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Are you the firefighter or the arsonist? 🔥🧯

firm operations growth Feb 04, 2020

Most employee benefits professionals report spending their week putting out fires. In my 30-year accidental career, I’ve been a carrier rep, broker, managed brokers and now consult to carriers & brokers. I’m empathetic to your competing priorities.

I usually include a firefighter slide in my presentations to illustrate how this phenomena impacts our business. 

It’s hard to get the right solutions to the right customers at the right time if your hair, and business, is on fire.

Last week I spent time in Phoenix with a carrier’s sales team. As I was organizing my thoughts, I couldn’t help but think of Lady Gaga. And her former fiancé who is on Chicago Fire. 

BTW, in addition to Tito’s and weeknight Sauvignon Blanc, my guilty pleasures include too much tv and my weekly subscription (print - I’m old school) of US Weekly. I know these things.

If you’re a fan, you know he’s obsessed with what’s causing the fires and tracking down the arsonists.  From time to time he layers in some fire prevention education and a sprinkle of geeky property insurance claim issues. But I digress.

Back to you. 

Are you a firefighter? Or are you the arsonist? Or are you somewhere in the middle, as an accidental arsonist? That latter one isn’t technically a “thing” but I looked it up and in many states you can be charged with arson if you are reckless or indirectly burn something down.

Where are the “hot spots” in your week that are no longer a surprise? You’re just wondering when it’s happening, not if...

  • Are you always running late? What impact does this have on your team?
  • Do you have so many direct reports that you can’t routinely meet? If so, then you have too many direct reports.
  • Are there gaps with your clients because you’re understaffed, have colleagues who haven’t been trained or aren’t held accountable to do the job they’re paid to do? What are you doing to help your organization create a solution aka fire prevention?
  • Do you have so many initiatives going that it distracts the team from the fundamentals? This was my blind spot as a Practice Leader. Just because something is list worthy doesn’t mean it makes the final cut. Edit. Edit. Edit.
  • Don’t hate me for this one. Do you get some emotional payoff when you solve a problem? Even if someone else could have solved it, does it feel good to jump in and and “get something done” even if there's an opportunity cost?

We can’t keep running into the fires without looking for patterns. 

Take a few minutes and think about what is going on that you might be able to influence. I am not the soft place to fall if you’re going to claim there is absolutely nothing you can do differently. There’s always something we can try to reduce the chaos and avoid the same pain week after week.

As always, I’m interested in hearing what thoughts this triggers...even if you totally disagree. What fires can you avoid (or contain quickly) if you’re willing to try some new techniques?

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