They are all great days

Updating from September 2012

Life philosophies can adjust.  It’s tough to think that any day you wake up doesn’t have some element of great to it.  Although I really do not remember who I was referencing six years ago, I think I do and just the possibility of who it is makes me smile.

Ten or so years ago I started to realize I could work with anyone.  Then, this adapted a little to

  1. As long as they are nice to me and the people I work with
  2. Their money is green

This is still the philosophy.  Sometimes we say “neutral or better” since we humans are meant to be nice to each other but that doesn’t mean you’ll develop some amazing friendship with everyone.  But, it is rare when I am not able to learn from someone that I am working with.  Sometimes it is something they share directly, sometimes it is something I learn while working with them.

There are a lot of satisfying moments in what we insurance brokers do.  One of my favorites is when a person you have not heard from/thought of in a while reaches out.  Happens almost every week at this point.  This week LinkedIn helped it happened.  Fairly certain it is at least six, likely closer to ten years since I spoke with her.

There are several reasons we use LinkedIn yet I cannot seem to figure out why so many in insurance don’t understand the amazing tool that it is.

“I DO NOT SELL INSURANCE I HELP PEOPLE BUY IT  and along the way I am privileged to interact with some awesome people.” BIlly Van Jura

This, has not changed and I do not suspect it will.  I think I take it more seriously now which is likely part of why we are doing well.  Operating this way also creates a lot of confusion for me since most brokers are still to busy selling insurance to realize there is a better way to do things.

Claim Economics

Had a call about a claim this weekend.  No big deal, part of the business.  An awful, annoying and very, very broken piece of the business but part of it.  So the usual;
Is everybody ok?  Yes
What happen?  other person hit me, admitted fault and police were called **REAL good news but must be handled properly**
Then what?  Call the other company, not yours….
Etc. etc. More posts here and here and here

Here is what I thought about though.  Both companies have the money ” in the bank” to pay this claim.  So what do they lose?  Well they plan on this anyhow and the reality is, if done correctly, it is really just a marketing activity.  This is your chance to jump over price and cement a relationship but instead both the paying and the non-paying company will likely negatively impact both the person who is at fault and who isn’t.

Baffled by the economics of this since we have already committed a lot of money to an underwriting philosophy that made this customer one that we want.
Baffled at why an industry would allow the occurrence of one claim where a person was deemed completely not at fault to override several dozen other factors.
But, then again, this is likely just another example of how having clear goals, appreciating humans and allowing morals, ethics and philosophy to blend with technology is really just the next frontier.

Things for Insurance agents to consider this year….or any year

1. If you work as part of a larger agency; Are you builiding your business or someone elses?
2. What is really a “fair” split on commissions?
3. Why am I more focused on buying leads instead of cultivating referrals?
4. What is the household and PIF growth I am looking for this year?
5. Would you settle for only one option anywhere else in your life?  Than why are you only working with one company?
6. What is the last marketing book I read?
7. Am I regularly reading about marketing concepts or insurance marketing concepts?
8. Are you a part of someone else’s perpetuation plan or do you have your own?
9. How are you dealing with the changing consumer?
10.  The agent/broker has lots of control they are not using.  What about you?
11. Do you still believe in rate increases?  Are they really “a necessary evil”  or part of the business….
12.Are you taking advice and listening to people who have done things before or just people who write/talk about it?
13. If you are paying for some sort of label/qualfication is it really valid?  Was it earned?
14. Why are you not averaging at least half if not one referral from every household you work with?
15. Issuing an insurance policy(ies) is not enough.  What else are you doing for your customer?
Will you be surfing the wave of change that has started or being washed away by it?

Dont be perfect, just get better

Dear Big National Insurance company who I want to bring more business to;

We have had a nice relationship so far and I think we both like each other.  I’m confused though, some days it seems like you just don’t want my business.  Now I understand you won’t want everyone but I am still left disappointed.  See we know each other pretty well, I have a nice understanding of who you want to be insured but somewhere in there, something is not working.

