I remember when I was first starting as an agent. I came in full force like most agents do, I was writing a ton of business, leading my market and making waves. So of course common sense says to add more staff, right? I don’t want to get into budgeting for staff or any of that because truthfully, budgeting and expenses is a very poor skill of mine and you probably know better than me. But I do want to share what I learned from my near bankruptcy experience.
I’ll never forget staring at my business account and seeing that -$3500 (with still 3 weeks to go until a paycheck was coming) and looking at all my personal accounts which had a grand total of -$325 (my wife didn’t work because we wanted to save money by having her in the office). It was the first time in my career had to suck up my pride and realize, I couldn’t pay my staff. Not just for a few days or even a week…but for a while. My credit was shot, so loans were out of the question. All my credit cards and lines of credit were maxed and there was no “silent partner” or even friend that could come up with the cash. That’s when I realized my first lesson about my staff. They weren’t volunteers…
I gave my staff some options…I was honest with them. I told them, they could stay on and I could back pay them with the next paycheck, or they could go and come back if they wanted. Some stayed another left…but the situation was horrible. It turned into a MESS with the government (one of the girls turned me in because I owed her money) and the other two that stayed were awesome, but I’m guessing pretty pissed. It made me realize that I needed to treat staff like staff and understand they were their for a paycheck. No one EVER will have as much interest in your agency as you do. Now the part that rubbed me the wrong way was I was a good boss…hell, I’ll admit I was great. I gave unexpected time off, bought lunches often. The girl that turned me in I even had bought her and her son tickets to an event they couldn’t afford because he really wanted to go! But none of that matters in business, that was MY fault, not theirs. SO remember, they are your staff, you pay them for a job, they show up for a paycheck. Just because you have a great relationship with them, doesn’t mean they won’t high tail it when things go south…because they will. People get so darn sensitive when money’s involved- jeez.
As usual, I bounced back…but I knew I had to redo some things in terms of staffing and that is mainly what I want to share with you! Without these changes I would have simply put myself in the same hole of being over staffed and not efficient.
1. Job Segmentation: This made a HUGE impact when it came to growth and sales. I realized everyone in my office was doing everything. So while everyone was capable of every task, no one was really great at any ONE thing. So, my salesman was nothing but a salesman. I put him in an office with a phone that didn’t ring unless it was a transfer over to him and I made my admin do all the post sales work for him. His sole responsibility was to sell…period. My service rep, just did service and looked for sales opportunities to GIVE to the salesman. They handled the service issues from start to finish, without passing them off. My office manager, managed. She was there for escalated situations and to report directly to me as well as be my liaison to the team. This was so impactful that our numbers rebounded and even exceeded our previous months. Everyone had a better grip on what they were doing because they were given clear directions and a hierarchy of authority.
2. Treat 1 like 100: If you look at any large corporation, they have an set standard of practice that every employee has to adhere to. There is NO gray area. Everything is black and white. So what I did was label each job with an out line and responsibility list, so there was zero confusion. I also created process and procedures so if someone didn’t know and answer or if two different staff members were doing the same process, they would be identical. This gave my agency a much more professional and efficient environment. It also leaves no room for interpretation…but of course as the agent you have to practice what you preach.
3. Pay them how they deserve to be paid: I struggled with this one but I knew I had to do it. I realized salesman needed to be paid like salesman. That meant either a 100% or a draw type salary. Now of course with that comes great bonus opportunity and higher commission payments. I chose a draw in my case (they get the money up front each week and earn through their commissions the money back by the end of the month keeping any access). Service was paid a fair base hourly, BUT was also tied to bonus opportunities to the agencies success (referrals, retention score, appointments set etc…). And the office manager was a good base pay but her bonus was reliant on EVERY one else hitting their bonus, this way she truly had a vested interest in helping the entire agency.
So I hope this helps a little bit so you don’t make the same mistakes I did. Just apply these 3 things and your agency will see an instant change.
Shameless Plug: IF you are an UNDERGROUND AGENCY Member you have access to ALL of this done for you. Job Descriptions, Compensation Plans and process and procedure manuals. IF YOU ARE NOT a member…please check out what we are doing for HUNDREDS of agents across the country!
I am so blessed to see the difference The Underground Agency is making in offices all over and proud to be part of such a huge revolution in the insurance industry!
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