Now is the time to write a Business Plan Good news: it’s not as tough as you think

By Alan Katz

I write this in early May. The pandemic is in full swing as are the steps being taken to combat it. I hope you are well and safe. And I am guessing that by now things have eased a bit.

Still, I assume many of us are still working from home. Which means now is a great time to think about pulling together a business plan.

Seriously. A business plan. Why not? You have more time to think about your business. And a greater need to think about the future of your business. What you have done your entire career will inform what you do moving forward. However, what you do moving forward will be different than what you have done in the past. This is the reality we all need to face–and to prepare for.

Why a business plan

If you are like most insurance producers, you are hearing a voice in your head insisting that business plans are for other people, not you. Like Indiana Jones, you are good at making things up as you go along. No, you are not. Leave aside that Indiana Jones was following a carefully crafted script, the reality is that being prepared invariably trumps faking it.

Imagine you are about to take to sea. A storm is brewing. (Please, play along for a few paragraphs!)

There are two boats available.

The first is skippered by an experienced captain. He claims to have a feel for the sea. When seas get rough, he listens to his gut and decides what to do and where to head.

A long-time captain helms the other ship, too. She, however, uses maps. She knows where she is and how far it is to safe harbors.

When the waves get big, both have the skill to steer into them. But the first captain is taking them as they come. The second is maneuvering not just through the immediate concern, but knows where she wants to be and how to get there. For the first captain the journey is a series of discrete crises. For the second captain, the journey is aimed at getting to a specific, desired destination.

Which captain are you going to sail with?

Your agency and your career are heading toward rough seas. You can make things up as you go along, or you can have a plan to guide you. Which would you prefer?

 Business Plans Matter

A brief digression. Ten years ago, I did a study to determine what successful insurance professionals did that was different from what their less successful colleagues were up to. We interviewed 200 health insurance agents in six states. Some had been in business for decades; others for not much more than a year.

We focused on health insurance agents because we all sell the same products at the same price. Success, then, is the result of what we do, not what we sell. (Full disclosure, insurance companies and general agents underwrote the study.)

What we found is that one of the strongest correlations with sales success was whether the agent had a plan. High Growth Producers —those whose business grew by at least 20% year-over-year—were twice as likely to have a detailed business plan as producers with less or no growth.

It makes sense that having a business plan coincides with success. Change is always happening. It may take the form of new laws, new products, new technologies or even a pandemic.

Creating a business plan requires you to think about your agency in the context of that change. Writing a plan focuses your attention to determine what is important, what needs to change, and what you want to accomplish.

The result is clarity and focus. This means you are not wasting time pursuing every potential opportunity, but are instead efficiently pursuing those that move you forward. And it aligns your entire team toward that goal because they know where you and they are headed.

Heading into a new world, efficiency and alignment in the pursuit of a clear focus is a powerful advantage.

Writing a business plan the easy way
Many insurance agents instinctively understand the importance of planning their work, but still avoid writing a business plan. They are rightfully concerned it will take too much time and it is too complicated. It can, but as I will explain soon, it can be relatively quick and simple.

I wish I could say that you can write a business plan without actually, well, writing it. Sure, writing a business plan can be a long, dreary process. But that is not a requirement. The process can be simplified. Drafting can be broken down into pieces so you can take a break when your mind wanders. And wander it will.

The key is to keep things simple, useful and concise.

Keeping your plan simple not only makes it more likely you will write one, but that you will use it as well. With this in mind, I recommend keeping your plan to just four elements:

  1. A Mission defining where you want to go.
  2. Strategies for getting there.
  3. Goals describing what needs to happen to get there.
  4. Milestones laying out the discrete steps along the way.

That is it. Each element leads to the next. And next month we will walk through how these come together into a powerful plan.

Alan Katz is a co-founder of NextAgency, an agency management system with customer relationship management (CRM), marketing and commission tools for life and health agencies. Learn more at www.NextAgency.com. Alan is a past president of NAHU and CAHU. He is a nationally known speaker on sales, marketing, business planning, and health care reform. Alan is the author of “Trailblazed: Proven Paths to Sales Success,” available through Amazon. Follow Alan on Twitter (@AlanSKatz), connect on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/alankatz44) and contact him at AlanKatz@NextAgency.com.