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Chris Burand is an insurance agency consultant specializing in contingency contracts, agency acquisitions & valuations, agency operations, and finance.  He has worked with hundreds of agencies and brings his broad knowledge and experience with him into every dynamic, highly interactive program. Chris provides the pertinent information and practical methods agents need to improve operations, strengthen profits, and build value.

Target Audience: Highly motivated agency principals/managers and potential principals/managers.

Topics: If you don't find what you're looking for in our seminars below, we'll gladly do our best to accommodate any special requests for additional topics—just let us know what you have in mind!

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Building a Stronger Future...

One Agency at a Time.

Burand & Associates, LLC
215 S. Victoria Ave., Suite E
Pueblo, CO 81003

719/485-3868
719/485-3895 (fax)

info@burand-associates.com

 

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Successful agency management is not an easy task, but done right, an agency’s success increases exponentially. The goal is to create an environment in which producers and staff can thrive building profitable sales at a faster than normal pace. This seminar outlines, at a high level, each aspect of great agency management, such as financial management, producer / staff management, and agency value management. Agency executives that follow this course will keep their agency focused on smart, results-based management for long-term success.

The simple fact is: all agencies will change ownership. Therefore, all agencies need a perpetuation plan and a perpetuation plan can take up to five years to implement.

Planning for perpetuation can be one of the most difficult and emotional decisions agency owners must make. By avoiding the inevitable though, they risk losing their agency and their financial security for their family and their retirement.

This seminar helps agency owners sort through their goals and covers the intricate details of preparing for perpetuation, including:

• Addressing post-retirement goals and needs
• Getting assistance
• Deciding who to sell to: an insider or an outsider
• Preparing the buyer
• Preparing the agency for sale
• Phasing out responsibilities
• Improving profitability
• Sharpening procedures
• Getting company relations in order
• Shaping-up financials
• Auditing liabilities
• Determining agency value
• Completing the sale

Audience members learn to prepare today for their agency’s and their family’s secure future.

A simple fact of life for independent insurance agencies is agencies depend on insurance companies. With thousands of companies setting prices, cutting commissions, merging, and constantly changing, agents need to understand the facts and trends that shape the industry in which they must grow and prosper. This presentation helps agents learn facts about the state of their industry, how they are effected, and what they can do to build stronger company relationships.

Agents that understand the state of the industry, and know which companies have the greatest market share and can run the highest loss ratios, are able to make better, more informed decisions. Better decisions lead to larger profits, greater prosperity, and much less frustration!

The future can truly be bright for independent insurance agencies. Agencies that achieve large books of business (at least $500,000 written premium) with at least three major carriers can realize:

  • 20% profit margins
  • 15% growth
  • Bigger contingencies
  • Fewer company problems
  • Increased agency value
  • And More!

Many agency owners and managers only dream about such a rosy outlook. This presentation provides the keys to making these dreams reality. These key topics include:

  • Account development
  • Involving all employees in sales
  • Improving producer productivity
  • Companies and company contracts
  • Clusters & acquisitions

Audience members walk away with a clear picture of what it will take to pave their way to greater profits and a prosperous future!

Opportunities for independent agencies are greater today than ever before IF agency owners accept the reality that smart agency management is crucial to achieving that success. Simply being a great guy and a good salesman is no longer enough. Those agency owners that focus on building their leadership skills and developing people rather than just focusing on clients, will achieve far faster growth, higher profit margins, happier clients, and significantly less frustration. So much success will be achievable because the industry has created opportunities like never before and consumers are more willing to change agencies. Yet many agencies remain amazingly reactive and complacent making perfect targets for those agencies that are proactive in building their agency culture.

Attendees will learn just how much success is possible and what culture they need to create to achieve that success.

Organic Growth or Acquisitions?

Many agencies struggle with which of these two paths is the best. This presentation compares these two alternative strategies, including a discussion of the financial, management and cultural issues that determine success for both.

There are many right ways to run an agency; each can be different and unique to the business’ needs. However, there are some misconceptions about what is required to run an agency well. This presentation educates you on the common myths agencies believe and unfortunately practice. In turn, you will learn proven strategies and important concepts to focus on as you swear off the myths.

While consulting with insurance agencies throughout the years, I have notice a few common themes that frequently plague the welfare of agencies. These are very often small issues, usually unnoticed by the agency, that can turn into huge problems. This seminar helps agents identify similar issues in their own agencies and offers suggestions to get the agency back on track before the problem explodes.

