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The 1 Thing That Has Kelly Ready to Tackle The Industry’s Biggest Problem

I have been mad. I don’t generally get mad. I get motivated, fired up or excited to tackle a challenge. However, there is one challenge we have seen in every single agency, for the last decade, that we are ready to eradicate. I’m ready to banish the word “busy” officially from independent agencies. It’s the #1 thing that is holding back every agency, owner and staff, and we don’t have to live this way.

 

We have addressed this before in one of our top 3 Minute Videos. Many of you have watched it, commented on it and said, “Great idea!” But you will walk into your office and hear “busy” no less than 10 times today. It’s killing the entire industry — we are too busy to get to a better place. The reality is, yes, work is busy. This is a good thing! If you worked in a non-productive agency that was shrinking, you would quickly be busy finding another job. The older I get the more I realize, blessings often come in work clothes.

 

Here is why “busy” is my biggest challenge. It’s fake. “Busy” is the most relative term. When someone has a baby, we make do and the work gets done — yes, not easily, but it does. In my travels to hundreds of agencies, I have seen some of the most egregious time management issues, but everyone is busy. We can all spend 20 minutes ordering lunch, but following up on a lead? Too busy! I have seen agents with 600 policies as busy as some with 1,800. The difference is your approach to running your desk and the ability to truly be a team. (More on that in a minute.)

 

If you are in a leadership role in an agency, your first job is to not hear the word “busy” any longer. Busy evokes an emotion of sympathy (not empathy … sympathy). Empathy allows you to put yourself in their shoes to help get to a better place. Sympathy allows us to wallow in the situation. Busy is an excuse. Think about this:

  • When you ask someone where a quote, project or task is, what do they say? “I’m busy.” What would be better is communicating before it’s delayed or off track. That takes 5 seconds. When someone expresses their workload, you can assist. When you have to follow up, it’s completely inefficient for both parties and oftentimes means they forgot, or it wasn’t important to them.
  • Run the backlogged activity report. How backlogged are people? How is this ok? When we live in a backlog environment, the issue is the culture, not the individuals.
  • Ask everyone how many remarkets they have on their plate, and from what date. I have seen people prioritize remarkets based on renewal date. Imagine a client is mad about their rate, and then they have to wait 2 weeks — NO WAY. When you do reshop them, they are gone and mad. Great news, you just flushed your time down the toilet!

Your first step is to eradicate the word “busy” from your office. We recommend a swear jar! Think about it: Are you busy or productive? Which one sets you up for success?

The real challenge leaders have with the word “busy” is this: you feel like you can’t get anything done because everyone is busy, but you see a lot of cell phone use, wasted chatter and people coming in late. Are they busy or are you not holding people accountable? Recently I was with 5 agency owners in Canada who swore their team was too busy to make renewal reviews. I quickly realized that to make the time, they had to outlast the suck of getting into the routine before they could see the benefit of reduced reshopping. Outlasting the suck is a big part of time management. Before that, I was at an agency that was pretty much flat. Everyone was too busy to follow up and sell insurance, and unless something changed, the agency wouldn’t be able to afford raises. That will get everyone’s attention!

 

All too often in agencies, we are too nice (another one of my least favorite words). Here is another example: I had a chat with an agency owner last night who was frustrated that the team was backlogged, but then she decided to give everyone the day after the 4th of July off since the companies were closed. We helped reframe the conversation toward an incentive: If everyone has fewer than 20 emails, their suspenses are caught up through Monday and desks are clean the Wednesday before the 4th, then they get the day off. I swear, watch them run around getting caught up!

 

One thing we see agencies often fall short on is assisting with time management and workflow through challenging times. Think about this:

  • Most agencies have the highest renewals in the summer when people buy homes.
  • Most agencies have the highest vacation time in the summer when kids are out.
  • Some agencies have shorter Friday hours, etc., cramping time even more.
  • Some agencies don’t hold people to the vacation process, and allow more people than they should to be out on the same day.
  • So we take a less productive time and make it far worse.

We recommend agencies have plans for the following:

  • Planned time off of 1-3 days: The team member knows what they need to do before they go out.
  • Unplanned time off of 1-3 days: The rest of the team can take the top tier tasks and handle them.

This should be outlined so anyone can break the glass, grab the fire extinguisher and keep on track. For many people, these situations end in mass chaos, backlogs and grumpy staff. The staff is covering for someone, finding mistakes and then pushing it back on the person who is out. Great news, this doesn’t solve the problem!

 

If you are sick and tired of hearing “busy,” I hear you! So are we. The APP team is hard at work building a 6 month culture change program where we will take a hands-on approach to working with your team to not just get ahead, but stay ahead, be proactive, and manage the curveballs that agency life can throw us. Watch for more details this fall.

