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by Jon Spaugy, BIG CEO




At press time, we are three weeks out from the 2018 BIG Convention and our triumphant return to the desert! As always, there is plenty to do for those staying with us for the long weekend and day-trippers alike. Of course, any BIG convention is bound to be outstanding because, when you have the right combination of people sharing the same passion, things just fall into place. We are proud to offer our customary lineup of fun, education, and networking Naturally, we are still offering what have become popular convention mainstays: A full day of continuing education and seminars on Friday, culminating with a hospitality party that evening; our two-day not-tobe-missed Trade Show on Friday and Saturday, a Saturday keynote event with Laird Rixford, president of Insurance Technologies Corporation, a Cinco de Mayo party, and for our stalwart attendees, the annual legislative roundup on Sunday morning. Something new this year is what I am calling the “Spaugy VIP tour” on Friday, May 4th. I will be doing an ethics class and spending the entire day with the first 30 to register for the VIP pass. We will be taking a personal tour to visit exhibitors, and I will spend the day with my guests going over business plans, growth strategies, and getting appointments with top companies. Those who have been BIG members for years have witnessed a steady evolution in our association, both in philosophy and execution. Today’s BIG is focusing on agency growth and offering opportunities to invest the time to learn new products and expand on the types of business you write in your agency. Obviously our events – SoCal convention, NoCal Minivention,


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education cruises, etc.—have lent themselves to these goals. This past year, we have also focused on providing professional training classes in workers comp, BOP policies, trucking and transportation, along with personal development courses. Our mission is to help our members develop their businesses and achieve success. What better reflection on our association that a roster full of prosperous agents? It’s easy to write a few paragraphs about how great BIG is. But as you get to know us better – at a meeting, convention, or other BIG event – you’ll find out that they are not merely words on a page. Our commitment to the insurance industry -- our members and supporters -- is second to none. And with our ever increasing membership, we are only getting stronger. Of course, there is much more to come, and everyone is invited to enjoy our shared success! With the support of our present (and future) members, BIG will be making a difference on the insurance scene for many years. Visit us at www.BIGinsusa.com to register for the convention. Then join us in Indian Wells and see for yourself.!

Get Active, Get Involved, Get BIG!​


During the next ten, twenty, and thirty years, finding qualified sales and customer service people is going to get more difficult, thanks to a shrinking workforce and a maturing population. Therefore, retention of your top people is more important than ever. Attracting talent, retention, and training (or onboarding individuals) all fall into one big melting pot. Finding, supervising, and keeping employees are not stand-alone items — each affects the other. Ten years ago the shot heard ‘round the recruiting world was the McKinsey & Co. declaration that better employee talent is worth fighting for. The 1998 bombshell article in the McKinsey Quarterly titled, “The War for Talent,” predicted a battle that would last for decades. Publications like Fast Company quickly spread the news from the boardroom bunkers to the cubicle trenches. The reason was demographics and the retirement of the Baby Boom generation. The battle cry was to not only improve hiring practices, but to work harder to retain your best employees. McKinsey’s supply and demand predictions have come true with a vengeance. The U.S. workforce, which grew by 54 percent from 1980 to 2000, is only expected to grow by 3 percent from 2000 to 2020. During the past decades, companies have proven that you can’t win the war just by spending more. When it comes to finding and keeping employees, pay is secondary for top talent. But if you build up an outstanding reputation, people will line up to work at your organization.


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You have to realize that reputation matters. People talk. Images get established. Web postings take place. Today, no organization can afford to have a bad reputation. A number of years ago, the airline industry did a study that showed that a bad experience was communicated to around 300 people and a great experience was shared with only 30 or less. So, where do you start in order to build a positive reputation from within and without? It all begins with taking the time to uncover, identify, and understand how the team is communicating. No matter how high tech our world has become with instant messaging, emailing, and cell phones, the biggest problem we all have is still communications. To illustrate, think of a whale. Probably everyone reading this article visualized something different. Some are seeing in their mind’s eye a peaceful pod of gray whales migrating south. A few think of a friendly Shamu jumping out of the water at Sea World. While others picture a scary Monstro swallowing Pinocchio. How often do you discuss a topic with someone in the workplace and they completely misunderstand what you wanted?

Communicating with prospective employees begins way before an application or interview. A number of years ago a client of ours identified some traits they wanted members of their team to have. The company realized they needed to position themselves in their narrow marketplace as the place to work. Whenever a company executive gave a speech to an association group they always ended the talk with mentioning that they are the Rolls Royce of organizations to work for. If anyone knows of A players who want to work at the best place to use their skills and talents, then have them give the company a call. Fast forward a number of years. My firm conducts personality testing for all of this company’s final candidates. For certain levels, we also do phone interviews, always asking how they heard of the organization. Consistently we have heard it was because of their reputation in the industry for being the best place to work for utilizing skills and talents.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He provides workshops on hiring, managing for the future, and techniques to improve interpersonal communications that have a proven ROI. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com. To contact Dana, call (310) 453-6556 or email dana@lighthouseconsulting.com.