Some of the "Lessons Learned" include:

  • Accounting Issues
  • Spending/Capital Appreciation
  • Partner Issues
  • Staff Compensation
  • Leadership
  • Tax Issues
  • Issues with Associated Corporations

Before a problem can be solved, it must be identified. This seminar shines a light on issues that most often go undetected until it is too late.

Even if agents minimize their cost of sales, they still have to sell more. The solution some agents are considering, changing CSR roles to include sales, is a short-sighted solution. It is kind of like telling the second baseman they should also learn to pitch. This is easy to say and near impossible to do. Most agencies’ CSRs are CSRs because they like to service, not sell. Brain wave technology even shows this is not a good solution.

Some have suggested the solution is hiring new CSRs that can sell and letting others go. This may or may not be a good solution. Maybe the new CSR can sell, but what is the price? Some customers will be lost, and finding and hiring a CSR that can sell is going to be difficult and expensive (roughly 50% of their annual wages). Plus, because they can sell, the agency will have to pay them more. Will that CSR sell enough to cover all that cost?

This presentation will cover that question, provide good alternative solutions, discuss the need to revise your carrier relationships to make them more profitable to cover some of the cost of decreased rates, detail how to take advantage of the opportunity presented by agencies that are not prepared for this huge transition, and discuss how to maintain a solid financial foundation.

The current market is the softest market any one has ever experienced, and more sales alone will not solve the problem. Agencies must increase productivity. In order to do that, each agency needs to answer the following question: what is my true cost of producing business? You may be surprised. This presentation will not only reveal your true cost of producing business, but also solutions your agency can easily implement to increase productivity and have you paying for your profits, not your sales.

This is no longer a cost plus industry. Agencies have to do far more work than ever before which is why even some large accounts now cost an agency more than it makes. To be adequately profitable, agencies must know and control their cost of sales. Otherwise, like some agencies who have already failed, an agency may find itself writing plenty of new business while simultaneously going bankrupt.

The key is increasing sales AND simultaneously decreasing the cost of writing that business. The solution is not one or the other, but a combination of both. This detailed presentation covers how to measure the cost of a sale, how to minimize the cost of a sale, proper producer compensation, and producer requirements. Each of these factors is critical to an agency’s success.

Running a successful agency means focusing beyond the needs of the agency. Your clients are a major reason you are in business, so providing them with advantages helps you, too. Clients are best served when agencies are comprised of superior producers and staff, quality products and services, and excellent management. This presentation teaches you how to incorporate all of these components into your business strategy and the benefits you will ultimately receive.

Agency managers must deal with a myriad of contracts, but those contracts are often riddled with common problems. This class will cover the common problems found in many buy/sell contracts and discuss how to improve them.

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Amidst the frenzy of mergers and acquisitions, and with the push agencies are feeling to grow quickly, many agency owners are facing the daunting task of buying other agencies. How do you know how much to pay? How do you know if the deal makes sense for your agency? How do you structure the deal? This presentation answers these questions and more, in detail. Audience members will learn:

• Every agency is unique. Therefore, a buyer’s valuation and a Fair Market Valuation are different. Every agency is worth more, or less, to a specific buyer, which means a buyer specific appraisal is critical to a successful acquisition.  In fact, studies show that as many as 90% of all agency acquisitions have a negative return on investment. Our experience suggests that one reason many of these acquisitions lost money was because they did not use a buyer specific appraisal.

• The ingredients of an accurate valuation and what a buyer must consider when looking at an agency.

• How to structure the deal. While most acquisitions lose money, buyers can often pay a high price and still make money if they structure the deal differently.

• How to structure deals correctly so that buyers and sellers both make more money.

Agencies are usually the most valuable asset agency principals will ever own. Many owners work their entire lives to build their agency’s value and then depend on the revenues from their agency’s sale for retirement. Therefore, maximizing the agency’s value and structuring the sale correctly are absolutely critical. This presentation covers these items in detail. Audience members will learn about:

Establishing agency value: Often, agency values are determined by using an average multiple. Every agency is unique, therefore using an average usually is grossly inaccurate. Chris covers the ingredients of an accurate valuation.

Value for a buyer: Every agency is unique. Therefore, every agency is worth more, or less, to a specific buyer, which means a buyer specific appraisal is critical to a successful acquisition. Chris discusses how a buyer’s valuation and a Fair Market Valuation are different and what a buyer must consider when looking at an agency.

