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Are You Making the Most of Your Agency Accounting Data?

Are You Making the Most of Your Agency Accounting Data?

Are You Making the Most of Your Agency Accounting Data?

Insurance agency accounting can be fraught with small mistakes that lead to huge headaches. With so many moving pieces in an agency, it can be difficult to keep track of the multiple pieces that make up accounting in an organization. Often, we hear from agencies struggling with:

  • Maintaining accounting accuracy, especially among those with multiple branches

“With multiple locations, the accounting plug-in is a must…The financial reports I can produce (with the accounting plug-in) are second to none. It’s a piece of cake to do seemingly complex reports.” – Berndt and Murfin Insurance Agency

  • Avoiding errors and omissions particularly in light of unavoidable human error
  • Investing too much time entering and tracking financial information
  • Creating and understanding relevant reports around cross-selling opportunities, producer performance, and for tax preparation among other areas

“With Partner XE, I can get our entire agency billing and accounting done in three or four hours a month. That’s a tenth of the time it used to take.” – Huesman Insurance Group

Creating a Better Accounting Experience

These accounting woes tend to stem from a lack in an agency’s management system capabilities. Agency management systems have come a long way in addressing financial processing. Some critical pieces for accounting success include:

  • An integrated accounting system to automate and eliminate error from time-consuming tasks like commission matching and invoicing
  • Customized reports that can be set up once and run regularly integrating financial information and customer data as needed
  • Direct bill commissions download to connect commissions with customers and policies automatically
  • Reliable and timely training and service around accounting areas

“The individual customer service (with Partner XE) is outstanding. When we have a problem and we send an email, we get an answer within the hour…Knowing you’ll get a resolution in a timely manner is essential.” – THW Insurance Services

A Better Experience with SIS

We know these accounting struggles well: we’ve heard them from our partner agencies. It’s feedback from these partners that prompted us to add integrated accounting, direct bill commissions download and other features to help ease the stress of financial tracking and processing in our Partner XE management system. And, should our users need a quick refresher or hit a snag, we’re just a phone call or email away from solving the issue with our expert support team.

Hear more on what our clients have to say about Partner XE by reading our client stories. Or get in touch directly at sales@sisware.com or 800.747.7005, Option 6.

Becoming a Paperless Insurance Agency

Becoming a Paperless Insurance Agency

It’s official: going paperless is no longer a trend.

And it’s no surprise. The time, money and resource savings are monumental. A recent YouGov survey showed small to medium-sized businesses waste $70 million worth of documents daily. In the U.S., companies shell out over $120 billion a year on paper forms, most of which outdate themselves within three months. Those are some big numbers.

Why Go Paperless?

Convinced you need to be a paperless insurance agency yet? Consider these stats:

How to go Paperless

As often happens, the biggest barrier to activating the benefits of ditching paper is not knowing where to start. We won’t sugar coat it: going paperless is not an easy process, but it is a necessary one. Get your agency on the road to paperless with the following steps:

    1. Identify your top paper-heavy processes
    2. Target one or two of the highest offenders to tackle
    3. Deal with existing paper for this process; make a plan for scanning or storing in another way
    4. Establish a new policy and/or workflow
    5. Train employees on the new workflow
    6. Start again with another paper-heavy process

Check out the Top 5 Agency Processes that Need to Be Paperless

Stumped on Where to Start? Try These First Actions

  • Put internal documents on a shared drive rather than printing and handing out
  • Use eSignatures to securely sign documents via email
  • Transition to digital, fillable forms
  • Establish scanning in paper documents using smartphones and your agency management system
  • Create policies to utilize document storage in your agency management system

When going through these steps, there are two things to keep in mind. First, it takes time for people to learn something new. Leave some space between each new workflow you establish to avoid overwhelming employees with too much newness.

Get more tips on how to make changes in your agency with our Change Management eGuide

Secondly, make sure you’re storing paperless documents somewhere secure. For many agencies, the most secure space is their agency management system. Whatever you choose, ensure it has a redundant backup and complex, encrypted password access to keep your essential data safe.

Leveraging Your Agency Management System

You already possess one of the best tools to create a paperless agency: your management system. This centralized system is ideal for storing documents and creating easier, more efficient workflows – if your system and provider have what it takes.

Just as paperless has become the new norm, there are other current trends that will one day become expectations. You need a provider and system that stays on the cutting edge to keep you one step ahead of the rest.