Learn what is driving your top talent people. If you help them to succeed you’ll create a high level of retention and become a magnet for recruiting. So what does all of this have to do with retention? It’s about setting your people up for success, and this takes active management and mentoring.​



I​nsurance companies writing in California were sent a Notice today reminding them that under Proposition 103 their rates must not be excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory. The recent revision to the Federal Tax Schedule for 2018 reduced the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. As a result some insurers, whose rates were based on the 35 percent corporate tax rate may now be charging excessive rates. In California the prior approval process that applies to property and casualty insurance rates limits insurer profits and rates. The Notice reminds insurance companies with excessive rates that they are obligated to file a rate change application with the department to ensure they are complying with Proposition 103.


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“I am working to make sure insurance companies are not taking advantage of their policyholders,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. “In California insurer profits are limited under Proposition 103, therefore the savings they realize from the tax reductions should result in those savings being passed on to policyholders through lower premiums.” In January, Commissioner Jones directed the department to commence a regulatory review of insurers’ rates due to the federal corporate tax rate cuts. The commissioner also modified the Prior-Approval Rate Making Regulations to properly reflect the change in tax savings from the corporate tax rate cuts. Source: California Department of Insurance (www.insurance.ca.gov)

Sidebar with

Harper &



By Jon S.Heim, Attorney, Harper & Heim


Once again insurer insolvency comes to the fore. News raises fears of exposure. What if any liability confronts producers of policies of admitted insurers which become insolvent or encounter financial difficulties? In those circumstances, what should producers do? Clients may imagine that producers are omniscient professionals, and should know all about insurers’ complex and sometimes foggy finances. To the contrary are real-world practicalities -- and thankfully, California law. In Wilson v. All Service Ins. Corp. (1979) 91 Cal.App.3d 793, the Court of Appeal established the rule that


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insurance producers have no duty to investigate the solvency of an admitted insurer before submitting a client’s application to the insurer, or indeed at any time. Rather, the producer may rely on the Insurance Commissioner to fulfill his longstanding, statutory duties to analyze, determine and monitor the financial status of admitted insurers. In short, to do his job. [T]he Insurance Code prescribes financial requirements both for the issuance of a certificate of authority admitting an insurer to transact business in this state, and for an admitted insurer’s right to continue conducting business pursuant to its certificate. The code imposes on the Insurance Commissioner the continuing duty to oversee the financial condition of an insurer holding a certificate of authority, and gives the Commissioner the power necessary to execute such duty. It would be superfluous, and would create a conflict with the regulatory scheme outlined in the Insurance Code, to impose upon an insurance broker a similar duty to ascertain the financial soundness of an insurer. Moreover, the imposition of such a duty would be meaningless inasmuch as a broker has no power to compel an insurer to divulge information regarding its financial condition. Accordingly, we hold that an insurance broker, such as defendant, owes no duty to its clients to investigate the financial condition of an insurer before placing insurance with it on their behalf. If a broker places insurance with an insurer conducting business pursuant to a certificate of authority, the broker has fulfilled its duty to its clients. (Wilson v. All Service Ins. Corp. (1979) 91 Cal.App.3d 793, 797-798,boldface added; accord, Mark Tanner Construction, Inc. v. HUB International Insurance Services, Inc. (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 574, 584.) As a producer has no duty to investigate insurer solvency, so a producer has no duty to notify of an insurance company’s insolvency, conservation, or other financial difficulties. (Pacific Rim Mechanical Contractors, Inc. v. Aon Risk Ins. Services West, Inc. (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 1278, 1283-1288.) [I]mposition of a duty requiring insurance brokers to inform an insured of “any adverse changes in the ca-

rrier’s financial capability” postissuance of the insured’s policy is properly the function of the Legislature because it would (a) fundamentally alter the nature and corresponding duties of insurance brokers, which would (b) increase the costs of procuring insurance. (Pacific Rim Mechanical Contractors, Inc. v. Aon Risk Ins. Services West, Inc., supra, 203 Cal.App.4th at p. 1285) Moreover, creating such a new duty could expose brokers to personal liability for claims made against them by insureds. In most agents’ and brokers’ errors and omissions (E&O) policies there is an exclusion for claims made by an insured because the insurer with which the agent or broker placed coverage is unable to pay an otherwise covered claim because of the insurer’s insolvency…. Imposing continuing duties of monitoring and notification upon the broker after issuance of the policy creates other practical difficulties. In the case of occurrence-based policies, the proposed common law notification duty could last indefinitely, well after brokers (and the client) may have ceased doing business. For example, in this case the … policy extended 10 years after completion of [a] project [by the insured] in 2002, more than 13 years after the policy was procured in 1999. We decline to impose such a new, continuing duty retroactively against brokers.

