Position succession as a growth strategy

par Jim Ruta | August 16 2016 07:00AM
Thinking about my business succession is killing me. I’m afraid to make a mistake and ruin years of work. Is there a way to avoid all this stress and make succession work?

You can eliminate or reduce your succession stress, drive up business today, increase your business sale price and improve your image in your community at the same time. I call it “Succession as a growth strategy”. It turns a potential problem into a business model that pays.

The problem with traditional succession planning is that to the uninitiated – let’s say your clients and community - it seems like the inadvertent “Lame Duck Creation Strategy”. When senior advisors bring in “successors” it appears to many people that you are retiring and new people will be taking your place. You’ve unintentionally made yourself redundant. You’re out and the business’ future is all in the new people. Believe me, it happens.

This is what scares a lot of senior advisors.

Lame ducks end up busy answering all kinds of questions about retirement and taking good wishes for the future. Who needs that when you are still active and want to stay active? This is why no one wants to start early too.

What’s worse, this way you essentially disempower yourself just when you are likely at your very best technically and practically and maybe at the pinnacle of your success financially. This is why so many advisors have trouble developing their succession plan. It seems like they are planning their own “business funeral”. There’s not a lot of stomach for that sort of thing. The excitement is all negative.

Then, when your competitors hear the news, your business becomes a target for the sharks looking for new clients – your old clients. You also inevitably put a scare into your good clients who now wonder what will happen to them and who will be their advisor. You make it more difficult to take on new clients since you have broadcast you are apparently slowing down. It’s a self-made disaster – this traditional way.

But there is a better way – a way that builds your business and looks like a rebirth rather than a passing on.

Succession is internal business talk and is not necessarily for public consumption. The marketplace never needs to know your succession plan but you can still have one. You can grow and build your business so succession is obvious and eliminate the problem altogether.

Instead of succession, talk about growth. Plan for and announce that, due to growing market demand, you have added an associate (or two) to help meet the needs of your clientele. Your helpers today are your successors later. Announce that you are expanding to help more not falling back into the shadows.

When you build a team this way well before you want to slow down, you create obvious succession without talking about it. You provide better service. You attract more business. You build your marketplace prestige. You become stronger, not lame.

The growth strategy is just a small change in perspective but succession is exciting this way and not scary. You’ll build your business legacy and not threaten it. Handle succession – as a growth strategy. It’s takes some planning but makes succession natural and simple.

I’m new to insurance. There are so many products and prices. What’s the right way to match clients and product?

I’ve watched a lot of people sell life insurance over the years. There is a right way and a wrong way to do this if you want to be a professional. Client and product matching is the key decision for client satisfaction.

There are four major considerations in the proper and professional sale of life insurance products including critical illness insurance, income replacement insurance and long term care insurance. The same rules apply with most insurance product.

The four client-product matching considerations all start with P: Price, Product, Process and People and they are in reverse order of professional priority. Here’s why.

Price is often the natural, first consideration many consumers and advisors make. Unfortunately, how much insurance costs is a reasonable, but dangerous, first step to any life insurance.  It’s a natural first thought but it is usually the wrong one. Choosing product based on price first is a rookie mistake.

This is not to say that price isn’t important. Of course it is. It’s just that it should not be the first thought in a quality life insurance portfolio. As John Ruskin said, “The bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price is gone.” Price is only important after you’ve considered needs and wants first. Prospects need to know enough to make the right decision for their needs, today and in the long term.

Product is the next common opening gambit to an insurance sale. This product or that policy – say the flavour of the month – is proposed by some as the definitive answer to all life insurance problems. In the almost 40 years I’ve been at this business, ALL products have been seen as the only way to solve cash insurance problems at one time or another.

Whole Life had its day and is again. Universal Life was supposed to solve all problems but had a few cracks. Term was seen as the only answer too - several times. Have your clients outlived their temporary insurance solution yet? They all come and go. No, leading with a particular product is not the best way in to help a client. 

Process, the next P, is often touted as the solution to the price and product mistakes and it sure sounds good, but is it? The idea is that a particular sales or planning process solves all protection problems and everyone has to go through it to get to the ideal result. Sorry, I don’t buy it. Some people who need insurance aren’t that crazy about process or don’t have the time. Process is good but it is not everything all the time. Here’s what is.

People and their concerns about price, product and process is the primary concern of the professional insurance advisor. We lead by asking them. We consider the needs, wants and budgets of the people with whom we deal first and let them decide on the process, product and price that makes most sense to them.

When you consider the people you work with first, you will always sell life insurance product properly.

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