The holiday season is a fine time for giving. For many, giving back to the community peaks between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. You pitch in at the community Christmas tree or menorah lighting, attend business association holiday parties or dig deep to donate to charities. The spirit that moves us to give back to our communities as days shorten and the year-end nears is traditional and perhaps even genetic.
Professional insurance agents are great givers. Many give back to their communities all year long. Do you ever compete against an insurance agent who is active in a trade association? Do you work with someone who has been honored for service to the community? The fact that top-performing insurance agents give their time, energy and resources to benefit the community is no surprise. It's good business.
Giving back means devoting time and resources, knowledge and influence, energy and experience to benefit your community, the industries you serve and the causes you support.
Giving back to the community shows an insurance agent's commitment to professionalism. You contribute ideas, expertise and influence to better our world. You benefit by becoming known, respected and trusted by those you meet when giving back. That's professional.
Giving back means getting out of the office. Personal networking is good for business. You'll form strategic alliances, attract prospects and exchange referrals when others learn about you. That's good for the agency's bottom line.
Most importantly, giving back is simply the right thing to do. Yet few insurance agencies have implemented an internal program that encourages all employees to get involved in the community, at trade associations or with causes they hold dear. Instead, agency leaders rely on employee initiative. Agencies that promote employee initiative separate themselves from competitors. That's good for business as well.
Find community organizations to support. The opportunities are endless. Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Junior Achievement and the Boy/Girl Scouts of America welcome your help. Train United Way "Loaned Executives" on effective presentation skills. Teach adult education. Coach youth sports. Donate your money, groceries or time to a food bank. Serve as an officer on your homeowner/condominium association board. Identify a need in your community, then find ways to make a difference.
With so many community service options available, how do you pick one? Ask yourself, "What am I interested in, passionate about or love to do?" Let the answer lead you to ways to best help the community. If you love the give-back activity you've chosen, then you're more likely to make meaningful contributions.
Give back to the business world that provides an arena for your insurance selling efforts. Be an ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce. Volunteer to be a trade association membership committee representative. Get involved with insurance agent associations on the local, state and national levels, if possible. Giving back time, talents and experience to business groups and trade associations increases "brand recognition" for you and your agency.
Giving back in the business world includes finding ways to help others flourish. Develop strategic alliances and then offer referrals. When you help others in your community, at trade associations and at charities you support, you activate the "law of reciprocity." Simply stated, givers get back in return for their giving.
Supply leadership skills, influence and special talents to networking clubs and business-to-business groups. You make a big difference at trade associations when you show up, support the mission and actively participate. You make a bigger difference when you speak before the group, write an article for the association website or serve as an officer.
Make sure your agency supports your choice of business group or insurance association before you join. If the agency pays for membership and event-related expenses, it's fair to expect a return on that investment. Your targeted associations must make sense to earn agency leadership's backing.
What causes merit your support? Philanthropic, social and personal improvement opportunities are found everywhere. Gifts to museums and galleries are often funded by life insurance in some way. If the arts are your passion, your support of that community could prove profitable. Taking time to give back creates connections that lead to commissions.
Social causes abound as well. Environmental stewardship, public safety and heritage preservation are all important issues. Your insurance experience, ideas and resources are valuable tools to help protect the causes you hold dear. Your risk management knowledge and expertise help assure the survival, safety and success of important causes as well.
Is literacy, effective communication or mentoring others back to work important to you? Find organizations that promote early reading for kids. Start a Toastmasters club. Donate business clothes you no longer wear to homeless shelters, churches or non-profit organizations that help the unemployed get back on track.
When you give to important causes, you position yourself as a caring insurance professional. You earn respect and separate yourself from agents who don't give back. Decide where and how you can help the community, a business group or an important cause. Decide where to start and keep on going!
Every act of giving reflects on your agency in some way. The agency name is repeatedly spoken. Brand recognition increases. Agency principals and producers form high-level strategic alliances with business owners and other influential people.
For example, while serving on a construction trade association's insurance and surety committee, it's typical to form strategic alliances with attorneys and accountants. New income is generated from referrals flowing back and forth between professional insurance agents, CPAs and lawyers. Perhaps you'll be asked to provide litigation support or expert witness consulting. Connections with accountants often result in introductions and opportunities to build protection plans or surety bond programs for clients they serve. The best part is that you're referred by someone who has a high degree of influence. It beats making cold calls. If you fail to become active in an association, strategic alliances and referrals from professionals with influence are less likely to happen.
Networking opportunities dovetail with community service, trade association activities and charity work. Giving back gets producers out of the office and on the streets to professionally present themselves to others. Working toward a common community goal creates relationships; rapport is built and referrals follow.
Customer service and agency administration team members can give back as well. They can share their mastery of business skills and knowledge such as accounting, information technology or customer service with your community, trade associations or special causes.
For example, many insurance agency clients are members of niche industry trade associations. An account manager I know once did a fantastic job for a client who had a large business income claim. Impressed, the client invited the account manager to speak at the trade association's annual conference. The account manager delivered a case study on business interruption claims, including how to determine coverage limits, what to do after the claim occurred and how to work with a claims adjuster. By helping the client's association members, the account manager provided valuable information. More importantly, he made the client look good to association peers. Most importantly, connections with association audience members translated to commissions when the account manager landed new accounts.
Could a customer service representative teach a course on client care at adult education venues? Could a senior account manager lead continuing education training to help others meet insurance licensing requirements? Could the agency information technology officer help a charity streamline internal information systems? Could an agency's financial officer show future entrepreneurs still in high school the rudiments of accounting and business finance? Support staff can give back knowledge, special skills and experience just like agency owners and producers. Tap this source to maximize the impact you and your agency deliver to the community, local associations and causes you support.
Giving back is good business because it's the right thing to do. Giving back is professional. Sharing ideas, skills and time helps the communities, trade associations and charities we support.
Your agency earns brand recognition. Agency and agent capabilities and specializations become public. Agency principals and producers become known, liked and trusted when performing community service. High-level strategic alliances are formed. Producers get out of the office and into the world. Quality suspects and qualified prospects are attracted. All of this is good for business.
If you're an agency owner or officer, lead by example. Determine what you're interested in. Help producers and team members do the same. Teach employees exactly what giving back means. Coach those you lead on ways to match their interests with "give-back" opportunities in the community, at trade associations or for important causes. Make certain everyone knows specifically how the agency, its employees and those they serve will benefit from giving back. Giving back is a lifelong commitment and it's the right thing to do--all year long. Have a prosperous new year and remember, giving back is good business!