Structuring the sale: While most acquisitions lose money, buyers can often pay a high price and still make money if they structure the deal differently. Participants learn how to structure deals correctly so that buyers and sellers both make more money.

Maximizing agency value: Because most sellers will not be selling their agencies for a few months or years, they have time to increase their agency’s value. Audience members learn the keys to increasing agency value.

Agency valuations are simple, right? Is it some number times agency commissions? Or is it some number times agency revenues or some number times agency profit? Or is it some number times EBITDA? Or is it some number you dream it to be?

The fact is none of these answers are the best, none should be used by themselves, and often times different methodologies result in very different results. If you are thinking of buying or selling an agency, you need to have at least a basic understanding of doing agency valuations the right way if financial success is your goal. Agency owners need to know which factors must be considered, why due diligence is critical, what deal structure is best, and why the price may have to vary depending on who the buyer is relative to the seller. In some situations, laws actually stipulate which valuation methodology must be used! Agency owners need to know why the balance sheet matters and how ALL the methods using a “multiple of” factor miss this key point. This presentation covers all these key points AND attendees will learn how to maximize the value of their agencies.

While not all agencies will consider clusters, understanding them is very important because they can present competitive pressure. And, for those that might consider a cluster or have joined a cluster, this class will cover the critical considerations, including a discussion about why most cluster contracts are nothing more than time bombs and how to improve them. Participants will also learn alternatives to joining a cluster.

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This is no longer a cost plus industry. Agencies have to do far more work than ever before, which is why even some large accounts now cost an agency more than it makes. To be adequately profitable, agencies must know and control their cost of sales. Otherwise, like some agencies who have already failed, an agency may find itself writing plenty of new business while simultaneously going bankrupt.

The key is increasing sales AND simultaneously decreasing the cost of writing that business. The solution is not one or the other, but a combination of both. This detailed presentation covers how to measure the cost of a sale, how to minimize the cost of a sale, proper producer compensation, and producer requirements. Each of these factors is critical to an agency’s success.

Is your agency spending more than it makes on every sale? Most agencies are without even knowing it! According to the most recent APRS data, the average agency spends as much as $1.11 for every commission dollar earned. These unprofitable sales are often hidden by profitable house accounts, contingencies, and other revenue sources. Wouldn’t it be better to make a profit on each sale in the first place? Imagine how the agency’s profits and value would skyrocket!

This seminar will include the following topics:

• Every agency is unique: The cost of a sale is determined by the agency’s cost structure and methods of doing business, therefore costs are different for every agency and every line of business
• Allocated overhead
• Common sources of costs and ways to pinpoints and decrease costs
• Minimum hit ratios and minimum commissions
• Producer compensation: Improve profits and productivity, while enabling good producers to increase their take-home pay

Audience members will learn how to lead their agency down the road to greater profits by making profitable sales. They will learn how to identify costs and how to magnify their profits!

I recently surveyed a group of top performing agency owners regarding producer compensation. The question was, "Should producers be compensated for all sales?"

The unanimous answer was "No." These owners know that some of their sales are not profitable. Some sales cost the agency more than it makes. The follow-up question was, "How many of you compensate your producers for all sales?" About 80% raised their hands.

Whether it's culture, tradition, habit or a perceived necessity, if an agency owner knows they should stop paying producers for all sales, especially unprofitable sales, the agency needs to find a way to achieve that beneficial goal. But how does an owner say to a producer, "I'm cutting your paycheck, but I hope you remain a happy, content, hard-working employee?"

This is never an easy situation. So to help owners clear this significant hurdle, Chris outlines a step-by step solution during this seminar. Topics covered include:

• Ways to identify unprofitable sales
• Suggestions for gaining producer buy-in
• How to cost an account
• Methods for determining minimum account size
• Alternate compensation methods
•Setting up support producer (or "farmer" producers) or a small business unit

The vast majority of agency owners pay producers to make unprofitable sales. It is a significant hurdle, though, for most agency owners to put an end to this unprofitable practice. This seminar offers a plan to help.

Understanding that sales are the cornerstone of all agencies, what is the number two opportunity agencies can focus on to be successful? Quality producers? Efficient Staff? Enforced procedures? How about all three? The number two opportunity to agency success lies in the operations management executed within your agency in ways that support sales. In this seminar, you will learn how to leverage the tools already available to you in order to manage your agency successfully and profitably.

