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As we close 2017, what are you doing to bid farewell to the old and welcome the new?

The close of the year should be a time of reflection.  We often focus our efforts on the tasks at hand and the what might be instore for the future.  However, it is equally important to look back and appreciate what went well, grasp what mistakes were made and lastly, if lessons were learned. 

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to do this as it allows you to take stock of your business and set realistic goals for the year ahead. 

Here is a Year-End to do list:

Get your accounts in order. One of the most important tasks at year-end is to accurately and timely close your books.  Close out your account payables and receivables and balance operating and trust accounts.  Sounds logical, right? If you have good accounting, the process should be a pretty easy task.  Closing out of your accounts and starting the year with organized and accurate balances allows you to understand your previous year’s financial activity as well as insight to any balances that will carry forward to the new year.  

Undergo a Solution Assessment. The end of the year is a perfect time to assess the current systems and procedures that you have in place and see if they can be improved for the new year.  Are you running a solid agency management system?  Is everything being entered the same across the agency?  Do you have a current procedures manual and job descriptions in place for existing staff and new hires?  Agency owners and managers are busy and often caught up in day-to-day management and administration but successful systems and procedures that run the agency are essential to customer satisfaction and retention.  Improving your automated systems reduces wasted time, eliminates potential errors and omissions and increases your ability to focus on your sales pipeline.

Declutter email inboxes. Everyone has that one person in the office that cannot get rid of a single email. What if it might be important in two years?  A cluttered email inbox is the same as a cluttered desk overflowing with papers and files.  It distracts and overwhelms every time you look at it.  At the new year, have your staff organize, archive, attach to agency management files and yes (gasp!) delete unneeded emails.  It seems a very simple thing to do but the psychological effect will be amazing on your staff.  It is certainly one of the easiest ways to increase productivity.  Here’s how:

  • Have staff routinely apply client emails to the agency management file and utilize “delete source” to remove from the inbox.
  • Create filters and rules to automatically send certain emails to specified folders or junk folder.
  • Unsubscribe from 95% of the lists that everyone is on. Most people just delete the unwanted emails but they clog up the inbox every time they are received again.  So, take the extra moment and push the unsubscribe button.
  • Utilize your agency management system ‘reminders’ or your Outlook calendar. Many people leave an unopened or flagged email in their inbox to remind them to do something.  Instead of clogging up the inbox and overwhelming the user, schedule these items properly. 

Motivate your team! Employee engagement is vital to the success of your team and thus, your business.  Start the year of on a positive note by sharing the success of last year.  Ask everyone to set new plans and targets for what they want to achieve in the new year and find out what incentivizes them to do so.   This doesn’t always have to be money.   Also, be sure to give them the resources that they need to do their job well. 

Create New Year goals. Everyone knows that successful business owners should start each year by setting long-term goals.  However, it is equally important to set short-term goals. Short term goals are often overlooked and should be viewed as the steps to achieve the final goal and allow praise in shorter intervals.  It motivates employees to celebrate with more frequent successes.  Also, allow employees to have a word in the goals.  It gives them ownership of the idea and solidifies their participation.   

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.” ~ Mark Twain

Written on December 14, 2017 by Peggy Corbett

Avoid Employee Turnover Costs with Good Initial Hiring Practice

Hiring good people can be difficult, time-consuming and costly.  Understanding the financial and other costs associated with an inefficient hiring practice will lead you to recognize the reasons to spend time and effort on this vital growth subject.

Hiring the wrong person can be a financial disaster.

Costs are typically 150% of yearly salary

  1.  Lost training time
  2.  Training cost of replacement
  3.  Lost weeks of productivity
  4.  Cost of recruitment
  5.  Stress on organization

Management Headaches

  1.  Conflict with management and other team members
  2.  Disproportionate management time required for problem solving
  3.  Wasted training time
  4.  Starting all over AGAIN!

The core of a successful hiring practice is not the actual interview but in the initial phone conversation with a prospective employee.  Most candidates prepare for the sit-down interview.  They study your website and understand your agency’s products and concentration.  They may even have their practiced “script” ready to use to answer the potential, and likely predictable, interview questions.   However, many candidates are not ready for a phone interview and do not recognize the importance of this piece of the screening process.   As it is more casual and less intimidating than a sit-down interview, you are likely to discover something that you would not find in a ‘practiced’ interview and it is an optimal time to test active listening skills which is key to a productive employee.   Remember that most of your clients will be speaking with this prospective employee on the phone so their listening and response skills are paramount to good client relations.

It is important to remember that you are not interviewing to hire at this point.  This time is used to qualify candidates for the next step in your hiring practice without the additional costs and associated wasted time of a bad in-office interview. 

To begin with, make sure that you prepare the segmentation and questions for the phone interview.  Start by introducing yourself, telling them a bit about the agency and your intent for a specific candidate.  Set the tone and more importantly, the specific agenda for the interview.   Let them know upfront how much time you are devoting to this conversation.  How a candidate adheres to the agenda and the pace of a phone interview is very telling and can be much different from a face-to-face conversation where the candidate can adjust responses and approach based on your body language. 

Be sure to give the candidate the opportunity to acknowledge the agenda and any overt deviation on their part may be a clear sign that this candidate is not for you. 

Wrap up the interview with a clear plan of action by either thanking them for their time or giving them the instructions for the next phase in your interview process.  The follow up should always be on the candidate not on the agency.   Placing the responsibility for follow up on the candidate is the next step of the hiring assessment.   The follow up, or lack of follow up, is a clear measurement of the hirable potential of your next ideal employee.   

