What can the line of people in the picture teach you about leading your agency on your own terms? Read on…
Most business owners start their business to have control over their lives, so they cannot be “made” to do anything when they don’t want to. Yet, the vast majority of business owners are slaves to their business – the control they thought they would have is effectively an illusion.
But that need not be the case… When you strategically and intentionally design your business to fit within your chosen lifestyle, you can reclaim as much or as little control as you wish.
And as change is compelled in order to survive our industry’s upheaval, what better time to redesign your agency so it operates on your terms?!
There are two reasons agency leaders don’t create such a business, however. First, they don’t believe they can, and closely related, they have never been taught how to.
I cannot help with the first reason of belief. But I can address the second which should automatically remove the first.
You can design and create an agency that functions in such a way that you not only maintain control (if you want it), but also serves you, your family, your employees, and your clients in the most optimized way.
To do so will require you to “break the rules” of tradition, stagnation and complacency which plague the insurance industry. And it will require knowing ultimately what kind of lifestyle and business you to achieve.
Let me offer up an example from another industry to provide some inspiration.
Two years ago, my girlfriend, Holly and I were traveling in Savannah, GA – of course a very historic city known in part for it’s fine southern cuisine. One of the destination restaurants of Savannah is Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room.
Let me give you an overview of our experience. (Pay close attention because this has direct bearing on you and your firm.)
We arrived outside the restaurant (a modified bed and breakfast type house in the historic district) at 10:20am, forty minutes before they open at 11:00am. As we approach, we see the line of guests no less than 120 people long waiting to get in, in front of us. I had expected this from one of my previous trips so we were prepared. Everyone was happy, conversational, talking about how cold it was, and speculating on when they would “get inside”.
At exactly 12:00noon, nearly two hours after we began waiting, we reached the door, and were taken to a large table for ten (there are only eight such tables) where we are sat with four other couples we did not know. Upon looking at the table, we see over 20 different bowls and dishes of virtually every type of southern food you can imagine – from southern fried chicken to okra casserole to sweet potato pie and freshly baked cornbread and buttermilk biscuits. All of it topped off with perfectly sweet, sweet tea. For the next 45 minutes, we passed food around the table sharing family-style with limited conversation as with so much delicious food, there was little time (or desire) to talk. Once the meal was finished, they brought your choice of dessert, homemade banana pudding or rich-red cherry cobbler. Both were immaculate – yes, I had some of both!
Then, as was “tradition” at Mrs. Wilkes, each guest picked up their dishes and took them to the kitchen and handed them to the dishwasher who was there.
Finally, each person walked out toward the front door passing by displays of Mrs. Wilkes merchandise and a number of celebrities’ pictures who’ve eaten there before arriving at the counter to pay for the meal. Both Holly and I agreed it was a phenomenal experience as well as a tremendous value not just for the food but for the story that was created.
Upon exiting, I took a picture of a sign on the front door I had noticed when we had been seated – take a look…
-Mrs. Wilkes only serves lunch.
-They are closed on most restaurants’ busiest days – the weekend.
-They are open for only THREE hours per day!
-They gross at least $18 from every single patron.
-They do not accept credit or debit cards (the most common form of payment).
Can you imagine an aspiring restaurant owner going to a potential investor with this list?
“Ok, so I want to open a restaurant at least 3 blocks from any other restaurant and about a half mile from the main dining area of town. It’s only going to serve lunch for three hours and we won’t be open on the weekends. Oh, and we don’t accept credit or debit cards, but we’re going to guarantee that each person there will spend no less than $18 for lunch. What do you think?”
The investor would probably laugh him out of the office. Yet, that is precisely what Mrs. Wilkes has achieved. They’re breaking all the most tried and true rules of restauranteering, and they serve around 500 people each day.
Do the math, and it’s at least a $2 million in annual gross revenue. Probably closer to $3 or $4 million – in a restaurant that seats 80 people and is only open 15 hours per week.
Mrs. Wilkes has designed their business in a specific way that fits the owners lifestyle. Now, I’m sure it wasn’t always that way. The ownership had to design and create this overtime, but the point is, they did not try to be like everyone else. They broke the rules, and designed a new model for the business that works for them.
You can do the same thing with your agency. Through systematization and standardization of processes, through tested and proven marketing practices, through an effective sales process and producers to implement it, through a management approach that does not require you to be hands-on or even in the office.
Some of the most successful businesses have broken the rules…
-Starbucks charging $3.00 for an 8 ounce cup of coffee that is only $0.50 next door.
-Build-A-Bear transferring the manufacturing of its products to the consumers and selling it as an “experience.”
-FedEx determining a method to actually deliver overnight when competitors said it could never be done.
-Dominos deciding to deliver pizza rather making people come get it.
All of these are examples of how “breaking the rules” and answering the question asking “does it really have to be that way?” with a resounding “NO!”
What lifestyle do you want? What kind of business do you want? What rules are you questioning? Does it really have to be that way?
Get creative. Reposition your agency. Be proactive. Lead your agency strategically and intentionally rather merely reacting to the marketplace or your competition.
Design your business to operate YOUR way on your own terms this new year of 2016.
What better way to begin redesigning your firm on your own terms than by attending the ASCEND Summit and discovering the best practices of other agency leaders from all across the country. There’s still time and a very few seats left. Register Here.