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The Sharks Are Circling

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Over the Labor Day weekend, I had the opportunity to spend some time fishing with my 6-year-old son and 7-year-old nephew off the Garden City Pier in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.

While catching a lot of fish such as pompano and Spanish mackerel was very exciting for us all, as I had the opportunity to take a few steps back and look at my surroundings, what amazed me the most was the reaction of the people on the pier who saw the same six to ten large sharks circling around the pier.

Seeing a shark in the water in the wild so close to the beach and swimmers is certainly exciting. In the benefits world, we can equate the sharks to the large accounts that everyone gets excited about landing.

(Related: Learn From the Money Tree)

As we caught the smaller fish like the pompano and Spanish mackerel, what is normally a very mundane process of throwing the fish that are not big enough to keep back, turned into a life and death situation.

As soon as the fish hit the water, the sharks would swarm. If the little fish was not quick enough to swim away, the sharks enjoyed a quick meal.

This reminded me of the larger brokerages that continue to swallow up the smaller agencies. Once that shark had you surrounded, there was nowhere to go. The larger insurance brokerages are continually looking for their next meal!

With the majority of the people on the pier fixated on the sharks, my son and nephew remained focused on “keeper” Spanish mackerel. On Friday, there was only one keeper. The sashimi that night was pretty good.

On Saturday, there were 10 keepers, and we caught just about 50 fish. That means roughly 20% of our catch was keepers. We were utilizing a mackerel jig with no bait that allowed us to catch multiple fish at a time.

While others on the pier concentrated on the big fish, that would inevitably be attacked by the sharks as you brought it closer to the pier, we focused our efforts on the fish that we could haul in fast, while avoiding the sharks as much as possible.

So, while too many agents and brokers only focus on the larger accounts, there are those who will use the right tackle and bait along with multiple contacts to land the smaller but equally delicious accounts.

There were times that we were catching two to five fish at a time. Some of the keepers were tougher to lift into the pier. Luckily, there were people who were happy to assist. Eerily similar to the way we can assist brokers with a variety of products and services, we rewarded the people who assisted us on Saturday with cold beers.

My 6-year old son and 7-year old nephew had their own idea for turning fishing into an enterprise as well, when the guy at the bait and tackle store offered them $1 per keeper Spanish mackerel. He even offered to filet the fish for the boys, as he uses the carcasses for bait.

We all know where the fish are in our area. Are you trying to catch the larger fish and reel them in past the sharks? Maybe you are focused on catching the sharks? Do you prefer the plentiful small accounts? The small accounts can be just as rewarding, and you can generally catch a lot more.

Whatever your focus is, I encourage you to approach each sales situation with the right tackle and bait, and look at each opportunity as an entrepreneur. It only took $1 per keeper Spanish mackerel to turn my son and nephew into little entrepreneurs over the weekend. The $5 they each received was well earned, for the work they did fishing fast and hard in the hot sun.

— Read Do You Need a Bigger Boat?on ThinkAdvisor.

Brian Summers (Photo: Summers)

Brian Summers is the founding partner at Speyside Consulting Group LLC, a workplace marketing consulting firm. He previously was the territory sales manager for the New York City metropolitan area, Long Island and Northern New Jersey for a large player in the ancillary benefits market. For 16 years, he was a firefighter.


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