So the law says the producer need neither investigate insurer solvency nor notify of insurer insolvency. Absent material misrepresentation then, the producer may not need to do anything in event of insurer insolvency. That does not mean, however, that the producer should not do anything. Often the best step for both insured and producer is to transfer the business to another admitted insurer, either during or at expiration of the policy term. Insurance guarantee associations notwithstanding, clients want sound insurance markets. Financial strength and fair claims handling important to clients. A producer who goes beyond legal requirements to address industry problems and client desires is likely to earn client appreciation and loyalty, and to enhance goodwill. A producer who does nothing because nothing is required by law will miss that business opportunity. If – more accurately when – financial storms beguile the next insurer, don’t worry about you and your exposure. Focus on your clients and their future security.. Call Jon Stanley Heim at (510) 725-7593, or e-mail him at jshinslaw@gmail.com or harperandheim@gmail.com.

(Id. at pp. 1287-1288.)



& BROKERS ON MAINTAINING A GOOD REPUTATION ​By John R. Graham Take on extra work. Sure, you’ve got more than enough on your plate, so why pile on anything more? It lets you demonstrate your ability to shoulder a heavier load. And that doesn’t go unnoticed. Meet deadlines. “I didn’t have enough time,” may be the top excuse for failing to meet deadlines, as if something beyond our control intervened and caused us to fail. What really happens is that we run out of time — and that’s due to poor planning. Come up with ideas to improve something. It isn’t that most people don’t have ideas; it’s simply they’re afraid to present them — what will people think? Maybe it’s stupid? Take a chance. You’ll be surprised.

It always comes as a shock to find out that others see us quite differently than we see ourselves. More often than not, it can be distressing, particularly at work. “I don’t get it. I’m not that way.” Maybe not. But it happens. And when it does, a bad rep can stick tighter than super glue thanks to word-of-mouth and social media. In today’s highly competitive workplace, reputation makes a difference. Your competition can be down the hall, across the country, or 10 feet away. It can be someone who wants your customer or your job — maybe both.

SHAPE & MANAGE YOUR REPUTATION When it comes to your reputation, hoping for the best isn’t good enough. It leaves it in the hands of others. Your reputation needs to be shaped and managed so it reflects the way you want to be viewed. Here are 22 ways to go about deliberately shaping how others see you:


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Express appreciation to someone who helps. We all get busy and move from one thing to another, and before we know it, several people have come to our aid. Just another day at the office. It shouldn’t be. Make it a point to say thanks. Give credit to others. It seems as if it diminishes us if we make a point to give a “shout out” to a co-worker. But just the opposite is true. It says we understand what it means to be a team player. Pitch in when someone is out. Whether it’s taking messages, answering questions, or solving a problem, it says you have their back. It won’t be forgotten. Ask questions. We’ve all been in meetings where stuff goes by that’s new, unclear or confusing. Ask a question. Don’t assume you’re the only one who didn’t get it. It shows you’re thinking. Be careful about complaining. When there’s nothing else to do, it’s complain time, particularly at lunch or after work. Complaining can be toxic and those who do it put their reputation at risk.

Welcome new co-workers. There’s a reason to be the first: first impressions are indelible and you will be remembered.

Avoid having someone remind you. Digital calendars and reminders should eliminate the need for someone to remind us. It hasn’t. The offenders are just more visible.

Go out of your way to help customers. Look at these as opportunities, not interferences. They’re memorable. Customers like to talk about the times when someone took did something special for them.

Thank those who help you. Although we may not admit it, there are many hands pulling up our bootstraps, not just our own. Be generous in expressing appreciation to everyone who literally gives you a hand.

Come up with solutions for problems. Avoid the natural instinct to hold back and play it safe: What if it doesn’t work out? Or, it’s rejected? Give it a try and you may be surprised what happens.

Tell someone when they do a good job. Criticism comes easily, praise not so much. Most people benefit from less of the former and more the latter.

Offer suggestions so others don’t trip themselves up. “Would it be helpful to look at it this way?” or “Have you considered other possibilities?” Such questions can help rescue someone from stepping off a cliff, from making an unnecessary mistake. They won’t forget it. Admit it when you’re wrong. It’s easy to say, “Everybody makes mistakes” or “I’m just human” when we get something wrong. But passing it off is quite different from taking ownership and saying, “I was wrong.” Both impact one’s reputation. If you spot a problem, propose a solution. Identifying problems is a popular workplace pastime. Coming up with possible solutions, not so much. One is seen as complaining, the other as being helpful. Step back to get a bigger picture. What’s going on right around us holds our attention, blinding us to the bigger picture, distorting our thinking, and causing us to react inappropriately. It helps to step back so we can see more clearly.

