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I was very fortunate years ago to have a mentor who was, and still is, a great person… but he was also a great salesperson. Allen Bacchiochi and I spent 126 straight days together in the year 2000, as he was preparing for the 52nd State Representative race. During the days we spent together, Allen said to me countless times that the difference between a great and an average business person is that you need to remember, “you’re in the people business.” He would always tell me to remember that no matter what business you’re in or what product you’re going to try to sell, you need to always remember to put people first!

For 40 years, Allen owned several businesses. One was a real estate office, one was a garbage removal business, and he was also a real estate mogul. The great thing about his story is that he met all of this success in the business world, but never finished the 9th grade. Allen grew up back when times were tough, and so tough that he quit school to help his mother pay bills and put food on the table. What I learned from his story, which was told to me by his mother, was that you should never feel bad for yourself or your situation, because there is always someone worse off than you. His will to take care of his family was so important that he never thought of what he had done, he just did it for the betterment of his family and loved ones.

Allen believed that every single business and/or product was, in one way or another, about helping people. He often said that if your product or service didn’t benefit people in some way, then you wouldn’t be able to stay in business. The lesson I took from this was to never sell a product, but rather sell what it could do for the people who might buy it. This was a very important life lesson that has stuck with me from day one of opening my insurance agency, and without that advice I’m not sure if I would still be open today.

The moment an insurance agency (or any business, really…) or its leadership loses sight of the fact that they are in the people business, regardless of what they sell (whether it’s a product, or a piece of paper in our case), their potential for long-term success begins to decline, and I would bet that decline will lead to the closing of that agency.

If you’re in business, any business, I don’t care if you’re a doctor, mechanic, dentist, or an insurance agent, you are in the people business, and you should never forget that!

In my mind, and how I run my agency, is that there should never be a policy, process, or procedure that is more important than people. With that said every procedure and or process has to be thought of from the clients/prospect eyes not from our eyes first. Your people (your agency’s team first, and your clients second) are your business, both the people who work for your agency and the clients of your agency.

I was recently visiting San Antonio Texas for a speaking engagement, and when I arrived, the Marriott had overbooked the hotel and had no rooms available. The wonderful young lady behind the desk said no worries I have a backup plan to make sure we can accommodate you. I said great, and she had put me at ease and asked me to come back in 30 minutes. She said she would have everything all set, and in the meantime, she gave me a free lunch for the inconvenience. Well, I came back 45 minutes later and she had everything fixed. The customer experience during this event was saved, thanks to what the young lady communicated to me. Not only did she say what she was going to do, she followed through with it. That night, I came up to my room and there was a handwritten note from the manager apologizing for the inconvenience with 6 chocolate covered strawberries. This was an amazing gesture and I have become a huge fan of Marriott thanks to how well they handle the “people business.” I tell this story because the way they handled the customer experience was brilliant, and they turned a bad situation into a great one.

Let’s remember, we agencies are in the people business! When people are involved in your agency, you will sometimes need to throw the numbers out to do the right thing, and remember, people are always involved in your business. This is not always easy, but it’s a critical part of the people business.

Put people first, and your agency will not only last, it will grow and prosper in a very competitive industry!