Adapting to a Virtual Agency Environment
Starting a virtual agency requires a focus on clear communication and interpersonal connections.
The good news: remote work is easier than ever to set up and implement from an operations standpoint.
The downside: it’s easy to lose aspects of your insurance agency culture that improve performance and team satisfaction.
If you are like many insurance agency owners, you may be a bit apprehensive to embrace the concept of creating a remote agency. Or you may be excited at the possibility of increased profitability and lower operational cost. Trust me, whatever side of the fence you are standing on, I have some ideas that I think will help you to determine when and if a remote agency is the right fit for you!
Clearly define everyone’s virtual role
While this step may seem unnecessary if you transition a team that already has clear roles, it’s critical to starting a remote agency format.
Introducing the new arrangement is a good time to check in with your team to reflect on and clarify everyone’s roles. This allows for clear expectations at the start of virtual agency creation. If your remote team is a hybrid or reconfigured team, this ensures everyone has a clear idea of their input and understands other team members’ contributions and ultimately, overall team success.
Set clear daily calendar expectations and requirements
Remote work provides an enormous amount of flexibility for team members. On the flip side, team members may be at their most productive at different intervals of the day. Outlining clear boundaries of when team members need to be online and when it’s appropriate to be offline provides a structure and routine to remote work experience. For some agency teams, working remotely is something new, and providing a structure, strategy and suggestions for your team can be helpful. This ensures team members are aligned and able to add flexibility without losing productivity, or losing their minds if they’re stuck indoors and managing family dynamics.
Dedicate time to nurture and build relationships
As conversations around the agency office disappear, make sure to include some time during remote meetings to check in with your team. Depending on your team’s offline dynamics this could be more formal or just simply periodic casual catch up time. It may also be necessary to dedicate more time to a remote meeting for team building to offset the feeling isolation.
Touch base with individual team members frequently
If one-on-ones are a practice for your team offline, it’s important to continue and or even expand. In a remote agency setting, you may lose impromptu conversations on the sales floor or over lunch where questions are answered quickly, or new ideas emerge. Adding time or frequency to your “touch-bases” meetings allows for continuous communication with your team and interactions that may have otherwise happened organically in the office environment.
Develop consistent communication channels
Remote teams require formal structured meetings, “touch-bases” with individual team members, and a platform for team members to chat directly as they do their work. As communication channels expand, try to establish consistency for different team needs. Establishing consistency will ensure your whole team is continuously interacting with the same resources. I personally like Google Chat or Slacker, but there are several other great resources out there.
Bottom line is the age of doing insurance via a brick and mortar location is quickly dissolving. Remote working is a trend that a lot of companies, and more specifically insurance companies, are going to adopt in the next few years – and many have already taken the plunge. If you feel like the benefits of building a remote agency benefits the growth of your agency, then why not add some remote workers to your team today? It could be the best way forward for your agency!
Mernice Oliver, affectionately known as “Coach MO, ” is the president and head coach of Mernice Oliver International, LLC, a coaching & consulting firm helping women insurance entrepreneurs launch, build, grow and scale thriving insurance agencies. She is also founder & CEO of the National Association for Advancement of Women In Insurance, a professional leadership organization focused on helping minority and multicultural women build success and thriving insurance careers. Coach MO has rendered transformational results her specialty of mindset, agency management, and staff development for her clients which have made her a much sought after coach, consultant, and speaker on the regional and national platforms.
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