What do 1995, 2003, 2009 and 2010 all have in common? They were the launch years of industry transformers: Amazon, Skype, Uber and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Amazon transformed retail, Skype transformed long distance calling, Uber is transforming urban transportation and the ACA is transforming health insurance. Disrupt or be disrupted. Are you disrupting the way you do business, taking a wait-and-see approach, or waiting for someone to disrupt it for you?

I recently attended the National Association of Health Underwriters annual convention in New Orleans with more than 800 other brokers, producers and agents from all across our great country. I talked with many of the attendees about their perspectives on Obamacare and how it has changed their world. Many of them said they were making less money, having less fun and working longer hours. They also expressed frustration with Obamacare’s focus on insurance regulation rather than the real challenge of rising health care costs.

As I listened, one central theme for survival and success emerged for me: Creativity and innovation are the currency of the future, disrupt or be disrupted. It’s a thought process that starts with accepting the reality that our industry will never be the same as it was before 2010 — Obamacare and the advancement of technology are changing our world like never before. Brokers, producers and agents must make the decision to embrace the new normal and evolve their business models or perish.

And yes, it really is that simple. Look no further than Uber for evidence of the “creative destruction” innovation can cause and just ask the taxi cab drivers who invested a million dollars to buy hack medallions that are now worthless how they feel about being transformed.

Also see: "Can the government and private market work together on health care reform?"

What can brokers, agents and producers do to disrupt their business and succeed in this new world? It depends on your thinking. How you think matters. Ask yourself this important question, “what is my business philosophy?” The answer usually falls in one of three categories: expense hawk, cautious optimist or innovator. There is no right or wrong answer, just different directions.

Hawks will reduce expenses to maintain the bottom line and “ride it out.” They are reactive in nature. Cautious optimists will make small changes and take a wait-and-see approach. They are reactive and proactive. Innovators create greater value for clients by anticipating their needs and making investments to transform the way you do business with them. They are industry transformers who bring the future back to the present to improve their capabilities and deliver greater value to their clients. I make no judgment either way and simply want to acknowledge that each has a different shelf life.

Positive progress

I suspect many of you are innovators, or at least moving in that direction. Here are five things you can do to help you make positive progress:

1) Make time to work ON your business rather than in it — and make time to get away

2) Diversify what you read—think about how those ideas and content can apply to your business

3) Honestly and objectively think about your business — what works, doesn’t or would change?

4) Build a culture of innovation and creativity by asking your team for their ideas

5) Talk to other brokers, agents and producers who are experiencing success and pick their brain

Are you disrupting the way you do business or waiting for someone to disrupt it for you? Disrupt or be disrupted. Your success is only limited by your imagination.

Gaunya is principal at Borislow Insurance and an EBA advisory board member. He can be reached at mark@borislow.com.

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