Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to work with over 85 agencies starting their P&C Insurance offices from the ground up.  Many were Life/Health, Crop and Financial agencies that decided to form a new P&C Insurance department in their existing establishment, and from my experience, these are the ways the successful ones made it work:

1.       There needs to be an experienced and dedicated P&C Department Manager.  Either the principal of the established agency becomes the 100% dedicated P&C Manager, or an experienced P&C Manager should be hired to assume the role.

2.       The manager cannot operate on both sides of the agency.  P&C requires a different mindset than Life, Health, Financial or Crop.  It’s a “Jack of all trades, master of none” concept, and problems will arise if the manager doesn’t have a singular focus.  Typically, the manager will gravitate towards whichever area of study he or she is most comfortable or familiar with.  Be careful, as this can lead to failure in the division of the agency that they are the least experienced in.

3.       A great producer or salesperson isn’t always a great manager.  A successful salesperson may seem like a good fit for the position, but often the organizational skills needed to manage a department are not always present in aggressive salespeople.  If you’ve chosen a driven salesperson to lead the department, be sure to give them the organized support staff they will need. Otherwise, consider hiring a more operationally minded individual for the task.

4.       Experience above all else.  The biggest hurdle initially is understanding the intricacies of P&C coverages, rating factors, carrier relations, carrier products, carrier quoting systems, and even the difficult situations that arise from customer claims and questions. The more insurance carriers you have, the more potential complications you’ll have as well.  Positioning someone at the helm of the department who can make quick and accurate decisions is paramount. They must be able to avoid getting bogged down by a heavy, diverse workload while still continually growing the department.

 

There is money to be made in the creation of a P&C department, but also risk if operations are not fully understood.  Keep these tips in mind to ensure that your business succeeds in the rewarding industry of Property & Casualty Insurance.

Written by Josh Nordin https://www.linkedin.com/in/joshnordin

While it may seem odd in this day and age, there are still many offices utilizing a paper file system as a primary means of document storage. For some, however, it can be a daunting task to let go of a comfortable and established system. Whether it be to take advantage of a cloud-based "access-anywhere" system, utilize document tracking and quick recovery through automated management system software, or create a better client experience with e-signing documents, the following are a few key items that have helped offices of various types during this transition.

1. Front-end scan your documents. When converting to this method, it's important that errors like failing to scan or “missing” documents do not occur due to old paper file management habits. If the documents are scanned into your system before they are worked on, there won't be an opportunity in the shuffle of documents for them to be bypassed.  Incoming mail should be scanned first and routed electronically to the recipient as well.

2. Switch as much paper mail to digital as possible. In some industries, it's possible to eliminate almost all scanning by requesting that your key vendors send email rather than paper mail. Also, using eFax instead of paper fax will significantly speed up your paperless system. The only time-consuming aspect of a paperless system should be the physical act of scanning documents.

 

3. Use document storage software that incorporates a Client Relations Management (CRM) platform. There are many on the market that cater to specific industries. These powerful tools will help your office retrieve documents quickly, time/date stamp all activities involving the processing of the documents, help management track work flows, and organize client or prospect activities. Some systems do not allow the user to edit the time/date stamp and stores non-editable versions of original documents in order to make them admissible in court as evidence.

4. Have clients electronically sign documents. Most people cannot quickly sign and scan, email, or fax a document, but they can conveniently click a few buttons in an email to complete a signature. There are many affordable and easy to use e-signing programs on the market that make this a piece of cake, and the Electronic Signatures Act make these documents as legally binding as traditional wet-ink signatures.

5. But what do I do with all of my old paper files? In my experience, the two approaches that have worked best are creating a move-forward date and using the paper files until their expiring document storage date (and managing all new documents electronically in the meantime), or scanning in the old files. Depending on the amount of files, some have opted to utilize both methods and take advantage of OCR scanning software that makes the text in older documents searchable if stored in a large archive folder. This eliminates the need to individually name and route each old document into a client folder.

I was part of a project that shredded and recycled over four tons of paper files after a paperless conversion. We joked that the building foundation probably lifted four inches! I’m relatively sure a physical lift of the building didn’t occur, but there was definitely a lift in efficiency after a few months of adjustment.

