Has It Been That Long?!

By Ken Kukral

I have officially been in this business 27 years!  Over half my life!  I must actually enjoy what I do!  Insurance, more specifically excess and surplus lines insurance is a unique and diverse area of the insurance industry.  One of the things I like most about it is that I get do work on different types of accounts every day.  No chance to get bored, doing that.

One of the things I enjoy the most is dissecting an account and figuring out how to put it all together and write it.  Doing this is really a culmination of all the education and knowledge I have built up over years and putting it to use.  A few things I have learned over my 27 years in the business:

  • As much as I already know about the business, I still have a majority of it to learn.  I see myself as a “coverage guy”, but feel I still have so, so much more to learn.  Like I can never know it ALL.  I find that when I do continuing education I learn just how much I don’t know.
  • I see the world from an insurance perspective.  I can’t count the number of times I look at life situations from a perspective of how would I write that account or would that claim be covered?  I think this is a mental condition that sinks in around year 10 in the business.
  • Never stop learning.  I am amazed when agents do not take classes that would expand their knowledge of the business and would rather just get the continuing education hours done as “painlessly as possible” in order to comply with state CE requirements.  If you are going to have to spend time in educating yourselves, why not make it productive and mind expanding?  You wouldn’t knowingly go to a cardiac surgeon who is not up to date on the latest and greatest in heart surgery, would you?  Ever think your clients think the same way?
  • You can’t control everything.  No matter how good you do on an account you may still not write it or lose it.  This happened to me recently when an account I put together extremely well (actually in my top 5) and the insured went bankrupt.  All I can say is, on to the next one.
  • There is a ton of new business out there.  So many times I feel like I am just scratching the surface of what is out there and all you have to do is go out and find it.  I call it “turning over rocks”.  Much like when we went potato bug hunting or night crawler hunting, you just had to turn over more rocks and you would find them.  It can be as easy as asking for what is on their desk that we could help them place, or do you have any renewals that we might be able to help you get competitive numbers on?  One of my clients that sends me a ton of business was developed by just sending one extra e-mail on a Thursday night when I was cleaning out my e-mails, when I asked her, is there anything else on your desk that I could be helping you with.  She responded back 15 minutes later telling me to call her in the morning.  Six accounts later she was able to clean off her desk and get the accounts over to me to quote.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.  Going the extra mile to communicate where things stand or where you are at in trying to quote an account makes a world of difference.  Nothing agents hate more than when their client calls to follow up and  they don’t have a status to give them.  They have to fumble for an answer or say, they will check.  So I make a point to get back to them before they call me.
  • Let them know you want the business.  I am more likely to place an account with a carrier if I KNOW they want the account.  It doesn’t take much to express this and can mean the difference between writing an account and not getting an order.
  • Usually the first quote in gets the business.  I found this out early in my career.  Speed matters.  Insured’s that need to get coverage in force right away will usually jump on the first quote that comes in the door.
  • Details matter.  One of the things I learned early on, is that you must take care of the details.  Little things not taken care of can become big problems.  This helps to reduce E&O exposures and prevent problems down the road.  You have to remember, that we are “non-lawyers”, selling contracts.
  • There are great people in this business.  I find this over and over and the true quality regularly shows.  I strongly believe independent agents are true advocates for their clients and look every day to do the best job for their clients.
  • You need to “give back” in this business.  One of the things I have found is that people in this business are more than willing to answer questions and help you learn.  Giving back can also mean getting involved with your trade associations.  The better you can help make the insurance industry in your area, the more respect the general public will have for independent agents.

I doubt I will have another 27 years in this business, but you never know.  I do know that I will never lose my thirst for learning and if I do, it will be time to get out.  The best advice I can give is ALWAYS KEEP ASKING QUESTIONS!  There is no way you can ever know everything in this business and asking questions shows an interest in continual learning.  It is when people STOP asking questions that I worry they are content and have enough knowledge.  Oh ya, ENJOY IT!

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