Mike Reddy – President of the Benefits Division and Senior Vice Preisdent of Field Operations at Keystone Insurers Group, on the Connected Insurance Podcast, presented by Agency Revolution

Why agents must change their ways… or their days will be numbered.

Almost a third of a century ‘in the biz’ – and still on the cutting edge. Long-time benefit wizard, Mike Reddy, serves as President of the Employee Benefits Division at the Keystone Insurers Group, as well as SVP of Field Operations. From this unusually powerful perch, Mike shares his observations of an industry in transition:

  • The ‘different’ behaviors that separate the winners from the losers. (In his role as SVP of Field Operations at Keystone, Mike gets the ‘birds-eye’ on hundreds of agencies. As he said, ‘There will be clear disruption… and clear winners and clear losers’. He shared what he thinks will determine which way agencies will go).
  • The future of benefits in the P&C agency. (Whether you have a full-fledged benefit division – or you write it when you can – Mike shares his crystal ball with the industry right here).
  • Strategy vs. tactics (and planning vs. chaos!). Mike shares his insight on what happens to agencies when they really plan… and thoughts on how to go about it – the right way.

Please don’t miss this conversation with one of the insurance industry’s most respected benefit and planning leaders – and one of the industry’s tireless advocates for the independent agent. Listen today and get ideas you’ll put into practice tomorrow!

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 Jans: Mike Reddy, thank you so much for joining us today. How are you?

Mike Reddy: Doing very well. How are you today?

Michael: Well, I’m doing fine. I got my coffee. Not all my candidates won in the election, but the Blazers did so it all balances out. How about you? [laughs]

Mike: Same thing. My coffee’s in front of me. I don’t know that anybody had all their candidates win last night so maybe that’s a good thing for the country.

Michael: Yes. There we go. A little bit of balance there, but in any case. It’s always good when the Blazers win. We can look forward to another season where they do the best they can, and then they meltdown in the playoff, so [laughs]. It’s a long history of broken hearts already. That being said Mike, let’s trivia out of the way. If you would like– I want to start with a little thumbnail sketch of who you are and how you got to be where you are. You have an interesting story.

Mike: Sure. I’ve spent about 28 years in this business, most of it on the employee benefits side. About nine years ago the agency that I was President of and leading, sold our employee benefits division to Keystone Insurance Group. The Keystone’s franchise of insurance agencies. One of the value plays that they wanted to offer to their partners was the opportunity to excel in the benefits arena. We’ve taken a relatively modest benefit shop and grown it to about 40 employees.

As we assist our Keystone partners in 12 soon to be 13 states on all things benefits. My background was, I started out as a producer, ultimately into the role of the president of the benefits division. I now lead all field operations. My time with between the field operations. I do a lot of strategic planning and it’s something that I’m passionate about than working with our benefits folks. I do a lot of things where a lot I had to stay really busy, but I love it.

Michael: A couple of things. Number one, for listeners who are thinking the only thing Mike is going to talk about is benefits, and if you don’t have benefits you might want to run. Now, I would suggest don’t, because there are two topics that Mike and I agreed we were going to dive into. One strategic planning, which affects everybody and I think we’ll start with that. Then two, benefits


because it’s really really important in the industry. Even if you don’t have. If our listeners, some of them don’t have a benefits division, I think you should listen to what Mike has to say about that.

Now, I understand that you and I have had a history as well. You probably [laughs] know more about it than I do and I have to offer my apologies that I’m not. It’s very different when you’re on stage and there are hundreds of people, or when you’re running a program and there are hundreds or thousands of people. Unless you make that personal connection, sometimes it’s hard to put names and faces together. You and I had a little bit of a history back there. What was that 10 plus years ago? What was that?

Mike: Yes. Over that. In probably 2002 or 2003, I was really looking for some help from a marketing standpoint. We were growing and I couldn’t find anything in the space that I was in, the benefits space that I was satisfied with from a marketing standpoint. I came across some Quantum Club stuff and I got this big box full of stuff. I said, “This what I’ve been looking for.” I became a member of the Quantum Club and I did that for several years. Attended the big roll outs in Chicago.

Michael: Right. Boot camps. Right [laughs].

