It’s Time to Stop Thinking Like Independent InsuranceAgents and Start Acting Like Business Owners

It’s Time to Stop Thinking Like Independent InsuranceAgents and Start Acting Like Business Owners It’s Time to Stop Thinking Like Independent InsuranceAgents and Start Acting Like Business Owners
Disruption, data-driven metrics, digital marketing, leads, consumer behavior and a plethora of new terms have entered our space over the past several years.Whether the latest blog, social media post, newsletter or industry conference, these are the terms everyone is talking about in our industry today. This shouldn’t bother us at all. In fact, after working with thousands of agency owners, carrier executives, agents, CSR’s and other industry professionals, the number one reason we struggle is resistance to change. If you look at the terms above, hopefully you’ve embraced some or all of them to some extent to improve your business. What you can’t listen to is that the demise of the Independent Agent is inevitable and start-ups are going to put us out of business. That’s just not true because the Independent Agency Channel is far too valuable. I’ve learned in my 27 years, is that the demise of the IA Channel has been occurring for; 27 years. In 1990, the owner of an agency I worked for was convinced that Captive agents would take over the world and IA’s would be left with the crumbs they didn’t insure. In 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley was going to clean our clocks because the big bad banks would be competing against us. With their money, efficiencies and customer base, we didn’t stand a chance.What happened? Banks were paying ridiculous multiples to acquire agencies and helped owners then and now increase valuations. Thanks Banks! That’s not to say there hasn’t been consolidation. Data shows that in 1990 there were roughly 100,000 IA’s in the country. Today there are around 40,000. The channel is shrinking, but the reason it’s shrinking is because it should. My guess is we’ll end up somewhere around 30,000 agencies in the country in the next 10-20 years, but they’ll be bigger, stronger, more efficient and probably employ as many or more people than we do now. This is purely a guess, but we’re losing hundreds of agencies every year to acquisition and from an aging base of owners. Let’s face it, running an agency isn’t easy compared to years past. When my wife and I started our first agency in March 2000 the yellow pages were still a primary form of marketing. Today, the yellow pages are a doorstop and not a very good one since it’s become so thin! If you ran a full-page ad, invested in a sign on Main Street, had a few key carriers and a desktop computer, you could make a great living. No more. Today, it’s time to think big. It’s time to stop being disrupted and become a disruptor. This starts with Leadership in the agency and nobody else. When an agency sees growth, and is profitable, Leadership will not hesitate to pat themselves on the back. When we’re shrinking and margins are squeezed, we point our finger at everyone except ourselves.I’ve learned in this industry that the IA Channel has nobody to blame for its shortcomings but the IA Channel. Rather than disgrace the internet and the connected consumer 15 years ago we should’ve embraced them. Rather than trying to sell insurance the way we wanted to sell it, we should’ve adapted to how the consumer wanted to buy. Rather than hunting for the magic pill to help us get back to the “good old days” we should go back to basics and tout the expertise, options and desire to serve our local communities. Rather than replacing strategies that worked for us in years past, we should enhance those strategies with a digital footprint and dominate our local community. So, what does all this mean? It means that it’s time to stop acting like victims and start acting like business owners. It’s time to stop blaming carriers for lack of growth and take responsibility for our actions. It’s time to take risks, be creative, execute on ideas and show disruptors that the IA Channel is the greatest form of insurance distribution in the world. There are agencies having enormous success while building empires using a blend of old fashioned insurance sales and marketing, coupled with strategies of the disruptors we hear so much about. What’s stopping you from making that happen? Nothing but you. Thanks to Agency Nation for posting this for us! Stuart Ganis