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30 Years of Best Practices: The Ballard Agency

The Ballard Agency in Kirkland, Washington, was the top-performing agency in the Under $2.5 million in Revenue category in the 2022 Best Practices Study.
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01 - Ballard.jpgREVENUE CATEGORY: Under $1.25 million

The Ballard Agency

Chris Ballard | President 

Kirkland, Washington

Why become a Best Practices agency?

As a business owner, it's difficult to know how you rank. You can think you're doing well, you can think you're not doing well—but you don't really know until you get a third party to gather information to literally start benchmarking. Otherwise, you're just kind of guessing.

Impact on agency marketing?

Even if a client doesn't necessarily know what being a Best Practices agency is, it adds some credibility. In the insurance business, credibility is huge because we're not selling something tangible, we're selling a promise. Having that competitive edge is another piece of ammunition.

Preparing the application?

I didn't really prepare—I just started. There were multiple times when I was like, “Oh, my God! Really?" and I had to go and dig for more information. Being a smaller agency, we didn't have a lot of the metrics, which was eye-opening in itself.

Initial reactions to the results?

Some of the numbers were so significantly higher than my competitors, I was a little shocked. But it made me feel better about feeling so busy. It also reaffirmed the difficult decisions I made two years ago, such as requiring a minimum revenue from our clients, and has given me the confidence to make the next set of decisions. It was empowering.

Have you made changes as a result of the study?

I added a person to our team. That took us to tearing apart all our processes and rebuilding them for the next phase so we could onboard them. We had way too much institutional knowledge and not the robust policies and procedures that are necessary to bring in somebody fresh.

What is your approach to hiring?

The old rule of hiring for attitude and training for skill. I hired an absolutely wonderful person working remotely from the Philippines in a co-employer arrangement with a company based here in the Northwest. The caliber of person I was able to get offshore was so impressive. She has no insurance experience whatsoever and it is vastly superior fit to hiring for a skill set and trying to make them fit our culture.

Improving your reputation?

We're a small agency, but we run like a large shop. When I reach out to C-suite executives, credibility is so important. We're competing with large regional and national brokers, and when you're a four-person business, it's difficult to ask someone with 4,000 employees to even take a meeting. The Best Practices designation adds certainty that I am who I say I am.

Why should other agencies apply?

If you want to know the truth about your business, you should go through the process. It's going to show you good, and it's going to show you bad, so you have to be ready for that. If you really want to know how to grow your business, you have to be able to tell yourself the truth, and numbers don't lie.

Will Jones is IA editor-in-chief.

This interview is part of a six-part series to mark the 30th anniversary of the Best Practices program.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023
Agency Operations & Best Practices