Since 1993, Reagan Consulting and the IIABA, “Big I,” have conducted the Best Practices Agency study to identify the top performing agencies in the United States. Conducted on a three-year cycle, the study measures the operational performance of nominated agencies against critical industry and business benchmarks. As the Best Practices program has grown, being nominated and taking part in the study has become a prestigious recognition of the superior accomplishments of the top insurance agencies in the country. To provide insider intel on the program, process, and the benefits of participating, Applied caught up with two Best Practices Agencies: Stu Durland of Seely & Durland, Inc. and Hanna Oggle of Watkins Insurance Group.
Why do you participate in the Best Practices Agency study?
Stu: Well, we started during the 2013 cycle, so that was the first three-year cycle we completed. We always thought about participating, but hadn’t committed the resources to managing the submission process. But after being a part of the industry for years and association/groups like Augie, ACT and ACORD, I saw they always referenced Best Practices – the status has become a benchmark among peers and established a “best-in-class” group of agencies. So I knew it would be worth the effort to submit our agency.
Hanna: While we only recently began participating in the program, we are really committed to the opportunity this study represents as a new initiative for our agency – and we take great pride in being part of it. We also knew that the opportunity to review our results and our data, as well as measure our results against our peers, would be immensely beneficial when evaluating our company’s performance. The more agents that participate, the more valid the data is and the more cross-comparisons can be made to improve the overall operations and growth of the independent agency channel.
What benefits have you received from participating in the program?
Hanna: We have recognized benefits in three main areas: carrier relationships, client communication and internal operations. From a carrier standpoint, they are focused on growing their business through their agency distribution channel, and the Best Practices Agencies list provides a “best of the best” list for them to immediately reference when determining agency partner relationships. Client communication and raising our agency branding is critical so being able to promote this industry recognition is immensely helpful. We use our Best Practices Agency status as part of client marketing, including website blogs, which further reinforces to our clients that we are committed agents to do business with. As a relationship driven industry, the peer-to-peer respect for participating is intangibly beneficial. I believe it is a good notion to have “peers look up to you,” and we want to set an example for others to aspire to one day.
Stu: Like Hanna’s agency, we too use our Best Practices Agency status as part of client marketing to reinforce our commitment to clients. And, yes it’s something our carrier partners and industry peers recognize. Most importantly, going through the program process and strategic counsel from Reagan Consulting sheds light on what we do well – of course – but it also identifies opportunities to improve. The diligence the program promotes to routinely evaluate the company’s operations for improvement is vastly helpful.
What would be your advice to agencies considering participating?
Stu: For years, we didn’t participate in the program because of the time commitment to pull the data for the requested submission form. Once we went through the process, we realized that the time investment was worth it for the sole reason that it defined good structure to pulling reports and evaluating company performance. So, I strongly encourage agencies to designate resources to the project because the means is worth the effort. Additionally, Applied, as a technology partner, is actively involved in supporting its agency partners in providing step-by-step guides on how to pull this information from your management system, significantly reducing the time it historically used to take to pull the submission information. With the guidance from Reagan, agency peers, and Applied, the time spent participating in this program is very well spent.
Hanna: If you question whether participating is worth the effort, I would unquestionably say yes. By choosing to participate, your agency has the opportunity to analyze internal data and evaluate how these insights affect future planning. Also, if you feel like you are not big enough or have not been in business long enough, apply anyway – you will create the internal procedures that will get you there in the future. The program provides great goals and diligent practices. Set your mind to it.
Stuart S. Durland, AAI, AINS, CPIA is VP of Operations and co-owner of Seely & Durland Insurance. He is very involved in industry initiatives tied to improving agency workflows. His agency is a past recipient of the Rough Notes Agency of the Month, has been a Best Practices Agency for the past 3 years, is active in ACT & AUGIE, and has been a member of Applied Client Network since 1991. Stu was also Applied Client Network President in 2004.
Hanna Ogle is Personal Lines Manager, Director of Agency Automation, and Shareholder at Watkins Insurance Group. With Applied TAM, Applied CSR24 and Applied Mobile, the agency operates 7 locations in Texas and is also a Master agency for SIAA. Hanna currently serves as the Industry Solutions Committee Chair for Applied Client Network and is dedicated to improving carrier and agency interface on all fronts.