Agency Networks: What Do You Want Out of This Relationship?

The key questions to ask to determine whether it’s time to accelerate your business.

When it comes to joining an agency network, aligning with the right partner can provide you a powerful array of benefits that will help your business thrive.

These benefits can include but are not limited to:

  • Access to a wide selection of carriers, which will help you serve a variety of new clients
  • Increased compensation for the business you already write
  • Experts to help you market and place new and unique risks
  • Custom strategies crafted to maximize your agency’s growth
  • Intuitive, easy-to-use technology that helps your agency make money
  • Resources to help manage your carrier relationships
  • Sales and marketing support
  • Removal of time-consuming tasks like billing and producing certificates

 

Nearly all agency networks offer increased compensation and access to more carriers. It’s up to you to determine what you desire beyond those basic benefits.  

Since agency networks vary in what they offer their members, when searching for the ideal partner it’s prudent to reflect on exactly what you want to achieve for your business. It’s your agency, and only you know the benefits you need most in order to maximize your proficiency. Your future success will depend greatly on how you leverage those member benefits.

With that in mind, let’s look at the key questions you should be asking to determine which agency network is best for you.

Do I want to free up my schedule and my staff to get back to selling?  

Independent agents love selling, not getting tied down with paperwork. There’s immense value in joining a network that empowers you and your agency’s staff to concentrate on writing new business and serving your customers. If you want to focus on building your business, you’ll want an agency network that shifts time-consuming, transactional tasks like billing and producing certificates off your plate and takes on that work for you.

Agencies always have more work than they have resources – and any network truly worth joining should provide you the help you need to get back to flexing your strongest skills.

How can I adjust my book to optimize my revenue, while still providing the best coverage for my clients?

Quite simply, you should be receiving top compensation for all the business you write – and joining a network is key to achieving that. The right network will offer you terms that enable you to earn more on your agency’s premium, with opportunities to move those clients to different carriers in order to maximize your return.

One thing to know about agency networks: They all have different preferences as to which carriers you can do business with. Some networks insist on having their members place business only with the insurers they have relationships with, while others may prefer – but not insist – that you place business with their “core” carriers, which ideally will lead to better compensation for you.

When investigating different networks, find out up front – in writing – whether or not you’d still be calling the shots when it comes to your agency’s selection of carriers.

Related: How Can Joining an Agency Network Help Your Bottom Line?

Do I want technology that helps my agency make money?

Agency technology is a very personal choice. You want to select software that works for your particular agency’s needs, and helps deliver the efficiencies you need most. In the end, however, the most important consideration for any technology tool you select is that it should help make you money.

When selecting a network, it’s important to know whether it offers you help with implementing new software, or – and this is even more valuable – if the network offers proprietary technology designed to turn your agency’s data into actionable opportunities for account rounding and cross-selling.

Technology should always work for you, not the other way around – and the right partner will help you navigate that path.

How much of a commitment do I want to make to a network?

The cost of being part of an agency network should always be worth the benefits you’re getting out of it. Various networks’ fee structures are different, so educate yourself on precisely what you’ll be receiving. Are there entrance or exit fees involved, with the networks you’re considering? Find out what you’ll be getting, for what you’re willing to pay.

In the same vein, find out how many years you’ll be connected to a network once you join. The contracts are binding, so it’s best to forge a union with a partner that gives you exactly what you’re looking for – and then some.

How can I find strength in numbers, and still protect my independence?

Not every network promises its members full independence. It’s important to ask yourself: What does being “independent” mean to my agency?

Depending on the agency owner, that can translate to a variety of things.

Does that mean you have to be the person who has the final say on which carriers your agency places business with? Is it about being the singular point of contact with those carriers?

Related: Concerned You Will Lose Your Independence if You Join An Agency Network?

Is it about not having anyone to “answer to” other than yourself or a co-owner? Do you have an aversion to outside influence when it comes to selecting which agency software you use, or other technology-related decisions? Do you want to be part of a network that has a say in who you hire, or in other HR-related matters related to your agency?

If you join a particular network, will you still own 100% of your agency (including your customers and your expiration lists)? Will you remain the primary point of contact for your clients?

Are you comfortable with joining a network that will want to regularly view your P&L statements, or run the business side of your agency for you? Or would you rather partner with a network that stays out of your books?

Not all agency networks will want to control all of these things; some do not, while others are more closely involved in your day-to-day. The key is to find a partner that aligns with your priorities as an agency owner.

The Devil’s in the details of each agency network’s contract. As you consider various networks, it’s beneficial to know beforehand exactly what you’d want out of that relationship, because joining the right one can give your agency an immense advantage in a market that grows ever more competitive.

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