I N S U R A N C E I N D U S T R Y K N O W L E D G E F R O M O A K S T R E E T F U N D I N GÂŽ
a first financial bank company
Refresh your network
6 degrees of separation Page 12
Destination: Connection Building better relationships
Meet your personal and professional goals.
Publisher Oak Street Funding Editorial Directors Meghan Milam Beth Saxen Contributing Editor Sharon Robbins
8 6 Making
Good employee relations help to relieve stress and improve morale
Destination Connection Crossword
Test your knowledge
Share Your Thoughts If you have any questions, comments or ideas for The Bridge®, let us know. Email us at email@example.com or visit us on social media. Oak Street Funding does not make any representation as to the accuracy or suitability of any of the information contained in any third party advertisements or websites and does not accept any responsibility or liability for the conduct or content of those advertisements and websites and the offerings made by the third parties. Third party advertisements and links to other websites where goods or services are advertised are not endorsements or recommendations by Oak Street Funding of the third party websites, goods or services. Oak Street Funding assumes no responsibility for the content of the ads, promises made, or the quality/reliability of the products, services, or positions offered in any advertisements.
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Graphic Contributor Beth Winchell
The Bridge is a newsletter produced by:
The power of referral networks
6 degrees of separation
Art Director/Designer Aidreen S. Hart
Oak Street Funding 8888 Keystone Crossing, Suite 1700 Indianapolis, Indiana 46240 844-395-8245 Loans and lines of credit subject to approval. Potential borrowers are responsible for their own due diligence on acquisitions. California residents: Loans made pursuant to a California Department of Business Oversight, Finance Lenders License (#6039829). The materials in this paper are for informational purposes only. They are not offered as and do not constitute an offer for a loan, professional or legal advice or legal opinion and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining professional or legal advice. The use of this newsletter, including sending an email, voice mail or any other communication to Oak Street, does not create a relationship of any kind between you and Oak Street.
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LETTER FROM THE FOUNDER/CEO
In an ever-more technologically advanced society, I have found that we need to make sure that we enforce and enhance what makes us great at our jobs: relationships. Without the relationships we’ve built, all the advancements available to us through technology would be meaningless. As service professionals, how we conduct business has a lasting impression on our stakeholders, including customers, employees, and competitors. For this season’s Bridge magazine, “Destination: Connection,” we focus on what each of us can do to improve the connections in our lives. Whether it’s tapping into our expanding personal and professional networks, building rapport with our employees and colleagues, or solidifying our niche among our market competitors, our success is determined by the strength of the bonds that we choose to build and maintain. Increasing and improving our connections has strengthened and grown our business and can propel your business’s growth. This may require an investment to leverage the opportunity. Oak Street Funding provides insurance businesses with debt capital for acquisitions, successions, transitions, and more. So whether you want to acquire, groom your
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successor, or expand your headcount, the strength of your connections will define your success. Wishing you future success.
Founder, President & CEO
Oak Street Funding® Vision Statement To be the market leader in client experience for commercial financing by delivering unique and diverse product offerings through cutting edge technology and exceptional employee and client service. 844- 395- 8245 • w w w. o a k s t re e t f u ndi n g.c o m | 3
Socially refreshing your network
REFRESH Some people will tell you we’re more connected than we’ve ever been before, thanks to technology such as cellphones and social media. It’s a safe bet that you’re connected to many clients through Facebook®, LinkedIn®, Instagram®, and other platforms. But is your digital network a real network? By that, we mean do you truly have relationships with your online “friends” and “connections”? There’s a big difference between pressing “like” on a photo of someone’s child and actually knowing the child’s name and age.
The lazy way to stay in touch
As we become more dependent upon digital channels to keep in touch with the important people in business and our personal lives, we replace deep connections with superficial relationships. We may say we have 462 friends on Facebook, but how many of them would we choose to confide in or invite for dinner? When it comes to our business connections, digital networks make it easy for us to be lazy, believing we’re doing a good job of staying in touch. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know a comment on a social media post pales in comparison to an in-person conversation or a phone call. That’s why it’s so important for us to make the effort to socially refresh our networks by taking time to surround ourselves with clients, prospects, and colleagues.
