Founded in 1954, Assurex Global is an exclusive Partnership of the most prominent independent agents and brokers in the world. With more than $28 billion in annual premium volume and more than 500 Partner offices, Assurex Global is the world’s largest privately held commercial insurance, risk management and employee benefits brokerage group.

I will be presenting at their E&O Plus Quality Meeting.

Date: October 22, 2014—October 23, 2014
Event: Assurex E&O Plus Quality Meeting
Sponsor: Assurex Global
Public: Private

Attention insurance professionals — are you looking for innovative ways to increase productivity at your agency? We’re excited to team up with noted productivity expert Steve Anderson for a short 30-minute webinar on October 9th.

Steve will share practical advice on how you can use technology like eSignatures to improve your business. If you’ve been hearing about eSignatures for a while but not sure how this technology will benefit you and your customers then this is the webinar for you!

You’re wasting a lot of time using a traditional, paper-based document management system when you could be growing your book of business. And on top of that, customers don’t want to print, sign and scan your documents. They want to sign online. During this webinar, Steve will explain how eSignatures boost your productivity, speed up the transaction process and give you the peace of mind that comes with a legally binding electronic audit trail.

Sign up today to reserve your seat and join Steve on October 9th at 10am PDT/1pm EDT. See you there!

Date: October 9, 2014
Time: 10:00 AM PST
Event: Webinar: Boosting Insurance Agency Productivity with eSignatures and More
Sponsor: Hellosign
Venue: Online Webinar
Public: Public
Registration: Click here to register.
More Info: Click here for more information.

Behind the Scenes: Creating Compelling Presentations that Engage, Entertain and Inspire

My first professional speaking event was a disaster.

Creating Compelling Presentations

I was asked to speak at the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas (IIAT) convention in 1996 on marketing mistakes most agencies were making. While I knew the material, I did a terrible job presenting the information in an interesting and engaging way. My evaluations came back at four out of 10. I was heartbroken. In fact, I felt so bad about my poor performance that I returned the $500 speaking fee to the Association. And at the time, this was money I really needed.

I Purposed to Get Better

Fast forward almost 20 years and today I speak to thousands of insurance agents across the country on a regular basis. After that first experience I became determined to learn how to present a speech or workshop in a way that communicated well.

While I sought feedback from people I trusted, I was mostly self-taught. And it worked, to a point. The vast majority of my evaluations today are a high nine out of 10, certainly a vast improvement over that original evaluation.

But, I wanted to do better. I wanted to continue to improve. So, last year I attended the SCORRE conference created and hosted by my friend Ken Davis. Ken had told me for a while that he thought I would get a lot out of this conference, and he was right.

Anyone with a message to share can use the process I learned to become a better communicator. The SCORRE process is specifically designed to help anyone prepare a speech with focus, deliver it with confidence, and speak with power to engage, entertain, and inspire. Even I, who has given hundreds of speeches, came away with an entirely new framework that I now use for every new presentation, whether given orally or in writing.

SCORRE is not just a conference you attend, but a proven curriculum that you are led through with the help of certified coaches. You prepare three speeches and give them in a small group setting with your coach. This lets you practice what you have heard and receive feedback. I was shocked at how much I was able to improve in just a few short days.

The six-part SCORRE framework is the process I use now to create my presentations. It allows me to to prepare a clear, compelling talk in a fraction of the time.

The SCORRE Framework

Subject: The first step in preparing a speech is to choose the subject of your speech. This is a broad statement about what you are expected to share. I typically have a limited about of time, so I have to start to focus on what I want to the audience to come away.

Central Theme: Next, I narrow the focus by choosing a single aspect of the broad subject as my central theme. This is also the beginning of the focusing process. This allows me to focus my presentation to a manageable amount of information.

Objective: This is the most difficult step of the process. The objective sentence contain a proposition, an implied interrogative question (either how or why), and an interrogative response (answer to the how or why). Here is an example: Every person can be a more effective leader by applying four valuable leadership principles with their team.

  1. The proposition: Every person can be a more effective leader
  2. Implied interrogation: How?
  3. Interrogative response: by applying four valuable leadership principles with their team
  4. The Key Word is principles

Based on this objective, each of the points in this talk will be a principle that will empower the listener to become a more effective leader.

It is very hard to put the objective of your talk into one sentence. It is unlikely you will use the words in your objective sentence in your talk. When you spend the time to make sure you have a clear objective, your talk will become very focused, and memorable.

Rationale: Using the same example, the rationale becomes the four principles – the keyword chosen in the prior step. These become the key points that are the foundation of the talk. The rationale establishes a solid, logical framework for the talk. Done well, the rationale will lead the listener to your objective.

Resources: Now that the hard work is done, this becomes the fun part. Various types of resources bring light, color, and clarity to what you are communicating. Whether it’s a quote, story, video or other illustration, resources make the audience want to listen to what you have to say.

Evaluation: A presentation isn’t complete until every aspect of the talk has undergone sufficient evaluation. This is a difficult part, but completing it helps to make sure my presentation is focused, clear and engages the audience’s attention.

