Do what you do best and delegate the rest
By Roger Sitkins
I've observed over the years that most agency principals and producers have worked very, very hard to get to a point of very low productivity! Whenever Sitkins International advisors have mentioned this at sessions in the past, we've gotten a startled reaction. I realize it's a strong statement, but it's true. People work very hard doing things on the job but then at some point, they realize they're no longer productive. The reason? They're not focused on doing what they do best.
Consider this: Most agency owners start off selling insurance and wind up running a business, which wasn't their original intention. Initially, their goal was to be a really good producer. Similarly, most producers start off selling insurance only to turn into highly compensated—but not very productive—CSRs. In both cases, people are doing things they are not uniquely qualified to do during about 80% of their day. In fact, they spend most days doing things they're not very good at.
If you think about it, what is it that you love to do? What is it that gives you energy? What is it that creates new sales for you? What is it that you could do all day long without complaining about having to do it? What would you do even if you didn't get paid? Those are the things you are uniquely qualified to do.
What most producers/owners love to do is sell insurance. They like the hunt and they like the victory. They like the face-to-face discussions with clients, prospects and centers of influence. Also, they firmly believe that 90% of what they do when they're out of the office is better than 90% of what they do when they are in the office. They hate doing paperwork, so, to them, a day without a paper cut is a great day!
The big question is: How great would your agency or your personal book of business be if you could—or would—invest 80% of your time doing what you do best and delegating the rest? What if you had a true High Performance Team where 100% of the team members were spending 80% of every day in those areas where they're uniquely qualified? What activities would showcase the highest and best use of their talent?
It was through Dan Sullivan, one of the founders of the Strategic Coach® organization, that I first learned about the concept of unique abilities. According to Sullivan, there are certain areas where we have unique abilities (the things we do best), areas where we're competent (average) and areas where we're incompetent (below average/downright awful).
What if you had a team in which every member invested at least 80% of every workday doing what he or she does best? Now that's a company I'd love to invest in because it's such a rarity!
A recent series of studies showed that the average professional service business (such as an insurance agency) has a payroll productivity of 63%. This means that for every $1 million of payroll, they are getting only $630,000 of productivity. In other words, the employees are not being engaged at their highest level and aren't being properly managed and motivated.
However, if you used some very specific employee engagement tools and strategies and also had all of your people in jobs that maximize their unique talents (i.e., their factory-installed equipment from the Big Guy upstairs), you would have a true High Performance Team. What would that mean to your results?
Keep in mind that you probably will never get 100% productivity. After all, we're not dealing with trained monkeys. But if your Revenue per Employee is less than $200,000, you've got low productivity and unengaged employees. Further, if your Revenue per Validated Producer is less than $1 million, you've got low productivity and unengaged producers.
So now what do you do?
Set goals. As part of your overall planning process, set specific goals and/or standards for the numbers you want to become "normal" in your agency. Note: Although you may say, "This is the number I want to hit," the reality is that you don't manage the number, you manage the behaviors that create the number.
Review results. If I were planning with your agency today, I would take a look at every one of your critical indicators and the results that you've had, and I would compare them against the Best Practices study of the Big "I."
Examine workflows. Another critical part of planning involves scrutinizing all workflows and procedures, and getting lean. Are you getting things done on time, the first time? If so, that's a sign that you're very productive and that there's not a lot of wasted motion or activity. If not, you might be surprised by the cost of unproductive activity.
Once, when one of our Sitkins International Members heard us speak about the concept of getting lean, they began to evaluate their systems and procedures, including certificate of insurance management. They found that 33% of the certificates being sent out annually were being returned due to incorrect addresses, costing the agency $12,000 per year just because of that one glitch. Although $12,000 is unlikely to make or break an agency, how many other $12,000 items are there?
Review your automation usage. Are your employees really using the majority of the functions properly? If not, you've probably got low productivity.
• Study your producers' pipelines. Do your producers have a "monetized pipeline" of at least two times their annual sales goal? Or do they merely have a wish list of accounts they think they want to write? Unlike a pipeline, a wish list will not enhance producer productivity.
• Evaluate your total staff. Do you really need your entire staff to operate optimally? What if you absolutely had to cut staff? Who would go and why?
The bottom line
I realize that these are tough questions that require tough choices. But when you do what you do best and delegate the rest, you'll be much more productive and get better results. Just make sure you don't confuse "delegating" with pawning off your responsibilities on just anyone. When you delegate the tasks that you're not very good at, be sure you're assigning them to the people who are.
For example, when we have a producer training camp in town, I show up and I present. I coach, I motivate and I advise people. I do not print up the manuals, check on the menus, set up the hotel rooms, provide pencils and paper, or double-check the PowerPoint presentation. We have an entire team that does all those things and does them exceedingly well, I must say. That way, when I show up, I can do what I do best.
Could I do all of the above? Certainly. In fact, back in the old days, my assistant and I used to do everything ourselves. Unfortunately, those activities took away from my prep time. Also, because I am meticulous to a fault, I tended to drive everyone around me crazy by trying to make sure that everything was perfect. Eventually, I realized I'd be more effective as a speaker if I delegated the non-speaking tasks to the organizational experts on my team.
When it comes to doing vs. delegating, I think Dan Sullivan said it best: Frank Sinatra didn't move pianos—he only showed up and sang.
Are you doing what you do best? Do you know how to delegate the rest? If so, your productivity will reflect as much. If not, you're cheating yourself and your agency.
As always, it's your choice.
Roger Sitkins is founder and chairman of Sitkins International, a private client group and membership program for some of the leading independent insurance agencies and brokerages in the United States, Canada, and Latin America. Members participate in training, advising and networking opportunities focused on innovation, sales, growth, profitability and value. Sitkins International provides intellectual property that empowers agents and brokers to become innovators.