There is more than meets the eye as you prepare and sign a producer contract. Did you know that well written producer contracts can help an agency achieve higher profits, higher morale and faster growth? This seminar will provide the lessons necessary for creating the best producer contract for you or your agency, including setting appropriate expectations and rewarding for the right results.

At first glance, this is a classic question asked and discussed in an MBA finance class. Regardless, the answer cannot be found in any text book. The primary issue is which strategy is most likely to be successful culturally, not financially, because very few agencies have the ability to successfully use both strategies.

This presentation covers the requirements of each agency to accomplish growth through the right strategy for them: either producer development or acquisition. As we review different agency capabilities (both culturally and financially) as well producer behavior, processes for each strategy are discussed. Which opportunity is best for your agency? Find out how you can capitalize on your right-fit strategy for long-term success.

Understanding that sales are the cornerstone of all agencies, what is the number one opportunity agencies can focus on to be successful? High quality producer management. Producers are the number one cost to an agency. Excluding acquisitions, they are the most expensive investment agencies make and historically have had the highest failure rate. Producers create approximately 50% of all E&O claims. The reward associated with managing producers extremely well can only be ignored at an agency’s peril.

This presentation will cover how to manage producers if an agency’s goal is true business success as it will detail contracts, compensation, compliance, hiring, and expectations.

Increasing sales is an obviously common topic in the insurance world but for all the emphasis placed on sales, the industry success rate is marginal for a variety of reasons. First, the focus is too often on any sale, not profitable sales. Second, most of the time, insurance consumers follow Newton's First Law of Motion: objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless an outside force acts upon them. Most customers are reluctant to leave unless they have a serious problem or they can get a significantly lower price.

Few producers truly work the former in a positive context, so the result is unprofitable sales and a price driven relationship. Third, too often agencies follow a "Field of Dreams" attitude, "If we build an agency or hire a producer, the customers will come." This, however, is the insurance industry. Not Hollywood.

The key to increasing profitable sales is to manage the sales process very intensely, something very few agencies, even large ones, do well. This class will cover managing the sales process in addition to increasing sales because it is truly pointless to do one without the other. Class members will learn the whole picture, enabling them to lead their agencies down the road to much greater success.

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E&O loss exposure is a major concern for most agencies, and rightfully so. Many steps can be taken though to greatly reduce an agency's risk of an E&O loss. In the case of E&O, prevention really is the best medicine. This seminar focuses on the many preventative steps agencies can take to reduce their E&O risk.

A few of the topics covered include:

  • Procedures
  • Account Reviews
  • Coverage Checklists
  • Renewals
  • Cancellations
  • E&S Markets
  • Agency Infrastructure
  • Insurer Insolvency
  • Training
  • Fraud
  • Record Retention
  • Privacy

Attendees of this seminar get an added bonus: each of the suggestions discussed in this seminar not only help reduce E&O exposures but they also help greatly improve the agency's overall operation!

Independent insurance agencies' future competitors will sell insurance as a loss leader. Their prices will be lower than the average insurance agencies’ prices. What must agencies do to sell insurance at prices higher than the competition? Agencies MUST offer better products and better services. Offering good, or even great service, is useless because that is every agencies’ claim to fame.

Quality and competitive advantages are the keys to providing better products and services. Quality and competitive advantages also lead to increased sales and profit margins because new sales are easier to make, retention is higher, and the agency operates more efficiently.

This presentation focuses on helping agencies develop their own unique quality programs and includes discussions on:

• Account development
• Evaluating the quality of an agency’s current services
• The specific aspects of quality that can be used to improve products and services, decrease E&O exposures, and develop competitive advantages
• The advantages most important to agencies–and clients–and how to create those advantages
• The importance and different purposes of customer surveys
• Decreasing costs and pricing

Quality is essential in today’s highly competitive insurance market and even more important in tomorrow’s market as more diverse forms of competition fight for your customers. This presentation provides the information and methods agencies need to develop a quality program that will propel them ahead of the competition and increase profits!

One E&O claim, even if it is a simple claim that never goes to court, will cost an agency the equivalent of $100,000 commissions sold. One that goes to court, but that the agency wins, will likely cost three times that. One that the agency loses could destroy the agency. Only masochistic agents can afford the frequency of mistakes agencies have historically incurred and many experts expect E&O frequency to increase.
Study after study shows most E&O claims can be avoided using simple steps that most agents know, but ignore. Attendees will learn:

1) A new way of thinking about your job that will make E&O prevention easier, more positive and less negative, while improving your clients’ security and making your job more rewarding.

