FUMBLE! Sometimes The Team Must Break Down To Be Successful

We’re creating YOUR true winning team.  Catch up if you need to …

  1. Teams Are Diverse
  2. Different Positions Require Different Skills
  3. The Value of Work is Determined by the Skill & Experience Required to Do It Well
  4. Teams Run Plays

And now a contrary principle that must be integrated into all that structure above …

S**t happens!  Or put a little more eloquently …

#5: Teams Do What’s Necessary in a Crisis

Throughout this team structure tip series, I’ve made reference to American football.  And, as we covered, an important component of a successful football team is …

… each player stays in position, does that position’s assigned job and becomes an expert at that position.

But then it happens … FUMBLE!!!  The ball is loose!

Positions?  Instantly irrelevant.  Structure?  Now our enemy. 

Only one thing matters … Get that ball back!

And so it is in your agency.  Yes, you want intentionally diverse talent, intentionally designed structure & positions, and intentionally defined plays (aka systemized workflows) the team executes to achieve your goals.

But sometimes s**t just happens.  There’s a crisis.  Fumble!

And when it does each member of your team must be willing and prepared to do whatever’s necessary and asked of them.

This understanding and preparedness is just as important a part of being a winning team as is the structure and systemization that makes your business machine a top performer.

The machine needs both!  And creating that culture starts with you.

Then, when the crisis is over, everybody gets back to their position and runs their plays.

Of course, for you that’s not a given.

In a football game, when a fumble is recovered the referee blows the whistle and that’s it.  Everybody goes back to position for the next play.

But, in your agency, it’s easy to get into crisis mode and stay there for 25 years!

It’s up to YOU to not let that happen.

If you’ve built the structure and defined the workflows, hold your people accountable.  Yes, do what must be done to get through a crisis.

But, that chaos becomes a way of life only if you allow it.

“Inside (the Freedom Through Systems® program) were real solutions to my agency problems, not a bunch of feel good, motivational fluff that I’d seen before.” – David Sanor, Salem, OH

Save 25% on your copy of the Freedom Through Systems® program now. Click here

If This Is Missing From Your Team Building … It Explains A Lot

Three tips ago (here) I started this team-building series by saying …

Most agency owners’ understanding of true teamwork is confused and muddled by “political correctness” nonsense.

So, I started revealing what a winning team truly is and how to create yours for maximum profitability and personal freedom (tip 1 and tip 2 and tip 3).

Now another important aspect of a true winning team.

#4: Teams Run Plays

Despite how it may look to someone unfamiliar with a particular sport, we all know that teams run plays. The team members aren’t just running around doing whatever they feel like.

(Well … maybe they are … but that team is going to lose big!)

No. They run plays.

And here’s what you must clearly see about plays. They are …

  1. Conceived in advance, “on the drawing board”, by the coaches and team leaders
  2. Tested on the practice field, repeatedly, until they achieve the desired results … which includes tweaking the play as needed during practice
  3. And written down in a play book – which every player must study, learn and KNOW

Conceived in advance by leadership … tested & tweaked … written down … required team knowledge. (Read that again. Let it sink in. It applies DIRECTLY to your agency!)

Then, only when the team has run that play in practice so many times that the coach is confident it has a chance to be successful in a game, it’s actually implemented in a game.

But wait. The life cycle of that play isn’t over just yet.

How did it work in the game? No matter how well it went in practice, only actual results matter.

Does it need some more adjusting? Maybe it just turns out to be a bad play and needs to be thrown out entirely.

Now, what about YOUR team?

Are they each running around doing whatever they feel like, or are they running plays – aka systemized workflows?

Did you and your leadership conceive of those systemized workflows in advance to achieve YOUR goals and objectives, or are the inmates running the asylum? (Sorry for the mixed metaphor.)

Do you test your workflows in training sessions to make sure you got it right? Or do you risk bad client experiences, unhappy team members and unprofitable results?

Do you intentionally gather feedback from your clients and your team to make sure your workflows are actually achieving your desired results in the real world?

Do you document your workflows and require your team to study, learn and KNOW “how we do it here”?

Run plays – in your world that means systemize your work flows – and you will create a winning team.

“Inside (the Freedom Through Systems® program) were real solutions to my agency problems, not a bunch of feel good, motivational fluff that I’d seen before.” – David Sanor, Salem, OH

Get your copy of the Freedom Through Systems® program now and save 25%!  Click here

More next time.

