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Training Your Team for Operational Excellence

Posted on June 9, 2022 by Alex Arellano

Training Your Team for Operational Excellence

There is not an independent insurance agency out there that is having an easy time getting good, long-term people. We’d be willing to bet money on it. It’s not happening because of one or two issues we can point to, but rather it’s the perfect storm.

So, in this episode of the Ridiculously Amazing Insurance Agent Podcast, we brought in Justin Goodman of Total CSR. Why? What even is that? If you did ask those questions, you’ll regret it in a second as Justin has worked with over 2000 agencies and is basically a fountain of knowledge on this subject. 

He honored us with his presence and gave Heath the opportunity to pick his brain. Often, when we do episodes like this people ask if we are trying to make ourselves irrelevant, but that’s simply not the case. You see, Justin saw a very specific problem arise in his insurance agency and he sought to fix it. And boy, did he do that!

In this post, we are breaking down this episode and taking a fine-toothed comb to each one of Justin’s points. That way you can take the info in this episode and turn it into results in your independent insurance agency.

 

We All Start Somewhere

Now, everyone reading this knows that you don’t always end up where you plan. The likelihood is that at least half of you reading this did not intend to get into insurance. You were going to be anything else before you became an insurance agent.

That’s what happened to Justin. His dad had an agency that he was selling and said to Justin “you can have this” and Justin (the budding adolescent) said, “lol, no thanks!” A few years later he is selling something that does not offer a consistent commission, making plans for his life, and thinking better of what his younger self had said.

He ended up working with the very agency he turned down, his father moved on, and Justin was working his way up. When he finally landed, the agency which was owned by a larger company, wanted to leave anything under 10k in annual revenue behind.

That was Justin’s entire book, as his niche was construction.

The CEO offered the deal of buying the book and building his own thing. Justin and his business partner took that deal, but then they found themselves in the same pot that everyone else was. This pot is called “Help, we can’t find anyone who wants to work for us and stay for longer than 20 minutes!”

So, Justin did something about it.

 

The Never-Ending Independent Insurance Hiring Slump

Suddenly, Justin needed a few things, like:

  • Affordable Team Members
  • Specialization 
  • Experience
  • Trained Professionals

But there was no way he was going to get them all. If he found people who had experience, it’s no guarantee they were trained properly. If the person had specialized experience in his niche, they probably weren’t affordable. It was a whole thing.

Most of you are very familiar with this problem. It’s not rare anymore. What are the issues with hiring?

#1. Young people want more. That’s not to say that people coming into the industry want too much, but rather that they want a ladder to climb not an assigned rung to sit on.

#2. The insurance industry has a bad reputation.  We’ll let Justin elaborate on this one.

#3. We trap people. Often, we are so afraid of people leaving that we make it hard for them to do so. Moving on is a natural part of life and if you resist it, you’ll only create more problems.

We aren’t an attractive industry, so we have to get out there and show people we are here. It’s safe to say that hiring for your independent insurance agency is not what it used to be.

 

Training Is A WHOLE Other Thing

The other part is training. Once you finally get a person hired, you have to train them. Justin was getting people in, training them as his dad taught him.

Justin was giving people practical skills to run the business and after 6 months of spending all that time and energy, guess what! A bigger company would swoop in and grab that new employee offering a 30% increase, leaving Justin and his agency in the dust.

Yes, he had developed a trained professional that could execute, but another business would recognize that and grab a new employee without having to do any of the work.

And when we say that they are “trained professionals” we aren’t kidding. Justin had his training and onboarding program down to a tee. He went so far as to have an online course for his agency specifically.

Other agencies started paying attention to it and Total CSR was born.

 

Build-A-Bear, But Make It Insurance

Basically, every agency out there is facing this issue. Young people don’t know you exist and if they do it’s not any better. Seasoned pros are more expensive than ever (if you can even find any). And if you have a niche?

Forget about it!

That is why Justin went so hard on the whole training program concept and three years later he has Total CSR.  Now, it’s one of the fastest and most effective training programs in insurance. But you might be wondering… Why just CSRs?