It’s not you, it’s me?

Not so sure but I really would like to do more with you.  You are nice, your people are nice, you take care of our new mutual friends.  What’s not to like?  Well, I came up with a list, in no particular order;

  • Please, please, please if you are going to look at an insurance score, which is fine by me, please look at both people I put in.  I’ll be able to bring you more people, they’ll be happier when they arrive and your pricing will be more accurate.  Heck, they’ll be more likely to stay as well.
  • Along those lines, our new friends are the key to all this.  You know, for lots of us, it is very important to set up the auto and home policy with one company.  So why is it that you’ll give them the very best rate for auto insurance and a very poor rate for home insurance?  Yes, I know, supposedly homes are different, the age of roof, protection class, blah, blah, blah.  Good people, like you and me, are good people.  Help me bring you more of them.
  • One of my other “friends”, sorry monogamy is not good business when it comes to being an insurance broker, helps save me time with every quote.  One way is to simply have the code in your quotes for EVERY bank that someone may have a car or home loan with.
  • Knowing the right protection class is critical to your home rates.  Why would you not pull this automatically?  I know we both have lots of relationships.  Let’s face it, some of your partners may be misusing this flaw of yours.
  • Do you know how much housing data is available?  More than I ever thought possible.  The moment I give you our friends address you can pull it all for us.  Saves us both time, makes things more accurate.
  • Following up on that; when was the last time you checked the accuracy of the replacement cost evaluator you use?  Try this, look up new(er) homes in your neighborhood or nearby.  Take those details and see what you come up with.  Could be surprising.  Based on a lot of your calculations it seems like every new home being built and sold is sold at a loss.
  • No matter what, I try and make it easy for people to give me money.  Maybe you could as well?  I’m sure the people at Am** or Di****** are not that bad.  Please try and figure out how to take their cards.  Our friends want to use them so let us help them.  Oh and PayPal.  Wow, it would be awesome and open a whole new market for us if you could do that.

Thanks so much.  Glad you are such a good listener.  We’ll have a much better relationship if we both keep working on improving ourselves.  I really want to make this work.


With lots of admiration,


Billy Van Jura

Let’s be friends

So most of us have friends.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  You are closer with some more than others.  Some you hang out with more often.  Some are “on-line” friends or “work” friends but they all get the label friends.  They all on some level have a place in your world.

At the same turn, each of them needs or wants something from you.  Some need/want more than others.  At various times one or more of them may need a lot from you.  Over time some friends sort of increase in value(feelings) while others get less.  But they are  all still your friends.

If you wanted to get morbid about it you can break it down like this;

  • Some friends will come to your funeral to see you one last time
  • Some will come out of respect for your family even though you are not so close
  • Some will not make it but may say a silent prayer and take some time to grieve or celebrate you
  • Some will hear of your passing, feel bad for a moment and move on

I think the key in that scenario is making sure that no one is happy you passed.

So how do you treat your friends.  Like I wrote earlier, they are all treated a little different but on some level they are all the same.  They may have different levels of value and importance but they are all still valuable and important.  We also know that at some point, one or many of them may have some difficult times that you may choose to or have to help with.

Do we charge them a fee for this “extra” help?  NO we know it is part of the equation.  We know that friendship is a long term thing.  We know that if we choose good ones, some would even say the right ones, the good times will far outweigh the bad.  **We know we are not for everybody but we try to be good humans and be flexible.  We don’t treat anyone as a lesser human, we are just friendlier with some more than others** We know that friendships come with a lot of things that really cannot be measured.  We know that most friends know that friendship is a reciprocal relationship.  We know that when we can, we take on a little more responsibility.

So if this is how most of us live life, why should how an insurance company treats a customer be any different?

Why I took your customer?

Several times a month a new person hires me and I am shocked.  See I know I am “good” and I know how to do a lot of things.  But there is a recurring theme, there is really no reason why this opportunity should exist.  There is no reason why this person should have called.  But then again there are quite a few.

