“It’s the speed of change that’s really changing.”
Ken was recently named one of the industry’s ‘Top 100 Game Changers’. In this podcast, you’re about to discover why.
Under Ken’s leadership, The Council—as its often called—had grown six-fold and solidified its unique position as the association for the largest commercial insurance firms in the world.
Ken shares his insights on a wide-range of topics affecting today’s retail agent, including:
- How today’s leader faces the unique challenges of guiding the future of a 3-generation workforce
- Ken’s keys to success. He paints a clear picture on how the best of the best get that way. With changes in behavior. In attitude. In the way they treat others. And, in the way they treat themselves.
- How the industry deals with change. (You may be surprised at his answer. Most people think the industry resists change. Or tries to sleep through it. Not Ken.)
If you’ve got time to invest one podcast in your own business and career, make it this one. Ken is both insightful… and delightful.
What are other agents & brokers doing to thrive? What are the biggest trends affecting the retail insurance agent & broker? What are the most important strategies and tactics you need to grow faster? Find out here in the Connected Insurance Podcast, where Michael Jans discusses the biggest issues affecting the independent insurance agent and broker with the industries leading figures.
One More Thing! What do you think? How will you and your peers use this to grow your agency or brokerage? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, subscribe to get updates delivered to you, and *please share this if you found it informative.
Michael: Ken Crerar, how are you?
Ken: I’m great, Michael. How are you?
Michael: I’m good. Thanks so much for asking.
Michael: Typically, I let my guests hold off on the pitch part, tell me about who you represent until the end, but what you’re doing fits so much into what we’re talking about. I’m going to task you to tell me a little bit about the council, and then we’ll circle back to it later.
Ken: Sure. Okay. Well, Michael, I’m happy to talk about the council. We are an organization that represents the majority of the commercial insurance brokers in the marketplace these days. Our members are right about 80% of the commercial premium. They’re the dominant player in providing the employer-provided benefits. We as an organization are probably a little different than some because we really focus our attention on partnering with our members in helping provide them the kinds of information and instilling the needs that they have as businesses as they determine where the business is moving and what direction to go in.
We obviously provide advocacy support, which is something that you can’t do individually but collectively. It makes more sense. It goes beyond that. It’s because we’re in a very sophisticated business. We’re in a business that is changing very dramatically. The need for solid information and information and not just simple information, but a sense of where things are going. A sophisticated view of where it is, and a dialogue and a partnership.
Then, we provide additional services to our members, including management training, executive training. We’ve developed the Academy as we call it. We also host probably the more exciting of the programs, the Annual Broker Smackdown, which is a gamification of running an agency. There are four of them regionally, including one internationally. There’s a national smackdown where the teams– Sort of like Top Chef for insurance brokers.
Michael: [laughs] “Go broker that.”
Ken: Exactly. It’s a really fascinating thing to watch because these teams compete against each other. They pick and choose the kinds of whatever their business looks like, and then they have to make some decisions. Whether it’s to go after a new market or to write a line for a new company. They have to make all kinds of decisions. Then, the computer obviously as part of the game makes changes in the market. You’re competing against four other teams. It’s a lot of fun.
Michael: You see world being an insurance broker is fun. [laughs]
Ken: It is fun. It should be fun. The other piece of it is that it probably takes an insurance guy and turns the into an insurance businessperson. That’s the real distinction.
Michael: That’s the real distinction. I want to circle back to something you said because you essentially touched on what we talked about in this podcast. Where is it going? What is the solid information that people need now in order to make decisions? I want to circle in on that one. Before we do, the council has grown.
Ken: It has.
Michael: Tell us just a little bit about that.
Ken: Our history goes back 100 and some odd years. We used to be just a convener of what we call the insurance leadership forum, which is currently at the Broadmoor and for 97 years within West Virginia. The industry came together. We still view ourselves as that’s a key role we play because this is an industry that continues to rely on relationships as well as technology and other components to it. What we’ve done is we’ve grown beyond just the convening part to these other services.
