An Ongoing Commitment to Education

By R.F. (Bob) Dean | March 7, 2011

During my 30-plus years as the owner of one of the largest independent insurance agencies in Texas, I’ve been a stalwart champion for professional education. As an industry, our success is rooted in our commitment to life-long learning.

Serving people is at the core of our business, and I frequently remind my staff that people buy from people. Providing the highest quality service to our customers and remaining successful in today’s competitive market requires an in-depth, threefold-knowledge of industry, technology and leadership.

It’s your industry, know it.

Our clients are demanding that we earn their business. Because businesses are operating with thinner margins at a much faster pace, decision makers do their homework, have a clear understanding of what they need, and access online resources to review competitive offerings. To remain relevant to our clients, we must provide critical analysis and recommendations that can only come from industry knowledge and experience. To stay at the top of our field, we need to participate in seminars and workshops, and conduct online research to identify trends and new offerings that will benefit clients. It is our responsibility to earn the various certifications provided by trade associations and carriers.

Embrace the technology.

Technology is changing at an exponential rate. From electronic transfers to online searches to data collecting and sorting — technology helps agents work smarter and more efficiently. When I began my agency I had no computers in my office. Now, we have well over 100 computers, laptops, smart phones and Wi-Fi hubs.

Being on top of our game is more than simply having the latest gadgets. As an agency owner, I recognize the importance of investing in my team’s technical knowledge through programs from independent agent associations, insurance companies and webinars. As a result, my team is better prepared to meet the needs of our tech-savvy customers and speak in today’s electronic vernacular.

Next-gen leadership is on the way.

The National Alliance Research Academy recently surveyed insurance and risk management professionals born prior to 1964 and uncovered that 87 percent have more than 20 years of experience in insurance and risk management. However, in the next 10 years most of these leaders will enter retirement. It is crucial that we plan for this workforce shift and groom the next generation of leaders. I recommend instituting mentoring programs combined with intense training and education within your agency or company, utilizing the wisdom of the retiring generation to provide a smooth leadership transition.

Developing degrees for success.

Many incoming agents gain a head start by earning degrees specific to insurance. As the vice chair of the advisory board of the University of Houston-Downtown’s program in Insurance and Risk Management, I have the honor of helping ensure curriculum corresponds with industry needs and providing direction on career development tools for students. In 18 months, UH-Downtown enrollment increased to 120 students in insurance classes with more than 40 working toward a major or minor in Insurance and Risk Management. Already, companies nationwide are seeking out these prospects. This degree program, like others across the country, provides a feeder system for our industry.

Soft skills make for a solid bottom line.

The question is, “Can you afford not to invest in ongoing education?” When employees are empowered with knowledge they are better equipped to work smart, operate as a team and adopt the interests of the company as their own. Their improved cognitive skills enhance their decision making skills — essential qualities of valued leaders.

By providing access to continuing education, scholarships and industry certifications, I gain employees with higher self esteem, self satisfaction and confidence because they are successful in their career. These are the employees who demonstrate to customers that insurance should not be purchased based on price alone.

Topics Tech Training Development Risk Management

About R.F. (Bob) Dean

Dean is president and CEO of Dean & Draper Insurance Agency, which he founded in Houston in 1980.

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Insurance Journal West March 7, 2011
March 7, 2011
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