Setting up your Insurance Agency Office
In the past, insurance agencies needed spacious offices to handle staff, file cabinets, supplies and several other items. Thanks to the Internet, this has all changed. Once you go paperless, you will no longer need file cabinets. A desk drawer file cabinet should be enough to store those important hard copies of crucial documents.
It’s truly a different world from 20 years ago, when an agency needed tangible items for communication and storage. COVID has changed the ballgame; working from home is more acceptable than ever. This has resulted in more people working from home. Today, the cost to run an office has become very inexpensive and more profitable for the insurance agency.
Can you operate a totally virtual office from home? This is very possible, yet it has both pros and cons. It will save you money, and it keeps you close to your office, both of which are helpful during the start-up phase. If you have a virtual office, you should associate with an executive suite service that offers the services of a receptionist, office address, mail and other office needs that will bridge the gap of your home office. On the minus side, working from home can be distracting. If you write the type of business that often brings people to your office, working from home is not an option. Also, for some, it can be unproductive. Lastly, if you do work from home, invest in technology and advertising. Hiding behind a computer hides your business, so invest in communications apps so that you can have facetime type meetings, and make sure your name is constantly out there online. This doesn’t mean putting up a few postings on social media; it means constantly posting on social media, investing in online advertising and perhaps even sponsoring some community service events.
Insurance Agency Staffing
While many smaller agencies do not start off by hiring staffing, I highly recommend having someone at least part-time from the very beginning. A staffer can help a lot with initial marketing campaigns. Having even one good employee will help you grow faster and is usually worth the investment, though it may take a few years to realize the return. As your agency grows, you will want at the very least one full-time staff person and even more as you grow, including adding producers and partners.
There is so much more involved in servicing with an independent agency than with a captive agency, most especially for those who write commercial business. You may also want to take advantage of carrier service centers. Many will provide 24-hour service to your clients and will handle everything except for new business sales and renewal management. However, they usually take a percentage of your commissions to participate in this. Keep in mind that, like anything else, service centers have pluses and minuses. Some agencies prefer to service their own customers, as it helps build a stronger customer relationship.
Finding staff is can be difficult, especially if you are in a large metropolitan area. Hiring without an HR department can also be a challenge. The good news is that there are more services out there that provide remote staffing; they do all the hiring and HR for you. Most are US based, but most provide staff that are in a foreign country. This is very much the new norm, even for large US corporations, as the US lacks the availability of staff, and it’s very costly. This is even more true for a very small enterprise. A full-time staff member here in the US can range from $5,000 to $10,000 a month after expenses (depending on your area). In contrast, a fulltime outsourced staff member can run from $1,500 to $3,000 a month. AgencyEquity has a number of advertisers that provide this service. You can find these services listed in our Insurance Agency Staffing directory.
Getting an Insurance Education
There are several producer schools that can help educate you about both sales and product training. This is very different than any pre-licensing training you may have had before, as most pre-license courses focus on legal principals and passing your state exam. Product training does exactly what it says — it educates you about the many different types of insurance policies and what they cover. This is especially important for those who:
- Have previous experience running a captive agency
- Have sold only personal lines
- Are new to the business
You really need to know your own product, if you are to set yourself apart from the competition and win more accounts, especially higher premium accounts. Here is a list of producer schools:
- Hartford School of Insurance
- National Alliance Insurance Sales & Management Training
- Travelers Commercial Lines Producer School
- Chubb Agency Education
Easier Than Ever To Start Your Agency
It’s easier to start an independent insurance agency today than it was 25 years ago for several reasons:
- The growth of insurance agency networks
- The availability of lower cost technology
- The number of technology options
- Social media makes it easier to market
- The ability to work from home
- Access to low-cost turnkey staffing services
Starting an insurance agency 25 years ago required significantly more capital. None of the options listed above were around back then or at least not as widespread as they are today. Back then, you were on your own; today you have a number of services that want to help you launch and succeed. It’s truly a different word as the doors are more wide open to start and succeed at your independent insurance agency than ever before.
Guide to Starting an Insurance Agency Table of Contents
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