After months of being at home and unable to meet with our friends, we’re REALLY ready to get back to normal. But what is normal after COVID-19? What should we expect to see in our daily lives following the weirdest pandemic the world has ever seen? Honestly, there’s not much we can do to prepare ourselves in our daily lives, but as independent agents thinking about recovery, we have many things to consider.
When the pandemic first reared its head, most agencies were simply focused on moving their work to a home environment. They were in the React phase, as Carnahan calls it in her article React, Recover, Reinvent. Many agencies struggled to shift their operating force from the office to their home, dealing with technology issues like establishing VPN access and making more equipment available. Principals were focused solely on providing staff with the resources necessary to keep business flowing. This was not a small task, but things that normally would’ve taken months to accomplish were completed in a week.
Next, we had to deal with the impact COVID-19 had on our carriers. Commercial lines carriers with heavy books of travel and entertainment especially took massive hits. And we were all waiting to see what the government was going to do to help attach coverage to policies that “weren’t designed” to cover the effects of this pandemic. The following economic plunge that ensued forced agency owners to plan ahead and budget for future scenarios. Many agencies are reviewing their budgets, and many have chosen to reduce their IT budget to keep the expense ratio down. They are conducting cost-benefit analyses of postponing some projects and considering the long-term strategic impact this could have on their future. Once a project is stopped, how easy will it be to start it again later, and what will be impacted by this project’s postponement?
Getting ‘back to normal’ will be a long process, and it will look different for all of us. Some agencies may implement a more permanent work from home policy, which has the added benefit of making new job openings more attractive. In order to do this, agencies will need to establish concrete plans to facilitate entire departments working remotely and reevaluate the impact on other parts of the agency. The focus on growth and retention will be at the forefront of every agency owner’s mind. Competition will increase as businesses fight to keep revenue streams from shrinking, and agencies should look for ways to diversify appetites and expand expertise to stay competitive.
We don’t know when things will get back to normal, or what this new normal will look like. All we can do is prepare for the future possibilities by keeping our noses to the grindstone and our ears to the news. Use this downtime to expand your offerings by taking extra trainings or reevaluate your marketing strategy. Putting plans in place now that balance expenses with investment will position your agency for reinvention.