2) The tools (many of which are free) required to decrease exposures.

3)How some of your biggest exposures are likely not covered by an E&O policy.

4) How these simple steps will:

a.  Decrease E&O exposures
b.  Increase revenue
c.  Increase profits

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Contingency contracts vary tremendously in quality, how much they pay, and the type of business they reward. Every agency has the opportunity to increase profits by $5,000 to $500,000 without making more sales. The keys are to increase contingency income by placing business strategically and/or negotiating additional income. In this seminar, the audience learns how to use these keys to increase their compensation by tens of thousands of dollars in pure profit!

As the industry expert on contingency contracts, Chris discusses the following:

• How and what to negotiate to gain additional compensation
• Negotiating tips and techniques
• Critical aspects to look for in a contract, such as: reserve takedowns, expense loads, and performance thresholds
• How to identify common errors
• Contract provisions that benefit, and others that detriment, an agency

As companies demand more and more premium volume, agencies are having greater difficulty obtaining and keeping carriers. Because of this, Chris can expand this presentation to include:

• Obtaining company contracts
• Seven evaluation categories for choosing the best companies
• Costs of rolling books of business
• Costs and benefits of doing business with fewer companies

Participants walk away from this eye-opening presentation with the information they need to build stronger, more secure relationships with their companies and increase their pure profit by working smarter, not harder.

Without insurance companies, what would agencies have to sell? Nothing! Obviously, then, effectively managing carrier relationships is essential. Additionally, managing them well can greatly improve an agency's operations and profitability.

This seminar takes audience members through an in-depth look at the many aspects of carrier relationships and offers a long list of suggestions improving carrier relations. A few of the topics covered include:

• Carrier Stability, including:

• Warning signs of instability
• Differences between claims paying ratings and insurer stability
• How stability effects behavior

• Agent's obligations to their clients

• State of the Industry

• Evaluating carriers

• Getting companies to pay more

• Knowing your contingency contracts

• How automation and technology effect carrier relations

Improved carrier relations result in many benefits. Companies get first shot at new business, less competition, and increased profits. Agencies get better underwriting, greater productivity, lower E&O exposure, increased profits, and fewer book rolls!

Agencies have a great opportunity to increase their profitability and improve their operations by working with fewer carriers. However, when an agency trims down their number of carriers, they must choose those carriers carefully and build strong relationships with those that remain.

This seminar discusses the benefits of working with fewer carriers and covers the many factors that must be considered when carefully selecting carriers. Such factors include, carrier stability, carrier ratings, carrier operational performance, and the agency's performance with each carrier. Audience members also learn the keys to building strong carrier relationships and tips for getting companies to pay more.

The bottom line is a long list of benefits for companies (less competition, first shot at new business, increased profits…) and a long list of benefits for agencies (better underwriting, greater productivity, lower E&O exposure, increased profits, and more)!

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You may be wondering what Agency Financial Management is? Agency Financial Management is a tool to help an agency protect its own assets and achieve its primary goal of making a profit by helping clients minimize risk. Clear as mud? Now you may be wondering how you actually do that. This presentation will outline SMART Agency Financial Management as well as how to achieve positive results utilizing this tool.

As an agency owner, what is your ultimate goal for your business’ future? Regardless of your desire to sell in one, five or ten years, or perpetuating within your family, one thing is for certain: you need a plan! Sound overwhelming? This presentation outlines five steps to creating, following through and completing a perpetuation plan that is right for your agency. If you don’t have a plan, you won’t want to miss this presentation!

Many of us in the insurance industry are constantly wondering: when will the market finally turn? And everyone is hoping: soon. Statistics and history alone don’t provide enough information for us to pinpoint the exact time. However, staying up-to-date on the current insurance market is just as important to planning your business’ future. This presentation not only reviews the current insurance industry and the shape it’s in, but it also provides insight on how to achieve competitive advantages regardless of the market.

For independent insurance agencies, capital planning boils down to one thing: having adequate working capital. Agents attending this seminar learn the importance of working capital, from being in trust to improving agency value.

This seminar also covers:

• How to calculate working capital
• Reasons an agency may need additional working capital
• The importance of being in trust
• Special considerations for mergers & acquisitions
• The advantages of having adequate working capital