Networking isn’t what you think
Perhaps you think we’re describing what’s come to be called “networking” — those uncomfortable efforts to walk into a roomful of strangers, exchange business cards, and stammer through conversations in the hope that they might lead to a new client relationship. True networking is less about meeting new people, and more about constantly and meaningfully staying in touch with your clients, prospects, and colleagues. 1 The most effective networking grows out of developing genuine relationships with others, regardless of the reason you’re trying to connect with them. It’s far more than an awkward exchange of 4 | w w w.oakstree tf un di ng.com • 8 4 4 - 3 9 5 - 8 2 4 5
business cards. Instead, it involves approaching and treating the other person as a friend and engaging in friendly conversation that will deepen the relationship. 2
Attitude is everything
The key to effective networking is the attitude you bring. If you begin with a real interest in people and what’s going on with their lives, and a genuine curiosity rather than an aggressive, mercenary focus on growing business, you’ll actually accomplish more. 3 By setting out to build a handful of friendships instead of a lengthy contact database, you’ll be able to accumulate quality contacts rather than a large quantity of low-value names and emails. People who network effectively rarely begin the process by talking about business or themselves. In fact, the most effective networkers do very little talking. Instead, they listen. They ask questions and get the other person to talk about themselves. Most people enjoy doing that. Go into initial contacts with a plan to not talk about business (unless the other person encourages you to do so). If you show a genuine interest, you’ll have plenty of future opportunities to use your sales skills. 4
The psychology of trust
When you want to build lasting connections with other people, whether your goal is friendship, business, or romance, you need to establish a sense of mutual trust. When people feel that others will not attempt to deceive or damage them in any way, they’re more willing to connect at a deeper level. Psychologists identify four critical factors in establishing trust between people: • Sharing a common set of values and a respect for the other person’s differing values. • Developing integrity through degrees of honesty, consistency, and predictability. • Having a sense of mutuality, in which each party can rely upon the other. • Creating a sense of commitment that there’s a purpose for the relationship. 5
In simple terms, when we begin to establish any kind of new relationship, we want to be confident that the other person is kind, ethical, has the ability to make the relationship work, and behaves in ways that are comfortable and predictable. 6
As an ethical businessperson, you are no doubt seeking to build relationships — business and social — that embody this kind of trust. While much of that comes back to the personal integrity you and the other party exhibit, there are some strategies you can use to foster that kind of trust, whether you’re meeting someone in person or over the phone: •A sk insightful questions that give the other party an opportunity to share meaningful information. When someone has a genuine interest in us, we’re more likely to trust them. •C hoose thoughtful questions that demonstrate curiosity and show that you focus on more than surface issues. •G ive them your full attention. People can tell whether you’re really listening to what they have to say. Maintain eye contact, don’t interrupt, and ask follow-up questions that show you heard what they were saying. Did you notice that all those strategies involve saying less and listening more? That’s not a coincidence. 7 One of the best ways to build trust is to do the kind of networking that has no obvious benefit for you. That involves introducing people to each other when they might benefit from the connection. For example, if you know someone who mentions she’s planning to sell her home, and you know a realtor you trust, connecting the two of them will help both, and they will see you as a helpful individual who is acting outside of your own self-interest. 8
Reaching across the gaps
One challenge in networking these days is the reality that there are several generational groups in the workforce, and people from these different groups often struggle when it comes
