Practice management tips for staffing and hiringArticle added by Joe Anzalone on February 13, 2012
Joe Anzalone

Joe Anzalone

San Diego, CA

Joined: August 21, 2010

From my perspective, more producers lose income and potential income due to staff mismanagement and hiring mistakes than from all the product changes, compliance annoyances and predatory competitors combined.

Kate is a driven, successful financial advisor. She goes on three extravagant vacations a year — for free — because her carriers and marketing organizations reward her production handsomely. In 18 years of personal production, she has not had one customer complaint. She has achieved many of her goals and dreams — a home with an ocean view, a cabin in the mountains, a great marriage and three beautiful children. Is Kate happy?

Nope.

“It seems as if I have some problem, some drama, or a crisis with my staff every day,” Kate grouses. “First, my appointment setter went home yesterday because her daughter, who is also my niece, was sick and had to go home from school. And I had seven appointments! Last Friday I asked for a simple report from my receptionist, and she did it completely wrong. And John, my marketing assistant, is useless. I gave him 50 leads to call and he hasn’t gotten anywhere? Give me a break. I need to find some people that … you know … get it.”

Sound familiar?

For top producers, their biggest headaches often come from issues with their employees — their appointment setters, receptionists, policy administrators, marketing assistants — rather than from their clients or any regulatory authority. From my perspective, more income and potential income is lost due to staff mismanagement and hiring mistakes than from all the product changes, compliance annoyances and predatory competitors combined.

While it’s true that employee problems are a fact of life in business, producers can certainly minimize them by avoiding these common mistakes:
    1. Hiring friends or family:

    Can it work? Sure. But what if it doesn’t? Too often, the hard-charging, type-A personality producer figures they can hire from their existing pool of friends, friends of clients, spouses (yes, even ex-spouses), children, nieces and nephews. Often, they are not qualified. They mishandle a workshop and set zero appointments, or they don’t put a meeting in the computer, or they try to tell the producer what to do, or they just don’t get it. Now what does the producer do? Fire their friend, their spouse, their son or their mom? Gets a little complicated, doesn’t it?

    2. Succumbing to “seagull management”:

    The characteristics that make producers high achievers are often not compatible with the characteristics of good operational managers. There is little about day-to-day management that’s glamorous or ego boosting. The best managers give constant feedback, follow through with performance reviews, and document every transgression to minimize their liability.

    Many producers, though, manage their staff like seagulls visiting a beachside picnic — they fly in, squawk a lot, leave something unpleasant behind for all to consider and fly away. The staff is left confused, demoralized and less productive.
    3. Not setting expectations:

    Producers often don’t understand that not everyone is as self-motivated as they are. In fact, the people who are happy working 9 to 5 are motivated by an entirely different set of goals and values — security, harmony, direction and positive feedback. Most employees need these things, which can be difficult for entrepreneurs to understand.
What are the proper guidelines, then, for producers to follow? As you might have suspected, they are the polar opposite of the common mistakes we described above. Here are some tips and tricks to minimize staff headaches:
    1. Hire to the profile:

    Don’t hire for the person; hire for the job. Start with the tasks you need done and determine the profile of the person that would be best to accomplish those tasks.

    Your appointment setter should be personable and organized. Your marketing person should be creative, passionate and inspired. Your policy administrator should be detail-oriented, structured and methodical. Then, and only then, should you start considering the pool of people available. In fact, there are several excellent personality tests, available on-line, to assist you in finding the right profile for your position.

    2. Put management time on the calendar:

    If you don’t have the luxury of an office manager in your practice, guess what? You’re the manager. Set up scheduled time with your staff as far in advance as possible. You’ll find that your staff will take that time seriously. Put thought into those meetings’ preparation, and be sure to follow up conversations as well. You’ll find that when the time on the calendar is looming, your management will become more thoughtful and productive.

    3. Write job descriptions:

    To ensure that the expectations of the practice are clear, producers, or their office administrators, must write job descriptions and set benchmarks for every employee to understand. Amazingly, you’ll find that you hire a more appropriate person, and your staff will better perform to your expectations if they know them.
Building and maintaining a good staff is a painstaking process. For producers like Kate, the work can seem remedial and boring. The majority of staff problems, however, can be attributed to rushing through the hiring process or managing staff sporadically and thoughtlessly. By avoiding the common mistakes, producers today can avoid a world of trouble in the future.
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