Many agents new to the business find themselves spending a great deal of time doing administrative tasks, as opposed to actually selling. In fact, some admit that the time they spend selling amounted to only a fraction of their time. This was the case for Richard Brunsman, president of RT Brunsman Insurance and Investments, LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio.
“I found I was only spending about 15% of my time actually selling and more than 50% of my time doing routine tasks,” he says.
For new agents who are feeling this same frustration, Brunsman recommends they take a close look at all their activities to determine what they should be doing and what can be delegated to a staff person.
“The secret is to write down everything you do everyday. Write a job description for what you currently do,” he says.
Once agents go through this exercise, Brunsman says they should develop a priority system. If an agent comes up with about 20 different tasks done throughout a typical day, he or she needs to then assign a priority level to each one.
For example, when Brunsman went through this process, he assigned selling a priority level of 1; level 2 was preparing for a presentation; level 3 was building illustrations; and level 4 was for routine tasks such as sorting the mail, answering the phone, or making coffee. Looking at his level 4 priorities, Brunsman realized that any untrained person would be able to handle those tasks, so he hired an assistant.
“If youre not willing to invest in a staff person, youre not going to be very successful in this business,” he explains. “Its cheaper then wasting your time. Understand that you can put those hours to work doing more level 1 priority tasks, as opposed to doing level 4 tasks,” he says.
Allan Oxman agrees. “Theoretically, you ought to be able to increase your revenue to defray the cost of that person and make it worth your while,” says Oxman, a principal of First Financial Resources, Charlotte, N.C.
Knowing which tasks to delegate comes from having a good idea of how much youre worth on an hourly basis, adds Charles Gleason of The Gleason Corporation, Sanibel, Fla. “Lets say youre worth $60/hour and you pay your staff person about $10/hour. 15 minutes of her time is $2.50, 15 minutes of your time is $15so whos going to open and sort the mail?”
Hiring new staff and effectively delegating to them is one of the secrets to successfully running your practice like a business, Gleason says. But he warns that agents who go out and hire an assistant today will not see an immediate impact on their productivity.
“Theres a period of 2 or 3 months where the staff person costs you money instead of making you money,” he says.
Because of this lead time, as well as the difficulty an agent may have finding a compatible assistant, Gleason encourages agents to keep their good staff people as long as they can. “If you get good staff people you shouldnt let them gohiring new staff is so difficult,” he says. Gleason notes that he has had the same staff assistant for the last 23 years.
“My staff does everything: applications, underwriting, service work. All I have to do is find new clients,” he says.
Brunsman agrees. He has a staff person who has been working with him for the last 25 years.
“Once you understand that part of what you do every day could be performed by somebody else at a much cheaper rate, thats the beginning of an agent understanding that he is a businessman. Agents need to get some staff to help them with what they do every day,” Brunsman says.
Daniel Hoyt got his first assistant during his third year in the business. “I couldnt afford her, but I couldnt afford to be without her,” says Hoyt, a planner from Indianapolis, Ind. At first, Hoyt even found himself in a position where he had to borrow money to pay his assistants salary. “It freed me up to do what I do best, to sell,” he says.
Now, 20 years later, Hoyt still has the same assistant.
For agents who are finding it difficult to come up with the extra money needed to pay for an assistant, an alternative may be to hire their spouse. “I have 2 staff people,” says Gleason. “One of them is my wife.”
Gleasons spouse, who previously had no office experience, came to work for him for no pay. “She replaced a $25,000-a-year staff person, and I never paid her anything,” he says.
Over the years, Gleason faced many challenges working with his spouse. They really had to learn to work together, he adds. But looking back now, Gleason estimates that hiring his wife and not paying her increased their net worth by about $800,000 today. “Its a neat thing to do if you can learn to work together,” he says.
Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, February 6, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.