“Diligence in preparation results in excellence on the platform”
Ken Davis

Every new presentation that I create begins with an outline of this process. I have created a template that allows me to capture this process in a disciplined and organized manner. To see a copy of the template I use click here.

Whether you are a new speaker and want to learn how to communicate effectively, or a seasoned veteran who wants to take your presentations to the next level, I highly recommend you consider attending the SCORRE conference. If you are not able to attend the conference in person, then I recommend you purchase and read Secrets of Dynamic Communication by Ken Davis. This book lays out in detail – including worksheets – what I have described above.

Improving your ability to effectively communicate your thoughts and ideas is a great way to enhance your career and influence those around you.

This post is part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers go behind the scenes to explain in detail one aspect of their work. Reprinted from original LinkedIn article September 18, 2014.

Hope is Not a Strategy

Stop chasing your competitors and Think Different!

Hope is not a strategy

One of the most frequent questions we get from insurance agents is, “Why is that agency doing so much better than me?” Implied in this question is, “How can I be more like my competitor?”

Is this really what you want to do with the business you build — to be a follower?

I hope not. I hope your thinking is more along these lines: “I want to do it much better.”

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is attributed to be the first to use the phrase “hope is not a strategy.” In September 2008 at the Republican National Convention, his speech included these words:

“Because ‘change’ is not a destination, just as ‘hope’ is not a strategy.”

Shortly thereafter, on January 23, 2009, Dr. Benjamin Ola Akande posted a copy of an open letter written to Barack Obama. Dr. Akande, an economist, scholar, and the Dean of the business school at Webster University in St. Louis, used the phrase “Hope Is Not a Strategy” as the title of his letter.

His main goal was to advise Obama on how to bring life back to the economy of the United States. The lines from which this famous quotation comes are as follows:

“Yet, the fact remains that hope will not reduce housing foreclosures. Hope does not stop a recession. Hope cannot create jobs. Hope will not prevent catastrophic failures of banks. Hope is not a strategy.”

There is a lesson to be learned that has nothing to do with the economy and everything to do with your future success.

You cannot just wish away your problems. You cannot bury your head in the sand and refuse to recognize that younger generations are demanding different kinds of experiences. You can no longer sit back and just assume that the insurance companies will take care of your agency. Just sitting around thinking about how the current situation could be better is not going to change anything.

You need to take action.

One of the ways you can begin to take action is to closely examine what you do well and think about how you can be different while at the same time being yourself.

While you can learn from studying other competitors’ marketing methods, you will only frustrate yourself if you attempt to follow their path step-by-step. So instead, spend your time strategizing on how to differentiate yourself by understanding your core competencies.

One of the ways you can begin taking action is to ask yourself these key questions that will help you understand the core strengths of your organization.

The following questions will help you get started:

  1. What is unique about your organization?
  2. What makes what you do different than everyone else?
  3. Do you have niche markets where you are successful?
  4. What areas of your agency are most profitable?
  5. What are common traits of your most profitable clients?
  6. What services do you currently provide that are not profitable?

These questions will help you to begin understanding what your unique positioning in your marketing area should be.

Once you have thought through and answered these questions, it’s time to make some changes in how you operate. Focus on what you do best, and makes you the most money. Seek out the clients you like to work with and develop strategies to get more of these types of clients.

Will there be problems? Of course!

Remember, you are doing this to play to your strengths in a way that is profitable. Your goal is to achieve a sustained competitive advantage by understanding and enhancing what is unique about you and your agency. You want to either provide completely different services than your competitors, or provide similar services. But in different and much better ways.

Back to the Future: The Revival of the Virtual Desktop

I grew up around computers. My dad worked for Burroughs Corporation for over 36 years. He sold large computers to financial institutions as well as the federal government (we lived in the Washington, DC area).

virtual desktops

As a high school kid, I remember going with him to see a client who provided computing “timeshare” services to smaller businesses. The company would rent time to these businesses so they could run their programs. They would connect to the mainframe computer via telephone lines.

One of the earliest agency management systems – Insurnet – was specially designed to be used by agency staff via a telephone handset connected to a modem that provided access to the “computing center” where the equipment was maintained.

These early versions of remote computing ultimately did not work for businesses because of the high cost of providing dedicated telephone lines.

Fast Forward to 2000

The first agency management systems designed to run “in the cloud” were developed in the early 2000’s. I began writing about and talking with agency owners about using an Application Service Provider (ASP) platform for their agency management needs. These platforms were product-specific, requiring agencies to continue to manage networks within their offices to handle other programs and services. Virtualizing desktops was possible, but slower Internet speeds made them difficult to use.

The Rise of Desktop as a Service (DaaS)

The continued development of our technology infrastructure and increased Internet speeds now allow any size organization to outsource each and every desktop within their offices. Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is the current term used to describe a cloud-based service in which a provider remotely manages all of your network services.