We’ve also grown our focus on really focusing in on probably the most successful market leaders in each community. We have a minimum size requirement in terms of revenues, which has been at around $10 million for a while, but most of our members are in that $20-plus million. We’re a new focus, a newly-found focus in the last couple of years, around that $10 to $20 million because those are the firms that are just at the point where they’re the tipping off point.
Many years ago, one of the global leaders said to me that often, there’s generally a size that an office has to be in order to sustain itself. We think right now that that is around $10 or $12 million. After that point, you become more sophisticated because you require that amount of money and resources to provide the services you need to to your clients.
Michael: I want to ask you a question about those agencies. This may be a broader question about the state of the industry. Do you see more agencies hitting that $10 million threshold? In other words, do you see agencies now more and more agencies growing up into that size?
Ken: Yes. Let’s talk about the whole piece. The M&A, mergers and acquisitions has had a real impact, the consolidation on the industry. We’ve seen that. You look at the top 10 today and look at the top 10 10 years ago, it’s a very different list. Having said that, it’s a fountain. As organizations consolidate– We saw this happen in the financial services sector, banking in particular. As the banks merged, what happened? There was a fallout. There’s some talent that went off on its own, set up small shops, became medium-sized shops, that become $10-million shops and then they qualify for us.
Ken: We’ve seen a lot of that. I would say to you that the number of agencies, I think there are less agencies than there were 20 years ago.
Michael: As a whole, right.
Ken: As a whole. I think for a number of reasons. I think it’s a challenge to be under $10 million in this industry and provide the level of service that you need to in the marketplace. Also, the supply or the work with your carrier partners, if whatever relationship you have there, in generating the kind of business that makes sense. It’s a real challenge I think in that below $10 million. They’re not as efficient producers of business.
Michael: One specific question. When you talk about that $10 million threshold, specifically, are you focusing on the commercial broker and the benefit broker as opposed to the main street personal lines or general?
Ken: We in general have always been focused on what I would call the non-main street broker.
Michael: Right. Got it.
Ken: Our members, I would say that the percentage of their book that is represented by personal lines and even small commercial is pretty modest compared to benefits and commercial main street.
Michael: Yet the volume may be considerable relatively speaking, but as a percentage of their book, it’s fairly small. The focus is on–
Ken: It’s small. I think the margin pressure in that sector is so high that you have to be able to– There are a few of our members who have substantial representation in those books, but they’ve also figured out how to do it.
Michael: [laughs] Okay. As long as you raise that one. Inquiring minds want to know. I have a feeling listeners’ ears may have perked up. What do you think they do? Those large brokers where probably this major strategic focus, the major investments are going perhaps towards those larger accounts and larger business, but I know you’ve got some members who have reliable consistent income with good margins in personal lines and small commercial lines. How do you think they do that?
Ken: Well, they re-engineer their backroom and they put money in it.
Michael: Okay. [laughs]
Ken: It’s really simple. If you’re going to use pencil and paper, the margin isn’t there to support that. You’ve got to figure out how to be able to service those accounts in an efficient way. The backroom of this business has always been the challenge. We’ve seen this over and over again and we’re seeing this in the InsureTech space, which by the way, I hate the name InsureTech, but
Michael: Okay, but I think we’ve got to live with it. [laughs]
Ken: We do have to live with it. You know what it is. It’s changing business process. It’s not a separate industry. We’re going to deliver something differently and someone’s coming along with a solution. The bulk of the solutions that we’re seeing are really focused more on carriers than they are in brokers. Having said that, there are some good opportunities, therefore, streamlining the back rooms of these agencies and how we interact business. The ones that are doing it in the digital space around personal lines and small commercial are– They’ve got the wind in their wings.
They’re moving in the right direction. They’re profitable and they’re providing the quality of the service that they need. The behavior of those clients is changing as well. This is a really interesting time in this industry because we’ve never had– I think, where you’ve seen this convergence of generational changes, behavioral changes, technology changes and just general movement of business and people are doing things differently and thinking differently and everything’s moving faster. You got all of it coming together.