Mike: Yes. That was it. We did and I just took the principles from a marketing standpoint that I learned, and I applied them on a benefit space. It worked well for us and achieved a lot of growth. I appreciate having that available when it was because it was pivotal in our growth.

Michael: Well, okay. Terrific. I hope you’re still taking advantage of some of those principles. All right. As I said, let’s break this down into two chunks. Number one, strategic planning. Number two, employee benefits. Your interest in strategic planning. Does that come from some of the strategy that you applied when you were actively running your own thing? Or does it come from work you’re doing at Keystone working with agents and brokers or? What got you started along the path to recognize the critical importance of strategy?

Mike: Sure. The answer is, “Yes. All of the above.”

Michael: Okay. All of the above.

Mike: I came upon a profound need for strategic planning in our organization, probably four or five years ago. We began to do some planning on our own, recognizing that at some point along the way, probably three years ago, that we needed some help. I hired a consultant to come in and take us through a process. Not only I had him take me through the process for my division at Keystone, I had him take me through the process. My teams, I should say my teams and not me, because this is all team based.

Through our traditional property and casualty agency, which is a Keystone partner. Just recognized that there was a lot of power in proactively and on purpose putting a plan in place. We follow a process called, Straight Up, which you got your strategic which is planning for tomorrow, today in your operation, you got to plan for today-today and you got to look at the financial side because you’ve got to finance both what you’re doing today plus what you’re going to do tomorrow.

In that whole process recognizing that strategic planning is not an event. It’s not something that happens one time and then you get a book and you put it up on a shelf, or maybe you try to execute from it, but it’s a process and it’s something– One of the words that we use in the strategic planning process is renewal, which is something that all insurance agents are familiar with the renewal or sometimes we call that a continuation.

When you go through a planning process, you have your periods certain in which you’re going to try to execute, but along the way you measure how you’re doing, you look at the metrics and then you renew your plan. And if you do it on a continual basis, then you’re proactively on purpose planning all the time, rather than having an event where you make a bunch of changes and try to fix whatever is broken.

Michael: All right. I have a lot of questions I’m going to ask you about this. Number one, because you work with a lot of agents and brokers, in your experience, is it the minority that engages in strategy and planning, do you think?

Mike: I think it’s a very small minority that proactively do it in a manner that yields significant results over time.

Michael: Okay. [laughs] You gave me the answer I thought you were gonna give me, [chuckles] but let me wipe off my sad face. I think there are theories about why, but why do you think when it’s so obvious that an entrepreneurial enterprise should have a map? It should have a sense of direction to really think about where it’s going and how it’s– As they say, “Where are we going to play and how are we going to win?” Those are the two strategy questions. When that’s so critical, why do you think so few do that?

Mike: I think what happens is we get into what we’re doing, we get used to what we’re doing, we tend to begin reacting to everything that’s happening, and we lose that entrepreneurial edge that brought us into this business that fueled us to win that excitement. I think that gets stalled sometimes and we’re going through the motions. In this business, there are a lot of agencies who are in most people’s eyes successful, they make good money, they may not be growing. We’re a great business where if you do a decent job 90% of your clients buy again from you next year. It shouldn’t be that hard to grow.

Michael: Okay. So you think to some extent, I mean, what you see, what you achieve some critical mass, it’s too easy to make money?

Mike: I think–

Michael: That’s part of it, okay. That that will probably change. That’s maybe a bold prediction. It will be certainly quite possible to have very, very strong agency or brokerage, but easy isn’t necessarily not what I would predict given turbulent waters. I mean, really, I think, is that right? Would you agree that the agents are going to need to really stay awake, alert and be able to navigate through some kind of turbulent waters in the next few years?

Mike: Absolutely. We’ve seen that disruption in different areas of our business and it’s happening here and there. At some point, we’re going to see some pretty significant disruption and it’s going to shake out– It’s going to create some clear winners and losers.

Michael: Okay. [laughs] That’s a big statement that I think I’m not going to disagree with, nor really would many of my previous 90 plus guests. It’s a strong statement that there will be clear disruption and clear winners and losers, right? I’m going to ask you to comment on that, but I still want to, I want to dig into your concept of strategic planning. Let me share an observation. Tell me if this is what you see. Step one, agents realized, “Gosh, there’s a lot of change.” It is a turbulent time.