You purchase the DaaS service on a subscription basis, per desktop. In the DaaS model, the cloud service provider manages the back-end responsibilities of data storage, backup, security, and upgrades. Typically, the customer’s personal data is copied to and from the virtual desktop during logon/logoff and access to the desktop is device, location, and network independent. While the provider handles all the back-end infrastructure costs and maintenance, customers may manage their own desktop images, applications, and security, unless those desktop management services are included as part of the subscription services.

DaaS can be a good alternative for a small or mid-size agency that wants to provide their users with the advantages a virtual desktop infrastructure offers, but find that deploying a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in-house to be cost-prohibitive.

Enter Amazon WorkSpaces

Recently, Amazon announced their new Amazon WorkSpaces product. In the insurance agency space, there have been several cloud service companies that have provided virtual desktops. Amazon’s entry into this space does deserve attention.

Some larger agencies have been able to keep their IT infrastructure costs down by adopting a virtualization mindset. Virtualization allows them to manage desktops and other devices centrally across the enterprise. However, for many small to medium size agencies, the financial benefits and efficiency of virtualization have bypassed them because it cost too much and requires specialized knowledge to install and maintain.

Amazon WorkSpaces will, potentially, change this dynamic. It provides a pay as you go service that allows a company to set up its virtual desktops within AWS. This allows the organization to avoid purchasing the hardware, software licenses, and expertise to create and manage the platform. With the AWS model, you provision the number of desktops you need, and if you have a short-term need to increase the number of individuals (i.e. during a particular project) you simply add them. Once the project is done, you remove them.

Users could install their own software applications or use ones available through Amazon WorkSpaces such as Microsoft Office, Firefox, and Adobe Acrobat. Users access their WorkSpaces desktop from laptops, iPads, and Android and Kindle Fire tablets.

Amazon WorkSpaces also provides compression and encryption of data using PCoIP (PC over IP) to transmit “pixels only” across standard IP networks.

Benefits of DaaS

Fully managed: Amazon WorkSpaces makes it easy to manage your desktop computing infrastructure by avoiding the complexity of maintaining, patching, and managing a large physical desktop environment.

Supports multiple devices: As mentioned above, users can access their Amazon WorkSpaces using their choice of device, such as a laptop computer (Mac OS or Windows), iPad, Kindle Fire, or Android tablet.

Data secure and available: Amazon WorkSpaces provides each user with access to persistent storage in the AWS cloud. When users access their cloud desktops using Amazon WorkSpaces, you control whether your corporate data is stored on multiple client devices, helping you keep your data secure.

Choose the hardware and software you need: Amazon WorkSpaces offers a choice of bundles providing different amounts of CPU, memory, and storage so you can match your Amazon WorkSpaces to your specific requirements. Amazon WorkSpaces offers pre-installed applications (including Microsoft Office), or you can install your own licensed software.

No up-front investment: Amazon WorkSpaces requires no up-front investment and features simple monthly pricing. With a few clicks, you can provision the number of desktops you require, and you pay a monthly charge for each WorkSpaces that you launch.

Integrate your corporate directory: Amazon WorkSpaces securely integrates with your corporate Active Directory so your users can continue using their existing enterprise credentials to seamlessly access company resources. This also makes it easy to manage your WorkSpaces using familiar systems management tools.

Amazon has made it easier to create a fully virtual platform. But, it still requires some technical help to get WorkSpaces up and running.

Vertafore Adds DaaS Service

To help insurance organizations of all types move to a virtual environment, Vertafore has introduced their Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) offering. Their service enables agents to retain their own personal desktop operating system and application experience, while secured and managed by Vertafore’s specialists using the Amazon WorkSpaces cloud platform.

“The cost of DaaS technology is now less than buying a PC. Modern agencies have an opportunity to reallocate significant funds to enhance more critical agency operations,” said Steven Finch, VP of Strategic Solutions. “We provide a comprehensive portfolio of cloud services to help agencies and other insurance businesses easily transition their desktops or other business critical software to the cloud. Vertafore’s DaaS offering is a simple, secure, and effective step in embracing cloud technologies, and allows agencies to free themselves from the grips of the PC stronghold.”

We really are going back to the future. The ability to rent computing power – instead of buying computer power – is finally a reality for insurance organizations of any size. This option could be just what your organization needs.

What do you think? Is this something your organization could use?

(Reprinted from original LinkedIn article, September 11, 2014)

Founded in 1954, Assurex Global is an exclusive Partnership of the most prominent independent agents and brokers in the world. With more than $28 billion in annual premium volume and more than 500 Partner offices, Assurex Global is the world’s largest privately held commercial insurance, risk management and employee benefits brokerage group. An international insurance powerhouse, the Partnership combines the local expertise and global reach of international brokers on six continents.

Date: October 22, 2014
Time: 08:30 a.m.
Event: Assurex E&O Plus Quality Meeting
Topic: Managing E&O In a 24/7 World
Location: New Orleans
Public: Private

“Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.”

―Stephen Covey


Teaching Sport and Physical Activity: Insights on the Road to Excellence p. 79