Despite all the pressures of the hard market, independent agents who are willing to take the initiative will find opportunities and grow their books of business.
For independent agents, trouble seems to lurk around every corner these days. Take one turn and you run smack dab into supply-chain issues that continue to drive replacement costs skyward. Round the next corner and you trip over inflation that's squeezing underwriting capacity. Keep going and you hit marketplace disruptions caused by the increased frequency and severity of catastrophic events.
Yet, despite all of these pressures—and a hard market environment that seems more rock solid with each passing day—there's something else hidden behind each corner: Opportunity.
Independent agents who are willing to take the initiative will find those opportunities and grow their books of business. Here are five best practices for leadership in times of turmoil:
1) Stop trying and start training. We all know that we need to make more calls, generate more submissions and attract more clients. Many of us are guilty of saying we're trying to do this, when instead we should be training ourselves for success.
Invest time in programs and classes that help you and your staff improve negotiating and selling skills. This allows you to capitalize on new opportunities as they emerge.
2) Focus on solutions. I never won over a client with a slick sales deck showing them everything my company has to offer. Instead, I won business by solving a client's unique problems. To make this happen, agencies must partner with carriers who understand specific markets and offer flexible options to help their clients overcome challenges.
If your current carrier partnerships aren't helping your agency move forward, explore alternatives. For example, partner with carriers who use an open brokerage model, which gives agencies the freedom to choose the broker they want to represent their clients.
3) Invest in professional development. Having the title “agency owner" doesn't make you a great leader. But education does. Take leadership courses and refine your skills in areas like change management. Expand your administrative capabilities, from written and oral communication to revenue production and customer service.
Becoming a lifelong learner won't just help you flourish; it will motivate your employees to do the same.
4) Explore new markets. Hard markets create tremendous opportunities in specialty lines. For example, excess & surplus insurers have seen double-digit growth for four straight years, according to Fitch Rating's 2022 “U.S. Excess and Surplus Lines Market Review."
Weigh the pros and cons of whether moving into a specialty line is right for your agency. If you move forward, give yourself a competitive advantage by becoming an expert in that specialty and partnering with carriers who can help deliver value to your insureds.
5) Right-size your work-life balance. When times are difficult, it's common for agency owners to spend more time on business. But that extra time can come at the expense of your personal life. Unplug from work now and then and prioritize hobbies and interests as well.
Angelo Ganguzza is vice president and general manager of brokerage operations for Green Tree Risk Partners. As a member company of Pennsylvania Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Group, Green Tree operates as a wholesale brokerage and program business placement specialist, providing workers compensation, property, casualty, commercial auto and umbrella, and other coverages in eligible wood industry classes.