How Cullen Insurance Agency Became a Frontrunner in Its Industry by Streamlining Its Business Processes
Having grown his business mostly through the acquisition of similar businesses, Zac Cullen, chief executive officer at Cullen Insurance Agency suffered huge bottlenecks due to inconsistency in operations. The employees from the acquired companies were stuck on their old ineffective processes and did not see the need for a change. The different branches of the organization were operating on different processes, making it hard to achieve a common goal.
As one who understood the importance of having the same processes across the entire business, it was evident to Zac that until the problem was resolved, they would not make headway. He tried a few systems, but none did it for him. There was something missing until he found SweetProcess.
Zac shares his experience on how SweetProcess helped his organization to become a top player in its industry. First, let us get a picture of the organization for a better understanding of their progress.
About Cullen Insurance Agency
Cullen Insurance Agency offers various insurance packages to meet the peculiar needs of private individuals and businesses. A pioneering agency in Southern California with over twenty years’ experience in business, the company has expertise in car insurance, life insurance, motorcycle insurance, business insurance, homeowner’s insurance, etc. Its seasoned staff handles each case with the utmost professionalism in their clients’ best interests. This has earned Cullen Insurance Agency a good reputation in the industry, making it the go-to agency for persons and businesses looking to secure their assets. The agency currently boasts 40 employees.
Listen to the audio interview:
Listen to more customer stories and interviews like this:
The Breaking Point
“The thousandth time you’ve said something when you are just sick and tired of explaining is the first time most people get it,”
Zac says this was a common joke made by managers in his establishment.
Having employees perform their jobs without explanations was a tall order. He and the managers had to go through the painstaking task of explaining things over and over again before making sense. Though tedious, they tried to manage it initially. But as they acquired more businesses and began to operate from multiple locations, they could no longer cope with it.
Everyone was doing things their own way. In their defense, they were operating based on how things had always been done in their various organizations before the acquisition. But that excuse did not hold water. If the acquired businesses were doing so well with their own processes, they would not have been sold off in the first place.
“Most of our growth was through acquisition. We had other agencies we bought that had their own processes. But obviously they weren’t working that well; otherwise, they wouldn’t have sold their agencies.”
One thing was clear to Zac: leaving his employees to continue doing things their way would make his business go down the drain. He had the option to either leave things as they were or get a system to streamline his business processes. He chose the latter.
Leveraging the Unique Features of SweetProcess for Success
Cullen Insurance has always been keen on implementing processes in order to replicate great results. When they started out twenty years ago, they were using Word documents for that purpose.
“I’ve always been big on processes and making sure that we are doing the same thing over and over again so that if we need to make adjustments, we know where to fix the problem,”
As the business began to grow, there was a need to create more processes, and Word documents were inadequate. He opted for HR Systems as a replacement. But that was not adequate either. The systems lacked the basic features for documentation such as category and table of content. As they began to scale, it was obvious that they needed something better.
“When we started to scale out, I was looking out for a process system. I think we probably used two or three different ones before we landed on SweetProcess,”
How exactly was SweetProcess different from the other systems? We are about to find out!
1. Easy documentation process
A process meant to walk employees through tasks falls short if it is not easy to understand. With the Word documents used by the company initially, there were no features to simplify the documentation process. The end result was a bunch of texts that were exhausting to read. SweetProcess offers tools for step-by-step guides, charts, screenshots, photos, videos, etc. There is room for you to customize the documentation process in line with your peculiar business needs.
“I liked the easy use. When we were making a process, how easy it was to be able to go step by step. I wanted something that was very, very simple. Like if it’s one keystroke, I want a step for it. If it’s another keystroke, I need a step for it. And a picture, screenshot, and utilizing video.”
With the documentation as easy as ABC, you can sleep with your eyes closed without the fear of your employees making blunders.
2. Searchability to access files quickly
When you are dealing with many processes in your business, there is a tendency for some to get buried in clutter. Going through the documents one after another is a waste of time and energy. While using HR systems for documenting their processes, Zac explains that some of their documents got lost in the pile as there was no searchability feature.
“We tried to file it inside of a table of contents and tried to make that work correctly, but that was a problem because as new processes were added, we had to figure out where they were input, and there was really no searchable thing other than search on all the Word docs for keywords.”
It is a different ball game with SweetProcess. Documents can be accessed at the snap of the finger by simply searching for them with their titles. This is one of the things Zac liked the most when he started using the system.
