If you do not do much home or auto maintenance or build furniture, or in general, you just don’t do much with hand tools for any reason, then you probably only need two screwdrivers — a Phillips #2 and a flathead #2.
Now, if you do a lot of work with hand tools and screws, the number of useful screwdrivers is almost infinite. Specialized handles for electrical work are shocking savers – pun intended. Specialized blades for reverse grips to insert deep screws save massive frustration. A 90-degree handle can save busted knuckles. Star drives and hex drives are not optional depending on torque requirements (and whether the screw will need to be backed out). If you use a lot of screws, having exactly the right screwdriver is worth every penny when one is dealing with a difficult angle or specific situation.
On the other hand, a screwdriver is a pretty simple tool. With just a few exceptions, if you learn to use one, you will know how to use them all. What you may not know is when to use which screwdriver. Using the wrong screwdriver leads to stripped screws, lots of frustration, buying different drivers, and sometimes, lots of extra money you did not want to spend (written from experience).
Even with something as simple as a screw and screwdriver, a person needs to know how to choose the correct tool for the job and how to use that tool. What good is a tool if the person does not know how to use it?
And this knowledge does not even get into the difference in quality between brands. My first socket set rounded off so many corners. Having wrenches that fit a nut perfectly not only saves nuts, but knuckles.
I see agencies wasting money on all kinds of tools for their producers, including an excessive number of carriers, and yet the true training to use those tools is minimal to nonexistent. A great example is risk management.
“Here you go – a complete set of risk management tools, and you can now call yourself a risk manager. Go get ’em tiger!”
Risk management tools are far more complex than screwdrivers. In fact, one cannot do risk management if one does not deeply understand insurance forms. Putting risk management tools in the hands of a novice who does not have a deep understanding of insurance is like telling a mechanic to rebuild a modern engine without knowing anything about engines or having the schematics or having a diagnostic computer to set all the electronic settings.
Just because the customer does not know the difference between a true risk manager and a fake risk manager does not mean it is wise to call someone who has inadequate to immaterial insurance knowledge a risk manager, give them all the tools and expect anything good to come from it.
This is similar with carriers. Give a producer 50 carriers, and they will work to shop all 50 carriers as often as possible. When they shop, they shop price because shopping 50 carriers, 25 carriers or even 10 carriers for coverage advantages is not practical.
Material coverage differences will exist, but the producers either don’t know or care enough to use the tools. They shop for price and then they sell price. I’m just being real-world straight in this analysis. They do not know or they do not care. The producers who truly know what they are doing don’t shop 10 carriers, or even five. At most, they will shop three.
Give a producer a tool they don’t know how to use, and they will use it ignorantly. How is that good for anyone?
Training and Education
On the other hand, my clients that intensively train producers on the tools available to them all have far more success. Just like a good carpenter or mechanic who knows how to use their tools, producers who receive training are more efficient, and the quality of their work is better. Designing the correct coverages for a client is just a different version of building a house.
Another example of having the right tools is getting the right education.
I was in an auto dealership waiting on a repair. I was wandering around, and this sales guy approached me to see if I was interested in a new car. He was having a slow day, and I was bored, so we started talking. He was so well educated on the specifics of every car on the sales floor that I wondered if most young producers could provide the same level of detail on the policies they sell?
Or, because the classes most producers take focus on a boilerplate they may or may not be selling, I wondered if the producers described the boilerplate, would they be describing a Chevrolet but selling in a Ford dealership?
I have seen many errors and omissions (E&O) claims and potential E&O claims caused by producers taking an industry standard class and telling clients their policy has XYZ coverage. Then, selling them a policy that does not have XYZ coverage because the actual carrier they are using does not use the industry standard form.
Education should be general and then specific to the forms being sold. Otherwise, one effectively has a bunch of standard wrenches working on a Japanese car.
Every once in a while, a metric wrench will be close enough to a standard wrench to work, but not often enough and not for precise work (sometimes a 16 mm wrench will work on a 5/8″ bolt but not if you want to protect the bolt head).
All the tools in the world won’t take the place of a good education.
With a good education, a person can discover alternative tools, use the available tools wisely and, well, make customers happier. Giving producers tools and carriers but not providing them in depth training to use those tools is simply a waste.
I’ll change analogies to fly fishing. I was with an expert fly fisher. He was gracious and liberal in sharing his flies with me. Flies are just tools. Not knowing how to use the tool made my use of the tool futile. He caught fish after fish, and I failed miserably. I did not know how to read the water or the breeze. I did not know how to cast adequately. The fish knew my lure was a hook in disguise.
The same goes for painting or cooking or programming or baseball or just about anything. Until a person knows how to use a tool and has a need for a more exact tool based on their growing expertise, the person’s education is far more important than the tool.
More tools may also contribute to a false sense of superiority that will usually lead to an E&O claim.
Time for Better Tools
As a manager, there is one other element that determines when a producer is ready for a better tool.
If you’ve seen the movie Kill Bill, the work Uma Thurman’s character must go through to prove she’s worthy of a great sword is a good analogy. An amateur using a great tool just damages the tool and possibly themselves or others accidentally. But not giving a person better tools when they are ready can shake that person’s self-confidence. They quit getting better, but they don’t have any way of knowing that to get better, they now must have a better tool.
A really good leader will pay attention and know when to give their people a better tool.
Was this article valuable?
Here are more articles you may enjoy.