I love September. It is the time of year where people start thinking about planning for the next year. They are back to work after summer, and they are ramped up for the health insurance renewals coming the next few months. It is a time of reflection as well as a time to think about the future.
The past is always a worthy thing to look at and remember. It is something we should look at to appreciate where we have come from and make sure we don’t repeat any bad history. However, I believe we have entered into a business world where the past is less relevant than any time in history. The future has Artificial Intelligence, algorithm driven process for insurance, cultural change, millennial generation decision making, political unrest, and complete uncertainty.
So what will all of this mean? The following thoughts may help you through your reflection and planning for 2018+. I hope it challenges you to become great:
Previous Strategies are Almost Worthless
How things have worked in the past and what has historically been successful is almost worthless today. When an Artificial Intelligence entrepreneur in the online insurance business tells an audience that he “expects to reduce his support staff by 50 - 75% in the next 6 months”, and laughs when he asks you if you can do the same, things may be changing! He tells the audience “I bet I can lower the cost to the client and be more competitive than you.”
Active learning computers can now see better than humans, hear better than humans, and can find data/research faster than humans. We are not going to be a necessary part of the process in writing insurance policies for most insureds. Picture your Producer with a yellow legal pad out at a clients location trying to determine all the risk issues. It will be laughable in the next few years.
Management of the most diverse workforce in history will require high level emotional intelligence, complex leadership, and human resource skills at elite levels of talent/skill.
The complexity of what will be insured will change at hyper-speed. Drones, genetic food creation, cyber complexity, automated cars, social change, political change… WHEW! It is going to get interesting!
Alright, enough of the excitement. And I do mean excitement. I think this is the most exciting time the insurance industry has ever faced. We are at a point where we can clearly say that we will be a complete different industry in 5 years! Most of what we will be doing in 5 years from now has not been invented yet! Artificial intelligence is changing the game at a rate that only the greatest leaders will carve through.
Advice for the future. Here are the suggestions I have for those wanting to go do something great and live in the exciting world of insurance, risk, and consulting in the 2020s.
Great organizations and leaders will dream, ask tough questions, and be a little crazy. Cautious and slow movements could quickly make an organization irrelevant. Find true disruption by challenging the norms of your organization and seek what will make a difference for your clients.
Determine strategy and live strategy daily. Know how you will be successful and stay in that zone. Don’t let strategy be an annual discussion. Make it a part of the business and know where you are working within the strategy and how it is going. Measure it. A great leader will continually make sure strategy is moving forward purposefully.
Create culture that includes innovation, lean, purpose, and inclusion.
The ability to move fast requires a culture that allows for change and high speed execution. Firms that will thrive in the future will be defined culturally as companies who are lean thinkers (eliminate waste as a way of thinking), have purpose that emotionally inspires, will have inclusion that will create diversity and creativity, and will believe they innovate as a way of survival. Most insurance agencies are the opposite of these attributes. It will be a big shift to move companies to become a culture that makes these items normal.
Kill confirmation bias.
We must stop looking for evidence of making us ok. The greatest minds in history spent every moment trying to disprove what they had invented or created. The big ideas don’t come from finding where others agree with us. Great ideas come from challenging what is in place today.
Don’t be a “Best Practices” agency.
I clearly subscribe to being a company that has measurements of being the best. But, a best practices company is one that lives off of everyone else’s ideas and successes. To survive the fast moving future of this industry we must be the one’s who disrupt and challenge. If your company is simply following what others have already done, you are behind. Be the one who invents the future of this industry. Be disruptive! Find a way to grow without needing to add people. Create a sales process that will get 90% closing ratio. Improve marketing strategies to increase conversion to better than 75%. Build a product that will have NO competition.
Increase the client spend.
NO, don’t CROSS SELL. That is so 1990. Cross selling means you haven’t done the right job to start. The right job is identifying the entire insurance spend against the risks and be a consultant that helps them navigate through all strategic options to reduce the spend (and future spend). If you are cross selling, you have created an environment where you are having to re-sell the client on what you do. Advise them on all risk to start and you don’t have to go sell a product later. A true consultant will guide the client to the products they purchase and will never have to sell anything.
Very few companies will have all of the attributes listed above. Working with Advisors that drive behaviors toward traditional models of this business will support your confirmation bias and make you feel safe. If you feel safe, you are dying. Engage an outside board member that is disruptive. Seek consultants that make you uncomfortable and tell you things that are hard to hear. If all you receive is reminders of what you used to do or what used to be, you are driving the car by looking in the rear view mirror. Get advice from board members, Advisors, consultants, friends, and guides that will challenge how you think.
“Good companies will find out what their clients need and meet those needs. Great companies will change the way their clients think!” - Steve Jobs
It is time to change how you think about your business so you can help your clients think different about what you can do for them.
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