Welcome challenges. If all we know is what we’re doing now at work, we’re coasting. When we dare to step out of our comfort zone and take risks, we do more than just holding a job. Smile more. A Penn State study found that smiling employees are more approachable, likeable and appear more competent, as well as more trustworthy, according to University of Pittsburgh researchers. When all is said and done, your reputation is what you make it. ABOUT THE AUTHOR John R. Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer. He is the creator of “Magnet Marketing,” and publishes a free monthly eBulletin, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales Ideas.” You can email him at jgraham@grahamcomm. com or call him at 617-774-9759.​​

Pay attention to details. Nothing is more disruptive, embarrassing, and frustrating than the wrong address or price, a phone number that’s one digit off, a misspelling, or something that was left out. Reputations are made on accuracy; the opposite is also true. Don’t make excuses. It’s quite simple: the opposite of making excuses is taking responsibility. Either way, there’s a reward, one you want and one you don’t.


WHY YOU SHOULD STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS NOW ​By Aaron Hill, Greg Miller, and Jack Skeen The authors explain that comparing yourself with others is detrimental to your happiness and success. Here are a few of the problems that come along with constant comparison:

Everyone gets caught up in the comparison game. Chances are you do too. Haven’t you gazed with envy at a friend’s house, car, job, or wardrobe, or made a snap judgment that a coworker or acquaintance is beneath you in intelligence, social status, or some other criteria? Sure you have. Research from the 1950s shows that people have a natural drive to make “upward” or “downward” comparisons between themselves and others. And due to social media, we can now look at posts from friends and acquaintances and assess how we “measure up” on a daily (or even hourly) basis.

Comparisons are rarely accurate. “When you compare yourself to others, you are often inaccurate in your conclusions,” says Hill. “Upon seeing a shabbily dressed person, you may make judgments about their job, ability, intelligence, or motivation. But you don’t have all the information. A brilliant day trader who works alone may choose to work in old sweatpants, for example, and has left the office for a quick walk to clear his head. The point is, you don’t know the whole story, so your comparison is ultimately wrong. Then you allow those comparisons to detrimentally affect your performance and your life suffers...all based on false facts.”

Can this be good for us? No, says Aaron Hill: In fact, spending too much time or energy studying the proverbial “Joneses” or ranking others is harmful to all involved.

Comparing upward makes you unhappy and erodes your confidence. There will always be someone who has more or has accomplished more than you. But when you spend most of your time fretting over others’ supposed superiority, you’re wasting valuable time and energy that you could be using to enhance your life. And before you assume someone else has it so much better than you, remind yourself again that you get to see only a slice of their life. On social media, for example, people post only what they want you to see. From glamorous selfies to gorgeous vacation photos, their online personas are an inaccurate portrayal of their real lives. Make sure you’re not giving them more credit than they deserve.

“Comparing establishes your own worth by whether or not you feel better or worse than others,” says Hill, who along with Greg Miller and Jack Skeen wrote The Circle Blueprint: Decoding the Conscious and Unconscious Factors that Determine Your Success. “It’s an unhealthy waste of time that undermines your ability to reach your full potential. And it’s a widespread problem. But most people who engage in comparing themselves to others don’t realize how damaging it really can be.”

Comparing downward creates feelings of superiority that don’t serve you well in various ways. It might make you feel smarter, more successful, or just “better” than other people, but downward comparisons cause you to overlook others’ gifts. At work, you may not give those you’ve judged as “less than” enough credit for their knowledge and may not seek their advice even though they have plenty to offer. Or, you may give yourself too much credit and slack off because you think you’re more capable.


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People who make a lot of comparisons and constantly assess the inferiority or superiority of others are low in autonomy, says Hill. People with high autonomy, on the other hand, live free of comparison and are able to rely healthily on themselves and others. When you’re able to establish your own self-worth regardless of how you stack up to others, you go a long way toward establishing independence.

if you hugged a complete stranger as you would someone you know and love—but your greeting can be similarly pleasant and respectful.

The Circle Blueprint is part of a larger self-improvement program called The Circle Blueprint System, which also includes workbooks and a confidential scientifically validated psychometric self-assessment. The self-assessment is free with purchase of the book. In The Circle Blueprint, the authors explain that independence is one of the four critical developmental areas that allow a person to thrive. Independence is all about taking 100 percent responsibility for your life and the outcomes of your choices, living with freedom from insecurity and self-doubt, and being able to speak openly and candidly in all circumstances.

“It’s time to stop worrying about who has more Facebook friends, who’s got the bigger paycheck, or who has the greatest house,” concludes Hill. “In the end, knowing who has more or less than we do accomplishes nothing. Instead, we should all focus our attention on becoming better versions of ourselves—because that’s the true measure of success.”.​

The good news is, there are easy steps you can take to quit comparing yourself to others and become more autonomous, and, thus, more independent: 1. Make a point to notice how often you make comparisons. If you want, take a notepad and make tally marks every time you catch yourself making a comparison. The number may astonish you, and that is okay; everyone makes comparisons. You have to start somewhere, and simply taking note is a start toward reducing your comparisons. 2. Now, take note of how such comparisons affect your thoughts and actions. Are you holding something back because you think you are too good or not good enough? Do you act differently toward those who are “upward” or “downward” of you? 3. Practice reducing such comparisons. When you catch yourself comparing, try to stop. Remind yourself that comparisons are not healthy for you.