Technologies are changing all over the place. Consumer behavior is changing all over the place. Then the Guru’s come in and they say, “Do this, do that. Here’s a really nifty tactic.” Then a lot of people end up chasing the shiny new thing, the next shiny new thing. They’re looking for tricks or tactics and technique before they get clear on their core concept of strategy. In other words, they’re really haven’t figured out the fundamental core principles that are going to align all the tactics and techniques. Do you see that a lot?

Mike: Yes, very well stated. Oftentimes, we believe that there’s a silver bullet that there is. Sometimes that silver bullet, if only if I could just hire the right producer, I can just hit that rock star account manager or account executive, whatever. So it becomes a series of tactical moves that maybe are not tied to a cohesive strategy, and we see that this silver bullet didn’t really pan out or this one didn’t really pan out.

Michael: Or somebody says, “Here’s a twinkling new Instagram’s thing to do.” [laughs] Which is fine, but it has to fit within the context of strategy. When you think of a strategy, like a strategy versus tactics, or strategy versus technique, how do you define strategy itself?

Mike: I think what needs to happen is that an organization in this sense, an insurance agency needs to look at where they’re at right now and develop perspective. When you think about an agency that’s got 10 or 15 or 20 employees or however many they have, you’ve got 20 or 30 different perspectives. People have different histories with the company, different tenures in the business and everything else.

Everybody strategy is going to look a little bit different based upon the perspective of the people in the group. So often we try to cookie cutter something, and like you were alluding to earlier, you just grab the Instagram thing, or you grab the marketing piece de jure, or the carrier de jure that seems to be working for everybody else. It’s probably not the right thing for your organization and what we have.

Speed in western business culture is highly valued. If we have a problem, we move from point A to point B as rapidly as possible to try to solve that problem. Oftentimes that eliminates getting the correct perspective. If you do strategic planning right, you circle the problem and you look at it from multiple directions, multiple perspectives, so that you can get a true perspective or a true understanding of what the problem is.

Michael: Okay. I love talking about strategy because I think– If I was going to throw everything out and I could only hold on to one thing. Yes, it would be ultimately would be strategy. I say that as a lot of people CBS. The marketing guys got a lot of marketing tricks. That makes me shiver when people say that because I think it’s so critically important that all of those “tricks” [laughs] that they are really aligned around a core strategy.

This notion that you have of really circling that problem until you look at it from all angles. It seems to me that that really is the critical part of strategic development. Here’s my perspective and then I want your feedback on that. That a fundamental purpose of what strategy is supposed to do. Is it’s supposed to assess what’s happening in the real world. Like really take a hard look at those trends and forces that are changing and affecting the world that we live in.

Then from that point of view we begin to identify strategies that we think with higher probability will allow us to win. It’s like once we have that strategy, I think we want to– It’s like we want it to be a hard diamond. You want to go hit it with a sledgehammer. You want to look for everything that’s wrong in it, because if you don’t find the stuff that’s wrong in it, if you don’t find the weaknesses trust me the world is going to.

Mike: Yes.

Michael: I think it’s important that– share your thoughts on this one. That when an entrepreneurial enterprise or an insureprenuer, and insurance agency or broker develops their Strategy that they really have to spend a fair amount of time not just looking internally. Like, “What are our strengths?” Also, what’s happening out there? Who’s gunning for us? Who are our immediate competitors? Who are the emerging channel competitors?

What are the new channels? What are the changes in consumer behavior? What are the changes in technology? What are all of those things that are outside of our control that give us the big picture about what’s happening, the context of what’s happening? Then we look at what’s within our control, so that we can navigate successfully through the that stuff. My guess is you don’t see a lot of that.

Mike: It’s really interesting that you phrased it like you did. It’s like you teed me up to knock it out of the park. You talked about your experience as a marketing person, and

[sound cut]

from that standpoint it doesn’t paint the full picture. When we’re doing planning, we use the phrase called Breakthrough is Horizontal. Meaning that we’ve got a bunch of people that are from different verticals within an organization, but we got to come in together and eliminate the vertical so that we can get to the right answer. A lot of what we do is working with tools, such as you said, strengths, weakness, opportunities- [crosstalk]

Michael: Right. The old SWOT analysis. Okay.

