"What now?" That better be the No. 1 question on your mind right now - unless you already have reinvented your firm on a reform-proof business model or are working on a comprehensive reinvention program.

Reinvent or decline. I've been hammering you for the past year on the need to reinvent your agency on the reform-proof 21st Century Agency business model. I make no apologies. If you're like most agencies, either you adopt a new business model now or within five years - tops - you will either be working for another firm that did, or be out of the benefits business.

There is no other Plan B. The Supreme Court has spoken; the voters have preserved PPACA. Like a massive earthquake, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has destroyed the structural foundation of our industry. The old agency business model is obsolete. Your only Plan B is to reinvent your agency. If you want to survive, you have no choice.



A lasting model

In my keynote address at the recent Workplace Benefits Transitions conference, I laid out the three key objectives for any benefits firm that wants to survive the shakeout and emerge the winner in its market:

1) Stay profitable

2) Remain relevant

3) Grow the business

The 21st Century Agency business model achieves those objectives.

Stay profitable. Staying profitable is a function of your portfolio. The 21st Century Agency doesn't indiscriminately diversify its portfolio, but intentionally selects the right strategic insurance and non-insurance products and services that can solve critical employer problems. Staying profitable is also a function of agency management, to generate high ROI from both producers and operations. The 21st Century Agency uses aggressive sales management to put more revenue on the top line and cost-efficient operations to drive more revenue to the bottom line.

Remain relevant. Remaining relevant in the new world of benefits means providing clients with massive value far beyond spreadsheeting and customer service. The 21st Century Agency is able to solve key HR problems, such as employee health trends and engagement, HR technology, PPACA compliance, single-source solutions and benefits strategic planning. Remaining relevant is also about selling with a consultative, question-based approach. The 21st Century Agency's advisory selling system adds value with the selling process by uncovering and solving critical problems for the employer.

Grow the business. Growing the business is a function of marketing and prospecting. The 21st Century Agency uses high-ROI direct marketing techniques to cost-effectively communicate its consultative capabilities and toolbox of solutions. It is also about being positioned for the new opportunities, to take business away from competitors who fail to reinvent themselves.

And, sooner than later, post-reform success will require you to operate in a fee-for-service model, being both comfortable asking for a reasonable fee and able to justify that fee with the tremendous value you bring the client. The 21st Century Agency provides that value with its consultative approach and diversified portfolio of product and service solutions.

Griswold is an authority on both voluntary benefits and consultative selling. His firm, Bottom Line Solutions, consults with agencies across the country. Reach him at (615) 656- 5974 or nelson@InsuranceBottomLine.com.

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