Written by Josh Nordin https://www.linkedin.com/in/joshnordin

Anyone who’s ever worked for someone else knows that motivating employees takes more than just a paycheck.  It’s helpful to view your employees as your team, and not really as employees at all.  Even though you or another authority figure may act as the leader, each player on your team has an important role.  If your team isn’t motivated, opportunities will be lost.  Consider these things that will help to drive your employees and lead your business to success:

  • Clear Leadership – Your team needs concise goals and objectives.  Make decisions after carefully considering input and perspectives from each team member that is directly involved.
  • Inspire – Not only should a goal be set, but it should be sold.  An influential person (yourself or another leader) should sell the team on why the goal will benefit everyone.
  • Delegate – To properly delegate, a leader needs to choose a qualified individual who can spearhead a project and make decisions to complete the project successfully.  This means trusting the appointed person and only getting involved when input or guidance is sought.
  • Empowerment – Your team members will work hard if they feel that they have creative freedom and support from a leader who respects and trusts them.
  • Ownership – It’s natural for humans to want to build and improve.  Your team will grow as people and as a unit if they feel that they have a stake in the game.  It doesn’t need to be monetary ownership, rather a sense of purpose and stability.  A good leader lets their team know that they are a part of the big picture and doesn’t credit successes solely to him or herself

Remember that salary will affect retention, but it’s morale that will affect productivity.

Written by Josh Nordin https://www.linkedin.com/in/joshnordin

As a captive insurance agent, it’s only natural to wonder what it’s like to work on the independent agency side.  Our opinion?  It’s much better, and here’s why.

  • Higher commissions.  In the independent agency world, average commissions range from 5-8% higher.  This data comes from the thousands of captive direct writers I have spoken with over the last 10 years.
  • Worried about running into your neighbor at the mailbox or perhaps seeing a family member at Thanksgiving because you know they just took another big rate increase?  You are NOT alone! This is a direct comment from one of our former captive now independent agency owners.   Are independents immune to rate increases?  No way.  The beauty, however, is you have many other carriers to move business to if a carrier decides to take rate!
  • Tired of having life insurance production requirements tied to your commission and bonus levels?  As an independent agent, life insurance production is gravy commission.  If you want gravy commission you are free to pour it on.  If you don’t, say no thank you and focus on property and casualty production. Life insurance production is totally up to you as an independent agency owner.
  • What’s wrong with this picture?  You are “growing” at 10% per year and you are “retaining” 80% of your customers.  It’s a trainwreck waiting to happen.  Not only do independent agencies retain above 90% of their customers but they also have a closing ratio of over 70%.  This is because they have many more carriers.  Ask yourself,  how many new prospects do I sell out of 10?  Is it 1, 2, 3?  
  • You get bonus money on top of your commissions‒ independent agency owners range upwards of 9-10% additional.   Think about that as an effective rate of commission of 25%!  We have not seen those levels of commission since Ronald Reagan was in the White House!
  • No one enjoys a district manager hammering them every month for improvements, additions, or money.  Being an independent agent allows you to be your own boss and not have to worry about someone else looking over your shoulder all the time.
  • Retirement should be a time of happiness; a time you reap the benefits of all the hard work, dedication, and at times, sacrifices you have made over many years.  Nothing’s more disappointing than handing over the work you did for a company for a predetermined price, or worse, for free.  As an independent agency owner, your company is YOURS, and before retiring, you can sell it on the open market to a high bidder.  

Seems like a no-brainer to us. MIAA is dedicated to helping you make the transition from fed up captive agent to a satisfied, successful, and most importantly, happy, independent.

Written by Josh Nordin https://www.linkedin.com/in/joshnordin

No matter how long you’ve been in the business, you should never feel like you’ve learned everything about it and your competitors. If you do feel that way, in any capacity, it’s time to ask the tough questions. Successful agents are constantly learning and looking for ways to improve their practices. Follow suit and read up on the latest trends, news and technology that could impact your agency and clients.

 

Identify Useful Resources

Keep a list of websites, blogs and social pages on record that you can reference when you’re looking for new information. Google Alerts, Feedly, and other similar programs are easy ways to receive new, constant information regarding the insurance industry and are especially useful for areas you’re unfamiliar with. Staying up-to-date with your industry’s news and trends is an essential part of any business’s success. You likely wouldn’t bank somewhere that doesn’t offer online banking, so don’t be that bank for your prospects.

 

Do Some Self-Evaluation

You have set practices and you’re used to them. But are they still beneficial to your business and potential prospects? Ask yourself what’s working well and what needs some revamping. Be honest and objective - just because a certain approach gets the job done doesn’t necessarily mean it’s as efficient or effective as it could be. Explore other options, ask trusted mentors and do some research. You might find the way you’re used to is costing you time, money and is potentially outdated.