Mike: Yes. We call it what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s missing and what’s confused, but we-[crosstalk]

Michael: Okay. That’s good. That’s a right or downer. What was that again? Instead of using SWOT, strength, weakness, opportunity and threat, you use a different model?

Mike: Yes. We talk about what’s right within our organization. We talk about what’s wrong. We talk about what’s missing from the organization. We talk about what’s confused within our organization. It’s just a different perspective on SWOT. It gives people a language that draws out the answers that are going to be helpful. Then going on further, we’re using tools that identify internal patterns and trends within our organization. What’s going on internally and then we look at external patterns and trends. What’s going on outside our organization.

When you get a roomful of people, six to 12 people from an organization, who are the thought leaders and who have the highest emotional quotient, intelligence quotient and leadership quotient. When you put them all in a room, when you knock down the barriers and you begin to address the issues, looking at what’s right and wrong, missing and confused. What’s going in our industry. What’s going in our organization. What’s going on outside our organization, you begin to develop a much clearer picture of what the issues are so that you can make good strategic moves going forward.

Michael: All right. I’ll ask you one question. I’m not going to ask you what’s right and what’s wrong inside your organization. When you look at the outside world, the same one that we’re all operating in, what are you seeing right now as those big trends and forces that agents and brokers absolutely have to pay attention to?

Mike: Big trends and forces. Carriers look to the agency system as a distribution channel. If they get production out of us, less expensive than they can do it any other way, they’ll continue to do that. I think they’re going to continue to look for ways to increase productivity. Production of premium into their organizations. They’re going to look outside just the traditional agency model. We’ve seen a very large carrier recently partnered with Amazon. I would sense that we’re going to have more and more partnerships that work like that.

We’ve seen Google get in and get out, but they’ve made heavy investments in the insurance business. I think we’re going to continue to see heavy investments from outside organizations into the insurance world. It’s going to necessitate the agency distribution system to get more efficient and to get more productive. We’re going to have to also embrace rather than dig our heels in with Insurtech and all the advancements being made in the insurance world. We’re going to have to embrace it and make it a part of our practice, so that it becomes an asset for us as well.

Michael: Okay. Let me see if I can assess out what you see as critical things. Number one, you think our channel is going to be under some pressure from carriers to continue to be productive, right?

Mike: Yes.

Michael: We need to be good at that. Yes? Okay, we need to be good at production and not just attracting new costumers, but the continuation of the relationship. Then you see Insurtech as an emerging threat, but I think what you’re saying is agents need to embrace the appropriate technologies and as a channel.

Mike: Absolutely.

Michael: The agents need to end as a channel, we need to.

Mike: Yes.

Michael: All right. If you’re going to deliver a message, if you were to say something to the agents that are listening, and if they’re listening to this podcast, then there’s some higher probability that they understand that strategy is important, but I won’t pretend that understanding means doing. If you’re going to give a piece of insight or a piece of guidance about strategic planning, this is a great time a year of course. We can be looking at the upcoming year, what would you say?

Mike: I believe very much so in the planning process, to the point where I’ve been making sure that I’m trained and educated in being able to deliver the process. I think that part of planning is just doing things on purpose and proactively. I find the most productive people that I’ve ever been around are proactive. They’re not reactive. It doesn’t matter what sphere you are in, the most productive and the best people in whatever industry or area, it’s because they’re proactive. They’re making things happen rather than reacting to things that are happening to them. I would encourage people to be proactive.

Michael: Got it. Words of wisdom for the entire channel. Now, I want to move on to the other topic that is clearly within your domain of expertise. Why don’t we start big picture. What do you see is the trends and forces that are affecting the benefit’s side of the industry?

Mike: We’re going to continue to have the legislative arena volley about a number of different grenades, so to speak. I mean with the Medicare for all discussion and the pressure for universal healthcare that’s going to continue to be pushed. I think at this point it’s still so expensive that it’s just not feasible at this time. There’s going to be continued pressure for government involvement. That doesn’t necessarily mean that’s going to happen right away, but it’s something that we need to be involved in.

