Does every agency need a Chief Technology Officer?

Two years ago, Fudge Insurance decided that we needed a chief technology officer. You can read my previous articles about the how and why. Our agency falls in the medium size range as agencies go, not too big but not a startup. We have been in business for 14 years, have a staff of 15 and are growing at a steady pace.  Given our agency’s place in the ecosphere of the insurance industry the question is, does every agency need a CTO?

I am well aware not every agency owner has a brother-in-law that works in Silicon Valley, much less one that is willing to leave their job and join the agency. The fact that this is a unique situation is not lost on me. If Dave Davis had not said yes to come join us, I am not sure that we would have pursued someone else to fill that role. At least not yet.

When thinking about whether you should hire a CTO there are a few things to consider. For our agency, we wanted help navigating the tech solutions so that we could make good decisions on what software to invest in. Neither my CFO nor I have a technical background. And while we can do our best to evaluate software, we knew we wanted keener eyes on the choices. There are some agency owners that are very astute when it comes to technology, but they are more of the exception than the rule.

We also had desires to create custom programs to integrate with our niche referral sources–programs that would necessitate API connections and custom workflows. The choice for this was to hire a CTO capable of completing this challenge or outsource this work. The problems we saw with outsourcing were cost and that we do not know what we do not know when it comes to finding, hiring and implementing custom work. I have since learned that we were right. There are so many questions and options when it comes to custom work that we just did not know to ask.

So, where do you land in that landscape?  If you are a smaller agency, unless you have deep pockets and a good vision on where you want your agency to go, I do not think it is the right move. Give your agency a chance to grow and mature for a few years. If you have been at this business for a while you recognize that the agency goes through growing pains as it hits new levels of maturity. While still maybe a little premature, our agency had reached the point that the CTO was a good next step. If your agency is in the medium to large size range, I recommend finding a good person to fill this role–someone who is willing to learn our business before they start suggesting changes. Dave took the first six months with us to listen and learn as much as possible.  Hiring a CTO helped us stay true to a core philosophy: hire people who are smarter than we are to do the things that are not our strong suit.

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