“Built To Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You”
Understand the importance of developing business processes

By John Warrillow

Review by Phil Calhoun

Although some life and health insurance professionals operate their own business and some work for an agency, nearly every insurance professional can take something from this book. The many business principals covered in “Built to Sell” can apply to both group benefit brokers and Medicare brokers.

Callout: As a bonus, brokers with business owner clients, can gift “Built to Sell” to their business owner clients. All business owners are concerned about succession planning and the book offers excellent tips to improve business success as well. 

The top point outlined in “Built to Sell” is the importance of developing business processes. For years now many health insurance agencies move through the year prepping and working on group or Medicare renewals with their clients. In all cases renewals EQUAL commission retention. Without a solid, successful, consistent process for renewals, the door opens for missing key items or skipping new coverage needed. This applies whether working solo or with staff, as using proven processes provides consistency. A process helps ensure key points we intend to address and highlights items our clients value most. With a proven renewal process, one that is client driven and perfected over time, the chances of repeating success each year increases. 

Call out: Successful agencies understand their clients expect them to use a comprehensive renewal process each year — a process where the owner is the center, enables owners to become invested in the process and drives their loyalty to a high level. With this type of process in place why would a decision maker shop around their benefits package with competitors

The author reinforces how a “business process focus” includes three criteria—teachable, valuable and repeatable. Brokers can apply these criteria to working with employers on their renewal process. Teach the process, evaluate components of the process to raise the value clients place in the process, and repeat success when managing the renewal process.

For the sales process, there are many tools and tips on selling but most follow a defined process. Teaching the sales process to staff, making the connection to the value of following the process to position for a sale, and repeating the process to gain repeatable success can prove valuable for both staff and your agency.

Tips on how to initiate business owner conversations

If you want to open the conversation with your business owner client consider these ideas from the author.

Five Big Ideas for Business owners

  1. Is your company managed as if it will last forever?
  2. Position your business to be sellable — even if you have no intention of cashing out or stepping back anytime soon.
  3. Consistency sells. Businesses that focus on one key process to solve problems will be valuable to buyers.
  4. Focus on doing one thing well. Hire people to become specialists in that area, and provide quality work that stands out from your competitors and can be scaled to expand to new areas.
  5. Finally, engage many clients and avoid having one client make up more than 15% of your revenue.

Highlights from “Author’s notes” in quotes with my commentary in italics

“You should always run a company as if it will last forever, and yet you should also strive constantly to maximize its value, building in the qualities that allow it to be sold at any moment for the highest price buyers are paying for businesses like yours.”

Brokers, your book of business is valuable. Develop your process for retention and new business and connect this to what a buyer will value. Health insurance professionals need to know about the value of their commissions and how to protect this prized revenue stream. In a life event, make sure you have a plan in place that enables your commissions to continue. 

“Once your business can run without you, you’ll have a valuable —sellable—asset.”

Keep this in mind as you build a client retention process your staff can manage while you spend time building another process — one to add new clients that is not dependent just on you and is transferrable.

“Relying too heavily on one or two large clients is risky and will turn off potential buyers. Make sure that no one client makes up more than 15% of your revenue.”

Brokers in general can relate to how risky it can be to have only a few large group clients compared to several small, midsize and a few larger clients.

“A process makes it easier to pitch to prospects and puts you in control. Be clear about what you’re selling, and potential customers will be more likely to buy your product.”

Processes for all insurance professionals need to have a beginning and ending point centered on how you will help your prospect get their needs met.

John Warrillow is the founder of The Value Builder System™, a practice management software for business advisors. His best-selling book “Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You” was recognized by both Fortune and Inc. as one of the best business books of 2011 and has been translated into 12 languages.

John is the host of Built to Sell Radio, ranked by Forbes as one of the world’s 10 best podcasts for business owners. John wrote another best-selling book, “The Automatic Customer: Creating a Subscription Business in Any Industry.” John completes the trilogy with his latest book, “The Art of Selling Your Business: Winning Strategies & Secret Hacks for Exiting on Top.”

Prior to founding The Value Builder System™, he started and exited four companies, including one acquired by a public company. He lives with his family in Toronto.

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About the reviewer:

Phil Calhoun helps brokers with the succession planning process for both their clients and for themselves. He recommends a new “Six Pack Education Series” offered by Strazzeri Mancini LLC to train group benefit professionals in the exit planning process. These tools include a new program designed just for group benefit professionals: “Succession Planning for Business Owners.”

The program is content rich and is designed to cover best practices for the business succession planning process. With this information you have access to a professional team and can be involved in the process with your business owner and share in the success. Cal Broker is pleased to offer readers a free subscription to Strazzeri Mancini’s collection of resources