At SIS, we’re always looking to the horizon to ensure our partner agencies are getting the most from our Partner XE system. We recently added our client portal and proposal creator to eliminate paper processes and bring greater efficiency to our partner agency’s daily work. Find out what we’re working on next: contact us at sales@sisware.com or 800.747.7005, Option 6.

Online Resources for Each Role in Your Agency

Online Resources for Each Role in Your Agency

No matter the size or number of roles in an independent insurance agency, there is a common goal: gain and retain customers to grow business. Each piece in the well-oiled agency machine must be at peak operation to meet this goal. To help you do your best in your role, whatever it may be, we’ve compiled a list of insurance industry resources to get you and your agency to peak performance.

CSR

CSRs are the foundation of good service as the “face of the agency” to customers. In this role, individuals focus on how to solve problems quickly and strategically, with a smile. Check out these resources for CSRs:

  • Wow24-7 Blog: Wow24-7 is a customer support service providing training and tools for businesses of all sizes. Their blog offers practical, easy to digest tips on everything from what to say to customers to the best tools to improve your service. Get answers to your burning questions and find some quick reads to help you improve your daily practices.
  • WinTheCustomer: Penned by Flavio Martins, a 15-year veteran of the customer service industry, this blog is jam-packed with expert tips.  Martins shares long-range techniques and overall strategy. A great addition to your professional development repertoire.

Looking for a new way to serve your customers? Check out the Partner XE Client Portal

Producer

Whether you’re acting as an agent serving only your agency or as a broker, you want to stay on top of your leads and gain more as you go. These resources provide tools and tactics to help you get out there: discovering sales opportunities and closing the deal.

  • Sitkins Group Blog: With more than 35 years’ experience consulting agencies, Sitkins maintains a well-regarded training program for producers with independent agencies. Their blog is geared towards principles and producers and is full of well-tested advice.
  • Miller Heiman Group Blog: Miller Heiman serves areas beyond insurance, but their tips translate well to industry needs. The blog hits on customer experiences, tips to improve selling, and overall strategy.

Earn more business on-the-go with mobile access to your management system

Accountant

Whether accounting is part of the owner’s role or a standalone position, whoever manages accounting needs to stay on top of new tools and methods. Use these sites to save time without sacrificing accuracy.

  • The CPA Desk: This site hits on practical how-tos and overarching culture and managerial methods. Check out their short videos when you have a few minutes to sharpen your skills.
  • Accounting Coach: Touted as the place to “learn accounting for free,” this site gives great lessons, sorted by topic, for accountants at any stage. The easy-to-digest explanations will improve what you’re doing and help explain the “what”, “why”, and “how” to others in your agency as needed.

Does your management system offer integrated accounting? See why it should.

Principle/Owner

As an owner, you need the overall view of what’s happening in your agency. Your role is more about how to interpret what’s going on and manage the people involved. Check out these resources to help you streamline operations and gain more business.

  • Sell Term Life: Jeff Root is an agency owner who shares the day-to-day lessons he’s learned from years in the business. A great blog from an owner, for owners.
  • Agency Nation Radio: Get weekly updates from Marty Agather and Ryan Hanley on the latest agency news. A great listen on your drive in or while you’re on your way to meeting with customers and partners. 

Have resources to add to our list? Get in touch with us! And check out even more industry resources at https://sispartnerplatform.com/blog.

Internal and External Agency Perpetuation: How to Choose

Internal and External Agency Perpetuation: How to Choose

You remember the days of you, a phone, and a desktop in a tiny office. The long days of calling carriers and hearing “no” after “no.” Waking up early and going to bed late, building a business based on hard work, professionalism, and care. And now it’s time to step away. Years of hard work and a lifetime of memories are invested in your agency. How do you pass it on?

Making Your Insurance Agency Perpetuation Choice

Agency succession can essentially take one of two paths: internal or external perpetuation. Internally, you can pass on ownership to key employees, friends or family members through sale or inheritance. Externally, you can sell to another agency or merge with another firm.

Discover the “who” and “what” to include in your perpetuation planning

As often happens with such important decisions, both methods have their benefits and drawbacks. Let’s explore the positives and negatives of each.