An extra five to fifty grand … per year … in your pocket

We’re building your perfect team. The one that achieves maximum profitability and thrives without your constant involvement.

We already covered important information here and here. So review those tips if needed.

Now, let’s dive into an absolutely essential idea that will reduce your payroll expense by 10% … permanently!

Not impressed with 10%? On a $100,000 payroll that’s $10,000 PER YEAR! What if your payroll is – or someday will be – $500,000? That’s $50,000 YOU keep instead of giving it away needlessly. What could you do that kind of extra cash flow … every year!

#3: The Value of Work is Determined by the Skill & Experience Required to Do It Well

I want you to forget about human beings for a moment. Forget all the names of the people on your team – including yourself.

We’re going to take a simplified look at your business machine.

Your agency business machine performs many dozens of tasks every day/week/month. And each of those tasks can actually be broken down into the physical movements required to complete it.

These tasks – and physical movements – are “the work” being done.

Now … to complete each task well requires a certain level of skill and experience. But the skill and experience necessary can vary greatly from task to task.

To make this obvious …

The skill and experience required to straighten up the lobby well each morning is vastly different than what’s required to evaluate and sell a large commercial risk. Right?

And, everywhere in between those two extremes, every task going on in your agency requires a certain level of skill and experience to do it well.

Here’s the point … it’s the skill and experience required to do the work that determines what you’re willing to pay for THAT work!

Plus, I think it’s obvious, but …

The value of the work is largely affected by supply and demand. Work that requires low skill and little experience can be done by VASTLY more people. Therefore, the price of that WORK is lower.

So what do you do?

You group together the tasks that require a similar level of skill and experience (and therefore a similar value).

That creates a position for which the similar value of the work being done determines what you’re willing to pay the human being that fills that position.

I said earlier you could permanently reduce your payroll expense by 10% to 20% with this idea. How?

Take 3 licensed CSRs making $33,000 each for a total of $99,000.

Properly group your business machine’s work based on required skill and experience and replace one CSR with an unlicensed Assistant.

Pay the Assistant $22,000 (or less), permanently reducing your payroll by $11,000. There’s 11+% right there.

Creating your team continues next time. Talk to you soon.

“I wanted to reach out to you and thank you for the immense help you have been to our agency over the past few years.  The impact you’ve had on our agency has been dramatic and the effects of your involvement will carry on for years to come.  Thank you for the critical role you have played in our agency development!” – Jeff Ryan, The Ryan Agencies

Save 25% of the Freedom Through Systems program right now … PLUS … get 2 hours free coaching time with me personally. Click here now

More relief from team-building frustration…

Last time we started developing your team.  Not just any team, but …

… a team that’s going to achieve maximum profitability …

… and create a business machine that thrives without your constant involvement.

And we started by proving that successful teams are diverse. (check it out here)

We now understand that a winning team consists of different positions – doing different jobs – in concert –  to achieve a common goal.

Next we must recognize that …

#2: Different Positions Require Different Skills

Let’s stick with the football analogy from the last tip. (here)

Imagine you own a pro team and you hire gifted athletes who can play all the positions well.

On the one hand this makes sense, because you can easily move those players around wherever you need them to fill in for each other.   But there’s a down side, too.  A BIG one …

You’d never score a point!

Why?

Because, no matter how gifted your athletes might be, as “jacks-of-all-trades” they’ll be no match for an opponent whose players each specialize in one position and play it exceptionally well.

Your opponent’s team of specialists will crush your team of generalists.

That’s why – except in rare circumstances – a running back stays a running back.  A lineman stays a lineman.  Plus, as each player becomes exceptionally good at their job, the team performs at an exceptional level, in turn.

Now, let’s come back to your agency.

How can one person be exceptional at sales AND service … with every single line of business … with every niche market you get into … handling client relationships AND processing work … etc?

Except in rare circumstances, they can’t.  And counting on rare circumstances to be commonplace for you is not a successful business plan!

OK – I hear you.  You have Producers and CSRs.  You’re specialized.

I’m going deeper than that.

Wait … you already have commercial versus personal lines CSRs.

Great.  But I’m going deeper than that, too.

If you want to achieve maximum profitability you need to keep money-making, licensed personnel focused on money-making activities.

The problem is most CSRs – who should be focused on money-making activity – spend most of their days “processing” – that is, doing work that could be done by an assistant …

… but only if you have an assistant position on your team!