Well, it’s not. At first, they thought they were only be hitting that population, but these days they have role-specific programs for almost every member of your team. They also thought they’d only be focusing on commercial lines.

A big part of that initial push was influenced by the way Justin himself was a producer in the early days. He valued education and basically set mousetraps for other producers as he went. That kind of premise aligns with the work CSRs do.

The whole program just goes to show that you can grow your agency with good, qualified individuals, you might just have to make them.

 

CSRs = Most Underrated Members Of Insurance

Making them is only one part of the puzzle, though. You have to make your agency a place young people want to be. And in doing so, you might have to shake off some of the “old ways”.

The new generation has heard ALL about how things were done and how badly captives treat CSRs. How do you combat all of that?

Simply put, you hit them with some solid branding. Justin put it like this:

It’s the tightest hiring market in the history of the industry and only 1% of that market is interested in insurance. When they enter the industry, they start as an assistant and later become an account manager. They might even earn the title of “Account Executive” but that’s as far as they can climb.

Their growth is cut off before they even got to really try.

That’s not even to mention how disposable we treat AMs compared to producers, which is insane. There is a gross power dynamic, specifically one party being at the mercy of the other’s power/contribution to the book.

So, no, it’s not a very appealing industry at the moment. 

 

Changing The Approach

Insurance is an incredible industry to be a part of but we make it so hard for people to enter. Like, why in the world do you require a bachelor’s degree?

We are willing to bet that most people reading this have a degree completely unrelated or, in other words, completely useless in relation to where they are today.

You need to change your approach and be willing to meet people where they are, which will expand your search greatly. Creativity is the answer here. Having a strong social media presence, getting out in the community, and having clear values help a lot.

For example, in Justin’s agency family comes first. The beauty about that value it’s that it’s both preached and practiced. If one of his employees has a kid who needs an appointment, they are literally expected to make it work for them and their child’s needs first. Everyone else in the agency knows that they need to pitch in and that same courtesy will be extended to them.

Isn’t that fantastic?

So, to review, this is how you change your approach:

  1. Create social media presence and show people what your agency is really like
  2. Be invested in the community
  3. Show off the opportunities that lay within your agency
  4. Offer training that doesn’t have to be insurance-related, but it does need to be useful skills like financial literacy information

Create a culture of giving in your agency. Justin not only values family above all else, but he also helps people move up.

In other words, he runs an agency that fully acknowledges that they only have rungs on the ladder, and not much room to climb, if any. So, when someone has a better opportunity that they are looking for outside of his business, he helps them. He will use his network and do everything he can to get them to the level they want to be at.

Do you want to know what he gets in return?

Three whole months’ notice from employees who are happy to help you train their replacement. Can you even imagine? It’s giving that promotes giving. It’s so much better than keeping your employees in the dark, bottlenecking all of your processes, and never taking the time to help them see ahead—all of which is rather selfish. 

 

Total CSR & Super Powers

How long does it take you to train an independent insurance agent that has no relatable experience? Even if they have years behind them, they might not know what you need them to, so the answer is a long time.

Roughly 6 months to 2 years is how long it takes to fully immerse someone in your agency.

What if you could take that down to 6 weeks?

With Total CSR,  you have a level of vetting that you never had before and training with precision unmatched in the industry. Hiring and training are challenges that we are all facing. It’s hard to get good people in and it’s even harder to get them to stay, especially if you don’t have your stuff together and your processes nailed.

You have to be willing to get creative. Talk to Starbucks or Chick-fil-A employees, they are seriously incredible options. Offer internships and do the work to put your agency on the map.

The wonderful thing about Total CSR is that gives your hire the remains on learning what they need to know right away, but it’s up to you to keep giving them an opportunity to grow.

Some of you out there might see the current hiring challenges as just that, challenges, but they are really an opportunity just waiting for you to try out something new that will make your independent agency all-around better.

It might seem scary now, but good things usually do.

Thanks again to Justin Goodman of Total CSR for talking to us. It was eye-opening and a pleasure. You can find more information about him HERE. 

 

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