video-iphoneWebsites have come a long way in just the last two years.  Two years ago, content was king.  No new content meant no one cared, and two years ago, the buzz was all about mobile.  Now, if you’re not mobile, you’re simply not relevant.

Today, websites without video are just not very effective compared to those with.

Insurance agencies may feel a bit overwhelmed with what is needed to keep up with all of this.  After all, we’re insurance people not internet marketers!  Or are we?  The truth lies somewhere in the middle.  The fact is that almost all commerce, including insurance purchases, takes place either directly on the web or is influenced by it.

So, like it or not, keeping up with what consumers expect in their web experiences isn’t an option, at least for today’s winners.

With that said, are there some best practices for video that can be adopted by anyone?  Yes, to begin with, web videos should be short.  The stats seem to indicate that past 30 seconds you begin to steadily lose viewership, although interestingly people will currently watch videos longer on their mobile devices.  Go figure.

Of course, videos need to be interesting.  That can be a challenge if you only think of insurance in policy terms.  But think about Progressive’s, State Farm’s, and Farmer’s ads on TV.  They manage to convey a message, with humor, in 30 seconds.  You can do the same thing with web video if you flex your creative muscles.  Or, you can put some of the videos your carriers have created on your site.  That saves time, money, and creative brain cells and leverages their brands with yours.

Make it personal.  This goes a bit against the last paragraph but where local agencies have a real opportunity is to personalize their offerings.  This is especially valuable when you share the video beyond your site into your social media posting.  You’re posting on social media, right?

Be topical.  What makes videoes go viral isn’t production values, its interest.

Turn it over frequently.  Change things up every few weeks.  Anything on your site that is a year old is, well, old.

Being a 21st century marketer is challenging, but so was being a 19th century marketer.  Try things.  Fail.  Get better.  But try.  Video is where it’s at in website marketing for now.  Who knows what will be hot and required in another two years.  Virtual reality anyone?



I’m reluctant to write about the topic of terminating someone’s employment involuntarily because it is fraught with emotion, misunderstanding and legal liability.  Yet I have been thinking about something I read recently on the subject and want to explore it.

In a recent blog Steve Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon, quotes well known venture capitalist Naval Ravikant as saying “the secret to business success does NOT necessarily involve hiring the right people.  We just think it does.  The real secret to success is firing the people that you discover to be the wrong fit until you END UP with the right people…. But a good leader knows which employees to fire and does it quickly and humanely.”

This is as insightful as anything I’ve read in a long time.

Anyone who has been in business very long has likely faced the necessity to fire an employee.  It is never pleasant and is one of the things that I think just about any decent person would not want to do without necessity.  After all, when you fire someone you are making a very serious, usually negative (at least temporarily) impact on their life.  And there are real risks if it isn’t done properly.

Because of this, my experience tells me that many business owners delay, avoid or deliberately refuse to dismiss employees who don’t fit in their business.  Clearly this only exacerbates whatever problems exist when you know you need to terminate someone and rarely, if ever, improves to a satisfactory point.

Since reading Ravikant’s comment I’ve been surprised how many conversations I’ve had with business leaders about their need to let someone go.  Perhaps it’s just coincidence or maybe it’s like learning a new word and I’m just seeing conversations I’ve always had in a new light.  But it’s clearly an issue that needs more discussion and thought.

As I’ve reflected on my own experience I can’t think of a single example of someone who I thought needed to go who either didn’t ultimately go on their own or that I had to fire.  And in my reflection I have realized that each time I have delayed, for whatever reason, the business (and sometimes me personally) have paid a price that wasn’t worth it.

So, I think Ravikant is right.  While it’s important to get the right people on your team it’s critical to get the wrong people off.  The sooner the better.  For everyone’s benefit.  And this last statement is important.  I think it’s part of what Ravikant means by “humane”.  Sometimes employees that need to go are troublemakers or cancerous.  But often they just aren’t cut out for the position you have them in.  When you let them go you are freeing them up to go somewhere where they will be more productive, useful and perhaps content.  Regardless, as he says, it’s the leader’s job to do what is necessary.


How do you know when you’re going to be successful?

I remember when I started my career as an insurance agency owner and commercial insurance producer.  Each month I called on an endless succession of business owners asking for X dates and it seemed like forever before I got to actually quote.  Then I sold a few policies and could begin to see that I’d eventually have some income.  I remember going home and telling my wife we had victories to celebrate!  Nursing an infant, working full time in her own business and exhausted her question was “where’s the check?”

It’s really tough to start and build a business.  Most people can’t do it.  But those that do have something highly unusual going for them.  Persistence.  They simply won’t quit.

I saw the movie “Founder” last week about Ray Kroc and the building of McDonalds.  It was inspirational to me.  Ray was an entrepreneur who started, and apparently failed, at a lot of things.  Early in the movie we see him carting a mixer from drive in to drive in with little success.  Each night he is staying in a flea bag motel, alone with nothing more than Canadian Club whiskey for company.

He also had a record player, with a single record about persistence.  As he falls asleep each night the voice quotes Calvin Coolidge saying:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.   Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Kroc of course goes on to build McDonald’s into the world’s largest restaurant chain and becomes fabulously wealthy.  At the end of the movie he rehearses a speech about what made him, and his company, successful.  He begins “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence…”

How can you know you’re going to be successful?  By making the commitment to never give up!

Business growth

Last week about 200 people gathered to celebrate their collective success as members of OAA.  At the meeting we celebrated the nearly $5 million dollars in insurance company profit sharing and bonuses that had been distributed among the 125 member agencies in 2015.

While $5 million dollars is a lot of money, the fact is that most of those receiving it would not have made any of it on their own!  Our average member writes about $2 million in premium and in the normal course of things would not be able to qualify for profit sharing based on their individual production.  But as OAA and SIAA members they do.  Not only that but because of our collective size they receive, on a per cent basis, bonuses similar to what national brokers listed on the stock exchanges do.

This is magical!

And it was a magical evening.  It was a tremendous privilege for me to hand agent after agent checks for $50,000 and more.  Our top ten money earners each received over $100,000 and most of those agents have been in business for less than 10 years!  The largest check this year, as it was last, was nearly a half a million dollars.  Magic!

The other thing that we celebrated was the financial security and personal dreams these dollars represent for our members.  After all, $50,000 in profit sharing that you’ve never received before is – pure profit.  And when it comes time to sell the agency that money represents nearly half a million dollars in value that wasn’t there before OAA came along.

I hope that if you were there, you left as excited as I did!  And if you weren’t – but would like to know how you can have some of the magic for yourself – call me!