I recently attended the 2016 Insurance Agency Owners Alliance (IAOA) Conference, also known as IA16.
To say it was life-changing is a MASSIVE understatement.
But let me back up a bit and give you some context……..
IAOA is a Facebook group comprised of independent insurance agency owners. We exist to help each other with the many facets of owning an independent insurance agency, from market searches, HR and accounting advice to technology and marketing & sales tips. We even venture beyond insurance. Because although we are all about insurance, we are also so much more….. (make a note to yourself- have a life outside of insurance. Your family and customers will THANK YOU. And you’ll be happier 😉
So over the past year, we’ve all posted to the group, sent referrals to each other, exchanged ideas, asked for feedback and vented our frustration. And yes, we’ve discussed some non-insurance topics and had many laughs (that life outside of insurance thing? seriously it helps keep your sanity).
But you want to know the most amazing thing? We’ve become friends. Yep- without even meeting in person. That’s the power of social media.
I’ve been online since 2009 and I can’t even begin to describe to you the impact it’s had on my life, for the better. I’ve made genuine friends and built many relationships with people who gladly have my back….and know I have theirs.
Now back to my conference experience…..
The IA16 Conference Experience
I really had no idea what to expect. But what was most amazing? That people came up to greet me and talk with me as if we were old friends. Although many joked that it was like online dating- we only knew each other through our profile photos, so we tried to compare those photos with the people we saw in person and hoped they were a match 😉
I shook lots of hands, gave lots of hugs and even a few pecks on the cheek. And it wasn’t strange at all. Why? Because we had taken the past year to build our relationship online. We knew each other. The majority of people were in real life exactly as they portrayed themselves online.
The IA16 Content
Our speakers were all independent insurance agency owners. No company people. No outside influences. And all with a boatload of practical, useful information pulled directly from their own agencies. To me, that’s the BEST kind of presentation. No filler, but actual meat & potatoes.
The topics covered included Selfless Giving, Branding With Integrity, Customer Experience Creation, Website Automation, Quality vs. Quantity Business, Hustle and Flow, Finding Your Why, Customer Engagement through Client Nurturing and Community Events, Video Marketing, and How to Dream Again.
Some of the best presentations I’ve ever seen. Off the Hook. Ridiculously Amazing. Inspiring.
No offense to any of the speakers, but they aren’t what has lingered with me several days after the conference.
The IA16 People
Yes, it’s the people I met, the conversations we had, the laughs we shared and the amazing flow of ideas and collaboration that stays with me. And in my heart.
THAT is why I went. Because when you get a group of engaged, pumped people who genuinely want to help each other and are cheering each other’s success, it gives you hope. It inspires you. It makes you go “HELL YES- this is the best industry in the world and I am ready to give it my all!”
Because I’ll tell you what folks, I’m entering my 20th year in the industry. The amount of changes I’ve seen is insane. How we do things, what we do, technology, company fluctuations, government intervention- it’s enough to make you throw your hands up and say “to hell with this.”
I get tired. I get frustrated. I get so mad I want to punch someone. I get so discouraged, I’m ready to give it all up and go sell pencils on the street.
But I’m no different than anyone else. And this group has allowed me to see that I’m not alone. And you never have to be alone. There are people willing to help, cheer you on and offer their shoulder in times of need.
Here’s the link to the group- https://www.facebook.com/groups/IAOAlliance/
My Final Takeaway
This group has allowed me to see that we as independent insurance agency owners need to stick together in order to remain relevant and valued. Let’s face it folks- crap is flying at us from all angles trying to prove otherwise. And the consumer’s buying it. So either we stick together and stand for something greater than ourselves or we risk going the way of the dodo bird.
I know which group I’d rather be in……How about you?
A special shout out to the group’s founders, Dave Jackson, Grant Botma, Nicholas Ayers, and Brandon Smith for their vision, support and love. And the tremendous amount of time spent putting together a conference and experience that will stay with me for a lifetime. IA16 totally rocked.
So to them and to the amazing people of the IAOA group (and the ones I finally got to meet in person):