In the state of Ohio, independent agencies represent roughly $5.5 billion in premium volume. OIA members write an average of $5.1 million in premium volume and receives an average of $672 thousand in revenue. The revenue that is generated in our average agency is represented as 52% in personal lines and 48% in commercial lines business. The average agency employs less than 10 people, and collectively our agencies employ almost 20,000 employees across the state.
It is expected that this pandemic will impact over 40%-70% of the population of Ohio before it is over. Using 40% as the estimate, this translates to about 8,000 employees in independent agencies across Ohio who are expected to become ill as a result of this pandemic. Furthermore, the average age of employees in agencies is 56, putting many in a high-risk category for extended absences or even death. These demographic statistics are very similar in every state across the country, so this pandemic has the potential to have an incredible impact on the independent agency workforce both in our state and across the country. It is imperative that agency owners start planning.
In order to prepare for the potential absence of employees due to sickness, or potential layoffs, we recommend that you take the following steps to prepare so you can continue to serve your customers.
Outline key business processes
Identify and list all the key business processes within your organization that are necessary to serve your clients and run your agency. In addition, make a list of each person that is responsible for each process and those that are currently trained and able to backup each process.
Key business processes may include:
- Quoting a policy
- Binding a policy
- Processing a claim
- Responding to emails from all employee accounts
- Responding to website inquiries
- Marketing, social media, newsletters and posting to your website
- Answering the phone
- Getting mail and paying the bills
Identify potential gaps
For any key process where you have only one person able to do complete it, make sure you have identified the key areas that have the most potential risk in your agency. Now, you need to identify someone on your team that you can train to cover the areas that are at risk. Think about skillset, talent, capacity and fit as it relates to the process that you are trying to cover. Does the process fit nicely with another person’s key roles, do they have the aptitude and skills to learn the technology and or tools that are required for that business process?
Define the tools and resources needed
Take inventory of what is needed to accomplish each process. Take into consideration the accesses needed, software, tools, knowledge, steps, etc. for each process. Make a list of all resources needed to do a particular job including contact names, phone numbers, login information, account name and numbers, etc. Be sure to use a secure tool like LastPass to record and share all the sensitive information that is needed to perform your key business processes.
Make a backup plan
For each process, list who is responsible for the key components of that process. Next, list everyone in the agency that can fully back up the people responsible for each process. Have each person document their processes so their backup person has a guide to follow in the event they are out.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Would a transition of the work in each process be seamless between your lead and the backup?
- Does your backup have the appropriate tools needed to do the work?
- Do they have the right access?
- What training is needed to transfer the work if someone becomes sick and is unable to perform their duties?
Once you’ve identified the gaps, make a plan to train, share information and correct any potential hurdles that may prevent all roles within the organization from being completed by another teammate.
Build a financial forecast
Determine your ability, from a cash flow perspective, to get through this crisis and the impact it will have on your clients, agency, and staff. You should know how much money you need to make in order to weather this storm, and at what point you will need to go into cash reserves or begin making changes.
- Look for ways to eliminate your expenses. Reach out to your vendors to negotiate better terms or reduce costs and take advantage of any offers that they may have available to their customers. While no one wants to see anyone lose their job, in order to be fiscally responsible as an owner, you need to Identify any roles that may need to be reduced, renegotiated, or eliminated within your agency. The reality is many businesses have employees who are not working at full capacity and now is the time to correct that issue.
- Explore the financial resources available to you as a small business owner. Find out and take advantage of all the resources that will allow you to continue your business and best serve your agency. This will include SBA Loans, state and federal relief packages. OIA has a dedicated page on our resource to provide you with this information. (Insert Link)
- Outside services and resources to consider In an effort to reduce costs, you may need to reduce your employee count. If that is your situation, there are several external resources you can explore and consider when building your business continuity plan.
- Service Centers: Check with your carrier to determine what support and services are available. Many carriers have service centers, so contact them to explore the possibility of utilizing them in the event that someone on your staff becomes sick or you are faced with having to make the decision to reduce your staff.
- AMS Resources & Tools: AMS provides for training in software systems or some are offering free remote access tools
- Accountants: You may want to outsource your financial processes, so you should reach out to your accountant to see if they offer any services to help you process payroll, pay your bill, and do your financial reporting.
- Legal resources: OIA offers a 30-minute consultation with attorneys who specialize in insurance issues and small business issues. We encourage you to utilize OIA’s legal hotline as you navigate through any business decisions that may require legal advice.
- Technology: Consult with an expert on technology to see if there are opportunities to maximize the tools that you have and create efficiencies by leveraging your technology appropriately. In addition, you will be able to get information and support as you evaluate the best solutions for your agency that fit with your tech stack and resources able to continue to service your clients’ needs through remote access to CRM tools. As an OIA membership benefit, you can access a free consultation to help you work through these and other technology decisions.
Be intentional & Create a timeline
Setup training session, for the areas of most concern, where the lead can train the backup, document, and deliver the process so the backup can refer to them later, if needed. Tools like Microsoft Teams or Zoom that allow you to share your screen and record sessions very easily so you can conduct training while maintaining a safe distance. Set a timeline to complete your backup plan and training. They are predicting that the peak in Ohio will occur in the next several weeks, so the time to build your backup plan is now!
For more information on building your business continuity plan, you can find a checklist and resources on our website and/or contact Carey Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org.