1. If you want to start a business, be willing to let go of your comfort zone
This was my very first lesson learned in my business. Christopher Columbus: “You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” I had to let go willingly and by force, of everything that served my comfort zone to start my business.
The only lighthouse I had was a dream to create something bigger than one person, while slaving away with admin for hours on end, in a cold garage. Letting go required missing out on life, luxury, time, fun, relationships, business partners, holidays, expenditure and a lifestyle of leisure.
Furthermore, it takes a great deal of courage to start-up any organisation in the highly volatile insurance industry. There are so many balls to juggle and therefore it requires some “balls”.
In 2011 when our business was born, the Binder Legislation was introduced, which meant that even all the years of experience that I have gained in setting up Underwriting Management Agencies (UMA’s) was obsolete. The Binder Legislation prohibited UMA’s from charging a fee to the policyholder which is above the premium.
The objective of the Regulator was to protect the consumer, but I think it overlooked how halving the remuneration of specialist entities impacted on the quality of service the UMA was able to deliver to the consumer. Fortunately we were a newcomer business in the business and were able to quickly adapt.
2. Sometimes we just have to temporarily forget about our challenges and lower the importance of all the things that seem so “important and urgent”
The first two years of running my business in 2013 was like giving birth to a pineapple. I was stressed, short-tempered, unhealthy and way too thin. I have seen people in the industry facing some very serious health conditions attributed to the stress and pressure we are expected to handle on a day to day basis.
Eventually you get to a point where you look in the mirror and you realised you have become the very thing you were trying to avoid. You cannot think properly if you are overworked, burned out and stressed.
The moment you relax, have fun, forget and take your attention away from the problems in your live, you become amazingly creative. Then when you least expect it, you arrive at a moment of insight that gives you the best possible answer for the best possible outcome.
3. Industry compliance is tedious but rewarding
As motivation to embrace and adhere to industry compliance you have to be conscious of the benefits of compliance and keep them top-of-mind. Sometimes compliance can be tedious and overbearing, but it makes a business stronger and more resilient.
For example, when our office burned down in 2013, our diligent compliance exercises and refinement of policies and procedures paid off. We experienced no business interruption and were serving our customers within one working day of the incident – as if nothing happened.
Getting into the habit of writing exhaustive lists of how compliance benefits your organisation, tends to make synaptic connections and cultivate a positive attitude to this essential aspect of the industry.
4. Find solutions for your brokers to remove some of the polarisation and enable them to focus on their main function, which is selling policies and advising their clients correctly
It was only in 2014 that I began to truly appreciate the polarised nature of the insurance industry ecosystem. For starters, demands on Financial Services Providers (FSP’s) by the Regulator require the industry to constantly implement significant operational changes.
The most marginalised stakeholders in this scenario are the brokers. Cyclical decisions by large organisations cause a gigantic ripple effects that create a love-hate relationship between providers and brokers.
Brokers are squeezed into one-size-fits-all solutions with hardly any access to decision makers. They feel uninformed about their results but must scurry to find alternative markets when their portfolios start hurting the providers financially.
In the pursuit of overarching escalations to top management to solve small administrative problems employees are not competent and equipped to assist brokers. Brokers must constantly chase and follow up with providers to deliver results and then on the side help educate the employees of the provider.
Over and above all these obstacles, there is so much duplication of information and to get things done accurately the first time is almost impossible. This is the case for just one stakeholder, not to mention the chaos that insurance companies and UMA’s have to endure on their end.
5. Decision making is the integration of sufficient knowledge and accurate timing
Decision-making is everything in our industry. Knowledge and time are the two compulsory components impacting our ability to make great decisions. We don’t have time to reflect on and process information. We drown in a sea of data.
As an industry we find ourselves obligated to make split-second decisions and live and die by their echoing consequences. The compounding consequences of the wrong/old decisions made over time are difficult to undo.
However, the opposite is also true, the compound effect of accumulative small actions deliberately taken daily to conserve your time have an overall profound effect on the performance of your business.
In 2015 and 2016 we had to make some hardcore decisions one after the other. Many of these decisions hinged around the following questions: Are we surrounding ourselves with quality individuals? Are we being side-tracked by things that are not really part of our original game plan? Do the things we choose synchronise and amplify the reason Ibiliti was started in the first place?
If you do not have the capacity to invest in optimising and refining every single process and action in your business, time will work against you and eat away your creation. It will erode most of your opportunities for making better business decisions.
Your level of experience, organisation, and preparation will determine where you will end up. It is your ability to accurately predict the industry conditions intimately knowing your organisation and the certainty that your body will be strong and flexible enough to have control over the results.
6. The financial destiny of the business is determined by the accumulation of small financial savings on each transaction
Just like time, money determines the destiny of the business. The key lesson from 2016 is that money flows through the economy to those who value it most, have the most order and organisation and deliver ease of transaction for policyholders.
Your ability to take any change and challenge and turn it into an opportunity to improve what you have is gold. Saving time as well as saving money for both your company and clients fosters a sustainability that can weather the everlasting cycle of upgrading everything from training, products, marketing, communication, systems, and processes.
Just when you think you are done; you start the next cycle, and everything needs to be updated again because the only constant is change. You quickly get punished by outside forces for your inability to add value, lack of order and indecisiveness. In the world of tech and automation the punishment is quicker and fiercer.
7. There is a difference between innovation and transformation
Transformation is more sustainable than innovation. With consumer behaviour driving instant gratification and technology replacing bulk batches of employees, you start to seriously question what you are busy creating. To transform is the ability to start all over again and reinvent yourself and your business.
Transformation is when traditional insurance worms become light relatable fluttery butterflies strategically navigating through a whole new way of being in a brand-new insurance garden driven by unfamiliar and unknown technology.
This is when you and your business must shake off everything you have been habitually been programmed to do and move into bigger thinking and understanding to find sustainable solutions for your customers. Innovation is one element under the umbrella of transformation.
This is the stable foundation upon which I learned to ground all our innovation processes from 2017 onward.
8. The human face of insurance
In addition to the buzzword of innovation, we also face the impending Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) which will see artificial intelligence (AI) and various other technologies turn our industry on its head. The insurance solutions of the future will measure what people think and feel, to predict how they will act.
Technology will make it easier for everyone and provide some mind-blowing solutions, but it will also breed some challenges we have never faced before as we seek to integrate man and machine. However, after a while AI will become like another cell phone, assist card or application available in the Appstore.
The real differentiator will be those insurance companies that invested in understanding human behaviour and connection. Not knowing what your customers truly think and feel will cost insurance companies dearly because as technology advances, measuring feelings and reading people’s minds will dominate.
The eighth lesson I am still learning is that beyond 2019, Ibiliti has to be the human face of insurance because more than organisations and structures, we are serving humans after all.