We need to be a part of a conversation, and again being proactive rather than letting it happen to us. With the price, the cost of healthcare just continuing to escalate, there’s going to be a greater call for transparency. The health insurance or healthcare is the only thing that we purchased sight unseen. If I went into an auto dealership and said, “Hey, listen, I just want the black one. I don’t care how much it costs.”

People would think I was crazy to buy a vehicle like that. That’s the way we buy healthcare. I think transparency is going to be a big part of that. I think there’d be a call from the public for more transparency. We’re going to ask our healthcare providers to not only be transparent, but we’re going to ask them to be competent. My dad used to joke around and say, “You know, half of all doctors finished in the bottom 50% of their class.”

Michael: [laughs] I just hope they’re not mine.

Mike: Exactly, but we’re going to begin to ask doctors to quantify their quality. We do it in every other arena that we’re in. We look at quality measures. I think there’s just going to be a continued movement. The transparency element of that, it will make it easier and easier using it for people to see what things cost and what kind of quality they’re getting for what they’re paying for. Those are big trends right now.

Michael: Let me see if I’m reading between the lines or making stuff up. I think to some extent you’re saying that the benefit’s world has a vulnerability because of political perception and maybe very likely legitimate political perception and certainly consumer expectations or consumer frustrations. There’s a vulnerability that then could lead to some uncertainty about the stability of that as a business enterprise. Am I going too far?

Mike: I’m not concerned about it as a business enterprise as long as we are evolving, the agency channel is evolving as a business along with what the healthcare market is doing. If you continue to do business the same way, your days are numbered. We do ground our offices is like 2010 all over again, because in 2010 when you had the Affordable Care Act passed, there was a lot of disruption in the marketplace.

You had a lot of people that just decided they won’t going to sell health insurance anymore, or they did on a much more limited basis. We saw disruption. We settled in over the last few years and gotten used to the way it was. Now, we got more disruption that’s occurring. Again, if we keep doing things along that old, “Hey, I’m going to quote hope and pray,” or if we continue to rely on the carriers to be the differentiating advantage [crosstalk] we’re going to lose. Go ahead.

Michael: Well, now you got my juices going. I think that, one thing that you said was, that if we keep doing it the old way, we’re going to lose, so there must be a new way, right? Help us draw a distinction, a clear distinction between, like the old way that’s just not going to work and what you think that new way is.

Mike: Well, part of understanding the way I’m thinking the new is that I’ve been saying for the last, probably eight or 10 years with commissions in the health insurance arena are eventually going away. People used to look at me like I had a third eye, but now that’s starting to resonate because we were seeing in some geographies, in some– [crosstalk]

Michael: Right. I’ve got clients who lose money on every single policy that they sell. They’re beginning to wonder, whether or not in their state, whether that’s a good line of business to be in.

Mike: Even in the 100+ plus market, oftentimes commission are disappearing, and it’s being replaced by fees. If producers begin thinking of themselves as business people, and thinking about what is my time worth and what should I be charging someone to spend time with them. Making sure that they are prepared if we do hopefully move to a full fee based model that they can make that transition. What you are going to find out is that, as often as in place is that your largest best relationships are subsidizing your smallest worst relation.

Michael: Right. Well, that happens in almost every line of business. There were some analysis done by a society of CPAs. It wasn’t in this country, but I think it was Australian. They discovered, I can’t remember exactly what the number was, but it was probably like 80/20 rule, that 20% of your clients. This was across industry. This was cross channels. 20% of your customers are making you really good money and their subsidizing 80%, something like that. For a lot of agents, I think that’s absolutely true.

You’ve suggested a model that certainly complies a lot with my own thinking that, let’s say, old model. Value is provided by the carrier, and that product is passed through the retail agent to the consumer new model. Clearly there’s value in the product, but as that product quote and quote passes through human hands at the retail at the agency level, additional value must be added there that’s perceived and consumed and enjoyed by the consumer. I think that’s part of what you’re saying.