Michael: You used the word interesting. I’m going to dive into that one. Do you think your clients are having fun?
Ken: I think some are having a lot of fun.
Michael: I guess it’s the stress-fun meter. On the left side is, the meter goes to stress on the right side, it goes to fun which kind of tends to happen in times of turbulence and speed. I’m trying to get my finger on the pulse of the industry about this right now, because it’s like my clients and the people that I hang with they’re not a fair representation, right? They kind of tend to have fun, they figured out some of the solutions to their problems, and I’m curious what you think your members.
Ken: I would say, overall, I think the majority of these firms are having fun. The leadership changes that have happened in a lot of these firms– They’ve been structured leadership changes have been a really positive– Had a positive impact on the strategic direction of a lot of these firms. What I mean by that is they’re doing the kinds of things that they succeed at. I mean, if you look at the business and how well the business is done in the last few years, it’s done really well. These firms are doing well. We’re not talking about a hard market or a soft market or any of that stuff. Those days are gone. [crosstalk]
Michael: [laughs] You just throw– Loving these balls at me that I keep having to hit. I want to circle back to that one.
Ken: This cycle market is dead.
Michael: Okay. Do you think that the– Like pricing now is right that they’ve figured it out that– Because to some extent–
Ken: You know what. It doesn’t matter. The market is the market. If you’re mispricing the product, you’re going to get screwed.
Michael: We’ve been in the industry long enough to see a couple of roller coasters, right? Hard market, soft market.
Ken: Those days and people used to just wait for the market to change and they didn’t make the kind of investments, but the kinds of people who are running firms then are very different to the people today. 25 years ago you had a lot of talented people who were amazing producers and because of that, they ended up being the CEO slot. Now, you’re seeing real talented managers. People who are business people running these organizations who may not necessarily be producers directly but indirectly. They understand the business. That’s made a real change, I think in terms of how the business functions and the discipline that’s used internally.
Michael: Let’s focus on that because I know that you’ve written about it, you talk about it, you’ve got some interesting reflections on what leadership means today. Well, how do you think it’s different?
Ken: Well, leadership today is– First of all, it’s a huge challenge. It’s lonely at times. What you’re really doing leadership is all about taking an organization, helping develop or having the vision of where it’s going and then helping to move people along. It’s trying to make people comfortable with the changes that are affecting them around their lives and and allowing them to do what they do. I also think by the way that the leadership challenge around generational changes is huge here.
For example, you have a CEO that is an extra trying to lead an organization of xers, some boomers and these millennials that everybody talks about, and there’s two groups of those. It’s like having chickens and cows and pigs all in the same room and trying to lead them down a path. I mean, it just doesn’t– They’re different people and they have different life experiences and because of that, leading them is a real challenge. I think leadership today is as hard as it’s ever been.
The key in our industry has been to be able to be open enough to understand what’s going on around them and help move people down the same path. Not necessarily that having that vision for that organization. I think that’s really a challenge.
Michael: I think there’s something that you wrote that references like a critical part of leadership today is taking care of yourself. Yes, am I-
Michael: Tell me a little bit about what your thoughts and reflections are on that.
Ken: Well, leaders today are– I’ve always described it a little bit like being taxed to death by debts because everybody wants a little piece of something, or they want your opinion on something. I think in order to really have that clarity of mind to do what you need to do, you’ve got to take care of yourself. You’ve got to take that time to find that center that you have. This sounds a little crunchy, but it’s not. This is about being good to yourself so that you’ve got that understanding and the sensitivity that you need to run an organization.
Michael: All right. Can I put you on the spot, Ken?
Michael: All right. We all have groups to lead and teams to lead. You’ve got a considerable team to lead. Can I ask you what do you do to take care of that part of your leadership? What do you do to attend to yourself?
Ken: There’s some very sort of simple things I do and then there’s a couple things that include other people. The first one I do that includes other people is I belong to a CEO group. I’ve belong to it for almost eight years now. It is singly the most important thing I’ve done for me as a person and as a leader, to have clarity around what I’m doing.