Admittedly, this is a little simplified, but …

Your Producers specialize in sales.  Keep them out of service and processing.

Your CSRs specialize in service and additional sales.  Keep them out of processing.

Your Assistants specialize in processing, so CSRs and Producers can stay focused on making and keeping money.

And now you have a team of specialists that will crush a team of generalists any day of the week.

How do you do that?  More to come.  Talk to you next time.

“Joe’s Freedom Through Systems program is the best thing that could have happened to me.  We’re writing more business, because the people that should be more focused on sales finally are.  Conceptually, that idea makes perfect sense.  But Joe’s program makes it happen in reality.  Thank you for releasing my agency’s productivity.” – Mark Reilly, Harrisburg, PA

Get your copy of Freedom Through Systems® now. Click here.

Frustrated developing your team? Here’s some relief…

I find a lot of agency owners throw the word “team” around mostly because it’s politically correct.  But their misunderstandings about true teamwork …

… keep them trapped where they are – frustrated and unable to grow their agency the way they know it can grow.

So, let’s make sure YOU have a clear path to the success you want.

#1: Teams Are Diverse

When agency owners talk about “building the team”, they often express ideas about everyone doing the same things, receiving the same training, receiving the same pay and being treated exactly the same.

The argument goes, “This is how to make everyone feel a part of the team, to build a ‘gifted team’.”

Nonsense!

A team is NOT a group of people doing the same things, sharing responsibilities.  I don’t know what you call that, but it’s not a team … or, more accurately, it’s a team that’s destined to lose!

An effective team is a group of people with different responsibilities, all working towards a common goal.

Sports provide the best examples of effective team development.  So, let’s take a quick look at (American) football to illustrate.

Each position on a football team has a very different, clearly defined set of responsibilities than the others.

On offense, for example, the quarterback runs the show.  He gives the ball to running backs and throws it to receivers.  Running backs run with the ball.  Receivers catch the ball.  And linemen block the opposing team’s defenders to increase their teammates’ chance of success.

Whether you understand football or not is irrelevant.  The point is this …

A football team is effective only when each team member does a different job in concert with the others to achieve common team objectives.  They don’t all do the same thing!

And that’s true of every team sport on the planet.

Now, never lose site of this important distinction … even though each position does different jobs along the way, ALL positions are necessary for the team to succeed!

That’s also the way to build a winning team in your agency.

Put different people into different positions of varying responsibility, so they can work together in concert to maximize your goals and objectives.

You might call a house full of homogenous, licensed CSRs your “team”.  But that’s like putting 11 receivers on the football field and expecting to win.  Not gonna happen!

Let all that sink in a little.  Next time we’ll continue creating your team … the one that transforms your agency into a business machine that thrives without your constant involvement.

“We were recently told by our District Sales Manager that we are the most efficiently run agency he knows and he doesn’t know how we do what we do with the manpower we have.  This is all thanks to you.  If you hadn’t introduced us to your Freedom Through Systems program, we definitely wouldn’t be where we are today.” – Mary Stover, Aadvantage Insurance Group, Inc.

Get your copy of Freedom Through Systems® now. Click here.

Joe

Are you an insurance hypocrite, too?…

It was too late…

The words were already out there…

In front of a room full of agency owners…

I had just called one of them a hypocrite, and I started scrambling to explain myself…

The heated debate had started five minutes earlier, when…

The class asked for help systemizing their account review processes, and I said…

“That’s easy … don’t do them.”  It blew up from there…

Now, I can’t write a book chapter here, so let me summarize…

And see if YOU are a hypocrite, too…

I asked the class, “Why do you do account reviews? What are your goals?”

We listed the usual…

Provide good service
Nurture relationships
Round the account

You can make a list as long as you want, and my point is always the same…

Account reviews are always a poor way to achieve those goals!

And that led to my hypocrisy faux pas…

Ruffled by my point of view, a young lady declared her passion for her clients’ protection…

How important it is to make sure they know about new endorsements and such…

I agreed with the goal, and asked …

“What percent of your clients actually respond and participate in an account review?”

She and the class agreed it’s typically less than 10%.  I continued…

“So you SAY you care about your clients’ protection…

“But you KNOW less than 10% of your clients get your message through account reviews…

“Doesn’t that make you a hypocrite?

“Because if you truly cared about your clients, you’d find a way to reach most of them!”