to connecting with the others. By knowing this and taking the lead in creating connections across the generation gaps, you’ll be better able to build a strong social network. In particular, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers benefit when they reach out to Millennial and the Gen Z groups. Developing these connections can strengthen their careers and build their business, while giving the satisfaction of helping others who are earlier in their own careers. Plus, it’s likely that younger contacts will return the favor. A great strategy for networking with younger colleagues or prospects is making a point to introduce them to other people in the room you know. Before you make the introduction, share some information about that person, so they find it easier to continue the conversation. If you know someone who would be a great mentor for the younger person, or who might be able to share knowledge or contacts that would be beneficial, introduce them. They want to build their own networks, and your efforts demonstrate your respect for them. 9 Building your social network by focusing on others is a particularly effective and satisfying strategy. It may involve more work than pressing the “like” button on social media, but in the long run, it will have a profound effect on both your business and your personal relationships. Footnotes 1 Weiss, Phyllis, “How Boomers Can Best Network With Millennials and Gen X’ers.” Nextavenue.org, July 18, 2016 2 “Steps to Seriously Improve Your Networking Skills,” entrepreneur.com, May 14, 2015 3 Weiss, op. cit. 4 entreprenuer.com, op. cit. 5 Clark, Lexis, “Trust versus Mistrust: The 4 Factors Which Define a Trusting Relationship,” positivepsychologyprogram.com, December 22, 2016 6 Waytz, Adam, “Friend or Foe? A Psychological Perspective on Trust,” video, kellogg.northwestern.edu, undated 7 entreprenuer.com, op. cit. 8 ibid. 9 Weiss, op. cit. 844- 395- 8245 • w w w. o a k s t re e t f u ndi n g.c o m | 5
The Power of Referral Networks Have you ever considered doing an analysis to see if there are any benefits of building partnerships with other insurance businesses? A great way to grow your business organically is to build a relationship with a referral partner or create a referral network. Referral networks are made up of like-minded business professionals working together to generate business for each other through referrals and word-of-mouth marketing. Referrals and word-of-mouth marketing can be very valuable. Research by the American Marketing Association has found that recommendations from peers are 2.5 times more responsive than any other marketing channel and that referred customers are also more valuable as they generate higher margins and higher retention than other customers which is beneficial in both the short and the long run. 1 If your product offerings include personal lines like property and casualty, consider finding a referral partner that offers commercial lines or personal lines that you don’t offer such as health or life insurances. Consider also including other makesense partners beyond insurance. Perhaps there is a registered investment advisor, certified public accountant or an attorney that can refer business to you and you can respond in kind. While word-of-mouth marketing and referrals are some of the best ways to produce leads and generate new business, it is important to take measured steps to insure the best outcome when selecting referral partners or creating a referral network. And, of course, you will need to offer the best possible customer service experience so potential partners will want to work with you — since as you are vetting them, they will be vetting you. Below are six steps that will guide you in creating successful partnerships or referral networks.
1. Assess your offerings.
What are your strengths? Where are there gaps? Think beyond insurance. Would creating a strategic partnership help provide your customers with a product or service that you currently do not offer?
2. Define your ideal customer.
In order to get the best results from a referral partner, it is important that both of you serve clients that have characteristics that make them attractive referrals for each of your businesses. 6 | w w w.oakstree tf un di ng.com • 8 4 4 - 3 9 5 - 8 2 4 5
Many times these characteristics will be based more on wealth than on any other demographic.
3. Research connections.
You may already have an idea of who you want to approach to be a referral partner. If not, identify potential partners by talking to your sphere of influence as well as your customers to see if they have recommendations. Gather their opinions and also check online reviews in order to make sure possible partners offer the same first-class service that you provide so you will maintain your reputation for quality.
4. Pop the question.
Once you have identified potential partners, set up oneon-one meetings to share your ideas and to determine if creating strategic partnerships would benefit both of your businesses. Ask how you can best help them. Effective two-way communication will help to build trust and also determine if collaborating is the best plan of action for all parties.
5. Cross train.
In order for referrals or word-of-mouth marketing to be most effective, take time to learn about each other’s businesses. What are your products and/or services? Who is your ideal client? What makes your products or services unique? Why might your products or services be of interest to the other’s client? In order to promote each other effectively, provide business cards and content that can be used when referrals are made.