5. Become aware of how free you feel. When you stop comparing, or even reducing your comparisons drastically, you’ll feel a new level of autonomy and independence.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS JACK SKEEN, PhD, is the founder of Skeen Leadership, an executive consulting firm. Skeen coaches successful leaders, addressing every imaginable leadership, business, and life issue with wisdom and professionalism.

GREG MILLER, PhD, is CEO of CrossCom, a technology services company. Miller has successfully led CrossCom to become a market leader through process efficiency, technology innovation, and rigorous execution.

AARON HILL, PhD, is the William S. Spears Chair in Business Administration at Oklahoma State University. He has authored a dozen articles appearing in the Financial Times Top 50 business journals.​

4. Practice treating all people you come in contact with at the same levels of courtesy and respect. Sure, it is unlikely you’ll meet a stranger with the same greeting as a good friend—it might be strange to all involved



According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business. Furthermore, the small business sector in America occupies 30-50 percent of all commercial building space, which is estimated to be 2034 billion square feet. This is a staggering amount of space – and who best to help small businesses secure this space than a member of the Electronic Security Association (ESA). To help small businesses and small business owners make an informed, smart decision when selecting a security provider, ESA brought together four members from around the country in a roundtable format to provide their insight and expertise. Before purchasing a security system for your business, take a look at the advice these experts have to offer.


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“What security technologies or other features should small businesses consider when planning for their security needs?”

Roger Parks, Executive Director of Business Development for Select Security -- What we see at

Select Security is a big increase in inquiries about video surveillance systems – but the smart phone is the mechanism that is the centerpiece of it all.

You can have everything you need to manage the security of your business on your smart phone. You can look at archived video, view live video, adjust your thermostat, arm and disarm your system, see when your system was turned on or off, and now you can use the actual smart phone itself as the credential to open the door. The convenience factor of this integrated technology is a definite benefit.

Jamie Vos, General Manager of Security Solutions -- A business owner should consider three pri-

mary components: intrusion detection; video surveillance; and access control. The pricing is coming to a point where the overall budget for the scope of security isn’t outrageous. The intrusion system is extremely important. You want that barrier protection when you’re not there. Video surveillance is continuing to come down in price, so you can get a great professional system installed for a reasonable price.

The component a lot of businesses don’t really pay attention to, but should, is access control. There is no longer a need to re-key locks when there is employee turnover. You can simply delete that employee from the access system and add a new one. This is more economical and efficient. I also think Roger touched on an important point – and that is the ability to have information pushed to you via your smart phone app. You can always go to the app to see what is happening. But what is really great is when something out of the ordinary happens, such as someone trying to access your business using an expired key card, a picture of that person can immediately show up on your phone. If this happens, you can take the appropriate action without having to be on the premises. This is super powerful.

Lucas Ingala, Owner of Watchmen Security Services -- There’s more technology in a cell phone today

than what put us on the moon. You can literally control your entire security system right there in the palm of your hand. Thinking as a small business owner and not a security guy, when we were starting our business, I wanted easy. I wanted to be able to have information sent to me on my cell phone so I could keep an eye on our business and stay in touch when I was out of the office. I wanted to be able to access an audit trail of when the office opened and closed throughout that week. Small businesses need security technology that is easy to use and easy to access. A security system should serve you so you can run your business.

Joe Mitton, Director of Marketing & Communications for Select Security -- Video technology is

hot, access control is hot – as is the traditional burglar alarm. But if you think about the convergence of technology – video, access control, burglar alarms – all of this provides information. What is important is selecting the security technology that is going to give you the information you need and the convenience to access it. More information – and the right information – really allows small businesses and small business owners to better manage operations and to better manage the safety and security of the people in their business. “What is the most important question a small business owner should ask himself or herself before purchasing or upgrading a security system?”

Lucas Ingala -- You should think through what you

need, how much money you want to spend and your expectations for that amount of money. You should really drill down on how you are going to be using the system every day. Make sure the system you purchase will meet your expectations.

Roger Parks -- A perfect example in this situation is

when a business owner says, “I want to see the license plate on the cars that drive by my business.” That’s great – NCIS makes this look really easy on television, but in the real-world it is a costly endeavor. The question a business owner should be asking is what do I really need to see – do I need to see the color of the car, where that car is going or the activity of the people in that car? By establishing your expectations, you can ensure the security solution you select is the one that meets your needs for the price you want to pay.

Jamie Vos -- At the end of the day, your security sys-

tem is giving you information – so what information do you really want the security system to give you and why do you need that information? The “why” is really important. A lot of business owners will say I want cameras because cameras are a good idea. But why do you want


cameras? Do you want them to watch your customers? Do you want them to watch your employees to make sure they are not on Facebook all day? What is it that you are trying to accomplish with the cameras?