The good news…

She wasn’t offended.  She got it … and so did everyone else.

No matter what goals you have for your account review process…

There are BETTER ways to actually achieve them!

You want to nurture relationships?…

Then nurture them!  With direct relationship contacts to everyone…

You want to round your accounts?…

Then round them!  With direct marketing and sales efforts…

You want your clients to know about coverage options?

Then contact them directly with that information!…

Do you get it?

Now … should you really not do account reviews at all?

Maybe…

First, I understand large commercial risks require annual reviews, risk management services, etc.

But for everything else…

Resources are limited, right?  So…

Here are my TWO challenges for you …

First, don’t divert any resources to account reviews until you’ve done everything you possibly can to DIRECLTY achieve your goals.

For example, do everything possible to round your accounts with direct marketing efforts…

When you’ve exhausted all possible account rounding avenues…

Then it’s okay to divert resources to account reviews.

Second, no matter what … TRACK YOUR RESULTS!

So you can stop guessing about whether or not your account reviews actually achieve your goals and KNOW.

How?  Check out these articles …

An owner who tracked and knows
The First Step to Profitable, Worry-Free Business Decisions
The Second Step
The Third Step
The Fourth Step

When the subject is “Your were right!” …

How often do you receive an email, << Test First Name >>, that starts …

“You were right!”

(There’s a marriage joke in there somewhere … but I’m letting it go.)

In this case one of my coaching clients had good news…

Here’s what he said …

“Over the period of June, July and August we conducted 4-7 renewal call reviews a week. The calls only took about 10-15 minutes each. The appointment was scheduled by an outside vendor.

“The goal was to provide value, retain customers, cross-sell and up-sell. The verdict …

“We did not see an increase in retention. We did not generate significant cross-sales.

“The customers whose policy premium decreased or stayed about the same remained a customer.

“The customers who had a rate increase and we were unable to find a lower rate, left.

“As a matter of fact, we felt the customers took us for granted.

“You were right. If you want to cross-sell, just do it. There is no need to wait until renewal.

“Also, there is no need to poke the bear lol.”

Are you paying attention?  Because …

Earlier I said my client had GOOD news, but doesn’t that sound like BAD news?

Actually, it’s GREAT news!

Why? …

Because THIS agency owner knows the TRUTH and can now make a well-informed BUSINESS decision!

He planned a program …

He TRACKED key results …

And he pulled the plug on a losing program.

And that’s GREAT news!

PLUS … now he can divert his resources away from that losing program …

To a winning program …

Even GREATER news.

And all because he traded theory and wishful thinking …

For facts, truth and real business information.

I can’t tell you how many agencies I encounter who run all kinds of programs …

And have no idea if they’re actually achieving the desired results.

My best advice for you …

Don’t be one of them!

Review the following articles resurrected from the archives …

The First Step to Profitable, Worry-Free Business Decisions

The Second Step

The Third Step

The Fourth Step

I hope it helps!

Are you creating this hiring problem yourself, too?

When I see a recurring problem with my customers and coaching clients, I figure…

Other owners and managers are probably impacted the same, so…

Let’s talk about it, because it may provide you some pain relief!

In my Freedom Through Systems® program and the Creating Your Perfect Team™ system, I emphasize proper team structure as an essential component of creating your most profitable agency…

In short (really short) …

There’s a ton of agency work that does NOT require a license to do it well…

Therefore … we can intentionally group that work into positions that don’t require a license…

Therefore … we can hire low-cost, entry-level people to fill those positions…

And then … train them to do things “our way.”

Now, the problem I’ve been tripping over recently is this…

I see agencies doing a good job identifying and grouping their non-licensed work. No problem there.

But…

They seem to lose their way trying to fill that entry-level position…

They advertise for entry level, but then want a candidate with a multi-year history of flawless experience.

No.

Entry level is entry level.

“No experience required” means just that.

We will train the right person!

One of my greatest hires ever worked at a Walmart when she saw my employment ad…

She was 19 – more than sharp enough for college – but didn’t go…

She had zero experience in our environment – which is fine…

What she did have was everything we needed…

Good moral character…

Good work ethic…

And the desire and ability to learn…

She didn’t need skills — it’s entry level.

She needed the right character — and she had that.

We trained her. She learned the business and eventually got licensed — a career path she couldn’t get at Walmart!