Internal Agency Perpetuation

Internal perpetuation means “keeping it in the family,” whether that is your blood relatives, friends, or trusted employees. Passing on your agency to someone you know has its benefits such as:

  • Provides cultural continuity
  • Allows owner to stay involved
  • Ensures experienced, trusted party is taking over
  • Gives customers and carriers a familiar face

Yet, there is a risk involved when passing on your agency to someone internally. Stats show that less than 40% of family businesses survive to the next generation and even less to the third. Most internal perpetuation fails due to finances. In many instances, the buyer cannot afford the buy-out, and you end up losing cash in the long run. You can avoid these financial issues by:

  • Establishing deferred compensation for you, the owner, or producers
  • Offering stock redemption as a form of deferred payment, or
  • Gifting the agency, requiring no payment

External Agency Perpetuation

Perpetuating externally means selecting an outside party to take over your agency. This could be another independent agency or a larger firm, but either way, it means you’re giving over control to someone who has no incentive to keep you involved. The benefits to external perpetuation include:

  • Larger cash benefits
  • Separation from involvement
  • Potential for more robust infrastructure

Still need more information? Access our full list of perpetuation resources here

However, external perpetuation also has its drawbacks. Selling to an outside party can cause stress for employees and a potential loss of company culture. Similarly, the transition may be difficult for customers. To combat this, you can stipulate certain employees stay on in influential positions or outline a “gradual release” of ownership. But, such conditions may negatively affect sales price.

The Bottom Line: Protecting Your Agency’s Value

No matter which way you go, it’s important to think about the value of your agency before making a decision. Whether it’s stock options or your book of business, buyers need to know its worth.

One of the best tools to keep track of overall agency value is your management system. Management software with integrated accounting and customizable reports, like SIS’s Partner XE agency management system, make tracking and reporting your agency’s value easy.

To find out more about how SIS and Partner XE can help you track and grow your business, contact us at sales@sisware.com.

Stumped: How to Jump-Start Your Insurance Marketing

Stumped: How to Jump-Start Your Insurance Marketing

It’s a new year and you’re ready for a fresh start. You’ve made your resolutions and one is clear: get more business!

What are you waiting for? Ready, set, GO!

“Go where?” you may wonder. You’re not alone. A recent Outbound Engine report showed 24% of respondents didn’t know where to focus their insurance marketing efforts.

How can you make moves in marketing when you don’t know where to go? The first step is finding out what works from those who’ve tried it. Check out these top insurance marketing blogs to help you and your agency follow through on your resolution this year.

Read more on how to set and achieve your agency goals in the New Year

Insurance Marketing Resources

  • Media Blog: Chock full of tips and tricks to manage social media marketing, from set up to strategy and beyond. A great starter for those just dipping their toes into the social media waters.
  • Agency Updates: The brainchild of Robyn and John Sharp, this blog covers everything from social media marketing strategy to day to day agency management. They share monthly marketing plans to help you prepare for every season, complete with downloadable calendars to keep you on pace.
  • Digital Marketing Experts Blog: The name says it all. This blog covers all aspects of digital marketing: content creation, strategy, lead generation, referrals, and everything in-between. Plus, there’s weekly news articles sharing what’s happening in digital marketing today.
  • leadPops Blog: leadPops specializes in providing marketing and lead generation solutions for insurance agencies. They provide tips for online, offline and referral marketing through a variety of content types. And, their info is easy to digest and focused on giving you the most bang for your buck.

Check out six other industry blogs to add to your daily routine

  • Inbound Insurance Marketing Blog: Inbound Insurance Marketing President Heather Sloan grew up in the insurance industry. Her expertise and experience shine through as she focuses on how to help agencies target their specific customer demographics. The blog covers big topics like how to map buyer decisions to a marketing strategy and offers small tips like how to come up with creative content. It’s practical, readable, and relatable.
  • Paradiso Presents: Chris Paradiso founded Paradiso Insurance in 1998 and has been showing agencies how to leverage digital and social media ever since. Paradiso uses real-life examples from their own social and digital marketing, covering brand building, blogging, and overall social strategy among other topics.

Putting it into Practice

Now that you’ve got your ideas, it’s time to put them into action. This can be particularly challenging if it’s your first foray into digital marketing and your budget is tight.

That’s why we created one of our most popular eGuides: “Digital Marketing on a Budget.” You can access the full guide on our resources page. And, get even more marketing resources on our blog at sispartnerplatform.com/blog.

See something missing? Let us know! We’re always looking for more ways to help independent insurance agencies grow their business. Contact us at sales@sisware.com or visit our contact page to fill out a form and we’ll be in touch.