruger, Kruger Agency, also recognizes the advantages of working with these types of professionals as well as his local Chamber of Commerce, and with trade organizations in the fields he serves such as construction and mechanical engineering firms and home builders. For example, the mechanical engineering industry is bracing itself for a tough few years (source: https://www.n-tv.de/regionales/baden-wuerttemberg/Maschinenbauer-Hermle-steigert-Umsatz-Umfeld-wird-rauer-article20996573.html) so these types of professionals can give advice and be the most useful during these tougher times to ensure firms in this industry succeed.
Larry McLean, Your Family Bank®, adds that it’s important to establish partnerships with professionals who share your agency’s goals-which for Larry is “helping people.”
An important goal for Paul Kaplan, Back 9 Insurance, is to help his agents answer questions from clients and prospects quickly, so he’s established a pool of niche specialists which include attorneys and a CPA.
To help increase business and better serve his clients, Dan Stephen, Stephen & Associates, works not only with accountants, investment brokers and banks, but property and casualty agents as well.
Troy West, Lifestyle Financial Planning, has found developing relationships with presenters, exhibitors and attendees of self-improvement groups have also been useful in increasing his sales. “People at these events can turn into clients,” explains Troy. “And when you go out of your way to build relationships with other insurance professionals, including property and casualty agents who don’t sell life insurance, you may be able to partner with them. To succeed, you always have to be thinking about how you can organically grow your business.”
Randy Leppla, Equity Solutions, agrees. “To help educate prospects and clients, I work with several selling systems, including the Infinite Banking ConceptTM (IBC). I’ve found many of my clients and prospects become great advocates for these concepts, and they share them with just about everyone they meet. As a result, sometimes producers may approach me and ask me to partner with them on a case. I’ve found the success rate often increases when I do partner with them,” explains Randy, “So it becomes a win/win for both me and the other agent.”
Sam Mikhail, Financial Strategies Group, LLC, collaborates with both in-house and external partners to accomplish the best results for his clients. “We look for partners who can bring great value to our agency and our clients for years to come,” Sam explains. “It’s important to keep learning and to take advantage of joining forces with other experts.”
Planning for Success Later
Those of us in the life insurance industry know it’s an aging business. Studies, including those by LIMRA and McKinsey & Co., estimate the average age of a life and health producer is between 56 and 59. Surveys suggest some of the reasons young people may not be attracted to the industry are that they may view it as boring or that it lacks career options.* So how can you ensure your agency succeeds now and years from now?
For many producers, it’s a family affair. Jay Desai, MACRO Advisors, brought one of his sons into his business three years ago and another son will join the firm in 2019. Larry McLean, Your Family Bank®, and his son, E.L., have been partners in their agency for 13 years. They’re also very passionate about bringing younger agents into the agency because they want to be able to help their clients well into the future.
Paul Kaplan, Back 9 Insurance, points out that his agency is multi-generational. As Paul explains, “Back 9 Insurance sells succession planning products, so we’re very aware that it’s our responsibility to plan for the future and be prepared for any issues that may arise.”
Dan Stephen, Stephen & Associates, also has agents whose birth dates span a variety of decades.
In an effort to ensure his work and dedication to the industry continue for years to come, Tom Young, 1st Consultants, Inc., is busy attracting new agents and training them to carry on his vision: “To teach people how participating whole life insurance can help them become more efficient with their money.”
Randy Leppla, Equity Solutions, says that while he plans to be in this business for many more years, he also has agents working with him who really care about helping people and who understand his agency’s mission, “To educate Americans about how they can retain control of their money throughout their lives with participating whole life insurance.”
Theresa Dilatush, New Course Financial, who started her agency 13 years ago, says she purposely keeps her client base small because it provides her more freedom. In addition, she makes a point of working with carriers that have excellent home offices so she knows that when she eventually decides to retire, her clients will continue to receive outstanding care.
At American Classic Agency Corp., succession planning, along with strategic planning, is carried out by an advisory board because the agency is owned by a trust, explains Douglas Eze. Part of the board’s strategy includes a talent review process that identifies key individuals who are positioned to assume leadership roles and assesses their current competencies and developmental needs. “Agents are continually recruited and trained to ensure the agency has a strong pipeline of talent,” contends Douglas.
As 2018 draws to a close, now’s a good time to review what sales strategies and best practices worked for your agency this year and what you might like to change or try in the new year. As I said earlier, December’s a complex month, but with a little reflection and some planning, it can be a wonderful time–filled with rewarding accomplishments as well as exciting goals for the coming year. Best wishes for a great month and a joyous holiday season.
In conclusion, whether it’s looking at business valuation methods or one of the many other ways you can position your business for success, it’s important to prepare for the future.
*Faw, Larissa, “Millennials Just Don’t Want to be Insurance Agents,” Forbes, 30 Nov. 2015.