Important Tips to Protect Relationships in a Family Agency

September 16, 2020

Insurance agency owners all across the country run successful businesses spanning several decades, contributing to their local economies by supporting families and businesses’ needs in their communities. A significant factor in this is an owner’s ability to develop a perpetuation plan that allows the agency to thrive over multiple generations. Often, owners plan to hand the business down to their children. 

As much as insurance agencies desire to keep operations within the family, there are family dynamics and generational gaps at play, which can create conflict as a parent and child may disagree on how to run the business. Managing the personal and work relationship is complicated. Here are tips agencies can use as they navigate those choppy waters.

Maintain open communication – 

An essential ingredient to any relationship is good communication. When conversations stop, so does progress. Whether working through a challenging project or an interpersonal conflict, the dialogue is critical to finding a solution.  

Be a willing listener with the goal of understanding, not responding. Also, recognizing when emotions are running high is vital as well. There is undoubtedly value in thinking, processing, and cooling off if things get heated, but establishing timelines for when talks should resume is essential to get through those challenging situations. And when things are going well, appropriate communication can help ensure that goals stay on track.  

Seek common ground – 

When disagreements arise, and they will, conflicting opinions are at play. When this happens, it is essential to take attention off of the differences and instead shift focus to your similarities. What are the goals that everyone shares when it comes to the future of the agency? What are the core values of the company? What does success look like? Answers to these questions should be the same across the board as they are at the center of who the agency is.  

Once you’ve found common ground, it is easier to have a transparent conversation regarding achieving those goals. Remember to always approach these conversations with respect recognizing there is room for multiple perspectives at the table.

Identify Areas for compromise – 

For an established agency owner who has been successful in doing things the same way for years, the idea of changing ways can be an intimidating thought. This concern deserves thoughtful consideration.

Remember, respecting an owner’s position and hesitation does not mean that progress and modernization come to a standstill. The industry and customer demands are changing, and agencies have to be willing to evolve. Change for the sake of change does not serve a purpose. Instead, evaluating the agency’s goals and potential adjustments needed to get there is a great starting point. Look at technology options and process changes that can help move the agency towards those goals. Try things out incrementally with smaller pivots and investments and track progress carefully.  By adopting change and investing money in smaller doses, both the owner and child are getting something they want, and the agency can take a small amount of risk to move forward without gambling the whole agency.

Establish ground rules – 

Mixing family and business can bring many challenges daily and put a strain on relationships very quickly. Recognizing and being fully aware of this risk is essential to addressing it before the office’s stress makes an appearance at a family dinner.  

All parties should agree on the primary objective of preserving and protecting the family relationship. To achieve this, decide when it is and is not okay to discuss work outside of the office and determine off-limits topics. Talk about what communication looks like when other family members (like spouses) get involved. Discuss family get-togethers and whether work has any place at those events. By taking the time to prepare to work together and establish guidelines, you will have more success keeping a healthy family dynamic even during tough times.

Combining family and work and adding generational differences on top can be complicated and provide many benefits, including carrying on a family legacy. Using the tips above, family agencies can prepare to handle the challenges that will come their way and continue moving ahead successfully together!

For more on this topic, check out the full episode of The Independent Agent below.