My #1 productivity tip for insurance agency owners

Have you seen the movie “Saving Mr. Banks” yet? If not, I highly recommend it! I was watching it a couple of weeks ago when P. L. Travers’ Aunt Ellie (the inspiration for Mary Poppins) said something quite remarkable. She said, “Started is 50% done!”

You may remember a post I wrote a while back, where I talked about Dan Sullivan’s 80% Principle. The principle and Aunt Ellie’s comment have a lot in common. Both Dan and Aunt Ellie’s advice drives at the fact that the hardest part of many (most?) jobs is simply getting started!

Think about that for a moment. How many things could we accomplish in our days if we simply started? Phone calls, following up on insurance leads, cross selling, posting on social media… Or, how many things do we never get done because we simply can’t summon the energy to begin? Think of time-savers like agency automation, which can save you so much time if you only get them going.

In the movie, Aunt Ellie arrives at Travers’ girlhood home, which is a physical and emotional wreck. Travers’ father is dying of alcoholism. The mother has recently tried to commit suicide. There is no money. Nothing to eat. The house is full of trash, dirty clothes and dishes piled high in the sink. Aunt Ellie hands the little girl a broom on the porch of this impossible mess, this hopeless situation and says, “Started is 50% done!”

Big Journeys Begin With Small Steps sign on desert road

No matter how long our daily, weekly, monthly to-do list is. No matter how challenged our business is. No matter how far away our dreams seem, starting to do something about them is not just the only answer, it’s the biggest step we can take towards a successful insurance agency.

What do you need to get started on today?

I tell this to all of my insurance agents, and it is my favorite trick to enhance employee productivity and grow insurance sales.

How many times have you heard someone say “I’ve been meaning to?” I hear it all the time. “I’ve been meaning to: start a new insurance marketing program, hire a CSR, take a vacation, upgrade my agency management software, lose weight,” and so on.

In fact, there are things I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while. How about you?

I think the reason we haven’t isn’t usually because of a shortage of time. I think it’s either a shortage of commitment, or a fear of not doing it well and consequently failing. Successful entrepreneurs are skilled and disciplined about taking risks in spite of their fears. They know that even if they don’t currently possess the skills or means to do something well, they can develop them. They understand getting started is the key to grow your agency, your book of business, your bottom line.

I find the comment from Edward Deming, the management guru, who said that “85 per cent of the results of an enterprise depend on the first 15% of the work” incredibly encouraging.

I think his statement is supportive of both of the issues I named above. It’s encouraging to think that if I can just start (15%) something, completing it will be relatively painless. It’s also encouraging to know that if, after starting (15%), failure looks likely, I can stop without having invested a lot of time or money. What a great way to increase productivity!


The key to conquering the malaise, guilt, and lack of progress that come from “meaning to” but not doing something, is in getting started. Start, and if it’s a worthwhile project, you will finish it successfully. Try it for yourself. What do you need to put 15% effort into?

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