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Agent to Agent: Creating an Agency Culture

By Wayne M. Partee, President / CEO
Partee Insurance Associates

Forty years ago I ventured out on my own. From the moment I got my agent's license and entered the independent insurance arena I single-handedly began to develop my signature agency culture. I began with commercial insurance and workers’ compensation. I wrote your standard policy for home insurance in California, fire insurance, auto insurance, bonds and life. When I got my start in this business there were no BOPs and comprehensive insurance packages hadn’t been along that long.

But nonetheless I survived, so I must have done something right.

In 1972 there were no fax machines, no copy machines, no cell phones and no computers. We did a lot by hand, like filling out carbon paper applications. Yet, every year we grew, back then we either bought other agencies or wrote new accounts. During my first full year in the business, the agency’s commission income was $65,000—in 2008 we posted $2 million in revenues; a record profit for us.

However, just like everyone else, these past two years have taken a toll on our volume; so how have we continued to grow and prosper? Success came from the expansion and adaptation of the agency culture. These past forty years have thrown quite a lot at us, our culture had to constantly transform—as with anything in life, some things endure while others must evolve—an agency culture must be capable of doing both.

When we were a much younger agency, I was the culture. I was the owner, the producer, the gofer, the janitor and the general jack of all trades. It wasn’t until the early nineties that I realized we needed more. We hired a consultant to work with us; we needed to better distinguish who we were and establish a common goal. We wrote out our mission statement and identified our core values. We adopted a team approach, which is still in place today. We became more organized, modernized and efficient.

I have since taken the time to reflect upon our agency’s growth. I wanted to ensure that we had lived up to expectations and “walked the walk”. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised at the answer.

Mission Statement:

“We are committed to…being your insurance advocate, partnering with you to develop long-term, old-fashioned relationships using a team concept providing efficient, courteous and professional service while striving to exceed expectations.”

I’m happy to say our agency culture truly reflects this. We aim to create long lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with each and every client—as well as our partner insurance carriers. Additionally our values remain the same; we continue to operate based on—Honesty, Efficiency, Accuracy and Respect.

After reviewing our mission and values, I took it upon myself to then ask each of my staff if they could choose one word to describe our agency culture, what would it be and why? The responses were overwhelming. They chose powerful adjectives such as integrity; which proves to me that I promoted the right beliefs and goals.

Should you want to build an agency culture, it’s important that you take a step back and ask yourself those same questions. How would you like your agency to be described and why? Start from the bottom — your roots and foundation — make sure that each and every person involved believes in this universal theme. Remember that a true agency culture is constantly evolving, and must adapt to changes — yet must always be a true, accurate representation of your unique business.

March 14, 2011