Roger Parks -- It’s a business partnership and a re-

Security providers have the ability to design exactly what you need to ensure it delivers the information you want and meets your expectations. But, we need to know what you want to accomplish and at what price. We can design a system for $50,000 and capture “NCIS” or we can design a $5,000 system and probably meet 90 percent of your expectations.

tion process, make sure that the sales person is listening to you and not telling you. It is truly a relationship you are establishing, choose a provider that will design a solution around your needs

Joe Mitton -- Taking it a step further, if I were the small business owner, I would ask, “What types of security technologies are businesses like mine using? How are they using them? What are the drawbacks and what are the benefits?” Ask your salesperson these questions. Chances are that salesperson has sold to someone like you. A good sales person has been in the field and has the experience and expertise to know what has worked for businesses like yours and what hasn’t. This type of information can help you make an informed decision. “What is one piece of security advice you would like to share with small business owners?”

Joe Mitton -- That’s probably the easiest question.

Focus on finding the right security provider for you and your business. That is going to take some time and conversations with a couple of different providers – but well worth it. Go into the decision-making process with your eyes wide open and select the provider that knows your business, can act as your advocate and point out security needs you may not have considered or explain why a certain technology you want may not be the best option for you.

Lucas Ingala -- You are going into a partnership with

somebody. Make sure you are comfortable with the person you will be working with and the company you choose. Educate yourself. Shop around. Get two or three quotes from different companies. Then make a decision.


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lationship. You want to make sure the provider you select is going to be there for you all day, every day.

Jamie Vos -- When you are going through the selec-

For more information about security solutions for small businesses, visit Alarm.org. If you are considering purchasing or upgrading your security system, always ask if a company is a member of the Electronic Security Association (ESA) and if its employees are trained by ESA’s National Training School (NTS). ESA member companies whose security professionals are certified through NTS have completed extensive training in electronic security and adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct. Members of ESA can be found by visiting Alarm.org.​


Laird Rixford

president, Insurance Technologies Corporation (ITC)

By Don Lukenbill Technology. It is all around us. What used to be simply a more efficient way of doing business has evolved into essential tools of the trade. Whether it is rating, marketing, agency management and automation, or something else, technology is embedded in our professional (and personal) lives. But instead of being mistrustful or afraid, the successful agent embraces new technology, but of course always with a healthy dose of caution. Laird Rixford joined (actually rejoined) ITC in 2008 as vice president of product development and marketing when ITC acquired his company Evolution Designs and its product Insurance Website Builder. In 2011 he created AgencyBuzz, ITC’s automated agency marketing tool. For those few agents unfamiliar with ITC, the company, founded in 1983, is a leading provider of marketing, rating and management software and services to the insurance industry, including independent agents and insurance carriers. Source: Insurance Technologies Corporation website (www.getitc.com). We thought it would be interesting to feature Laird and get some perspective from someone who is both an insurance insider and someone who has an “outsider” point of view. You can hear more of Laird’s Be sure to attend the keynote luncheon at the upcoming BIG convention. BIG Times Magazine: We’ve interviewed numerous insurance company executives and agency owners who have had a relatively straight career path into the industry. You are definitely an industry person, but with a definite niche. How did you wind up specializing in agency management, technology and marketing? Laird Rixford: I applied to ITC, by fax no less, when I was 19 years old to handle their network infrastructure. So my entry into the insurance industry was simply by chance. However, once I was in it I saw the vibrant energy that this industry has to offer. The source of


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that energy is the people in it. It is infectious. Many people outside of the industry wonder how people in the “boring insurance industry” get by. This energy is what they miss. It is this energy that we need to convey as we bring the next generation into the industry. BTM: What kinds of “outside” expertise and experience do you bring to the table? LR: In 2001, I left ITC to start consulting company that focused on banking, mortgage and of course insurance. During which I consulted top ten banks, insurance agencies and on how they need to first look to leverage technology to grow their business. Today, I carry this technology first viewpoint at ITC. By enabling agents and brokers using the latest technologies, they can focus on what they do best, sell. BTM: Why is ITC the right fit professionally for you? LR: ITC allows me to help businesses with the two areas I love most, technology and marketing. My satisfaction is derived from seeing our customers grow. I am able to see that daily through our customers. BTM: If you could identify one area agencies are neglecting that may be holding them back from achieving greater success, what would it be?