6. Create a Network.
Once you have developed relationships with multiple referral partners consider hosting a meeting or gathering to bring them together. Share how you and each referral partner have been working together and see if there is interest in establishing a referral network where each participant refers their clients to each of the other partners as needed. By taking these steps you can create a referral network with other quality service providers both inside and outside of your industry. Done effectively, these partnerships or alliances can result providing your clients with added value all while your business grows organically with little or no cost to you. 1. Referral Marketing 101: How to grow your network of referrers. Susie Wittbrodt. Kinesininc.com
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CONNECT WITH YOURSELF Meet your personal and professional goals
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Do you enjoy your work? Are you genuinely happy when you walk into the office? Is your life turning out to be what you envisioned? Does each day and each client interaction help you grow into the person you want to be? Questions like these might seem odd in a business publication, but they’re very important to our success at work and our overall satisfaction. After all, life is made up of a constant stream of decisions, experiences, successes, and failures, and we move forward largely based upon the lessons we learn from all of them. You can have a strong set of skills, remarkable intelligence, the gift of easily connecting with others, and abundant financial resources – but if you want to be a truly effective leader and professional, one of the most important characteristics you need is self-awareness. After all, nobody has a greater influence on what you do and accomplish than you. Taking the time to reflect on your life, your work, your values, and your goals can be difficult and sobering, which is why so many people just plug away on autopilot without giving those things a second thought. Stopping periodically to better understand yourself will help you achieve continual growth.1 Self-reflection can be an important tool, no matter where you are in your career. Taking time out to review your past, analyzing how your experiences brought you to this place, considering where you stand now, and thinking about your goals will help you focus your energy in the most effective way and minimize the chance that you’ll respond to coming challenges in ways that get in the way of growth and success.2 In simple terms, self-reflection helps you clarify where you are and where you want to go. When you know these things, you can develop short- and longterm goals that will give you a path to where you want to be, rather than simply leaving it up to chance.3 Goals are important and beneficial. A report called “New Directions in GoalSetting Theory” noted that the progress we make toward our goals is a major predictor of our feelings of well-being and success in our work.4 Having clearly defined goals accomplishes two things: it motivates you to move toward your goals and it gives you a way to measure your progress.5
Self-reflection can be an important tool, no matter where you are in your career. Self-reflection provides an excellent way to start developing your goals. It lets you take a break from your busy schedule and the time you spend serving the needs of others, so you can focus instead on yourself. When you self-reflect, you concentrate on your past actions, your successes, mistakes you’ve made, and your beliefs and character. Reflecting involves taking time to examine each of these thoughtfully. Rather than simply remembering what happened, you can explore why it happened and how your actions played into it. Given a chance to go through the same situations again, what would you do differently? What should you have noticed that escaped your attention? You can question yourself in a constructive way that will help you sharpen your skills and become more effective. 6 Make sure you block out enough time for your self-reflection, so you’re not distracted by work that has to get done or checking the time to make sure you’re not late to a meeting. Also choose a location where you’re comfortable and won’t be disturbed. And, turn your phone off, too.7 We created the worksheet at right to help you start the process. Review it before you begin reflecting to ensure that the questions address what matters most to you. And be sure to write your responses down, because that will create a document you can review later and use as a measurement for your success in achieving your goals. 1 Cebollero, Chris, “It’s the Season for Self-Reflection,” forbes.com, December 14, 2018. 2 “How important is goal setting and reflection for your career?,” npowerjobs.com, March 24, 2016 3 Commission on Dietetic Registration, “Professional Self-Reflection Portfolio Guide,” undated. 4 “New Directions in Goal-Setting Theory”, Edwin A. Locke, Gary P. Latham, October 1, 2006 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8721.2006.00449.x 5 npowerjobs.com, op. cit. 6 Cebollero, op. cit. 7 ibid.
