Next in our series on what’s behind our Partner Platform insurance agency software community is the management and operations consulting group, Eisenhart Consulting Group. For over ten years, we’ve been lucky to work with owner Mary Belka and her team.
Mary Belka, CEO and founder of Eisenhart Consulting Group, has been part of the Partner Allies team for more than a decade. When she was first introduced to the Partner Platform system, she was impressed by the hands-on, personalized service the Partner Platform team provided to one of her clients. Since then, a mutual dedication to personalized service has made Partner Platform and Eisenhart Consulting the perfect team for our independent agency clients.
I spoke with Mary to talk about how she came to meet the Partner team, the unique and transformational service she brings to Partner agencies, and how she prepares agencies for the future.
How did you first become connected with SIS and the Partner Platform team?
It was about 10 or 15 years ago while working with an agency in North Carolina. They had just switched over to Partner Platform and were experiencing significant accounting issues due to a former employee’s mismanagement. I hadn’t heard of Partner Platform nor SIS before this, but I found myself on the phone with them to help my client resolve this issue. Even though the Partner Platform team had nothing to do with causing the problem, they methodically and patiently helped us solve it. I was so impressed and moved by their willingness to help. I’ve worked with multiple big-name providers and have never seen that level of service.
A few years later, I was running a Total Quality Agency seminar in Michigan. One of the attendees brought up Partner Platform and the great experience they had with the system and team. I reached out to (SIS President) Michael Doran to pass on the compliment, and he got in touch with me after that. We started talking about ways to connect our insurance consulting with Partner Platform agencies, and the rest is history.
How do you collaborate with SIS and the Partner Platform community today?
It was clear from the start that the Partner Platform team shared our interest in equipping agents for success. We provide one-on-one and group coaching and education sessions for Partner Platform agencies, giving them hands-on consulting on best practices for distinct areas of their business and their agency as a whole.
My team has led an Account Manager School, Producer School, and targeted accounting and E&O session, among other educational programs. We work closely with each agency and provide process documents and workbooks to individualize their experience and bring it back to their agency.
How would you describe the experience of collaborating with SIS and the Partner Platform community?
First off, it’s a dream to use the Partner Platform system as a base in our courses. The system offers a depth of capabilities without being complicated. That ease of use, combined with the various capabilities, makes it an excellent tool for teaching. Specifically, the integrated accounting and insurance CRM are essential for the similar-sized agencies we serve.
As for the SIS team, I heard so many good things before I got in touch, and they all were true. We have a mutual set of clients in independent agents, and our goals are the same: helping the agencies succeed. It’s a true partnership all around.
You have unique experience in the insurance industry. What do independent agents gain from working with you over a big-name firm?
Large firms tend to operate on a one-size-fits-all system. They have a template and fit their clients into that structure in their consultation. While we have base outlines and procedures, our focus is on fitting our services around the agency’s needs. We look at ways to help the agency be more efficient, giving them space to focus on how they can better serve their customers.
Personally, I have experience in the industry, including as a certified E&O auditor, and am familiar with the nuances of, say, accounting within an insurance agency. You might say after this many years, that, “we’ve seen it all,” at one time or another. The combination of that expertise and experience means our team can see opportunities where others cannot.
What kind of feedback do you hear from the agencies you work with?
The biggest thing we hear is: “You’ve changed everything for us.” That means we were successful in helping agencies see old processes in a new way, opening up space for them to gain maximum efficiency in otherwise time-consuming tasks and increased accuracy in their customer service. We also hear that we’ve helped them operate with a new mindset: one of learning and growing. That’s the kind of lasting change we strive to bring to an agency.
You’ve worked in the insurance industry for over 40 years. What do you see ahead for the industry in the next three to five years?
This is something we think about a lot as we continually improve our sessions. This past year showed us aggregation is growing, meaning smaller agencies need to strengthen themselves or be overtaken by a larger provider. Buyers are on the look-out for vulnerable agencies. That means our independent agency clients need to think long-term, especially around preparing for perpetuation and keeping their valuation protected.
The key to building valuation lies in shifting from being all things to all people to focusing on doing the select things you do well. Insurance customers want and need knowledgeable agents. The recent COVID-19 pandemic brought that lack of knowledge to light with businesses, events, and individuals experiencing loss without coverage. We need more agents to grow their knowledgebase to serve their customers better.
With a solid knowledgebase, agents can be more flexible and adaptable, something they’ll need more and more in the coming years. Cybercrime and climate change threats continue to grow and change. We need agents to be nimble, embracing elements like automation, remote work, and greater connectivity to help them stay prepared for the unknown.
Find out more about our educational offerings, including our Account Manager and Producer Schools, and how the Partner Platform can serve your agency: get in touch at [email protected], or 800.747.7005, Option 6.