Written on October 4, 2017 by Peggy Corbett

Better Business through Good Time Management

Let’s face it. Every one of us is a procrastinator at heart.  The problem with not tackling your biggest problem, most upset client, or worst project first thing in the morning is that it looms over you all day and clutters your mind.  Whether you realize it or not, it creates a distraction for creative concentration.

Mark Twain famously said that if you eat a live frog every morning then nothing worse will happen the rest of the day.

First thing in the morning, your mind is the clearest and you have yet to be pulled in multiple directions. By attacking the most daunting task first, you will have a sense of accomplishment and you can go through the rest of the day knowing that you already ate your frog.

The other time management skills that most agency owners don’t implement are the following:

Track your time:  If you can’t measure it then you can’t improve it.  Knowing how much time to it takes you to complete any given task, will allow you to effectively plan your day.

Eliminate time wasters: One of the most intrusive time wasters is the audible alert of incoming emails.  Every time you respond to that ‘ding’, you are disrupting the concentration of the task at hand.   One recent study shows it takes about 25 minutes to get back on track after you've been interrupted.   Responding to emails is important but it can be done after the completion of a specific project or at designated times in the work day.

Get organized: Organization can be as simple as an uncluttered desk, an orderly email inbox or implementing a viral filing system such as Drop Box to eliminate wasted time looking for paperwork or documents that do not get scanned in to your agency management system. Developing efficient systems will save you a lot of time in the long run.

Set deadlines and keep them: Setting a hard deadline for yourself makes you accountable for the completion of the project. Be honest with yourself and give enough time to realistically get the job done with a little wiggle room for the possibility that other things will get in the way.  If you respect the hard deadline imposed by yourself, your focus will be sharper and efficiencies with be improved.  Remember that being busy isn’t the same as being effective.

Good time management enables you to work smarter – not harder – so that you get more done in less time.




Written on September 12, 2017 by Peggy Corbett

Upselling to Increase Customer Satisfaction and Retention

The definition of upselling according to Business is a ‘sales strategy where the seller will provide opportunities to purchase related products or services, often for the sole purpose of making a larger sale’.

This makes upselling sound like a dirty word and not a benefit for the client.  In fact, upselling can increase your customer satisfaction and retention by providing necessary coverage through risk management techniques that will allow you to meet or surpass your customer’s satisfaction.  

How many times as an insurance agent has a client asked you “Why didn’t you tell me about XYZ coverage?” after a loss?

The secret to successful upselling is to provide a potential loss scenario to the client that illustrates the possibility of loss or injury that could affect that individual client or his/her property.  

Upselling should not be a sales strategy but instead a path that walks a client through specific peril filled obstacles with the idea to diminish the client’s exposure through avoidance of risk, mitigation of risk, transfer of risk and acceptance of risk.

Let’s face it, insurance is only necessary after the time of a loss.  When the expected coverage is not there, the client blames the agent.  The average agency loses around 20 percent of its non-retained clients base due to disappointment with coverage at the time of a claim.  The customers that receive the proper coverage at the time of a claim are one-third more loyal than other customers.  

By not upselling, an agent is failing to attend to his customer relationship and let’s not forget that the documentation of upselling is also a tactical approach for errors and omissions protection.


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Written on August 23, 2017 by Peggy Corbett

Mining Your Client List for New Business

One of the most overlooked and profitable client is right under your nose…your existing customers.

Many of these loyal clients represent an untapped source of new business and the good news is that these clients already know you, trust you and you have a proven track record with them.

Cultivating your existing client base not only increases your business but enhances profitability by lowering the cost of customer acquisition and increasing retention. Customer retention is exponentially multiplied by every additional policy that each customer has with the agency. It also fosters loyalty to the agency and deters the customer from shopping with their “other” agent.

While there are no statistics on how many independent agencies are actively cross-selling to their customers, many experts say they’re not doing it as often as they should—in spite of the fact that their survival in today's customer-driven environment may depend on it.

Below you will find keys to prospecting and retaining your existing client base.


Know your customer – What are their needs, assets, concerns?

Identifying the answers to these fundamental questions will help you provide the appropriate coverages and policies for each customer’s individual needs. By knowing your customer and their needs, you can build a customer profile of their personal and economic data. Also, recognizing your customer’s “triggers”, such as when the customer’s child is about to turn 16, allows you the opportunity to provide invaluable information and advice on necessary additional coverages or policies.

Continuously Update

Update customer information continually. Remember that knowing your customer’s needs and concerns of three years ago may not represent their current needs and concerns. Also, keeping an accurate, up-to-date client list containing both a mailing, phone and an e-mail address is an essential building block for any successful marketing initiative. This may sound easy, but it frequently is not. 

Reach Out

Connecting with your customer on a regular basis not only secures that customer to your agency but also provides the best opportunity to cross sell new products or upsell existing coverages. Ask your client’s how they want to be contacted – mail, email, phone or text – and use this method. No one wants to receive a phone call at work when they have specifically told you that their preferred method of contact is email.

Act, React and Repeat

The challenge of any marketing campaign is that they are easy to start but hard to maintain. Therefore, it is essential that after you create and execute a marketing plan, you measure the response and adjust accordingly to sustain a repeatable model for growth. Be sure to be consistent. You can always accelerate your campaigns but you definitely want to avoid an inconsistent start-and-stop cycle. In any event, keep in mind that the more repeated and continuous your communications, the better your results are likely to be.


Written on July 17, 2017 by Peggy Corbett