Extreme Systemization and Stratification of Agency Operations

By Catherine Oak | January 11, 2021

A few years ago, Catherine had a total knee replacement by an excellent orthopedic surgeon in Fremont, Calif. Dr. John Dearborn was recommended by two of our insurance clients that have had incredible success.

This surgeon implemented “systematic processing” of his business, which we also call staff stratification, and it is very similar to the works of Michael Gerber of “The E Myth.” The E Myth concept is working “on” the business and not “in” the business.

The systemization of work processing is unlike what we see many insurance professionals doing today. Many do a lot of the work themselves, then wonder why they burn out, are workaholics and don’t have enough fun doing what they want to do each day of their lives. This doing the job of others also causes staff morale problems.

From the initial meeting with the doctor to the postoperative work, every step of the way had been systemized. Initially, Catherine met with Dr. Dearborn to find out whether or not the surgery was necessary and what techniques made him ahead of the pack in technology, why she should choose him instead of a local doctor, how recovery works and more. A surgery date was set, and then she did personal planning for the handling of clients and travel for a period of time.

Then, the processes went into play from Dr. Dearborn’s office. These same processes and procedures could be applied to work in an insurance agency office as well. Simply substitute an experienced owner/producer for orthopedic surgeon and substitute account executive for physician assistant and substitute office support personnel for account managers/CSRs.

The Best Process

The doctor sent a binder (similar to a client proposal) about two weeks before surgery that outlined everything to know before, during and after surgery. It also listed all of the appointments scheduled the week before surgery, the day of surgery and follow-up visits.

Then the week before the surgery, Catherine went to the doctor’s office to have all of the X-rays and coaching done, and went to the hospital nearby for tests, such as an EKG. This ended with a mandatory afternoon class with the nurses and physical therapists that would provide all of the information she needed to know in order to prepare, have peace of mind and comfort. This was all taught in a group setting.

These processes saved the physician and his team so much time. The physician delivered everything through the use of a very well written binder, in a group setting, by the people responsible for the different parts of the process. The binder answered basic questions in a very readable format, laid out well with tabs. This saved the nurses and doctors valuable time. Plus, the people who educated the group specialized in these processes. These specialists, who earn less than the doctor, performed all pieces of the puzzle.

The other key is that all of these people were acknowledged and praised by their boss. Dr. Dearborn stated how they were integral parts to the process and all very good at what they did. It was by far the most efficient organization we have ever seen.

This whole system allowed for the doctor to perform up to 10 surgeries in a day. The system in place let the surgeon walk into a surgery with the patient totally prepped, do the intricate part of the surgery and walk out with his assistants able to finish up with the client. The doctor came out after surgery and greeted each family to discuss how the surgery went. At least one time, post surgery, the doctor came to visit his patient with his team. The physician assistants (not doctors) came to visit as well.

The joint replacement patients recovered in the doctor’s own building behind the hospital, were well taken care of and were not around sick people. We had our own team of people working with us on coaching and walking right away the next day and then we attended two or three physical therapy classes.

In Catherine’s first follow-up visit (two weeks after surgery), there was always camaraderie formed in the lobby, which helped everyone mentally through the process.

Catherine also received a customer service survey to complete about the job they had done and asked for recommendations for improvement. It was very thorough, with a strong emphasis on customer service.

Relevance to Agency Operations

Consider the agency’s client proposal the same as the initial instructions given by the doctor and his team in the pre-surgery meeting. Replace a client insurance binder containing the insurance policies, summary of the services provided, description of the firm’s policies and procedures and service team (AM/CSR assigned, claims and loss control people), for the patient’s guide to their replacement surgery.

In this scenario, the owner/producer gets a referral and screens this prospect over the phone using a prospect qualification list of key questions. If the prospect qualifies for the agency model, then the producer and the account executive visit the prospect and gather the appropriate data.

Back at the agency, the account executive puts the ACORD forms together in conjunction with the CSR or marketing person that markets the account. The CSR or the CSR assistants type up the proposal, and the account executive and producer review it. Together, they present it to the prospect.

If the prospect agrees that the coverage will be bound, then the account executive does the appropriate work to get the policies placed. When the policy comes, the CSR first checks it over, then either sends the policy to the client or an account exec delivers it to the insured.

As service calls come in, the AE or CSR do the work. The producer only gets involved if there is a serious problem or at the next renewal for a visit with the account executive.

We recommend the agency set-up seminars for networking of clients and prospects. Often, the agency can present such topics as risk management, loss control or providing unique coverages such as business interruption, employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) or cyber insurance. Prospects will enjoy mingling with clients and gain insight on the quality and professionalism of the agency and its producers.

‘By systemizing the business, owners and producers can concentrate more on what they do best, which is usually sales. The roles, systems and procedures can be streamlined and handled by qualified, but less expensive people.’


By systemizing the business, owners and producers can concentrate more on what they do best, which is usually sales. The roles, systems and procedures can be streamlined and handled by qualified, but less expensive people. Owners and producers can make more money and employees will feel empowered if they are properly trained to follow the agency’s systemized processes. This is the epitome of what we call staff stratification, which is delegation of service to the least costly, qualified employee.

About Catherine Oak

Oak is the founder of the consulting firm, Oak & Associates, based in Northern California and Central Oregon. Oak & Associates. Phone: 707-935-6565. Email: catoak@gmail.com

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