LR: Thinking small. Many agents compare themselves to large agencies and carriers. They think they cannot operate at that level, yet they can. They have the same technology. They have the local touch. They have the spirit. They have the expertise which a quick turn call center environment cannot compete with. The tools are there. They just need to have the will and drive to compete. BTM: Business plans for small and larger agencies are obviously different. But are they really? Describe the differences and similarities of successful business plans for agencies of different sizes. LR: They are the exact same. They all begin with building a sound business, hiring, marketing, and selling. Where it differs is the execution of that plan. Are you holding you and your employees accountable to that plan? This is where we see agencies not succeeding. When asked about it they state “I know I should be doing that but…”. You will not hear the large agencies and direct writers saying that. BTM: You are going to present the keynote speech at the upcoming BIG convention. How about a little preview? LR: There is a lot of talk about InsurTech “disrupting” the industry. The real news is that it has been around for 35 years. In fact, it is in our name “INSURance TECHnologies Corporation”. I am a firm believer that the tenants and overall thesis of this movement can be applied to every agency, big or small. It just comes down to execution. BTM: What about taking some time away from the office to attend the convention? Maybe bring some senior employees as well? Good idea? LR: Those in the industry are a social group. They network. They learn. They are always improving. Only so much of that can be done online. You have to get out and talk to other owners and principals as to what is working and what is not. Without this interaction you are effectively sticking your head in the sand and hoping for the best.

BTM: What kind of importance -- for companies and agencies alike -- would you place on membership in professional associations like BIG? LR: Groups like BIG facilitate the networking required for continued professional growth of the industry. Without them, where can you learn about the latest trends? Where can you get quality CE? Where can you meet your peers in a fun environment? The answer is that you can’t, and won’t. BTM: Yell at every insurance agent reading this. What do you want to say? LR: Challenge yourself! Exceed every goal! Don’t accept the status quo! Because if you don’t you are only surviving at best. BTM: Now, a little about you. Go back 10 years and talk to Laird Rixford. What would you say to him? LR: Being a sci-fi buff and worrying about time continuity, I wouldn’t. Every experience I have ever had has made me who I am today. I only see the future. The future is what you make of it today. The best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago, the second best time? Today. BTM: Now fast forward to 2028. What do you want Laird Rixford to say to you? LR: Now I like this question. I would want future Laird to simply state that I made a difference. There are many great people that have left their mark on the insurance industry. They did this not through becoming extra successful and making tons of money. They did it by making a positive difference that helped the insurance industry not only survive, but thrive. BTM: If you could sum up your personal and professional philosophy for success in a sentence or two, what would you say? LR: There is opportunity for everyone. Capitalizing on that opportunity is not easy. It takes passion and will. You either have it, or you don’t.


FILING AN AUTO INSURANCE CLAIM? GOOD(ISH) NEWS: PREMIUM INCREASES ARE DOWN THIS YEAR Drivers filing an auto claim can breathe a (small) sigh of relief. For the fifth year in a row, insuranceQuotes.com examined the average economic impact of filing an auto claim—and while premium increases remain substantial, the data shows they’re packing less of a punch. The study reveals premium increases of 42% (compared to 44% last year) after filing a single claim of $2,000 or more. The rate spike costs consumers $352 on average. Meanwhile, filing a second claim in one year costs an average increase of 92% (which is a 7% drop from last year). “Nobody likes filing a claim and then having to watch their rates skyrocket, but, for consumers, this year’s numbers bring slightly better news than in the past,” said Nick DiUlio, insurance analyst at insuranceQuotes.com. “While premiums do tend to increase after filing a claim, the severity of the spike will always depend on a number of factors, including claim type as well as where the driver lives.” These five states showed the highest average premium increases after filing a claim of $2,000 or more:

1. New Hampshire – 66% 2. California – 63% 3. Rhode Island – 62% 4. Massachusetts – 61% 5. Iowa – 57%


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Meanwhile, these five states showed the lowest increases:

1. Kentucky – 19% 2. Tennessee – 20% 3. Michigan – 22% 4. Oklahoma – 23% 5. West Virginia – 28% Of the three types of claims analyzed—bodily injury, property damage, and comprehensive—bodily injury costs consumers the most, with average premium increases of 48.6% (compared to 49% in 2017). “As concerning as filing a claim might be for drivers, premium spikes are temporary,” DiUlio said. “Depending on the claim, rates may remain high for three to five years, but will gradually fall to pre-claim levels. Regardless, it’s always a good idea to shop around for a new policy to compare rates after filing.” The full report—which includes rankings of all 50 states, along with additional tips and insights—is available at https://www.insurancequotes.com/auto/insurance-auto-claims-drive-up-costs-31418 Methodology: insuranceQuotes commissioned Quadrant Information Services to examine how claims affect car insurance premiums using data from the largest carriers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Assumptions included a $2,000 claim and policy limits of $100,000 for bodily injury liability for one person, $300,000 for all injuries and a $500 deductible on collision and comprehensive coverage. Averages are based on a 45-year-old married female driver who is employed, has an excellent credit score, has no lapse in coverage, and has filed no prior auto insurance claims.​