Michael: Is it cross-industry?
Ken: It’s cross-industry. It’s now private. It used to be part of an organization. We all quit, and then people said, wait a minute, let’s structure it ourselves and we did. It’s 14 people. It ranges from a guy that has a company that’s, I don’t know, almost $2 billion to– They’ve grown all during this period. It’s really interesting.
Michael: How often does that group meet?
Ken: That group meets once a month for 10 months. They last about– They run from 9:30 to 1:30.
Michael: Okay. Good for you.
Ken: It’s so valuable. I will tell you that every time anyone brings a personnel issue to this group, the group looks at him or her. We have a number of women leaders as well. You know what to do. Fire him because we all don’t [crosstalk]
Michael: [laughs] I’m laughing because I’ve facilitated similar like mastermind groups for probably 20 years. That’s a kind– We usually meet three times a year. We had that conversation takes place about three times a year.
Michael: You know what to do.
Ken: If you think about it, if you’re in that role, and you’re struggling with that, there aren’t a lot of people you can talk to. It really is– Having said that, this group also has held people feet to the fire if we’re starting to make some changes and we talked about those and ideas or [crosstalk]
Michael: Out of curiosity, does the group ever meet offsite? Does it ever do a social event or a longer event?
Ken: We meet 10 times a year. We don’t meet in the summer for a little bit until Christmas.
Michael: August and December the typical months off.
Ken: Right. We have a Christmas party in December, we do a retreat for two nights in March, we have one of our members has a plane and just likes to host us in some of these houses he belongs to. We do that but we always do an offsite and it’s half social and half not.
Michael: Okay, good for you. All right, that’s number one.
Ken: That’s number one-.
Michael: You belong to a group, okay.
Michael: What else?
Ken: The other thing that I do and I try to do this four times a week and to me this is the other thing I do to keep my head straight.
Ken: As I walk and I try to walk three miles. Now, it doesn’t happen every week but most of the time it does.
Michael: Do you do it alone?
Ken: I do that alone, I leave my technology behind. I don’t want to listen to music. It’s really a chance for me to listen to my head and it’s really, really helpful because without it I can’t find my center.
Michael: Yes, good for you.
Ken: Honestly those are the two major things I do and one of the reasons I do the second one is I can do it anywhere, I can be on the road somewhere and go for a walk.
Michael: Yes, right.
Ken: There’s nothing like walking through a town and seeing the town and just getting the sense of where you are. Those are the two major ones I do.
Ken: I have two kids and they keep me centered.
Michael: Yes, right on they’ll put life into perspective for you.
Ken: That’s right.
Michael: Another related issue to being a leader is finding the talent and recruiting the talent to be on the team and you’ve got some interesting reflections on that, could you share that as well.
Ken: Sure. First of all– Look I’m going to turn this a little because my attitude on recruitment is changing. First of all I think the most important piece of recruiting anybody to an organization is first and foremost, what kind of culture do you have with your organization. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What do people say about it? Do they like working there? Are they happy? And because of that cultural piece, I think the recruitment becomes easy if you’ve got that right.
One of the mistakes we make in this industry is we spend a lot of time talking to people trying to convince people this is a really good industry, hell this is a great industry.
Ken: But it can be a great industry and a sucky place to work.
Michael: Okay, got it. Right.
Ken: If you got a sucky pace to work I don’t care how much money-
Michael: Recruitment is not the solution to the problem, is it?
Ken: The other thing is, people want a cookie cutter solution. There is no cookie cutter. You got to piece this together. I have probably one of the most talented teams in Washington by far. How did I find them? I don’t really know. I know we’ve hired a number of interns who’ve come through the ranks. I look at our vice president of meetings, she was a staff associate she was when she was hired many years ago and she grew with the organization.
That’s a key piece and I think organizations have to be able to let people grow within them or grow out. If they are not growing with the organizations as the organization meets the changes, then it’s time for them to move on to something else.