“I liked a lot of things in SweetProcess, especially the searchability,”
3. Reference point for efficiency
Training new employees are one thing; babysitting them afterward is another thing. Understandably, employees cannot become geniuses on the job overnight. But your business should not suffer the consequences of their mistakes. It is only a matter of time before you get tired of their incessant questions about what to do and how to do it. You can save yourself and your business the trouble by having a standard document they can always reference just like Zac and his team did with SweetProcess.
“Did you go to SweetProcess? Almost every time when somebody says, ‘I messed up’ or ‘I didn’t know how to do that,’ that’s the very first thing that we say before anything else is said. And most of the time, we get that look from the employee like, Well, no. Okay, go to SweetProcess. If you can’t figure it out after that, call me. And 90% of the time they go, ‘Yeah that fixed it, we are good.’”
Having a reference document is not only meant for employees who are learning on the job. It can also be a lifesaver in unforeseen situations like when someone needs to stand in for an absentee employee. Rather than holding everyone to ransom with their absence, work can continue as there is a document to guide others through the process.
4. Speedy training and learning
Besides possessing the standard skills required for the job, employees may require training to be abreast of their specific roles. It is the responsibility of an organization to train its employees, especially when they are onboarding to minimize errors. But having to train them for too long is not part of the bargain. It is exasperating when they do not catch on to things in due time and make excuses for it.
“From a training perspective, if you want to do screen, they can follow along every step of the way. It took away the excuses that I always got which are: I wasn’t trained on that, I don’t know how to do that, or I forgot. Those were the three main things that I always heard from employees when trying to get them to do what we needed them to do, and this system took away two of the excuses. There’s no more I don’t know how to do that, there’s no more I wasn’t trained on that.”
You want your workers to get the hang of the job as quickly as possible and start producing results for your organization instead of wasting resources. Cullen Agency achieved that with SweetProcess.
5. Cloud-based remote access
On-premise workflow systems are becoming less popular due to their limited access. With remote and virtual work gaining momentum, making processes accessible remotely is key for efficiency.
Cloud-based systems like SweetProcess also enhance process updates. Authorized persons can make coordinated updates with minimal chances of forgetfulness or errors.
“When we were loading everything else into a document file, it’s not being cloud-based. People were making adjustments but one person might have a process that wasn’t updated yet and they’d upload the wrong one or they make adjustments to it and forget to upload it. So the processes weren’t being updated.”
The Biggest Mistakes Businesses Make About Streamlining Their Operations
According to Zac, one of the biggest mistakes businesses make with their processes is not creating them in the first place.
“A lot of people don’t take the time to create processes. That’s what creates the bottleneck and that’s also what creates most frustration in business,”
They downplay processes, operating on trial and error in the hopes that things will work out. Unfortunately, it does not always turn out well.
“I’ve been in a lot of businesses with other partners where it’s ‘throw it against the wall and see what sticks.’ Almost every time that I’ve gone on a venture like that with somebody else, it ended badly. So, I’d say definitely, slow down. Make sure that there’s a process, especially for all the big rocks inside of your company, and that it’s followed.”
Another mistake businesses make when streamlining their processes is allowing some employees to perform tasks differently from others. If they are convinced that their own process is better than the stipulated one, they should table it to the management for evaluation. If at the end of the day their process proves to be better off, it should be adopted as the standard for everyone to follow.
“I’m not going to tell somebody not to think outside the box or not to do something. But I will say before you do it that way all the time, let’s review it. With SweetProcess, we just change the process, let everybody know.”
It is okay for employees to create effective processes themselves, but they should not be allowed to use them individually. Adopting the processes in the general operations is a win for the organization as everyone will be more efficient.
Major Milestones Attained with SweetProcess
In an industry where a great deal of trust is required, there is no room for mediocrity. Customers are at the receiving end of business processes. When the processes are effective, they are satisfied and happy. One bad customer encounter could cause huge damage to the company’s reputation.
Cullen Insurance Agency has been able to win their customers’ trust and attained great milestones by leveraging SweetProcess. It is now a $25 million premium agency.
“Right now, we are probably the third largest all-state agency in the state of California and probably top 10 in the country,”
With such great achievements under their belt already, it is evident that the sky is their starting point.
Joining the Winning Team
The business terrain is not a playing ground but a jungle. It is a survival of the fittest. The weaker ones are subdued by their stronger opponents. Zac acquired similar businesses in his industry when they could no longer stay afloat due to operational problems. He was able to do this successfully because he was standing on solid ground with SweetProcess. If your business processes are ineffective, you might lose your business to someone with effective processes. Do not let that happen. Sign up for the SweetProcess 14-day free trial right away.