January 17 2012

Last Thursday, I faced a dilemma: I wanted to build a bookcase after work. Unfortunately, when I left that morning, I realized that there wasn’t any dog food in the house, so I’d have to stop at the pet store after work and wouldn’t have time to build the bookcase.

On my way to the pet store, I asked myself, “Is it really important for me to go to the pet store when all I really need is dog food in the pantry?”

The answer is “not really.” With a little bit of thought, I realized there are many ways I can stay stocked with dog food without making the bi-weekly trip to PetSmart. Amazon Prime and Peapod are the most obvious options, but I also recalled a conversation with a neighborhood fellow who makes two trips a week to PetSmart for turtle food. He’s an option, too.

Questioning what was really important led to myriad options that would all allow me to have more time to focus on what I wanted and less time devoted to chores. In fact, Amazon Prime actually saved me money!

We’re faced with this same decision every day in our business. Ask an insurance broker what his agency’s goals are and you’ll likely hear things like: “expand our client base,” “retain accounts” or “create a more productive working environment.”

Rarely will you hear things like: “issue more certificates,” “check more policies” or “track employee time more effectively.” That’s because those are simply the tasks that allow us to reach our goals. The secret behind all great innovations is someone asking if there’s a better way.

Almost always, there is.

These days, Amazon delivers dog food to my door, saving me a trip while accomplishing my goal. Applying this to other chores has given me 10 hours every week to spend on the things that are truly important to me.

Insurance agencies have a history of asking these sorts of questions, starting with that first question, back at Edward Lloyd’s coffee shop in London: Is there a way I don’t have to lose everything if my ship sinks? That spirit of innovation continues: Is there a way to standardize data and reporting? (thank you, ACORD!) What if I could measure every aspect of my workflow and maximize my team’s effectiveness?  What if I could focus on the highest value aspects of my business and find an option for the back-office chores?

Earlier in 2012, we attended the Entrepreneurial Insurance Symposium and witnessed presentations by companies driving the innovations that will drive the future of the industry. We were lucky enough to be one of the presenters. The one thing that each of these innovations had in common was the goal of letting agency leaders do what they do best –  serve customers and run their business. Things like scouring the trade pubs for the most current news, installing massive networks of security cameras on client properties, and the dirty work of confirming the contact information of prospects are all able to be outsourced to companies with the technology to deliver what the agency needs without using extra resources.

The innovation we presented? In early 2012, our client Roach Howard Smith Barton (RHSB) asked: “Can we continue realizing profit on select accounts without using our account staff (and their valuable time)?” We worked with them to find a way and now they’re realizing more profit than ever on what had previously barely broke even.

So what will we see in 2013? What will be the biggest innovations? Which agency leaders will find answers to questions no one had ever thought of asking?

More importantly, will there be an even BETTER way to feed the dog?