Michael: You have made some references to finding talent in maybe among segments of the population that we don’t normally look at, right?
Ken: Right. For example, I give you a good example. We were looking for someone who could come in and work with our sponsorship and a couple of programs in here and I just so happen to be at a PTA meeting at my kid’s elementary school and I became friends with a woman who was one of the most talented people I know. She was doing more stuff at that school, she had the technology, she’s doing the directory, she’s doing all these stuff.
Well, I went and sat down and had coffee with her and said, “I want you to come work for us,” and she was like, “No, I don’t want to do that, no I don’t think so. I don’t think I could do it. I don’t know what the technology is like today.” I said, “Don’t worry about that, we’ll teach you the technology, come work for us.” Okay I think she came and worked for us for I think two and a half years and what we had to do was help her build her self-confidence back and she could work again. There’s incredibly talented people out there. I know that organization is a wave. It’s done a lot of– We’re taking really talented insurance people who’ve retired and bringing them back and letting them work again. We’ve got to be creative. We are not going to find 35 year old brokers trained who we can then recycle, okay.
Michael: Pre-packaged with a ribbon on them.
Ken: Yes, that’s it. The other thing is we can’t always be looking for brokers. We can’t be looking for what, which I’m not a crazy fan of the word ‘producer’ because that’s not the only segment of these organizations. If you think about an organization that is $50 million in revenue, they have a lot more talented people than just producer.
The producers are there but who’s doing the real customer service the PSRs are. You’re going to need marketing people, you need all kinds of service people and a person who can sell doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a person who can service, those are two different things.
Michael: At the level that you operate with the larger brokers because you made reference to the term marketing which in our industry can be a confusing term, do you see more of the larger firms hiring what I would call marketers on staff, in other words I don’t mean marketing upstream to carriers, I mean marketing to the market play.
Ken: We’re talking about classic marketing versus insurance market.
Michael: Yes, right.
Ken: In classic marketing I can tell you and I would even take the globals out of it and I will tell you that the next 100 firms on the list of top 200 are hiring people who understand how to market and position themselves because if you’re really an independent broker it’s really about your brand.
Ken: In order to understand branding, you’ve got to be a marketing person. Marketing people are driving brand in this industry and I think that’s going to change some of the dynamics of how we look at producers and books of business.
Michael: Right. Who generates leads, who’s responsible for the ongoing nurturing of the customer relationship post-sale, who develops the customer journey. All that jazz doesn’t necessarily fall to producer or broker into this.
Ken: It’s going to take six other people behind that person to do all those things that a client expects. You can see where we’re seeing the margins are being stretched in some areas which by the way I think is a huge factor going forward, I think we’re going to see margins change. As part of that process we’re also going to see the way the compensation structures laid out has to change because there’s more people involved in touching that client.
Michael: Okay. For now I’m going to let my imagination go wild on that one but I think I know what you’re getting to. In regards to that marketer position, in the world you don’t operate in as much, I’ll refer to safe codes most recent annual agency survey and I think they’re coming up with another one in a couple of months. I’m going back a year and a half in terms of when this data was gathered. Obviously we’re talking about personalized agencies and mostly main street agencies, what they determined was that as I recall was 56% of their agencies had hired a marketer or at least somebody on the staff was doing marketing.
Now what I think I’ve ran into very quickly is that when people say “marketer” often we just don’t know what we’re talking about. The average agency principal, they’re not a marketer so they’re maybe hoping they can just check off a checkbox and say, “Okay, I got somebody doing social posting for me, I got that taken care of.”
Ken: The thing is social media and PR and, “oh right we’re sponsoring that fair down the street”… that’s not marketing. I don’t want to discourage anybody but I would guess that those smaller firms that’s their challenge is that they– When you’re talking about marketing you’re really talking about branding. You’re talking about having a brand. It’s not someone’s name, it’s an organizational brand. It can be the name of somebody but at the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter because you want to keep that business.
