The Circle of Choice
An effective process consistently produces the right results
Although this topic could apply to most employees, this article is really directed at producers.
One of the biggest problems I see with average producers is their inability—or unwillingness—to focus on the right things. They chase way too many “bright and shiny” objects, allowing endless distractions to take them away from their “real” job. As one of my great clients and friends once said, “You’ve got to define the job of a producer and then not let them fake it.” In other words, know what you’re supposed to do and then do it! Now that’s some pretty good advice!
Success comes down to the choices producers make (or let happen) each and every day. I refer to this as “The Circle of Choice.” Inside this circle are the things that can be controlled. The things that are totally uncontrollable are outside the circle.
Defining where you will spend your time and energy dictates your level of success. You must identify those things you can control and those you cannot.
… Wasting energy on things beyond your control has a way of feeding on itself. Before you know it, those worries and complaints can snowball into an avalanche of pure angst.
Putting a laser focus on those ITC (In The Circle) items drives great results. The key is to stop wasting time on things that are OTC (Outside The Circle) because you can’t really do anything about them. Furthermore, wasting energy on things beyond your control has a way of feeding on itself. Before you know it, those worries and complaints can snowball into an avalanche of pure angst.
To keep focused on what’s ITC, I always think of the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Begin with the end in mind
Another key to The Circle of Choice concept is to begin with the end in mind. In his book The 48 Laws of Power, author Robert Greene refers to “Law 29: Plan All The Way to the End.” Basically it explains that, when you plan from start to finish, your circumstances and any obstacles won’t distract or deter you.
This idea also is reflected in Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In fact, “Begin with the end in mind” is the second habit. That’s what truly highly effective people do!
If we’re going to begin with the end in mind, the starting point for producers becomes the agency’s Personal Business Model. What’s your end in mind?
I talk to producers about this all the time, both in one-on-one coaching sessions and in ProducerFit programs, and I’m amazed that so few of them have an end in mind. They seem clueless as to where they’re going—almost as if there’s no tomorrow. Their typical modus operandi seems to be to go out and do a good job, sell some new clients, retain 90% of existing clients, and assume that everything will be okay. But they don’t have an end in mind.
Now let’s say you want to be a million-dollar producer. Will you have 50 clients paying you $20,000 each? Or 25 clients paying you $40,000? Maybe you don’t want to be a million-dollar producer and you’d be happy with a smaller book of, say, 40 clients paying $10,000 apiece. That’s fine. But what you can’t have is 1,000 clients paying you $500 each! The specifics of your personal business model don’t concern me. All I really care about is that you create one with a focused end in mind.
At a recent training program I introduced the concept of ITC and OTC, which really hit home with the participants. Nearly all of them realized they were wasting too much time OTC. Are you?
Outside the circle
Let’s take a look at some of the OTC things we can’t change, no matter what we do.
- The national/global economy. None of us can make a significant impact here.
- Insurance carriers’ appetites. You can’t stop them from changing, but it’s important that you understand them.
- Agency automation system/technology. It’s not going away, so you need to adapt to it and maximize it.
- The service trap. Allowing yourself to stay “too busy” doing service work OTC means you can’t get ITC.
Inside the circle
Now let’s put a laser focus on the things that are ITC:
- Personal business model. What are you working toward?
- Ideal client profile. What does your ideal client look like? Not everyone is an ideal client, and in fact some can be quite un-ideal.
- High-performance team. What are the roles, responsibilities, and makeup of your high-performance team? Calling them high-performance doesn’t necessarily mean they are. I’ve seen plenty of under-performers masquerade as high-performance team members.
- Unique selling proposition. Inside the circle, you must create your own unique selling proposition or value proposition. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s critically important that you have one.
- Relationship management. If you believe, as I do, that our industry still revolves around relationships, and if you want to have a relationship-based book of business vs. a transaction-based book, what’s your relationship management program?
- Networking activities. You can control what events you attend, how you prepare for them, whom you want to meet, and how you will follow up with them afterward.
- Daily preparation, practice, rehearsals. You can control that and use it as an unfair advantage.
- Calendar. Ours is The Producer’s Perfect Schedule. Its purpose is to get producers to spend at least 20 hours per week face to face with clients, prospects, and centers of influence. You may recall my pointing out in past articles that 20 hours per week is only 12% of your total week! In reality, most producers don’t come anywhere close to that.
- Health. You may not be able to prevent all illness, but you can certainly strive to be as healthy as possible by controlling your diet and exercising.
- Personal/leisure time. This includes how much time you spend with your family and how much time you devote to recreational activities, both of which are within your control.
- Money-making activities. When it comes to ITC business activities, we know that the best producers need to spend 80% of their time on four key money-making activities: sales, relationship management, continuations, and pipeline building.
Based on my experience and observations, I know that the more time you spend ITC, the more money you make, the happier you are, and the more balanced your life is.
As a producer, you have countless choices to make each day. But that’s the beauty of what you do—you have the freedom of choice! Keep it simple as you figure out the things that you can (and want to) control. Create a daily morning ritual of focusing on your ITC items.
Also, have a Sunday evening ritual of preparing for the week ahead. Spend some time thinking through where you are going and what you need to accomplish in the coming week. Better yet, make that a daily ritual! Try using a pen and paper to write out a schedule for the day (vs. a computer or electronic device). This will help you identify the items you can control—the ones that belong ITC that will get you great results!
Overall, The Circle of Choice eliminates what I call “HAWG” (Hysterical Activity on the Way to the Grave) and provides clarity. The key is to keep it simple because there is clarity in simplicity.
Keep in mind that none of us are going to get out of this alive! I’ve said many times that “hope is not a strategy,” and guess what? Neither is luck or doing nothing!
I firmly believe that you must determine what’s inside your Circle of Choice and focus on those things you can control. That’s The Better Way!
Roger Sitkins, CEO of Sitkins Group, Inc., is the nation’s number one “Agency Results Coach.” In addition to establishing The Sitkins 100™ and Sitkins International, he is the creator of The Vertical Growth Experience™. His latest offering is The Better Way Agency, a web-based training program that shows agency owners ways to make significant improvements in all areas of the agency. To learn more, go to www.thebetterwayagency.com