 

Don’t Be Afraid of Change

It might seem daunting to learn a new system or industry aspect, but remember that adaptability is beneficial and keeps you relevant. Hire someone to redesign (or launch) your personal site or social pages to be more available for your clients and prospects. Get in the habit of posting regularly and keeping in contact with your audience. Taking the time to embrace change and adapt to it will make you a trusted resource in your industry, and is more likely to help bring in new business.


It’s up to you to ask yourself the questions you know need answers. Staying ahead of the information curve is what your clients will expect from you and you should begin expecting it from yourself. Once you focus on your personal development growth, the growth of your agency should soon follow.

When it comes to diversifying yourself from the competition, playing on differences might feel like the cliche route to take - that is, if you’re not doing it right. It’s important to highlight what sets you apart from the rest, but generic claims aren’t the way to win over prospective clients. Specifics and examples will get you attention; broad generalizations won’t. Take the time to know how to play to your strengths with each individual client; your services shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach.

 

Paint a Picture

Anyone can tell a potential client they’re knowledgeable. That’s not hard to do. Dig deeper into your strengths and identify a situation where your skills and strengths allowed you to help a client out. Think of it this way: when you ask your friend about his or her favorite restaurant, there’s usually a good amount of description involved. Be it what’s in their favorite dish, favorite place to sit or how they prepare drinks, it’s rarely ever referred to in general terms like a good menu and reasonably priced. There are plenty of restaurants with those exact attributes, don’t sell yourself in the same way.

 

Don’t Bad-Mouth the Competition

Keep the focus on you. Talking bad about clients’ other options looks desperate and unprofessional, so don’t play into that game. When you’ve got the potential client in front of you, talk about what you’re able to offer, not what they shouldn’t like about other choices. Let them feel like you’re giving them the option to choose.

 

Leave Room for Decisions

It’s hard for potential clients to feel comfortable when they feel their decision isn’t really up to them, but what’s being pushed. Offer suggestions, individual approaches that you might take in their position, and an enthusiastic attitude to help, not push. An iffy decision because of pressure might get you a deal, but it’s less likely to return. Remembering an experience - positive or negative - will play into future decision making. Make sure that you’re there to ease the process and be an avenue of advice instead of the pushy salesman they’re likely to run into somewhere else.


In the end, the client is going to go with who they feel is the best choice for them, as they should. If you take the time to really get to know your clients wants and needs and how you’re best able to meet them, there’s a good chance you’ll be their pick.

August 2, 2011 – Hampton, NH:  According to the Insurance Journal (August 1, 2011), The Strategic Insurance Agency Alliance’s (SIAA) Master Agencies account for 8 of the top 100 Privately Held Independent Agencies in the country. “A significant number of our Master Agencies consistently place in the annual Top 100,” stated Jim Masiello, CEO of SIAA, “It speaks to our continued growth and success despite the economic climate and soft market of the last few years.”   The ranking is based on Insurance Journal’s Top 100 annual survey conducted in the spring and early summer each year.   “As much

The information below for insurance agents may impact your insurance agency. -Josh Nordin This information was received courtesy of MetLife Auto & Home: The Insurance Departments of several states have issued legal requirements addressing the prohibited practice of misrepresenting coverage on certificates of insurance. The requirements applies specifically (but not solely) to the MIAA States of IA & MO.   Certificates of insurance must clearly and accurately state the coverage provided, but are not actual policies of insurance and cannot be used to amend, extend, or alter insurance coverage afforded by the underlying policies. Companies and producers who intentionally misrepresent the terms of an actual or proposed insurance policy are in violation of law and may create an Errors and Omissions exposure.   For more information please contact your MetLife Auto & Home Regional Sales Manager.

Earthquakes aren't just something you need to consider on the coasts anymore.  Our Midwest Insurance Agents are experiencing growing concern especially in Missouri.  Our Insurance Agency Group will continue to monitor new developments and keep information readily available for our insurance agents. - Josh Nordin   Reference Article By David Pitt AP Personal Finance Writer Earthquakes and California go together. Or at least that's what most of the country thought until Tuesday's East Coast earthquake centered in Virginia. Reports of the earth moving were widespread, coming from New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Georgia. Even a few came from as far

This is a great article for those wondering what they need when they first become an independent insurance agent or for those insurance agents that are already existing and need to switch management systems.  Choosing the correct system can be daunting for new insurance agencies, but Steve Anderson has a great system for making this process profitable.

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