In order to do that you’ve got to have a brand that people attach themselves to. I would probably think the SEFCO guys a lot of– The small– That’s part of the main street challenge which is in order to succeed and look to the future you’ve got to be growing and any organization has to grow even if it’s a little bit you still have to have some movement.
A lot of these organizations are struggling with that and they’re misreading the tea leaves. If you don’t have the kind of business that you’re generating and you’re responding to the efficient needs of that client, you’re challenged.
Michael: The research is pretty unequivocal that those who are investing in some form of marketing are seeing a return on their investment. That the challenge is as we go through and thrush our way through this period of turbulence that’s when industries mature, grow up, figure things out. Part of what’s happening now and I’m trying to facilitate this conversation in the industry is to recognize that marketing number one it’s a very sophisticated skill set. It’s an entire skill set.
Ken: It’s changing really rapidly.
Michael: It’s changing really rapidly and there different levels of it, certain other words there. If somebody could hire a marketing coordinator and they do social posting and they say happy Halloween or whatever. A marketing director with a little more skill set, maybe a manager with a little more skill set. Then maybe a CMO. At the level– Some of your members might be big enough where they should have a CMO. They should have a chief marketing officer who manages the team. They’ve got the vision and the strategy and they work closely with the CEO and it’s a very comprehensive effort.
The average agency is never going to have a full-time CEO or CMO. There’s no way to justify that but they need to have some sense of what the outcomes are that they’re expecting and the plan and the strategy and some path forward.
Ken: It’s critical and you’ve also got– You make sure that that team, that sophisticated team is not only generating the kind of leads you need but people are closing that business. Then they’re credited for those businesses that they’re bringing in. That’s a major change in the industry because we don’t usually credit anybody but a producer. We’ve got members that are doing–It’s fascinating the kinds of stuff they’re putting out there.
They’re tweeting out information that people need that touches someone’s attention. One of the things that is a challenge for the industry overall is if you look at the organizations– I equated to the same thing as being bilingual.
We are moving towards being bilingual organizations. Right now we are single language industry. Digital and analytics are something that we-just not everybody has the capacity. What people are doing is they’re hiring the strength of it in this organizations to push the capacity down. 10 years from now we won’t even worry about this because everybody will be bilingual but right now we’re not.
Michael: The two languages are what, analog and digital?
Ken: I would say yes, analog and digital.
Michael: Or real world and digital world.
Ken: It’s like yesterday or today.
Michael: I do want to ask you one last big question because you’ve referenced a bunch of big stuff. I want to ask you to try and weave this together. You’ve referred to all of the change insure tech, changes in consumer behavior, emerging technologies that are from within the industry, emerging– you probably have at the back of your mind technologies that are changing the nature of risk itself, on and on.
Ken: All the above.
Michael: All the above, changes in marketing. [laughs] Interesting time to be an insurance broker or an agency CEO. If we said three years from now, the next three years, where is it going in three years? What does an agency owner need to do now to be viable three years from now?
Ken: First of all, let me give the industry something that it doesn’t think about much. This is an industry that does respond to change and does it really, really well and has been doing it for hundreds of years because the world has changed every 10 years and we’ve responded to it. We’ve responded to the risk needs, everybody needs this product or this coverage. It’s not really a product. They need the advice around the risk so that they’re– they can take risk and they can build new things. If SpaceX and Tesla didn’t happen overnight and the investors in that had to have some levels of protection. This industry does pretty well with change it just doesn’t seem to recognize this a lot.
Michael: Is it time to do it again? This time first to change again?
Ken: We’re always changing.
Michael: We’re always changing.
Ken: We’re always changing. We’re always going through a dynamic change. Now you look at the broker’s sector. I’m a big fan of the broker’s sector because of the relationships with clients and the consultants a role that a broker has to play today. You are not selling products anymore and if you are you might as well get out of the way because if somebody– If you can just sell a product then unless there’s a need there for some personal security. That’s what the relationship piece is. It’s really an opportunity for a broker to make some business person– When a business person is buying insurance they just want to know they’re covered.