Overall customer satisfaction among homeowners filing property insurance claims has reached a new all-time high, despite record-high property losses following a spate of hurricanes, earthquakes and fires in North America. That’s according to J.D. Power’s “2018 U.S. Property Claims Satisfaction Study,” which finds that insurers that have achieved the highest levels of customer satisfaction have also been the most effective at managing customer expectations for the time it will take to settle claims. “The last two years of record catastrophic losses have put P&C insurers to the test, and many have risen to the occasion, driving overall customer satisfaction levels to new highs,” said David Pieffer, Property & Casualty Insurance Practice Lead at J.D. Power. “While that overall performance is a positive for the industry, there is wide variability in the ranges of performance among insurers in different regions of the country and between different service attributes. Particularly noteworthy, customer satisfaction in Texas and Florida—two of the areas hardest hit by hurricanes—show below-average results, spotlighting areas where there is still room for improvement among insurers.” Following are some of the key findings of the 2018 study:

Overall customer satisfaction reaches record high: Overall satisfaction for property claims has reached an all-time high of 860 (on a 1,000-point scale) at the same time the personal lines segment has experienced


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record claims. This is the second consecutive year that property claims satisfaction levels are in line with auto claims satisfaction scores, which had historically trended higher. The bulk of this year’s improvement is driven by non-weather-related claims, primarily related to water damage.

Managing time expectations becomes key driver of satisfaction: The time it took to settle a claim is the

single lowest-rated attribute in the study, with 1 in 7 respondents indicating that the claim took longer than expected. However, when time frames are properly managed, even groups that experience the longest time-to-settlement still rate their experience above the industry average of 8.45 (on a 10-point scale). Time-to-settle satisfaction ratings are 1.9 points lower when insurers miss customer timing expectations, even when the time frame is relatively short.

Areas hit hardest by weather events show declining satisfaction: Texas and Florida show declining

customer satisfaction scores in the immediate aftermath of major weather events. In both cases, the time required to estimate the damages is particularly affected. Claims related to hail storms in Texas, and high winds or storms in Florida, see this time nearly double to 10 days compared with five days for claims in these states not related to weather.

Outsourcing takes a toll: The use of independent

appraisers, which typically spikes when large catastrophic events occur, is associated with significantly lower customer satisfaction scores. However, interactions with the appraisers are not driving the lower scores; rather, insurance companies are not effectively incorporating appraisers into the claim process workflow as customers are most critical of key claim experience attributes such as time-to-settle; kept informed on claim; and thorough explanation of settlement. For more information about the U.S. Property Claims Satisfaction Study, visit http://www.jdpower.com/resource/us-property-claims-satisfaction-study.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR J.D. Power is a global leader in consumer insights, advisory services and data and analytics. These capabilities enable J.D. Power to help its clients drive customer satisfaction, growth and profitability. Established in 1968, J.D. Power is headquartered in Costa Mesa, Calif., and has offices serving North/South America, Asia Pacific and Europe. J.D. Power is a portfolio company of XIO Group, a global alternative investments and private equity firm headquartered in London, and is led by its four founders: Athene Li, Joseph Pacini, Murphy Qiao and Carsten Geyer.​​​


Fun Facts

About May and Mother’s Day Of course, no May would be complete without Mother’s Day, which falls on May 13th this year. Here are some interesting tidbits about the Sunday that is allday all-Mom! In the 1600’s England, Mothering Sunday took place on the 4th Sunday of Lent. It began with a prayer service in honor of the Virgin Mary. Afterwards children would present their moms with flowers Anna Jarvis may have been behind our traditional Mother’s Day celebration on the second Sunday of May. Anna never had any children, but wanted to carry out her own mother’s wishes of having a day just for moms.

May has always been sort of a buffer between cold and warm seasons, or wet and dry for those of us living in SoCal. It signals the time to put away the coats and break out the shorts. As we look forward to the official start of summer (Memorial Day, of course), here are some fun facts to ponder about the fifth month of the year and the most important holiday in May. There are several theories as to the name “May.” The most believable is that the month was named for Maia, the Roman goddess of spring and growth. This makes sense, especially since the Romans had considerable input on the modern calendar. As mentioned, Memorial Day is the first of two summer “bookends” (Labor Day being the other). Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day was originally established to remember those fallen soldiers in the Civil War. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday in 1971 and established on the last Monday in May.


The birthstone for May is the Emerald and Hawthorn and Lily of the Valley are the flowers for the month of May. Astrological signs for May are Taurus and Gemini.

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On May 8th, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a Joint Resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. In the vast majority of the world’s languages, the word for “mother” begins with the letter M. In the United States alone, around 122 million phone calls are made to moms on Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day accounts for one -fourth of all plant and flower purchases in the US. In 2017, the National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that US consumers will spend $23.6 billion celebrating Mother’s Day, a record. Shoppers will spend an average of $186.39 on Mom. Most consumers will give cards (77.9%) and flowers (68.5%) to their mothers or take her out to eat (55.9%) in 2017, but more money will be spent on jewelry ($5 billion) than any other category, according to the NRF.

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