In the movie armageddon, Earth faces destruction from a giant asteroid on a collision course with our planet before it is saved by the heroic sacrifice of the character played by Bruce Willis. As 2014 hurtles toward us, brokers across the country helplessly search for a savior from the cataclysmic PPACA disaster. "Help us, Supreme Court!" No? Then, "Help us, Republicans!" Maybe. Maybe not.
But it doesn't matter, because PPACA just doesn't matter. Not for your benefits business. A huge disaster for health care and our liberty, yes, but that's another article for another publication. But, for your business, it just doesn't matter. Look, we've been here before. Veteran brokers are experiencing deja vu all over again. Think: ERISA, Section 125, COBRA, HIPAA ....
That sound you hear isn't the benefits industry collapsing. It's the sound of a huge opportunity forming ... for the wise advisers willing to both see it and seize it. An unprecedented post-reform opportunity is emerging for the keen-eyed and nimble brokers who will reposition their agency for post-reform success. Are you game? Are you ready to dominate your market?
The market is changing, true. But your competitors are frozen, standing flat-footed, mouths agape, eyes wide with fear. Are you ready to take action and own the future?
Oh, sure, you'll have to reinvent your agency to reflect a new business model, what we call the 21st Century Agency. (See my series of five columns on the 21st Century Agency starting with the EBA January 2012 issue.)
Transforming into a 21st Century Agency will require changes to your agency's portfolio, marketing, selling and management. Components of a 21st Century Agency include a strategically expanded portfolio of products and services; high-ROI marketing; a value-added sales process driven by consultative selling with intentional cross-selling; and high-ROI management with a lean back-office operation and accountable producers. Yes, that's a lot of change, but the changes actually are quite organic and symbiotic, once you begin to adopt the new business model.
The 21st Century Agency is characterized by high ROI, seen in greater value for the client and strict accountability from the agency's marketing, sales and operations. The client gets a greater return on its broker investment and the agency demands a higher return on its investment in back office, marketing and producers.
Giving the client greater value provides your agency with a competitive advantage, increases retention, and, perhaps most important, positions your agency for the inevitable move to a fee-based model. Holding your marketing, back office and producers truly accountable increases productivity and drives more revenue to your bottom line. With lower profit margins, there is no margin for error in operations or sales. Lean and efficient is the only model that will survive.
Come 2014, whether PPACA is implemented or repealed, for the 21st Century Agency you'll own your market either way. PPACA isn't an asteroid. The sky isn't falling. You don't need Bruce Willis to save the day. Seize the new opportunity as a 21st Century Agency - you be the hero.
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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