How to identify your agency’s goals and determine which partner will be your best ally.
Joining a network can deliver a variety of valuable benefits for your independent agency, including access to a greater number of markets; more reliable revenue via increased compensation for the business you write; experienced personnel to help your agency become more efficient; and easy-to-use technology that makes your agency money, among many others.
If you’re considering joining an agency network, however, there are three vital steps you should take in the journey to bringing welcome improvements to your business.
First, Develop a vision for what you want to achieve.
The first step to accomplishing any goal is to visualize the desired outcome. What does the “best version” of your agency look like in five years’ or 10 years’ time? What will you have achieved by then?
Here are the types of questions to ponder:
- Broadly speaking, what improvements do you want to make to your agency?
- What are your premium and revenue goals?
- What operational efficiencies would you like to see?
- What new carrier and client relationships would you like to have, that would lead to more revenue?
- Are there lines of business in which you currently do not operate, but which would greatly increase your premium if you did?
- Which time-consuming tasks would you transfer to a trusted partner, in order to get your team back to selling and better serve your customers?
- How much do you want your agency to grow? If it’s 2 to 4 times the growth of the average agency, there are certain specific networks you’ll want to consider.
Second, Determine which member benefits you’ll need in order for your agency to excel.
Once you have a clear idea of what the ultimate version of your agency would be, it’s time to make a list of the capabilities, relationships, and tools you’ll require from a network in order to bring that vision to life. Begin this step by asking:
- Is it operational help that you want, or are you just looking for profit sharing and overrides? If the latter are mostly what you desire, then the criteria in selecting a network are less complex (and, ultimately, less rewarding). If you want all of those things, then you’ll want to look for a network that offers you a full suite of member benefits.
- What network benefits align with the strategy you’re developing for your agency? Do you want to serve a larger, broader client base, or would you rather devote more bandwidth to key accounts? Are you intrigued by technology that helps you identify “hidden treasure” opportunities for cross-selling?
- What specific type of expertise do you want from an agency network? Who are the core teams you want to leverage, and what can they do for you? Is it a placement team for marketing commercial risks? Is it a department that focuses on putting agency technology to work for you? Is it professionals who can manage your relationships with your partner carriers?
- Do you want assistance in marketing your agency? Do you want a network that will help in creating a new web site that will help you serve customers quickly and effectively?
It’s also critical to ask: Once you’ve joined a network, how independent do you want your agency to be? If you’re a principal who prizes this above all, you’ll want to consider a partner that promises complete independence for your agency in addition to the services you need in order for it to excel.
Third, and this is key: Do your due diligence in discovering which agency network can deliver the list of membership benefits that you need.
Online research is extremely valuable in this area, as is talking to colleagues, fellow agency owners, and LinkedIn contacts to gauge the success they’ve had with any networks they’ve joined.
Here are some questions to include while doing so:
- Does the relationship they have with their network begin and end with expanded market access and profit sharing?
- Is the network they’re with really helping them understand their agency’s business? Does the network deliver insights through technology that’s helpful and intuitive?
- How would the agency principal characterize the communication he or she has with their network? How responsive are they when issues arise?
- Does the network help its members understand their role in the group, and help them see how they are contributing as an agency to the network’s overall health?
- Did they pay their network an entrance fee, and if they were to leave, would they expect to pay an exit fee?
- Do they truly feel like they’re getting their money’s worth out of their network membership?
The ideal agency network should provide you all the benefits your business needs to thrive, while you retain the independence you’ve earned. It’s healthy to expect more from a network – the business you’ve built deserves nothing less.