Based on recent surveys and conversations, the companies that have proven successful—or given the economic crisis, least unsuccessful for the short duration—appear to share a number of leadership techniques, marketing efforts and operational tactics. In looking over the diversity of strategies and the resulting variances in product designs, distribution techniques and service center designs, the ones that seemed to have risen above the challenges and distinguished themselves seemed to all share a core set of seven characteristics. The shared characteristics found included:

1. Have consistent leadership. Everyone on the management team shares the same clear vision of where the company is headed and can articulate it to others.

2. Identify and exploit niche marketing opportunities. They develop an entrepreneurial mindset that finds ways to make something work, as opposed to a "why it won't work" attitude.

3. Have a pulse on the marketplace through superior customer intelligence. Be very careful when people in the company say they know what the marketplace needs without listening directly to customers and agents through surveys and other means.

4. Make targeted investments in technology. They target their investments in technology based on what is really needed. This starts with understanding and defining the business requirements and investing only in those technologies containing features that will deliver on those business requirements.

5. Achieve service excellence. "Easy to do business with" is not just a slogan; successful companies are easy to buy from and service is easily accessible for customers.

6. Nimble and quick to act. They minimize bureaucracy and have a culture of problem solving. There are many companies that once dominated their niche but became so entrenched in their ways that their competition overtook them.

7. Have organizational alignment. The structure should be aligned with the strategy, with rewards designed to support the attainment of the goals of the organization.

With the economy improving, now is the time to break the down-cycle thinking and confirm that your people, processes and technology are ready to deliver on what customers want from your organization.

Ben DiSylvester is executive director of The Robert E. Nolan Co., a management consulting firm specializing in the insurance industry.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Ben using the “Add Your Comments” box below.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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