Photo Credit: Ross Findon

Commercial insurance and change.

It’s a new year. Time for a new take on change?

With 2020 underway, it’s a good opportunity to take stock of the way your company operates. Even the most well-run organization can find opportunities to increase efficiency, save valuable time, and deliver a better customer experience.

Trouble is, implementing valuable, significant change at any company can feel like a bit like juggling elephants or water skiing on tongue depressors. Definitely not easy. That’s especially true when it comes to legacy processes that are ingrained into the way people work. 

The question is: what makes it so hard? After all, efforts to produce real change usually debut with the best intentions. A problem is identified, there’s a shared understanding that it can be fixed with a different system, and initial enthusiasm for a new process is high.

But then, there’s derailment. A few small setbacks, a resistor or two within the group, some poor communication, and suddenly everyone is saying the new way won’t work. 

Often without a fair trial, the change is discarded. The group decides that the status quo can’t be improved, and there is growing resistance to future change. And when something new is deemed unsuccessful, no matter what the reason may be, the organization grows even more wary of the next good idea that could bring real transformation. 

This is how companies—heck, entire industries—grow stale. It’s why a retailer like Montgomery Ward goes from being the biggest store in the country to a few sad, boarded-up locations. It’s how Atari winds up as a name only seen at retro arcades. It’s why Crystal Pepsi—wait, bad example. Crystal Pepsi was awful and deserved to disappear. 

Thing is, successful companies constantly evolve. To do that, they implement change in a way that gives it a reasonable chance to succeed so they can measure the true value of a new solution instead of dooming it to failure by botching its introduction.

Why is change so hard?

Quite simply, embracing major change is not in our basic nature. Our minds are wired against it—we struggle to stick with a new diet and exercise routine, we remain in unfulfilling relationships, we stay in the same job longer than we should. Preserving the status quo is easy. Embracing something new is uncomfortable.

 If you struggle to make changes, even ones you know will pay long-term dividends, don’t beat yourself up. You’re a human and you were designed to oppose it. Change takes energy and our brains are also telling us to preserve, not risk, what we currently have. Psychological studies have revealed that we’re more worried about what we might lose than what we can possibly gain—science tells us the brain releases more endorphins if we find a lost $100 bill than if someone simply gives us one. That desire for self-preservation imbues everything we do.

Something else that makes a group of people at any company more resistant to change? Their job is often tied to their very sense of self. Not only is it part of their identity, it also happens to be the very thing that supplies basic human needs like safety and security for them and their family. To the human brain, anything that risks that, even if it could create for a more productive work environment, doesn’t seem like a worthwhile gamble.

The bottom line is that it’s challenging motivate a company and all its employees to try a new path. It’s not just one mind that needs to accept something new—it’s a collective, and it only takes a few naysayers in a group to throw the whole thing off. Even the people who were initially open, engaged, and excited about change can be swayed by a few dissenting voices. Before long, the transformational plan is off the rails and the organization is reverting to its previous practices.

Now, more than ever, it’s vital to resist the desire to, well, resist. With technology as the engine, the world of business is changing more rapidly than ever before. It’s the people who push back against the resistance to something new who will reap the greatest benefits in the future.

Organizations make humans even more resistant to change. 


In any company, the failure bias is especially strong. We remember past missteps far more vividly than successes. The hallways of companies are filled with conversations that start with, “Remember when Todd screwed that whole thing up?” Or, “Don’t forget about the time Lisa tried to change our supply process—total disaster.”  It doesn’t matter that all kinds of successful changes occurred in between those ones—all we want to remember are the efforts that didn’t pan out. What’s more, Todd and Lisa’s actual ideas may have been great, but were simply derailed by people who refused to embrace them. 

Something else that makes a group of people at any company more resistant to change? Their job is often tied to their very sense of self. Not only is it part of their identity, it also happens to be the very thing that supplies basic human needs like safety and security for them and their family. To the human brain, anything that risks that, even if it could create for a more productive work environment, doesn’t seem like a worthwhile gamble.

The bottom line is that it’s challenging motivate a company and all its employees to try a new path. It’s not just one mind that needs to accept something new—it’s a collective, and it only takes a few naysayers in a group to throw the whole thing off. Even the people who were initially open, engaged, and excited about change can be swayed by a few dissenting voices. Before long, the transformational plan is off the rails and the organization is reverting to its previous practices.

Now, more than ever, it’s vital to resist the desire to, well, resist. With technology as the engine, the world of business is changing more rapidly than ever before. It’s the people who push back against the resistance to something new who will reap the greatest benefits in the future.

