By Roger Sitkins
TEN QUESTIONS THAT COULD ALTER YOUR AGENCY’S DESTINY
Challenge your thinking and create new opportunities for innovation and growth in your organization
A comfort zone is a wonderful place in which to live, but nothing grows there.
Clearly, the pandemic has dramatically changed the world, putting lives and livelihoods in peril. Having said that, I firmly believe that great questions can positively change the direction of your life, as well as your agency. If you’re an agency chief executive, I’d like to challenge you and your leadership team to answer the following 10 questions.
- Is your future greater than your past or is your past greater than your future? Far too frequently, people sit around and fondly remember the “good old days.” The reality is, the good old days are old and maybe they really weren’t as good as we remember them! Typically, our mental scrapbooks exclude the things we want to forget and focus only on the happy moments associated with life events. Yet all too often I see people wistfully recalling “the way things used to be,” rather than challenging themselves to become their best version possible. Will your future be substantially better than your past?
- Is your current direction aligned with your desired destination? It’s pretty obvious that if an airplane or a ship gets off course by a small degree, maybe only 1% or 2%, they miss their final destination dramatically. The same applies to agencies. Think of your agency’s current direction. Now compare your agency’s current revenues with its total revenues five years ago, then three years ago. If your agency stays at the exact same growth rate, what will your revenues be five and ten years from today? Typically, there’s a tremendous gap between your direction and your desired destination. In this case, GAP is a double acronym: “Goals and Plans” for “Growth and Profit.” If your current direction is not leading you to your desired destination, you’d better get back on course and close the gap. Have you aligned your direction and destination?
- What will your story be when it’s time to be told? Let’s face it, no one gets out of this life alive; everybody eventually leaves their agency. What will your agency’s story be when it’s time your story is told? Also, as an agency leader, what will your personal story be when others discuss your legacy? If you don’t like the answer, now is the time to begin changing and improving. What sort of legacy will you and your agency leave? Are revisions in order?
- Do you fear the future or embrace it? It’s often said that the future will be here before we know it. While that’s a scary thought to some, others look forward to it with enthusiasm and excitement. Do you fear the future and the changes that lie ahead, or do you embrace them? Are you constantly innovating and seeking new and improved ways to sell more, retain more, and earn more as an agency?
- Given the choice either to fit in with the crowd or become world class, which will you choose? As you look to the future of your agency what are you going to become? As a leader you can either fit in with the crowd and achieve average results (the best of the worst and the worst of the best; as close to the top as you are the bottom) or distinguish your agency as a world-class organization that dominates its marketplace. What will it be?
- Are you simply replicating last year? All too often I see agencies doing the exact same things they did last year. The “footprint” of their agency never seems to budge. For example, their average revenue per relationship, revenue per employee, and revenue per producer really doesn’t change that much. Sure, they might get an average growth rate of 3% or 4% consistently, but they really haven’t changed as an organization. Everything they do as an agency is based upon activities, not results. As one of our CEO Boot Camp attendees recently noted, “I just realized that for years I have sanctioned activities and never demanded results.” What will you replicate?
- Isn’t it time to stop playing small? One of the early lessons I learned as I consulted with agencies is that revenue per relationship drives the size of the producers’ books of business and the size of your agency overall. As I’ve mentioned previously in this column, you cannot become a $1 million producer by writing $1,000 accounts. If your agency and your producers are not dramatically improving your revenue per relationship, then all you’re doing is playing small. Are you satisfied with being in the minor leagues? If not, how big do you want to play in the future?
- What old beliefs are holding you back? For better and for worse, beliefs drive behaviors. More often than not within agencies, we see beliefs that are self-limiting. Here are some common examples:
- “We can’t write larger accounts”
- “We can’t work on referrals only”
- “We can’t super-qualify prospects”
- “We can’t differentiate in a crowded marketplace”
What are some of the long-held beliefs that may be holding you and your entire agency back?
- How will you expand your comfort zone to facilitate growth? A comfort zone is a wonderful place to live, but nothing grows there. All progress starts at the outer edge of your comfort zone. The best individuals and the best agencies get comfortable being uncomfortable. They’re constantly challenging themselves to get outside of their comfort zone, which in turn expands their comfort zone. If you think of your comfort zone as an ever-widening circle, you’ll see how this applies to all areas of business. After all, it’s impossible for a circle to grow in one direction without growing in all directions.
One of the best examples of increasing your comfort zone is rehearsing presentations. It always amazes me that producers will not practice their presentations. For most, the first time they actually give a presentation is when they’re in front of the potential client—live. It rarely ends well. In fact, one of the best statements I ever heard was from an attendee at one of our producer programs. When asked to name his primary takeaway from the experience, he said, “Moving forward, I no longer am going to practice my presentation during the actual presentation.” That’s precisely why you need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. What will you do to expand your comfort zones?
- If you’re the smartest person in the room, isn’t it time to find a new room? Hopefully, you have experienced the power of belonging to, and actively participating in, a mastermind session. The collective genius of highly intelligent, dedicated people sharing ideas, strategies and experiences is career changing. Let’s face it, trial and error is too time-consuming and too expensive. Somebody else has already figured out what you’re trying to figure out. What room are they in? More important, what new room should you be in?
I hope these questions have challenged your thinking and created some new opportunities for innovation and growth in your organization. As always, it’s your choice.
Roger Sitkins is the CEO of Sitkins Group, Inc., and developer of The Sitkins Network and The Better Way Agency program. Roger began his career by working in his parents’ insurance agency in Wyandotte, Michigan, and after nearly 40 years has truly become an icon in the industry. He has trained and mentored thousands of insurance professionals. Producers, CEOs, and sales managers with diverse levels of experience have benefited tremendously from his training and leadership.
Roger was inducted into the Michigan Insurance Hall of Fame in 2017 and in that same year also received the Dr. Henry C. Martin Award from Rough Notes magazine. Roger is among only six people to have the honor of receiving this prestigious award.
Recognized as the nation’s top insurance agency results coach and renowned leader for improvement, he believes that if you improve the life of one person, you improve the world. To learn more, visit www.sitkins.com.