Chapter 3 The History of The Hatcher Agency
“The Home of Outrageous Service” started September 1, 1990
It takes a lot of pumping to get a well to produce water;
but once you get water, all you have to do is pump gently
and you’ll have all the water you ever wanted.
In September 1990 I hired a secretary and took a three-year lease on 500 square feet of office space. I had a simple mission: to provide the most “Outrageous Service” in the insurance industry. Four months later, we hired two more employees and added more space. By the end of one year, we had seven employees.
Three years later the Hatcher Agency was the state’s largest health insurance agency and was named Arkansas’ Small Business of the Year by Arkansas Business newsmagazine.
Today we have 23 full time employees. For more than eight years, we have continued to grow, in spite of the fact that we do very little prospecting for new clients and we don’t advertise in print or electronic media. Nearly 100 percent of our clients come to us by referral from other clients, friends and business associates. Our advertising comes from satisfied customers who are so impressed with our “Outrageous Service” that they tell other people about us.
I majored in public relations and advertising in college, and nobody believes in advertising more than I do. However, we have elected to spend our advertising budget on our customers rather than in the media. Sometimes we use our advertising dollars to pay better salaries so we can get the most capable employees. We know that employees who are rewarded for their service are happier employees, and we know that happy employees provide better service to their customers. We hire the best employees we can find; we expect them to offer outrageous service; and we compensate them well for their efforts. The money most companies would allocate for advertising may be used to provide more training for our employees so they know how to better serve customers. Every employee in our office is required to pass the insurance exam and become licensed. We believe that people who understand our customers’ business can offer better service. Training is ongoing because none of us ever knows all there is to know about the insurance business.
A big part of our advertising budget is also spent on our customers. If we make a mistake, we not only spend whatever it takes to rectify the error, but we often do something special for the customer to make up for the error. We also give our customers T-shirts and other advertising specialties as daily reminders that we care about them and their business. In any business, the best way to advertise is to take such good care of your clients that they will talk about you to other business people. A reputation for outrageous service is the best advertisement you can have.
I am certainly aware that advertising in the print and electronic media can bring increased business. At this point in our business I have not wanted to grow too fast. We have consistently averaged a 30 percent growth each year, and I am comfortable with that. If we advertised for new customers, we could possibly bring in customers at a faster rate; but at the Hatcher Agency, we are not interested in one-time customers. Faster growth could limit our ability to deliver outrageous service. It is essential that we have top quality staff who are trained and capable of delivering that service when we get new customers. As the Hatcher Agency approaches its ninth birthday, it is the largest health insurance agency in the state of Arkansas. For seven consecutive years, the National Association of Health Underwriters has named us as one of the top 12 producers in the United States. These numbers are astounding for a producer in a city the size of Little Rock with a population of 250,000. The formula for success in business is fairly simple: Sell the best product and provide the best service. That’s like saying the formula for staying in shape physically is simple: Exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep. In both cases, the trick is having the discipline to stick to the formula.
Discipline at the Hatcher Agency means 7:00 a.m. staff meetings and 7:00 to 6:00 working hours. For every employee it means studying and passing the insurance exam. It means being willing to shift gears and do whatever it takes to handle a problem. This kind of discipline separates the Hatcher Agency from most businesses in America. The secret to success is simple. The key to implementing it is very difficult: Discipline, Discipline, Discipline.