Get change right.

I’m not saying change is easy. But I do believe good ideas are worth the work. 

Broker Buddha can change your application and renewal process in ways that will transform your business. But making it happen, ensuring that it’s embraced by your agents and your team? Well, as intuitive and easy as we make our platform, it’s still going to be new.

I know implementing our software is worth the effort. I can tell you countless stories about agencies that have told me their only regret is not starting to use it sooner. I wouldn’t be leading this company if I didn’t believe our platform can transform your company. 

That said, I also have some opinions about how to make positive change stick. Here are five:

1. It starts at the top. 

Change needs a champion. 

If you’re part of the leadership at your agency, your voice and actions carry weight. Even if you’re not in the trenches every day implementing a new process, the people who are doing that work need to know you back their efforts. Be vocal, whether it’s in conversations or emails or Slack conversations, about the long-term benefits you believe will accrue for everyone. Show your support by using the new process yourself. When people believe a new process is something the company values, they’re far more likely to give it a real chance.

2. Understand and recognize the obstacles.

In any company or organization, there are people probably best described as “blockers.” They’re not necessarily bad employees—in fact, they may be very good at the tasks they handle—but their natural stance towards change is opposition. Let’s just say they line up on the defensive side of the ball.

So identify the people who may need additional attention and encouragement. Walk them through the new process and explain its long-term benefits. Assure them =the company will approach it all in a measured way so it’s not overwhelming. And make it personal—demonstrate to anyone in this group exactly how the new process will help them. 

3. Be transparent about ROI.

Whenever you introduce something new at an organization, some people will only see the cost side of the equation. They will question whether the company can afford the new thing, typically without understanding the overall value proposition.

Explain it as clearly as you can, and with as much financial transparency as possible. Show your team what they will gain—more free time, the ability to handle a larger book of business, better client retention because of an enhanced customer experience.

Some of the change resistors will be reacting out of fear, whether it’s about their own job security or the long-term interests of the company. Allay those concerns with clear, concise explanations about the ROI that you expect to generate.

Finally, understand that there may be some short-term costs. People can struggle with new technology, even if the learning curve is not steep or the company supplying it provides expert assistance. Don’t let that deter either you or the people who need to be supportive of the effort.

4. Accept that real change doesn’t happen overnight.

We’d all love to be able to implement something at our company that pays dividends the very next day. But guess what? That kind of change is the stuff of myth. Real, lasting change rarely happens that way. 

Accept that a new process will take some time and make sure everyone using the new tool understands that, too. If you’re impatient, the people you need to embrace it will feel pressure to succeed immediately. That won’t help—it will only increase the risk that your team will give up and decide the old ways should return. After all, that’s the path of least resistance.

Remember that implementing change isn’t a wholly practical, objective exercise. Emotions are involved. Logic may be discarded. So be patient, stay in touch, and eventually you’ll be able to demonstrate the value. Or, even better, the value will be obvious to everyone. If you have to, show people the positive outcomes of their work—sometimes the group that is most closely involved in the change fails to see their own progress.

5. Go big.


Nibbling around the edges of process change? Stop.

If you’re really going to transform your agency, dive in. Commercial insurance is an industry that will reward the bold, and the opportunity is great because others have been slow to embrace technology. Venture out into new, daunting, even scary territory, and your courage will be rewarded. 

It’s worth noting that we’re a company that embraces change, too. Every day, we’re working on updates to our platform, and many of the new features that we add are driven by feedback we receive from our customers. We’re not about to let our product get static. 

I’m confident our Broker Buddha platform will reshape your agency in fundamental ways. Ensure the buy-in of your team and rely on our Customer Success team to work through any obstacles. If you truly want to transform your agency, move to our White Glove Service. Once implemented, the automation will create incredible efficiency and provide a customer experience that will dramatically improve the application and renewal process for your clients. Available to our Premier plan customers, White Glove Service is next level—and is the kind of change that delivers amazing rewards to the agencies that embrace it.

Our platform is modern and crisp, and designed to be as intuitive as possible. It strips away unnecessary tasks like filling out the same forms again and again. It replaces tedious tasks like faxing, scanning, and email back-and-forth.  It can be tailored to hide sections of forms that don’t apply to the application or renewal process of your client. 

I could go on about the features of our platform but, hey, I like to keep things simple. So I’ll end by reminding you that: 

Change. Is. Good.

— Jason



 


Published on:

Wednesday, January 8, 2020