Peak Performance Offers Insight to Agency Management

Whether you are an avid skier, or just a beginner, you might be interested in hitting the slopes this winter while learning valuable tips to take your agency to a new level in 2004.

Peak Performance Ski Conference, Jan. 22-24 at Copper Mountain Resort, has been offering its attendees key advice to agency management in the magnificent surroundings of the Colorado Rocky Mountains for seven years.

This year’s conference, titled “Evolving with the Markets and Coming Out on Top,” boasts a tight three-day agenda that includes up-close-and-personal networking opportunities with some of the industry’s top executives.

The conference begins with a two-hour panel discussion, including a Q&A session, on special market solutions. Panelists attending the event include Pete Purvis, vice president of AIG Programs; Jino Masone, executive vice president of Zurich Strategic Partners; Arthur Seifert, president and CEO of The Lighthouse Companies; and Geof McKernan, president and CEO of Norman Spencer McKernan.

Unlike some of the larger industry conferences, attendees of Peak Performance have a chance to speak one-on-one with panelists and conference organizers. Sponsors of the conference, which include Fries & Fries Consulting, Programbusiness.com, National Marketing Services, and the Insurance Journal, limit the number of attendees to 70. “That’s an advantage. By the end of the third day we know everyone in the room,” said Jim Phelan, chairman of Phelan Insurance Agency in Versailles, Ohio. Phelan refers to the conference as a “mind-expanding experience.”

“It gives us an opportunity to see ways that other people are doing things, how they are being successful, and how we can improve to be more successful,” Phelan explained. “Another benefit is there are several repeaters like us so we compare notes on what we’ve done during the past year, or years.” Phelan and his son, who serves as the agency’s vice president, have attended almost every year since its inception. He attributes his agency’s ‘revolution’ partly to knowledge gained at Peak Performance.

“We heard him [Jack Fries] talk about new ways to really run the agency … from the office, to processing, how to develop and utilize benchmarks. Ultimately we totally restructured our agency with very positive results. It was almost a revolution in the way we run our business.”

Phelan Insurance Agency is located in the west-central part of Ohio, in a town with a population of only 2,400 people. “I’ve previously been in business in several other communities, but with the advent of the technological revolution, it doesn’t matter where you are. You can be anywhere and do business effectively,” Phelan said. After attending Peak Performance, Phelan restructured his agency so many of his employees could conduct business from home. “We tried it after going to Peak Performance, and the customers never know it.”

Managing general agents also have found benefits to the size and style of the conference. “The first year we went, the attraction was the intimate size of the gathering,” said Art Seifert, president and CEO of The Lighthouse Companies. “I saw it as an opportunity to have some quality time with key executives, and alternatively there are a lot of solid retail agents that attend as well.” Seifert said the conference has something for everyone—from the retail agent, to the company executive, to the MGA. “This year, we are part of a panel about distribution in general, and are also doing a 30-minute program on strategic planning.”

Phelan agreed the conference has much to offer. “We think that any agency that wants to get a chance to step back and see how the business can be run; it would be well worth their money and time,” he said. “The icing on the cake is we get to ski a couple of afternoons.”