If you want to take your agency to the next level, there is a reliable approach that works regardless of the size of your firm, your location, or what range of insurance products you sell. This approach is so simple and straightforward that many agents may overlook it.

When you put together your business plan and operating budget each year, decide on your financial and growth objectives, then dissect those objectives into smaller manageable goals. If one of your agency’s objectives is to grow by 15 or 20 percent, for example, and you are a small shop, you may need to reach higher. If you are a medium-to-large agency, however, a 15 percent growth rate is a reachable goal.

Break overall objectives down into weekly and monthly goals
First, communicate the new 20 percent growth objective to everyone on your staff, then set aside time for a staff meeting. Solicit everyone’s input to break down this objective into smaller, more manageable chunks. To use a sports analogy, your agency is a team and the goals should be “our goals,” not “my goals.” You absolutely must have the buy-in and the input of your people to accomplish any new overall objective.

With your team’s help, smaller goals should be discussed, agreed upon, and written down as weekly or monthly goals for each individual. Your objective is to win the game, so decide how many goals each individual must accomplish. Keep a company “score card” on these goals and celebrate when they are accomplished.

David Chappell, vice president of an agency specializing in selling and servicing employee benefits, says that his team breaks down their goals this way: For the first 10 days of every month, they work with renewals, and each sales agent methodically contacts every client on their checklist. The last 20 days of the month are then spent on obtaining new clients.

“I don’t set new client quotas for my sales agents,” Chappell says, “because each agent is different. Instead, I rely on their individual need to grow. They set their own goals, and I function as an advisor and a coach to help them meet those goals.”

There is no one right way to set objectives and goals, and Chappell’s method is just one example. You would be surprised, however, to learn how many agencies fail to write down and communicate overall objectives, set monthly goals for individuals, and keep an agency score card.

Develop an operating budget
Before you implement goals that are designed to reach a single objective, you must develop a solid, realistic operating budget. Determine the actual dollar figures you will need to put a marketing plan into effect and take the necessary steps to achieve the weekly and monthly goals your team has set for themselves.

Begin by asking yourself, “How am I going to market this particular product to this target audience?” Decide who will work on what and for how long. Staff costs will constitute a large portion of your operating budget.

Define your market, its size, and its location. How will you reach this market? How much will you allocate to print and radio advertising? Will you have production costs for sales collateral? What sales incentives will you offer to your staff to meet goals? Can you realistically commit to an annual insurance review for each of your clients?

By placing dollar figures into an operating budget for such considerations, you will be forced to think through every aspect of your plan in detail.

Phase in technology to avoid workflow disruptions
Is the implementation of new technology a priority at your agency? New technology, such as the upload and download of insurance policies, is available at many brokerages and can help cut costs and improve efficiency and accuracy. Perhaps, for example, your agency is looking to reduce the manual handling of documents and move to a paperless work environment.

If your agency’s objective is to select a technology platform with a complete set of solutions focused on automating your business, keep in mind that beyond purchasing hardware, software, servers, and backup components, your staff will need training and support while converting to and implementing these new processes.

Estimate these costs and include them in your operating budget. Be sure you have solid figures on what the conversion to electronic records will cost and how much it will save. Hidden costs will arise if the conversion disrupts your business workflow.

Continuing to run your business smoothly during the transition to new technology can be one of the biggest of challenges. Look for a vendor that can offer not just the lowest possible cost, but minimum downtime. Accomplishing the transition in a phased approach is often the best way to avoid disruptions to daily business. Even when it comes to implementing technology, you will succeed if you and your team break down your agency’s big objective into manageable, monthly goals for each individual.

W.D. “Don” Mills Jr., CIC is president of SIA Group, a full-service insurance agency in North Carolina. For more information, visit www.siagroup.net.