ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

The Vision of Success

Why do so many agencies stabilize, then languish at revenue levels between 500,000 and 1 Million while a successful few grow through the 1Million barrier and become larger, successful companies?

For the last twenty years we have had the opportunity to consult with over 1000 agencies from a few hundred thousand in revenue to $20 Million revenue. While our assignments to these agencies have been extremely varied, we have been able to observe the characteristics of both "successful" agents and those not very successful. After 20 years we can tell whether an agent/owner is (or can be) successful in business within one hour of our initial meeting.

The two common components of success are VISION and IMPLEMENTATIONAL FORTITUDE.

VISION

We met an agent 20 years ago who was a second generation owner of a $600,000 revenue agency outside of a medium-size city. Within one hour of meeting him he told us that his goal was to own two aircraft and train his staff sufficiently so that he could enter politics. As a young man he had a vision firmly fixed in his mind.

Every month we visit agents throughout the U.S. whose primary vision include 1) keeping their business from eroding, 2) growing to keep their carriers happy, 3) controlling (managing) their staff to make them service the way the agent would like, 4) making more money, and 5) maintaining a strong value to permit them to use the value of the agency in the owners' retirement.

Do you see the difference between the concentrated vision of the first example and the scattered vision of the second?

Of course the agent in the first example had the same issues and concerns of the hundreds of agents cited in the second example. Bu those issues were bumps in the road, not detours. The success-oriented agent always had his course charted toward his vision, managing the issues as they arose.

On the other hand, the majority of agents fail or fear to create or follow their visions of success. They permit every business issue (the loss of a market, financial reversals, personnel issues) to re-direct the course of the agency. The result is, inevitably, a vision of the impending death of the agency system and the need to get out sooner, rather than later, with as much money as possible.

IMPLEMENTATIONAL FORTITUDE

Implementational Fortitude is the difference between a businessman and an insurance salesman - between a dreamer and a doer - between a success and a failure. It is the discipline to create your own goals - in writing, publicize them so everyone knows where you intend to go, and follow the course with an almost fanatical determination, solving all roadblocks instead of permitting them to hinder or re-route your plan.

CREATING YOUR GOALS

This can be the Vision or Mission Statement of your Strategic Plan. Dreaming the dreams simply makes you a dreamer. Writing them down creates a commitment. Publishing it adds more commitment to your vision. It also adds the risk of embarrassment and criticism (from others and self-criticism) if your actions don't take you toward your vision. Following the course defines the day-by-day, month-by-month and year-by-year management of your business toward the achievement of your vision. Every objective and action basks in the harsh light of one question, "Will this help me to achieve my vision?" If the answer is yes (without strenuous rationalizations), it is adopted. If the answer is no, it is discarded in favor of goals meeting the "Vision Test".

The agent represented in our example hired us to facilitate his Strategic Plan. He knew where he wanted to be but his training as an insurance agent did not prepare him to manage his business toward his vision. Today, after a successful career in state politics, the agent has resumed his management of his $3 Million agency with branches in two adjoining states (justifying his two airplanes) and his specialty in aircraft insurance (permitting a number of producers who are also pilots). During the last 20 years this agency suffered from the same market conditions as all other agents. Their commission rates are generally lower, competition is keen and carriers are still demanding. Despite all of the hurdles, however, the vision remained solid and the agency's tactical decisions were always tempered by the "Vision Test".

Do you have a vision? Everyone had one, but most have forgotten them ( or relegated them to the 'pipe dream' category). Do you have a Plan? Have you written it? Do other know your goals? Do you pursue your goals or do you let the market conditions determine your course for you?

GET PRO-ACTIVE!! You are never too young or too old to re-vitalize your business.

GET OFF YOUR ASSETS!!! Begin taking educated and calculated risks. If you don't know enough to pursue this course, find an advisor to teach you. Otherwise, large agency or small, you will end up a statistic in the shrinking agency force.