Now, there’s another important facet to this issue (I apologize this is getting long)…

The people most likely to qualify for your entry level positions…

Grew up in a different age…

And many never learned to type or keyboard. That’s a SKILL that can be learned …

(Hard as it may be to believe) some never addressed a postal mail envelope…

Another skill that can be learned.

My point is this…

As much as I avoid the “right person” syndrome because it can be taken to dangerous extremes, it applies in this case…

When hiring entry-level, no-experience-required positions…

The candidate’s skill set is far less important than them being the “right person”…

Good moral character…

Good work ethic…

And the desire and ability to learn.

That’s who we want…

We can teach them the rest.

A Lesson In My Public Humiliation

I was only 14, but remember it to this day…

Because the public humiliation rocked my core…

You see someone failed to show for work, so…

I was pulled from my stock boy position…

To take sandwich orders behind the counter…

… at lunch time – on a Saturday – at the busiest deli in town!

In no time at all, things were a total mess…

You know the feeling when someone who orders after you gets served first…

Now, multiply that by 10 or 20…

And that’s when this guy lit into me…

In front of dozens of other customers.

Now, we could easily argue his cowardice…

For taking it out on a kid instead of finding the owner…

But, ultimately…

The guy was right!

Now …

You might be tempted to say this story illustrates employee issues…

That it’s hard to find good people…

That people can’t be trusted to do the simplest of tasks…

After all, blaming is one of the easiest things to do…

But, I’m here to tell ya…

My story does NOT illustrate a “people problem”…

It reveals a “SYSTEMS problem”!

The BUSINESS failed to deliver the desired customer experience…

And, more accurately, the OWNER failed to design an easily-trainable ordering SYSTEM to ensure its unfailing delivery.

I was conscientious & willing…

I wanted to do a great job…

But, frankly, I was set up to fail…

And though I took it VERY personally at the time…

I now know … it wasn’t my fault!  (Yeah, no more therapy)

YOU can do better!

Develop and implement true business SYSTEMS that allow good, average people to produce extraordinary results…

That’s what good systems do…

If you want the personal freedom and independence that comes from an agency that thrives without your constant involvement…

… start by making the mental shift from people-blamer to systems-designer-and-implementer!

THEN…

If someone fails to execute your well-designed, well-implemented and well-trained systems…

You know you have a true “people problem”…

And can deal with that directly.

“Inside were real solutions to my agency problems, not a bunch of feel good, motivational fluff that I’d seen before.” – David Sanor, Salem, OH

The Freedom Through Systems Program for Insurance Agency Owners

Joe

“HOW TO GET 52% MORE COMMISSION GROWTH”
Without One Extra Lead or Marketing Dollar Spent and Without Having to Hire Another CSR or So-called Producer
FIND OUT HOW RIGHT HERE

Do you know what that (bleep) said today?

Pardon my language …

But I never had a boss that wasn’t an a**hole …

At some level …

And I’m guessing you’re one, too!

Now, don’t be offended …

Hear me out and I think you’ll learn something important.

Before I became a business owner …

I had two great bosses…

Whom I love and respect to this day…

But truth be told …

They were both (bleeps) from time to time!

Why?

Because there was no way for them to avoid it!

They made decisions for their businesses that affected my life…

And sometimes I didn’t like it!

So, guess what I said to my buddies over a beer?

“Do you know what that (bleep) did today?”

Fast forward …

When I became “the boss”, I realized something undeniable …

My team (some more than others) surely feel the same way about me…

And I GUARANTEE you …

YOUR team feels the same way about YOU …

… from time to time!

Short of being a “puppet ruler” there’s no way to avoid it, because …

No matter what you do or say …

You can’t make everyone happy all the time …

And, when they vent to their family and friends …

YOU are referenced with unpleasant adjectives.

Who cares … get over it!!!

But what’s the point?

To put your head on straight when it comes to the TRUTH of the employer-employee relationship …

If you need to be liked, find some friends. (Call me – I’ll pat you on the back.)

Because standing at the helm of your agency is NOT the place to seek approval from those in your charge.

Now, I’m often misunderstood on this topic…

So, let me clarify a little…

I’m NOT saying devalue people & treat them poorly.

Quite the contrary…

Treat them well. Pay them well. And hold them to high standards.

Just don’t kid yourself about the TRUE nature of the relationship…

Then do what’s best for your agency’s future …

Even though someone on your team doesn’t like it…

And that makes you the (bleep) —– again.

Joe