The New England Patriots Model | by Mitch Long
As a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan, it is hard for me to say nice things about the New England Patriots–but I have to admire the organization and their consistent success. It is no accident that they keep winning year after year.
In the insurance industry, we have seen life insurance companies leaving the marketplace every year. Companies such as Genworth, Metlife, and Voya no longer write life insurance. Many other companies in the industry struggle to deliver their products to market on a consistent basis. Could the New England Patriots system be beneficial to an insurance company? I think it can. Let’s talk about the playbook for success!
1. Be good in all phases of the game
The Patriots coaches know that every play counts. Most games in the NFL come down to just a few plays.
In a similar way, companies need to have good products, good underwriting, good process, and good customer service—and yet so many are good in only some of these areas. I recall the president of a well-known insurance company actually saying in front of an audience of 300 insurance agents, “our goal for service is to suck less than everyone else.” Imagine if the Patriot coaches had that attitude? The companies have to care about all phases of the insurance game.
2. Draft good players
It is amazing how, year after year, the Patriots draft last in the first round and yet consistently find great players. Tom Brady was a sixth-round draft pick who will ultimately be a Hall of Famer.
To win consistently, you need good, consistent talent, yet insurance companies continue to outsource customer service jobs. These people are often untrained and have no knowledge of the insurance business. Saving money by sacrificing talent is just not smart—you’ll lose revenue long-term. Companies should only have trained, knowledgeable people on the phone who can satisfy the caller immediately. Anything less is shortsighted thinking.
3. Rookies have to be superstars
The success of the Patriots depends on consistent, play-by-veteran players. For a rookie to see the field, he has to be a superstar.
In contrast, insurance companies continue to let talent walk out the door in favor of inexperienced people they can pay less. Think what would happen if the Patriots told Tom Brady they were going to cut him in favor of a rookie quarterback? They obviously would save money on payroll, but how many Super Bowl trophies would the team have then? (Cleveland Browns, anyone?)
It is not how much money the company spends that matters, but rather what they are spending it on. Hiring fewer, but more talented people is the way to win.
4. “Coaching is easy when the lineman are big and the backs are fast”
This is a quote by basketball coach Bobby Knight. How many times have you seen Julian Edelman catch a three-year slant route and turn it into a 20-yard gain, or Rob Gronkowski just bully a defender because of his size?
And yet insurance companies make everything harder on themselves by slowing down their own game. I really can’t think of another industry that gets their product to market slower than life insurance companies. Think if you went into a restaurant and ordered a steak and they said, “that will be five to seven business days.” The revenue for these companies is based on issuing policies and collecting premiums–any internal process that slows that down should be eliminated.
5. Expect to win
The Patriots definitely expect to win. Even their opponents expect them to win. I remember the Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons when the Falcons were way ahead–as soon as the Patriots started coming back, you could almost see the Falcon players giving up.
If insurance companies expect their employees to be knowledgeable, they will be. If they expect their employees to be able to handle a customer’s needs in one call, they will. Build expectations for success.
6. Keep your eye on the prize
The goal for the Patriots is to make the playoffs. They could care less about an early season loss, but when they reach the playoffs, they know how to make it happen. That is why they have played in ten Super Bowls. The Jacksonville Jaguars beat up on the Patriots in an early-season game last year and everyone said, “the Patriots are finally declining,” but when playoff time came, they were unbeatable.
Insurance companies, in contrast, often put most of their energy into licensing, compliance, and paperwork—all of which are important, but ultimately secondary to their reason for existing, which is issuing policies, collecting premiums, and fulfilling their promise to policyholders. Guess what these companies get good at?
The Patriots success is no fluke. They have a culture of winning, that’s why they win consistently, year after year. Most insurance companies take every decision point where they could develop a culture of winning and do the opposite. It’s not a coincidence that many are struggling. We in this industry need to look to those who have the consistent success we want and adapt what they do to our situation—and if we don’t, we shouldn’t be surprised by the result.
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