My two personal strengths are: 1. 2. My top two professional strengths are: 1. 2. My clients would describe me using words like: My colleagues would describe me using words like: Weakness My two biggest personal weaknesses are: 1. 2. My two biggest personal weaknesses are: 1. 2. The one weakness I wish to improve this year is: I will do these two things to improve: 1. 2. Joys My biggest joy in my personal life is: My biggest joy in my professional life is: In my work, I primarily enjoy: I wish I had more time to: Accomplishments My proudest accomplishment of the past 10 years is: My proudest accomplishment in the last year is: I believe my proudest accomplishment in the coming year will be: The Future I expect to retire by: My retirement dream is to: My Goals for Next Year My two professional goals are: 1. 2. My two personal goals are: 1. 2.
Four reasons you should make time for your employees
Are retention rates misleading you? Oftentimes, agencies “live and die” by their client retention rates. But high retention rates may not be what they seem. To make sure you are measuring true retention •E ngagement. When employees know you are interested in what
take into consideration the number of new customers you are adding. More new
they are doing, they become more engaged and even take on
customers means your retention rate will
need to improve in order to grow. Instead of
• Relationships. Your employees know that you are busy so when
using blanket retention rates, Laird Rixford,
you take time to build true relationships you will gain their
CEO of Insurance Technologies Corporation
respect, trust and support. •V alue. Employees feel appreciated and valued when you make
recommends two simple metrics - the average time a customer stays with an
time for them and that builds loyalty. •C ommunication. Open communication keeps you in the loop as
agency and retention rate by acquisition period - to paint a more accurate picture of
employees tend to open up when they see you care enough to
your agency’s performance.
invest your time into getting to know them.
Simplify your business by connecting with virtual assistants No matter the size of your agency, a virtual assistant – a contractor that works remotely - may be the answer to simplifying your business life. Think of those responsibilities that can be managed by an outside resource such as those that require specialized skills but not necessarily a full-time employee – like social media management. Locate potential virtual assistants through referrals or by accessing staffing services and freelance sites online that specialize in this area. 10 | w ww.o akstree tf un di ng.com • 8 4 4 - 3 9 5 - 8 2 4 5
The importance of digital customer communications software
Data insights and fire claims
Many property and casualty insurers are finding the need to integrate their cloud and non-cloud systems to provide a cohesive customer experience whether they are communicating through print, email, the web or on mobile devices. To complicate matters, many insurers have multiple systems for customer communication that vary by department and business line. Complex software applications known as customer communications management (CCM) solutions do more than allow you to contact clients on a regular basis. These responsive systems map customersâ€™ journeys by integrating communication channels and monitoring and recording data and interactions.
2017 was an expensive year for catastrophic claims. The California wildfires, which burned more than 10 million acres, made up 30% of all fire loss costs. The trend will likely worsen when numbers are finalized for the 2018 Camp and Woolsey fires. Traditional practices for scoring fire risk are not as robust as new data driven products. These products look at information such as geographic data, road conditions and routes between homes and fire stations to more accurately assess risk when setting premiums for these policies.
Automation: No substitute for human connections Great people will always be a key part of the relationship intensive insurance business. After all, building strong relationships with clients provides an almost unbeatable competitive advantage. In our busy world, however, personal touches become increasingly more difficult to manage. In order to provide value to your customers and still grow your business, it makes sense to strategically automate certain processes such as repetitive tasks or data analysis. The key is to select those processes to automate that will free up more time for client interaction and enhance the customer experience.
https://www.insurancebusinessmag.com/us/news/technology/are-retention-rates-fooling-you-161970.aspx https://smallbiztrends.com/2016/10/virtual-assistants-guide-small-business.html https://www.stincelliadvisors.com/four-reasons-you-should-make-time-for-your-employees/ https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2019/03/13/the-importance-of-digital-customer-communications-software/ https://www.insurancebusinessmag.com/us/business-strategy/automation-no-substitute-for-great-people-109203.aspx
https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2019/03/13/data-insights-and-fire-claims/?kw=Data%20insights%20and%20fire%20claims&utm_ source=email&utm_medium=enl&utm_campaign=dailynews&utm_content=20190313&utm_term=pc360 844- 395- 8245 â€˘ w w w. o a k s t re e t f u n d i n g.c o m | 1 1
relationships can relieve stress, keep employees coming back every day, and improve engagement throughout the company.
