Growth is a key objective for business. It’s only natural to want to expand your independent insurance agency, acquire new customers and increase revenue.
While there’s a lot you can do on your own, there will inevitably come a time where you reach your limit and growing pains arise because of a lack of personnel. And this leads to one fundamental question: When is the moment to think about hiring?
Onboarding is something that happens when your book of business is full, but there are other motivating factors as well. Here are some indicators that it’s time to hire and bring another agent on board.
You’re Constantly Overwhelmed
Excessive workload on an ongoing basis is often the first sign that hiring is in order, says Carla McKelvey at Pro Staff. Most insurance agencies experience ebb and flow, but if you find yourself constantly struggling to keep up, it can result in fatigue and your productivity can suffer.
“No matter how strong you are as a business owner, at some point you will feel overwhelmed. It’s just part of the job,” writes the team at marketing solutions company ThriveHive. “There’s always going to be too many ideas, too many deadlines, and not enough time to fit it all in.”
Maybe you’re finding it difficult to give your customers the same level of attention you have in the past. Maybe you’re swamped with paperwork. Or maybe you find it stressful to juggle core business tasks along with marketing and promoting your business.
Whatever the case may be, always being overwhelmed will take its toll and negatively impact your ability to operate at a high level. Natalie Baumgartner, chief workforce scientist at employee engagement platform Achievers, says it’s a common issue these days, and points to research that shows 38 percent of workers feel overwhelmed by how much they have to get done at work.
So if you fall under this category, hiring another agent should make sense.
You’re Forced to Turn Down New Customers
Another common scenario is when an independent agent continually lands new lucrative customers but inevitably hits the point where they have to turn down new ones because of the friction it will create with current customers.
“After all, when the incoming demand is greater than your workforce can withstand, the output tends to be poor,” explains the team at StreetShares, a small business loan provider. “When you begin passing on opportunities because you lack the employees, it’s time to consider hiring more staff.”
It’s incredibly frustrating when you have a great customer lead but have to turn them down simply because you’re at maximum capacity. Not only can this squander golden opportunities, you can end up losing out to your competitors who have the bandwidth to serve new customers.
When you’re no longer able to grow because of this, it’s definitely time to make a new hire.
Customer Satisfaction Has Declined
Customer satisfaction is important in any industry. But it’s absolutely vital in the insurance industry. Given that customers can easily use websites and aggregators to find quotes, it’s essential for agents to create a positive experience where customers not only purchase initial coverage but return to renew and add to their policies.
Personal attention and expert advice are two of the biggest reasons customers opt for independent agents over big name companies, says Jason Levine, vice president of operations at Harry Levine Insurance. An agent’s main selling point is that they serve as a personal insurance consultant.
“More and more companies have switched to automated systems, often making it difficult and time consuming to reach the right person,” writes licensed insurance advisor Matt Simon. “However, with an independent insurance agency, chances are good that you’ll speak with an actual person who will greet you, understand your coverages, and assist you with anything you may need.”
If growing pains have diminished the customer experience, it means it’s time to bring another agent on board. Human resources management software and services provider ADP specifically mentions that an increase in customer service complaints and refunds signifies an insufficient workforce.
If an unmanageable workload is causing you to neglect your customers, you should look for another agent before the situation deteriorates and customers take their business elsewhere, adds Aaron Schwartz, senior editor of employer insights at Indeed.
You’re Bogged Down with Nonessential Tasks
An independent agent wears many hats. They’re responsible for maintaining customer records, handling policy renewals and recommending coverage based on a person’s unique needs, according to Truity, a career test resource.
They must build and maintain strong customer relationships, respond to inquiries and track insurance claims throughout each stage of the life cycle, adds online job posting site Betterteam. Beyond that, they often handle marketing responsibilities and a host of administrative duties.
All of this can create problems, bogging you down with important tasks to the point that it limits your ability to effectively complete the most essential ones. Virtual assistance provider Outsource Workers points out that if you’re spending an excessive amount of time on tasks that don’t directly relate to the core functions of your insurance agency, your productivity will likely suffer.
Here’s an example.
Say you’re inundated with redundant, labor-intensive administrative tasks like filling out claims and adding information to a bookkeeping system — so much so that it’s hurting your ability to maintain strong relationships with your top customers, and they’re waiting longer than they should to hear back from you regarding their questions and concerns. That’s a recipe for disaster that can ultimately see those customers leave.
Email can be another big time drainer, with the average person spending over one-quarter of their work day just reading and responding to emails, notes consultant Matt Plummer.
If you find yourself weighed down with nonessential tasks at the expense of being able to focus on the more critical ones that actually help you acquire new customers and generate revenue, it’s a problem. So in this situation, it usually makes sense to expand.
You’re Making Mistakes
Overworked agents are more prone to making errors due to their focus on quantity rather than quality, writes Megan Lacombe at Liberty Staffing. When you lack adequate manpower, there’s a tendency to rush through tasks where you’re often unable to give them the attention they deserve. In turn, you’re more likely to make mistakes that can be costly.
For instance, you may get hit with a lot of claims all at once and you scramble to get them all done on your own. As a result, you may end up making errors that cause the claims process to take longer than it should for some of your customers.
Or maybe you have to pull longer hours to the point that you sacrifice getting enough sleep. Being awake for 17 hours straight gives you the performance equivalent of someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.05 percent — a point where a person is considered legally drunk in many jurisdictions, says Tamara Lytle at the Society for Human Resource Management.
Even something as minor as placing a decimal in the wrong place can cost your insurance agency big time, says Andrew Heath at employee engagement platform WeThrive. So if you’ve noticed that you’re not as sharp because of an excessive workload, it’s wise to hire another independent agent who can help pick up the slack.
Your Passion Has Waned
Overwork and exhaustion can cause you to lose your passion, writes Jeanette LeBlanc at SMB software provider Keap. Independent agents are excited when starting their business, and putting in long hours is no problem because they’re so passionate about building their agency.
However, the cumulative effect of having to handle everything yourself can eventually lead to burnout where your enthusiasm gradually dries up. But LeBlanc says that passion is a crucial part of success and what gives agents a competitive edge. Customers can tell if you’re simply going through the motions and not emotionally invested — something that can potentially sour relationships if you’re not careful.
In this case, hiring another agent lets you free up enough of your time to rekindle your passion.
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