Mike: Absolutely. We continue to build on that value in multiple ways. It used to be that you bought insurance from a carrier, and I’ll speak to the larger group market. You bought insurance from a carrier because it was more efficient to have them be the claims payer, the one that took the risk, the premium process, or the pharmacy benefit manager, and all of those things doing utilization review. If you have all functions going to a single entity, then that was the most efficient and least expensive model.

I mean, anytime you bring your marketplace down to one or two providers or something, it becomes somewhat inefficient, because they get big and they get fat, and they get inefficient. Now, we’re seeing that we can deconstruct the plan and you bring in a different pharmacy benefit manager, and a different claims payer through your GPA. A deconstructed plan that has tremendous transparency is significantly more efficient than a bloated single plan offered from one of the broker.

Michael: Okay. In that new model where the retail agent, where the insurepreneur, the principal takes responsibility for adding value. I suppose: number one, there’s a mindset shift. In other words, the agency model where agencies merely defined as a pass through, or merely defined as a distribution model, I think that’s in the past. Is that compliant with your thinking?

Mike: I would agree with that, yes.

Michael: Yes, okay. I mean, clearly, we are the distribution model but there have been a lot of changes in the industry. First of all, consumer demand is in the long run not satisfied with our role of not providing value. We have competitive channels that are looking for ways to add value. In that new model, with that mindset shift being made, whether it’s PNC or benefits, what do you think is different?

When you look at your most successful agencies in your network and they really are providing value. In other words, they’re not just better but they’re better and different. What is different about them than the average? You made a bold statement, by the way dude. I wrote this one down. It was, “We will have clear disruption and we will have clear winners and losers.” I’m guessing that you can look at your network and say, “Okay. I know who the clear winners are.” What is it that they are doing that is different?

Mike: Well, one of the basic things is, they’re running a business and they’re not owning a job, they’re run a business.

Michael: Yes, fair enough.

Mike: That’s different. What I see happening in the market place is– When I started in the business 28 years ago, 29 years ago, on a health insurance side, there was a dozen or 15 carriers that I could go to at anytime that would have some level of competitiveness. That was a value. You are the person that sifted through all the options and help the client with the option.

Michael: That was the value. Yes, okay, right.

Mike: It was.

Michael: Clearly, there’s a value there. All right, now?

Mike: The two carriers in a marketplace or sometimes one carrier in a marketplace, there’s no value for the guy to bring you the two, because everybody has access to the same two. The value is, how do I interpret what this tool the insurance coverage can do for me. How do I manage risk? How do I create the environment where I am a better risk? The risk management element of benefits is so much in play right now.

Whether you’re talking about managing lifestyle, utilizing wellness plans, whether it’s talking about managing the drug spend, because that has just gotten out of control. It’s managing the different elements of the health spend. If you look at the health insurance, self-funded contract, the majority of the clause is the claim spend. It’s not the cost of the reinsurance. You can work hard. I still see people do this.

They work really hard to save 10% on the fixed cost of the reinsurance contract, but that’s such a small percentage. Saving 10% of a small percentage is not nearly as impactful as saving on the claim side. Managing that risk becomes more and more because of the time. Those agencies that are involved in proactively managing that claim spend and managing the risk associated with actually having claims are the ones that are going to be the winners.

Michael: All right. I got a question for you. Certain states notwithstanding, it’s not uncommon for a number of my clients to identify and analyze the fact that their benefits department is in some cases the most profitable. I’ve seen that through often on for a long, long, long, long time. Are you seeing that as often the case?

Mike: Yes. It’s one of two reasons. One of them is good and one of them is not so good.

Michael: Okay.


Mike: The one reason is the benefits department is so profitable is because they have a book of business, maybe it’s 15% or 20% of the agency revenue. They put one person on it to just take care of it. Well, just say you’ve got a half a million dollar book of benefits revenue, and you’ve got one salary on it that you’re paying $100,000 a year, it’s not growing. It’s probably shrinking to that point, but you’re not investing in it, so it’s over profitable. That’s not so good because what happens in that model, and I’ve seen it happen many, many times.

