Strategy & Execution

Acres of Diamonds – A Great Story to Kick off 2012

Acres of Diamonds

Ben Jones, a thoughtful third generation agency owner, came to work on Monday morning to learn that his seven key producers had decided to exit his firm to set up shop at Ben’s biggest competitor located on the other side of town.

Ben was devastated by the news as he had invested so much in each producer.  He treated them like family and compensated them fairly.  He had even gone out of his way to make sure that each producer received a sizable bonus at the end of each year.

A man of honor and integrity, Ben sat at his desk in total disbelief.  As he tried to gain his composure, he became distraught and emotional as he focused on the pictures of his deceased father and grandfather.  Granddad Charlie had started the agency in 1921.  Dad was active until he passed away at the age of 72 ten years ago.  The agency was a family treasure that meant more to Ben than anything in the world.

Ben knew he was in deep trouble as the producers controlled over 70% of the agency’s revenues.  Each producer had a book of business in the range of $600,000 of revenue.  Clearly, the $6,000,000 revenue agency was at risk and the clock was ticking.

The Most Important Meeting of His Lifebeyond insurance

Ben called a staff meeting for 1:00 to break the news to the remaining 36 members of his organization.  He needed a strategy to keep the agency customers from mass exodus.  He also needed a plan to present to the carriers.  Most importantly, he knew he needed a plan to protect the agency’s 90 year old brand and reputation in the community.

The clock was ticking.  The staff meeting was now only 2 hours away.  As Ben looked desperately around his office, his eyes focused on the picture of Uncle Bill, his favorite uncle who had a story for every occasion.  He was a man of great wisdom.  Uncle Bill once shared a story with Ben entitled “Acres of Diamonds”.

The story was about Ali Hafed; an ancient Persian, who owned a beautiful farm. Ali was a wealthy and contented man.  One day a wise man from the East came to the farmer’s home and spoke about diamonds the size of his thumb.  He encouraged Ali to leave his family, farm and community to search for these rare jewels.  With diamonds in hand, he could put his children upon thrones through his vast wealth.  Ali Hafed went to sleep that night a poor man – poor because he was discontented.  Craving a mine of diamonds, Ali sold his farm to search for the mysterious stones.  He traveled the world over, finally becoming so poor, broken and defeated that he took his life.

A few years later, the man who purchased Ali Hafed’s farm led his camel into the garden to drink.  As the camel put his nose into the brook, the man saw a flash of light from the sands of the garden.  He pulled a stone that reflected all of the hues of the rainbow.  The man has discovered the diamond mine of Golcanda, the most magnificent mine in all history.  Instead of death in a strange land, if Ali had remained at home and dug in his own garden, he would have discovered the acres of diamonds.

Ben gained strength from the lessons learned in the “Acres of Diamonds” story.

He was going to challenge his employees to help him build an “Acres of Diamonds” Stakeholder Intimacy and Relationship Management System. The System would have to be built immediately with keen focus on the agency’s six key stakeholders – clients, carriers, staff, centers of influence, prospects and community. Ben knew that he could not build the system by himself. He would need the buy in and energy of his entire staff.

So, what happened at the meeting?

The Meeting

Ben worked up the courage to call a team meeting so he could break the news to his staff. Ben told the Acres of Diamonds story and he challenged his staff to look deep in their hearts to save the agency.

To a person, his associates were set for the challenge. beyon insurance

Ben appointed a team leader for each stakeholder and asked each employee to participate on one of the Stakeholder Intimacy and Relationship Management teams.  Six stakeholder teams with six staff members representing each.  At 2:00 on Monday afternoon, each team went their separate ways to design a Stakeholder Intimacy and Relationship Management System.  Little did each employee know that this exercise would change the face of the agency forever.

By 5:00 that afternoon each team responded to the following 4 questions:

  1. Why are our stakeholders (clients, carriers, staff, centers of influence, prospects and community) so important to our agency?
  2. What is each stakeholder’s primary need?
  3. What is the agency doing now to shine these diamonds?
  4. What strategies should the agency consider to allow each stakeholder to know how much we value them?

The energy created by the “Acres of Diamonds” Stakeholder Intimacy and Relationship Management exercise was exactly what the doctor ordered.  In responding to the four questions, all 36 members of Ben’s organization had a renewed vigor as well as a passion and purpose to implement change in the agency.beyond insurance

Within days, Intimacy Action Plans were built for each of the six key stakeholders – clients, carriers, staff, centers of influence, prospects and community.  Each Plan contained a variety of services, strategies and tools to shine the diamonds.

By the end of the week, Ben’s organization was prepared to introduce a new client relationship management system comprised of a 10-step intimacy and relationship management process. A number of additional intimacy and relationship management initiatives were also in the works including center of influence lunch and learns, trusted advisor client roundtable discussions, staff and family events, and community outreach projects.

The results were amazing. 

Ben’s staff did not lose one client to the departed producers.  The insurance companies quickly came to respect the System and adored its Carrier Appreciation Program.  Centers of Influence attended the Risk Management Leadership Programs and loved the newsletters.  Client and center of influence referrals came in waves.  The staff and its families were invigorated.  Most importantly, the agency’s 90 year old brand and reputation in the community was preserved.

Today, three years later, the firm has crossed the $10,000,000 revenue mark.  All of its operating ratios have significantly improved.  And, the staff is having a ball.  Ben’s Uncle Bill, Dad and Grandad would be so proud.  Thanks to the “Acres of Diamonds” Stakeholder Intimacy and Relationship Management System, Ben’s firm has learned to thrive without traditional producers.

Whatever challenges your agency might face in 2012, remember to shine your diamonds!

Scott Addis

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