I have been mad. I don’t generally get mad. I get motivated, fired up or excited to tackle a challenge. However, there is one challenge we have seen in every single agency, for the last decade, that we are ready to eradicate. I’m ready to banish the word “busy” officially from independent agencies. It’s the #1 thing that is holding back every agency, owner and staff, and we don’t have to live this way.

We have addressed this before in one of our top 3 Minute Videos. Many of you have watched it, commented on it and said, “Great idea!” But you will walk into your office and hear “busy” no less than 10 times today. It’s killing the entire industry — we are too busy to get to a better place. The reality is, yes, work is busy. This is a good thing! If you worked in a non-productive agency that was shrinking, you would quickly be busy finding another job. The older I get the more I realize, blessings often come in work clothes.

Here is why “busy” is my biggest challenge. It’s fake. “Busy” is the most relative term. When someone has a baby, we make do and the work gets done — yes, not easily, but it does. In my travels to hundreds of agencies, I have seen some of the most egregious time management issues, but everyone is busy. We can all spend 20 minutes ordering lunch, but following up on a lead? Too busy! I have seen agents with 600 policies as busy as some with 1,800. The difference is your approach to running your desk and the ability to truly be a team. (More on that in a minute.)

If you are in a leadership role in an agency, your first job is to not hear the word “busy” any longer. Busy evokes an emotion of sympathy (not empathy … sympathy). Empathy allows you to put yourself in their shoes to help get to a better place. Sympathy allows us to wallow in the situation. Busy is an excuse. Think about this:
When you ask someone where a quote, project or task is, what do they say? “I’m busy.” What would be better is communicating before it’s delayed or off track. That takes 5 seconds. When someone expresses their workload, you can assist. When you have to follow up, it’s completely inefficient for both parties and oftentimes means they forgot, or it wasn’t important to them.
Run the backlogged activity report. How backlogged are people? How is this ok? When we live in a backlog environment, the issue is the culture, not the individuals.
Ask everyone how many remarkets they have on their plate, and from what date. I have seen people prioritize remarkets based on renewal date. Imagine a client is mad about their rate, and then they have to wait 2 weeks — NO WAY. When you do reshop them, they are gone and mad. Great news, you just flushed your time down the toilet!
Your first step is to eradicate the word “busy” from your office. We recommend a swear jar! Think about it: Are you busy or productive? Which one sets you up for success?
The real challenge leaders have with the word “busy” is this: you feel like you can’t get anything done because everyone is busy, but you see a lot of cell phone use, wasted chatter and people coming in late. Are they busy or are you not holding people accountable? Recently I was with 5 agency owners in Canada who swore their team was too busy to make renewal reviews. I quickly realized that to make the time, they had to outlast the suck of getting into the routine before they could see the benefit of reduced reshopping. Outlasting the suck is a big part of time management. Before that, I was at an agency that was pretty much flat. Everyone was too busy to follow up and sell insurance, and unless something changed, the agency wouldn’t be able to afford raises. That will get everyone’s attention!

All too often in agencies, we are too nice (another one of my least favorite words). Here is another example: I had a chat with an agency owner last night who was frustrated that the team was backlogged, but then she decided to give everyone the day after the 4th of July off since the companies were closed. We helped reframe the conversation toward an incentive: If everyone has fewer than 20 emails, their suspenses are caught up through Monday and desks are clean the Wednesday before the 4th, then they get the day off. I swear, watch them run around getting caught up!

One thing we see agencies often fall short on is assisting with time management and workflow through challenging times. Think about this:
Most agencies have the highest renewals in the summer when people buy homes.
Most agencies have the highest vacation time in the summer when kids are out.
Some agencies have shorter Friday hours, etc., cramping time even more.
Some agencies don’t hold people to the vacation process, and allow more people than they should to be out on the same day.
So we take a less productive time and make it far worse.
We recommend agencies have plans for the following:
Planned time off of 1-3 days: The team member knows what they need to do before they go out.
Unplanned time off of 1-3 days: The rest of the team can take the top tier tasks and handle them.
Planned 3+ days off:
Unplanned 3+ days off:
This should be outlined so anyone can break the glass, grab the fire extinguisher and keep on track. For many people, these situations end in mass chaos, backlogs and grumpy staff. The staff is covering for someone, finding mistakes and then pushing it back on the person who is out. Great news, this doesn’t solve the problem!

If you are sick and tired of hearing “busy,” I hear you! So are we. The APP team is hard at work building a 6 month culture change program where we will take a hands-on approach to working with your team to not just get ahead, but stay ahead, be proactive, and manage the curveballs that agency life can throw us. Watch for more details this fall.
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