The one that set me over is something like this, husband and wife with the same agent for 20+ years.  Husband and wife fit perfectly into dozens of companies; married, great credit, college degrees, home owners, clean records.  He is also a business owner and the paths fairly regularly cross with the agent who should appreciate his business.  Sounds familiar?

  • You let me.  I didn’t take this person as much as you didn’t put any effort into keeping them.
  • You’ve had an agency for twenty years and you are acting that way.  STOP.  The year is 2014, time to get comfortable with it and start using the available tools.
  • Make your own rules.  Just because some book describes “typical coverage” doesn’t mean you need to do it.  Are you offering as much coverage as you have?
  • Grow with your customers.  Because if you don’t I will.  Seriously, loyalty goes to people first and maybe companies second.  Rates improve if you want them to.
  • You might disagree but the fact is you really don’t earn money off a rate increase.  You should be lean enough that the goal is to keep existing customers but you’re not.
  • Pay it back.  If you are doing it right you turn some amount of profit on that customer immediately.  So based on that you may  have been profitable on one person for twenty years.  Have you supported an event their a part of?  Donated to their charity?  Sent them some business?  Why not?
  • WAKE UP CALL.  We are in an old industry, think about the other things you are buying and compare the experience.  Seriously if studying Geico, Progressive or ay other online company does not wake you up look at Amazon, Zappos and about 10,000 other retailers.

This could go on for a while but I hope you get the point.  Thanks for letting me make some suggestions.



So I cracked my Windshield, now what?

Well Glass coverage, as it is commonly called, comes with your comprehensive coverage.  Pretty common here in New York and to be honest, I have no idea why you would want to have comprehensive coverage and not glass coverage.  Really, it comes down to a math equation.  Average new windshield cost is $200+ mine just cost my insurance company $341.22.  My comprehensive coverage is about $100 a year.  Not a bad gig for me nor is it a bad idea for most people.  Honestly could be the best value in all of insurance, also the most used.  Goes right there with your Towing and Labor coverage.

So about my experience.  Well the call in was as to be expected.  You call in to a call center on a Saturday morning and you get what you get.  So on Tuesday morning, since the shop is down the street from me I stopped in.  Pretty interesting to see how many windshields just one shop is prepared to fix in a day.  Now I would be the next morning so I made my arrangements and moved on.  Drop off went smooth then got bumpy but hey at 9:30 my car was ready as planned.  Bottom line, it was a basic solid experience.  Not much to talk about.

  • Nice that they vacumed out the car
  • Nice that they left some sort of Febreeze air freshner
  • Nice that it was basically “sign and drive”

Beyond that I was left wondering if I have any other options?  I know you are allowed to go wherever you want but to be honest do not eve know of anyone who can be close to as convenient.  Should there be?  yes, my guess there is a huge opportunity here, especially with some clever marketing.

For another time; should glass coverage be so inexpensive?

Should it just be included in comprehensive and not even an option?

Just some thoughts.


Available Real Estate? Somehow sacred? The next big thing?

Advertising on license plate holders!  About to ramble, hang on almost over.

It is already being done but think about it, who cares where you bought your car? Do you save money or get anything for allowing them a spot on your car? Why not sell this space? Are you willing to identify with someone/something strong enough to allow them on your car?

Could it be to much?  Not sure, people routinely put magnetic stickers on their side panels.  How much time do you spend parked behind another vehicle at a light?  Is it dangerous to put your Twitter handle on there?  Not sure, at the very least a web address and something catchy?

What is the difference between this space and a bumper sticker?  Heck it is probably easier to remove a license plate holder than it is a bumper sticker.  And as far as bumper stickers, can someone let me know why we allow a car dealer to place their logo on our car?  Think about it, you bought it, leased it or financed it and whomever holds the note is likely not the dealership.  Why do they get your real estate for free?

Not sure.  So a ways back I removed all of the car logos that I could and have no license plate holder.  What now?  Not sure.  Not sure if I am ready to commit to driving a billboard.  Maybe soon.

