When was the last time you seriously considered what’s next for your organization?
We’re not talking about the next meeting, the next client, or the next week’s schedule—but next, as in what your firm will look like in five years. Is your organization twice the size? Are you still independent? Do you cover more territory, offer more services, employ more people? Are you still in business?
What’s the plan?
While many organizations set up daylong strategic planning sessions with key leaders and talk about the future, few do anything substantive that puts those plans into action. Unfortunately, the energy fades and no real positive action takes place. There’s no movement toward goals because the goals discussed are not tied to workable strategies. There’s no path. It’s this failure to set a course that creates a culture that lacks inspiration and motivation, and ultimately kills the chances of success.
Imagine building a house without a blueprint. There’s no way a construction crew shows up to an empty lot with truckloads of materials and just starts hammering away. The crew needs a thoughtfully planned blueprint and the leadership of a diligent project manager. That way everyone works toward a common goal with a clearly defined plan.
You need a blueprint for the future to compete in the modern insurance market. You must design the future you want and execute to make it happen.
This is much easier said than done. So many strategic plans are drawn up but are then forgotten in a drawer somewhere collecting dust. Setting goals is the visionary and inspiring part of the process, but enacting change is tough. Resetting rewards and pushing accountability, training for the future, developing leaders—this is all hard work. But the payoff can be a successful, sustainable organization that is poised for profitability over the long-term. And while your people may feel uncomfortable with the plan at first, they will start to feel a sense of stability as you create an environment where they can do their best work. They’ll realize they’re not risking their careers, families, and futures on a business that is operating simply by an owner’s whims.
To Start: Where Are You Now?
Begin with a SWOT analysis to identify your organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This process should involve the insights and perspectives of leadership, key producers, and other stakeholders who can provide thoughtful insight as you work through these questions:
- How is our financial strength?
- What is our market position?
- What is exceptional about our culture?
- What is our competitive advantage?
- Where does the competition almost always win over us?
- Why do customers buy from us, and stay with us? Why do they choose the competition?
- What resources do we have that are abundantly available compared to others?
- Where are we lacking?
During a SWOT analysis, profile your customers, prospects, and non-customers. Review your product and service offerings. Evaluate offerings that have grown unexpectedly and help to understand why. Evaluate unsuccessful offerings and determine the root cause for the lackluster performance. Consider industry trends and how your company is positioned to succeed in the modern insurance market. Break the trends down into categories: technology, markets, demographic, etc. How are you capturing recent opportunities—what could you do better?
External threats will likely keep a company from reaching its potential if they are ignored. So be honest and identify the industry, social, political, demographic, cultural, or technological trends that could impact your business.
Obstacles can create opportunities. Identify the obstacles facing your organization and segment the obstacles into controllable and uncontrollable. Now take a good, hard look at your service offerings and determine which offerings tackle the controllable obstacles.
Also take time to review your mission and vision statements. Illustrate a historical account of your agency’s performance over the last 10 years, 5 years, and last year. What trends do you notice? This “Where Are You Now?” exercise can help you set goals so you can identify where you want to be.
Where Do You Want to Be?
Now you flip the switch from present to future. French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery wisely quipped “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” So, seriously think about your ultimate goal. And, as you do, remember this Rule of 72. If you grow by 15% annually, you’ll double your business in five years. That means if you grow by just 2%, it will take 36 years to accomplish the same growth. Each percentage increase in your growth can potentially fast-track performance exponentially.
Be detailed, specific, and realistic. Consider this: set a goal to grow by 10% next year, then detail how this revenue increase will occur. For example: 7% organic growth and 3% through acquisition. Set a total commercial lines growth goal of 10%, personal lines growth goal of 2% and aim for employee benefits revenue of 7%.
When you set a specific goal, you can measure your progress and hold individuals in your organization accountable for meeting targets.
How Will You Get There?
With clarity about where your organization is today and where you want to be, you now have a vision. But according to Thomas Edison, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” This daunting part of the process is where many companies lose momentum.
You must be proactive and turn your strategy into action. Proactive organizations create a blueprint for the future and make it happen.
The first step is to create action plans. First, develop detailed action items to support your specific goals. Set priorities and then assign responsibilities. Then establish a monitoring method so you can track performance and hold people accountable. At this point you may discover some opposition—team members who resist the new direction and do not want to be challenged to grow. Remove resistance and use teams to empower change. If necessary, replace the team members who continue to resist. Creative leadership and a mindset to make the tough decisions will keep you moving in a positive direction.
Communication is key, both to the executive committee and to staff. Define your goals and the steps for reaching those targets. Be inspiring and use clear, concise words. Make sure everyone understands their role in forwarding the organization’s success.
Empower employees to execute the plan and continue to select leaders and develop them for the future. Communicate early, often—all the time.
If you have questions about Today’s ViewPoint, or would like to learn more about how MarshBerry can help your firm plan for its future, please email or call Phil Trem, President – Financial Advisory, at 440.392.6547.
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