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During their professional career, most people tend to spend a third of their life (or more) at work. Because humans are by nature social creatures, it makes sense to establish relationships with your colleagues to enhance your life. 82% of full-time employees consider about a third of their total colleagues as friends. Employees who have friends are more likely to be engaged and productive. One study determined that those employees who have a “best friend” at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work, have higher well-being, and are less likely to get injured on the job. However, those without a “best friend” have just a 1 in 12 chance of being engaged. The benefits of relationships in the workplace aren’t just limited to having friends. Idle chit-chat may also be valuable to productivity, as even small increases in social cohesiveness lead to large gains in production. Good employee relationships can relieve stress, keep employees coming back every day, and improve engagement throughout the company. So what can you do to strengthen the bonds with your peers and encourage your employees to interact with their coworkers? Consider the following as suggestions to dissolve the distance between associates and encourage a more successful and healthy workplace. 1. Know everyone’s name. It begins with welcoming new employees through introductions. Although starting a new job can be daunting and remembering everyone’s name intimidating, it spawns acknowledging the value that each employee brings to the overall success of the organization. Continued opportunity to learn more about colleagues will encourage interpersonal growth. 2. Facilitate opportunities through food and activities. Although water-cooler talk can result in further streamlined collaborations, intentional gatherings afford the opportunity for even larger gains in relationships. Where there is food- be it a potluck, a sponsored lunch, or a snack bar- people
will flock. Relationships can be built further at activities outside of work, where employees can feel free to bring their full selves to the table. Numerous and varied options will really provide the opportunity to join, including volunteer time, walking or gym clubs, or happy hour events. 3. Remember virtual employees. With increased technology comes the opportunity for work to be accomplished outside of the office. Virtual or remote employees can easily feel disconnected from their team, since they aren’t there for the parties, events, or interpersonal events. Do what you can to keep them engaged, including cross-departmental projects, video-conferencing opportunities, and by bringing them to the corporate office on a regular or annual basis. 4. Stay positive and celebrate. Work can be stressful, but that doesn’t mean we need to linger on the negative effects. Rather, a positive and realistic outlook on opportunities, performance, and teamwork leads to further support within the company. Find the time to celebrate the great things happening, like anniversaries, achievements, babies, and birthdays. Recognizing and sharing joy in these successes and milestones will build connections and boost morale. 5. Practice good conflict resolution. Sometimes even the best intentions can’t prevent conflict in a work environment. Left unresolved, conflicts can simmer, escalate, build resentment, or turn into a serious issue. Distributing a respectful and constructive conflict resolution policy enables everyone at the company to proactively feel empowered to handle conflict and less likely to avoid issues when they arise, avoiding lingering tension that can be detrimental to relationships. 6. Share knowledge. If employees have different skillsets, travel to conferences, are constantly learning new things, or have personal hobbies that may be interesting or useful to colleagues, set time aside for knowledge sharing. Not only does this provide an opportunity for colleagues to get to know each other, but it will enable employees to become more well-rounded in their professional lives as well.
Olivet Nazarene University, “Research on Friends at Work,” online.olivet.edu/news/research-friends-work, undated. Rath, T. (2006). Vital friends: The people you can’t afford to live without. New York: Gallup Press. Economist.com. (2008, August 20). Technology Monitor. Every move you make. Retrieved September 22, 2009, from www.economist.com/ science/tm/displaystory.cfm?story_id=11957553
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ACROSS 1. _________ Boomers 4. remote employee 7. small talk 11. cut in
ACROSS: 1. baby 4. virtual 7. chitchat 11. interrupt 16. self reflection 17. customer 18. gen 20. superficial 21. long term 22. refresh 23. autopilot 24. trust DOWN: 2. attitude 3. network 5. accomplishment 6. retire 8. referral 9. best friend 10. mutuality 12. database 13. potluck 14. linkedin 15. word of mouth 19. comment 21. lazy
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14. professional social networking site 15. verbal marketing strategy 19. make an observation 21. slothful
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