How the North Pole is Like Your Insurance Business

On the same night each year, one individual fulfills the mission of his business. This illustrious night is the same every year; the same bitter cold, the same mach-speeds, and the same focus and determination. Although this single night delivers on the mission, it isn’t any one night that allows the mission of his business to be fulfilled; it’s a year round effort, composed of many variables and moving parts. You may have come to know this individual as Nick, or more formally, Saint Nicholas, aka Santa Claus, and I’m here to tell you that your insurance business is more like his business than you realize.

Your insurance organization, be it a retail agency, an MGA or a carrier, has some major similarities. It is focused on delivering on its mission, the same way Santa is focused on fulfilling his own – to bring joy to the children of the world by delivering toys across the planet in a single night. For instance, renewal dates are a singular day in time, but best practice agencies know that there is a year of work and preparation that comes before the renewal.

While missions may be boiled down to concise statements, they’re always much more complicated than that. Saint Nick isn’t just responsible for the delivery, he needs to know who’s getting what, what order to make his deliveries, what weather patterns to avoid, and I haven’t even mentioned building the toys! It’s the same for your business. Delivering excellent customer service, for example, isn’t the result of saying, “Hey, we’re going to give great customer service!” It may start that way in theory, but when put into practice, all those other variables begin to surface; phone calls from customers, missing information, errors and omissions, system limitations, data integrity issues, and on and on — and before you know it, providing excellent customer service has gone out the window. This leaves your people strictly focused on finishing the work necessary to get out the door at the end of the day to be with their friends and families.

What can we learn from the way Santa Claus runs his organization?

He may be a magical character, but Santa faces the same challenges as you. He does, however, have many more years’ experience than the rest of us, considering his ability to remain old, stay overweight, eat an atrocious diet of candy and carbs, and yet continue to run an efficient North Pole operation as far back as recorded history. His experience has taught him that if all his people aren’t aligned and focused on the same goal, he won’t be successful. Furthermore, he knows that his ability to execute to perfection on one night each year is the culmination of an entire year’s work.

The 3 Components of North Pole Productivity

The North Pole, as an organization, starts with Strategy. What is the mission of the organization? What are its business goals and targets? Santa knows that without a clearly defined strategy and buy-in from all his elves and reindeer, his business would fail, leaving children all over the world in a state of misery on Christmas morning. With a mission that’s based on bringing joy to the children of the world, Saint Nick cannot let this happen, and he starts by setting measurable goals and targets to generate a coherent strategy.

The 2nd of the 3-pronged support system of the North Pole is an often overlooked element in most insurance businesses, but Santa’s secret is knowing that it may just be the most crucial to success – Process. It starts on December 26th, the process of evaluating and documenting the behavior of the approximately 2 billion children of the world – and you thought you had a lot of data to deal with! Without a streamlined process for collecting this information and keeping it up to date, he wouldn’t know what kind of inventory to create for the big day the following year. The next piece of the process is synthesizing this analysis of behavior into work orders for his production department. The elves, making up the majority of the population at the North Pole, must have accurate targets for production, or else they’ll end up with leftover inventory, or even worse, not enough to deliver on the mission executed the night of December 25th! Finally, the most critical part of process for the North Pole is production of the deliverable – toys. The elves have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, with well-documented processes and procedures for executing their roles to perfection. Without this clarity of duty, the elf workshops would break down, as materials would be missing and toys would be built differently by different elves. This would result in the production of killer robots with Barbie heads, teddy bears stuffed with rocks, and Red Ryder BB guns that backfire and shoot your eye out!

The final piece of alignment that follows strategy and process is Execution. Santa’s got his strategy and he’s got well defined and documented process, now he’s got to make sure that he, his elves and reindeer can execute. Every elf in the organization goes through training with senior elves where their specific role and various responsibilities are clearly communicated. They are provided documentation to re-enforce the understanding of their duties, and to act as a reference during execution, like making sure killer robots get the killer robot heads. Reindeer have been taught to navigate the skies to find the best possible routes to each destination on Santa’s list, and they’ve been trained so well that they fly in unison with one another the same way birds naturally flock together. If even one of the reindeer did not have the training and resources available to execute properly, good ‘ol Saint Nick could end up free falling into the Atlantic!

With his operation running in complete alignment in regards to Strategy, Process, and Execution, Santa continues to enjoy his reign atop the “children’s joy” ladder. If you seek the dynastic success of Santa’s North Pole operation for your insurance organization, take a step back from the daily grind and ask yourself, “Is my organization aligned across the three pillars of Strategy, Process, and Execution?”