Is that person that you’re relying on, either becomes less and less effective because they’re overworked and the business shrinks, or they retire, or they quit, or they get basket transferring. That’s difficult. The other side of it is, you’ve got an agency that is proactively, they’re growing significantly because they are doing things and their market is different than everybody else and they’re just writing a lot of new business. When you’re with the most innovative person in town, you’re going to stay with them as well. They write it, they retain it. That can be a very profitable model. Obviously, because it’s growing it’s much more desirable.

Michael: Got it. All right. You used the word innovative. This is my last question on this one, but you threw this out. The world in general doesn’t look at the insurance industry and say, “We’re giving awards for innovation.” The insurance industry earns some now. I think we’re probably, in many ways, way more innovative than the world thinks. I think we’re seeing a lot more innovation perhaps than we had seen a decade or so ago. When you think about innovation in an insurance agency, what does that look like?

Mike: It can take many forms, and it’s different for everybody. I think, innovative thinking right now this doesn’t sound really innovative, but it’s providing top-notch training to everybody on your staff. There are so many agencies that don’t have strong training programs. A lot of the training now can be delivered digitally. I think there’s some innovation there. I think innovating in your processes, doing things in a manner that looking at your processes and saying, “Okay, this is the way we’ve always done it, because that’s the way the person that taught me learned it.”

Some of those processes are 30 and 40 years old. [laughs] We have to become more innovative in our thinking those processes. Sales management. So often we’re not truly sales managing. When you marry technology up with your sales management processes, it creates sufficiency thaT haven’t been there before. I’m familiar with a program, a prospecting program that right now, and this particular program focuses on cold-calling.

It can be used on both sides, whether it’s benefits or property and casualty. It uses technology from the standpoint of an automated system that capture script up on your computer, when you determine whether it’s a voicemail versus a live person. You have one of two scripts. Then there’s an email that immediately follows up every voicemail that you leave. With all that action you can make about twice as many calls, and you make four times as many contexts in the same period of time.

Michael: It’s difficult to imagine being in sales without explaining contemporary technologies because they are innovative.

Mike: Yet, there are so many that don’t.

Michael: Okay. [laughs] It’s probably true. I couldn’t have imagine scaling agency revolution without using technology tools and making them available to the sales team.

Mike: Absolutely.

Michael: All right. Two questions I’ve got for you before we wind up. One, if you had an opportunity to deliver a message to the insurance industry, and I required you to keep it pithy, in other words P-I-T-H-Y. [laughs] It had to feed on a billboard. People are driving by 70 miles an hour. You want to deliver a message that hit them right between the eyes, what would you say to the retail insurance industry right now?

Mike: I would tell them that change is happening whether or not they like it. The best way for them to get on board is to develop a proactive plan to move forward and participate.

Michael: Got it. All right. Now, we didn’t really talk much about Keystone. I think a lot of our listeners are probably very, very familiar with it. I’ve interviewed a couple of others from Keystone in the past. If people do want to learn more what should they know, and how can they find out more either may contact with you or contact with Keystone?

Mike: Keystone is now in 12 going into 13th states. We are a franchisor of independent insurance agencies. Not a franchisor in the traditional sense of the word, but rather a partner. We bring resources to agencies that allow them to participate and compete at any level. If an agency wants to be– if they’re proactive, they’re progressive thinking and they want to grow, Keystone is a fantastic organization to partner with.

Because we provide them with the tools that will assist them in moving to that proverbial next level. Our website is keystoneinsgrp.com. I would encourage folks to jump on. We’re in 13th states, but rapidly expanding. I’ll use the 50 state, we’re coming to a state near you soon.

Michael: [laughs] Coming to a state near you. If somebody had a question for you, Mike, is there an email address or anything you want them to use to reach out to you?

Mike: Yes. First initial last name, mreddy, that’s M-R-E-D-D-Y, @keystoneinsgrp.com.

Michael: All right. Very good. Mike, this has been a really fun conversation. It really nice to reconnect with you after all of these years. It’s always a joy for me to see paths cross over and over again in this industry. On behalf of our listeners, thank you so much for joining us today.

Mike: Thank you. I’ve been privileged to be part of this conversation. You have a great day.

Michael: Thank you.

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