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Four Cornerstones of Our Agency

This week we had a small issue with the quality of the information in our automation system. We met with a client and for many reasons, the information that was reflected in our system was not correct. This is not the first time this has happened and I’m sure it won’t be the last. We humans seem to make mistakes. When an event like this happens I always interested in how the system got so “tainted”. This morning I had an agency wide meeting and reviewed the file. As we discussed the differences, one of my staff made a great point. She said, “I hate that the information is not correct. You have to understand that we want to do great work and the fact that the information is not correct is upsetting to us all”. It was a great quote. Nobody likes to do a bad job. So what caused our system to be incorrect? The training program that we have had in place since I started buying the company back in 1996 will never win any awards. In fact, the biggest issue I have had as an owner is getting my folks properly trained. My attitude has always been “I know how to do it and thus I’m sure they know how to do it”. Since we have always done a procedure one way, most of the time that procedure is replicated by a new staff member. If the procedure is poor, we keep on doing the poor procedure. I’m excited to say that we have recently made the decision to switch both of our offices to Applied Systems cloud based EPIC system. This jump will force us to rethink every policy and procedure and allow us to get everyone following the “new improved” procedures.

I decided today that I’m recommitting our company to the four cornerstones we used to discuss frequently. They are communication, documentation, education, and follow up. The communication in our organization is like most, poor. Although we think we do a good job of keeping everyone in the loop, we fail miserably. Just this week a new benefits producer joined our company. We’re excited to have this new producer and thus sent out an email announcing his joining of our company. One of our staff was overhead stating, “Who is this new guy, it would be nice to be in the loop of what is going on”. My partner and I have thought we were doing a good job of keeping everyone in the loop, but again, we failed to send an effective message to all employees. Lesson learned, we must communicate better. Documentation is another area we have to begin doing a better job with. We are paper light (not paper less), but we need to utilize our system more effectively. I recently started spot-checking my employees on tasks that I ask them to do. I do this by blind carbon coping two out or myself on an email and then drag the email to my calendar for the following week. When I look at my calendar in the morning I simply look into our management system to make sure the task was completed and correct. I’m happy to report that 95% of the time, my staff does a perfect job and when they don’t it’s usually my poor communication that caused the issue.

Education has always been important to our company, but we have failed in this area as well. Education has always been important, but I always limited it to Insurance Education. Starting today, I’m going to begin sending my staff to non-insurance type classes. The more well rounded our staff can become, but the better our company will be. I’m asking all my staff to find outside classes that interest them, I’ll pay for it (within reason), and they get the life experience. It’s an employee benefit. Follow up, follow up, and follow up. Everything is moot if there is no follow up. Calling a client a week or so after a claim is settled is not necessary, but it is important. You can hear it in their voice that they really appreciate your checking up on them and making sure they were satisfied.

Our company is getting back to the basics that helped us achieve our goals when I first started my insurance career. My partner and I are confident that with a few minor tweaks we have an opportunity to create a very special company.

Life is a journey, not a destination. Steven Tyler – 1998

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