Don’t get me the details, tell me it’s done. Then if there’s a problem fix it for me. I think that the broker role is growing rather than shrinking in the dynamics of the market place. Actually, it’s going to be interesting to see how the carrier market continues to evolve because there’s more and more capital players in the market place. There more ways in which you can access capital and because of the investment environment we’ve been in and the interest rate environment for the last couple of years there appears to be a lot of it around and more and more structure being put around it to be able to pick up and take risk.
We’ve seen some of that on some of the big stuff like Berkshire when Berkshire went in and did the sidecar. You have these opportunities where someone’s trying to basically sweep in and use some of their capital in an efficient way. Having said all that, the broker itself is under a lot of pressure because the behavior changes as we– Think of this, in the last couple of years say, if you want three years out, the last couple of years think of what the iPhone has done to your life. Think about when you go onto a website how impatient you become when the website is slow.
Michael: What? Six seconds. I’m out of here.
Ken: Remember the old days where the little ball was spinning around? Well there’s no ball anymore. Think about how you feel when you go into a website and you’re trying to purchase something and it doesn’t happen efficiently. It doesn’t happen like Amazon where you go click, click, click and the thing is at your house.
Michael: That afternoon somebody shows up at my house.
Ken: Yes. The behavior’s changing, the speed of change is really changing and so the demands are different. If I were sitting there listening and trying to figure out, Okay, what do I do? Where do I start? First of all, understand what you do and do it well. That’s the first thing because a lot of people try to be everything to everybody. Number two, as a broker, I would say do my clients value my advice and counsel and what I’m bringing to the table or are they really just looking at me dropping a product off? If you’re just delivering a product then you’re just a used car dealer. You’re not doing anything and a packaged product doesn’t really– I mean, it’s nice to have a general liability product and some property products, but at the end of the day, a product is like a box. No business is in a box. Every business is a little different.
You want to make sure that you’ve got your niches figured out and then listen to your client, listen to your client because people don’t listen. They think they know, but they don’t.
If I were you, I’d be listening to my clients and what their needs are. How are they changing? You want to find out how they want their product delivered, go talk to him, ask him. You can ask him.
“Do you want to see me twice a year or not? Do you really want me to take you out to dinner or you just want me to come in and drop and talk to you about your business?”
Michael: Or you just want the tickets to the game? [laughs]
Ken: Yes, exactly. You know what I mean?
Michael: Without me.
Ken: Yes. You want to take your kids-
Michael: -instead of me.
Ken: I really think that you just have to be aware. I also think it’s really important to be involved with other peer groups of people. You’ve got to be around your peer group. You learn from each other.
I chuckle because we’ve always been referred to as Switzerland.
Michael: Oh, okay.
Ken: In our meeting, some of CEOs whose organizations bloody each other in the streets. We’ll sit down at the same table with other CEOs and have a conversation that’s very honest and real. There is no secret soft here. I don’t believe it. I don’t believe in secret soft. If that were the case, there’d be a lot more money in this industry. That’s what I would be doing.
The other thing is that you can’t prescribe it and I think our industry wants the package. What is the package? We were pressured for a long time on talent acquisition. “What do I do? What do I do?” Well, hell. If you haven’t figured out how your succession planning is going to be for your own organization, that’s a problem. That’s like figuring out where your next customer’s going to come from.
Michael: Right. It’s just the biggest sale.
Michael: Ken, if people want to learn more about The Council and/or perhaps if they had a question for you, how should they make contact?
Ken: Probably the best way is ciab.com.
Michael: C-I-A-B, okay.
Ken: .com. I’m listed right on there. Anyone who wants to reach out to me, just reach out. I’m happy to talk to anybody.
Michael: Ken, this was an engaging and a delightful conversation. I want to thank you for your time and for sharing your wisdom.
Ken: Thank you, Michael and I urge you to keep rattling the cage.
Michael: [laughs] Yes, trust me. I’ll keep rattling it.
Ken: The more we do that, the better off everybody is.
Michael: Thank you so much.
Ken: Thank you.