Imagine your management team is in a meeting room with a huge white board. The question of the day is simple: How does your brokerage define success in commercial lines? Write it down.
The quick responses come easy. Profitable growth. High retention. Client satisfaction. Efficient operation. Trusted employees. Access to valued markets. Solid reputation. Visible brand. These are the business outcomes that will help you grow and become successful. The challenge is, how do you turn desired business outcomes into actual success?
Your ideal future state in commercial lines will not arrive by accident or maintaining the status quo. The argument, “we’ve been in the business for 50 (insert your number here) years and have always done it this way” is the most predictable way to not grow. This is because everything is changing, and will continue to change.
A different reality from what you're currently experiencing is possible. But what does it look like? How do you get there?
Take stock of where you are now. Which financial results do you measure? Are they based on past performance? Do you stack yourself up against industry-wide benchmarks or best practices? What are your sales numbers, or your retention rate?
Understanding what you are doing well, and what you don't, will help define what to do and where you focus. It also helps you set internal benchmarks to measure your success.
Brokerage principals are most passionate when they talk about what their business brings to clients. They have a vision of how their brokerage works and what sets it apart in the marketplace. The main issue is that it’s not necessarily communicated throughout the brokerage – or to clients and carriers.
A recent Harvard Business Review article titled, There are still only two ways to compete, discusses the classic two strategies: low cost or differentiation. Successful brokers don't compete on price, they compete on differentiation, especially in commercial lines. The key is to understand that differentiation.
So, what differentiates your brokerage from the one in the next office building? What is your brokerage's vision in commercial lines?
Understanding what differentiates you from the competition will help you focus. And as a service-based operation, differentiation will keep you from competing strictly on price.
A great deal of satisfaction can be taken from a smoothly operating machine. Identify the gaps in your workflows that will keep you from achieving your goals. One of the biggest hurdles to executing a business strategy is being able to operationalize it.
How well-oiled is your commercial lines operation? Does your handling of new and in-force business demonstrate operational efficiency, with standardized workflows, supporting automation and guaranteed service levels? Or is it bogged down by administrative bottlenecks, undocumented workarounds and paper-intensive processing?
Sustainable, reliable, commercial-lines growth demands a proven, consistent and documented strategy. The strategy should not be dependent on the headspace of one CSR or office manager. It is continuous and able to function during periods of employee turnover (here are 3 ideas to reduce chaos when someone leaves your commercial department).
Automated solutions incorporate and often improve workflow, moving to an environment that is paperless or as close to paperless as possible. Service excellence standards for new and in-force business are set (and, yes, measured) as firm expectations by broker management are communicated clearly throughout the brokerage.
Implementing a plan is the most challenging part of the change and growth process. The executional plan - the implementation - brings the strategy and operational requirements to life. Research has shown, however, that implementation is much harder than expected (you can read more about it in the Policy Works eBook ROI is in the Implementation).
The key to successful implementation is breaking down the goal into small, bite-sized pieces that can be accomplished in short bursts.
Focusing on just one of the these factors will not work: these are closely interwoven threads that define the fabric of your brokerage. And these threads co-exist in successful companies in virtually any sector of the economy.