How about you?

Just some thoughts.

Dear Big Insurance company,

I am sad to say this but you are likely severely under-performing.  Every day the people of the United States and I are reminded how much you covet their business but never how much you appreciate the business you have already.  Every day we see you continuing to waste the money we give you by advertising to us like we are a bunch of uneducated, dollar crazed idiots not interested in value.  Behind the scenes you continue to “add” useless endorsements that are rarely paid out on.  You continue to ignore the premise that value trumps price.  When the rest of the world is being successful advertising and working for a particular niche or even a large group but not “everybody” yet you still market to the masses
You don’t need to get any bigger but you do need to get better.
First step is cleaning up what you have.  By that I mean, you inspect or at least should inspect every property you write as new business but might have just started doing this.  Obviously things change but fact is I have been asked to insure several homes and autos and have actually politely turned them down.  Remember the goal is not to be bigger it is to be profitable.  Do you even know what you insure at this point?  Why not?  If your broker partners are paying attention to what they insure why aren’t you?  Reality is you are hurting all of us but you are the one taking the biggest hit.
As far as your advertising, unfortunately you are paying a bunch of people to produce content that does not have a measurable result.  If it does, the metric was likely introduced by someone who helps support advertising and marketing firms so why pay attention.  A few ideas; Did your gross premium dollar volume increase because you raised rates or because the households you insure went up?  If it is not because the households you insure went up you need to rethink your strategy.  Are you advertising at the very expense of the people you already have?  Seriously, have you not caught on that the single best form of advertising is word of mouth?  Why not focus on what you have, turn them  into raving fans and see what happens?
Some random ideas I bet you will not implement;
STOP advertising.  Instead apply that money to programs to help your existing customers.
 As the value of the car goes down so should the rate.  You know how many times agents have to answer this question.
If you really want to do a rate increase you should put last years rate right next to this years rate.  Now this one will take some intestinal fortitude, got some?
Seriously, just include glass.  Who takes comprehensive without glass.  Now I know this varies in different states but this is an actual practical thing to  do.
Set a standard of coverage and don’t waiver.  Now I know this is tough because you feel like you are risking more but the reality is you aren’t.  Be the first one to do better and see how well it works out.
This is getting long and can keep going.  Call me some time I would be glad to chat.
Billy Van Jura

Fear is a sales tactic for amateurs

Not to far removed from election season and now with other elections and votes pending soon I cannot help but think about how amateurish campaigns can be.  Reality is it is pretty sad.   Everyone operates from a reactive position and goes right for the “jugular” with something like public safety.  Rarely with any facts in hand.  Even rarer with actually actionable steps to fix the base of the problem from the past.  Instead they take the easy road, strike up some fear, attack an opponent and just like that you have some politics.

How about doing things a bit differently.  How about you live a life full of integrity and service.  Make lots of friends along the way, bring value when you do not need to and when you need to really bring it.  How about you connect your friends and community so you have and almost unbreakable web of support around you. How about you reach out to people when you are not in need of votes.  How about you present actual measurable, checkable facts rather than speculating and putting words in bold.

Mailing does work if done correctly.  There are quite a few professional resources that can show you how to do it if you do not know already.  You can actually mail less and get a big return because you are mailing to the most likely people to embrace your message.  Besides with voter turn out so low you are actually disrupting a landscape with your silly sign more than you are attracting votes.

Oh and for those wondering, here is an excerpt from the US Postal service manual;

The USPS Domestic Mail Manual; “no part of a mail receptacle may be used to deliver any matter not bearing postage, including items or matter placed upon, supported by, attached to, hung from, or inserted into a mail receptacle.”

Then there is this thing called Facebook.  If you have a core group of supporters there reach will likely be to people like them who in theory vote like them as well.  Put some resources there.

Bottom line, way better to be proactive then reactive.  Take on the mindset of a true sales professional and actually lay out a campaign.  The world is full of people disguising facts and using other agendas to mask underlying problems.  Please do not be one of them.

Just some thoughts.