NextAgency Principles: Part II

Software that doesn’t evolve and grow is software you won’t be using for long. We’re constantly improving NextAgency, our agency management platform and human resources tools. We think it’s important for you to understand the principles that guide this development and the company behind NextAgency, Take 44, Inc.

In a previous post I shared how the principles of starting with brokers and supporting, as opposed to interfering with, broker-client relationships shaped the development of NextAgency. In this post we’ll explore our commitment to empowering choice and to being realistic. (And in the next post we’ll address our fifth principle concerning privacy and security).

Just to recap, here are the five key principles we focus on at Take 44:

  • Start with brokers: build from brokers out.
  • Don’t interfere:  broker-client relationships are paramount.
  • Empower choice: brokers and clients choose their own vendors.
  • Be realistic: don’t overpromise.
  • Protect data: offer secure systems and clear permissions.
Empower choice

Too often, technology companies expect users to change how they behave in order to use a product. Think about accounting software that require you to change how you keep your books. Or, closer to home, agency management platforms that require you to change how you sell and service clients. We think they’ve got it all wrong.

If you’re shopping for an agency management system, like the NextBroker component of the NextAgency, odds are you’re already a successful insurance broker. We’re very affordable. Still, if you can invest in making your agency more effective and efficient, you’re already making sales. Why then would you buy software that requires you to change the voodoo that you do so well? Or change the carriers or general agents you work with?  The software you invest in should help you do what you do better, not to change what you do.

The same is true of software you give your clients. Should they change their payroll company because you give them free HR software? Changing vendors often costs time, money and hassle. So, is software that forces your clients to change their relationships really free? We don’t think so.

Too many technology disagree. After all, a lot of start-up founders view themselves as innovators reinventing the way the world works. And that includes changing the way you work. They believe they know your business better than you do. This view is especially common when company leaders have more business degrees than business expertise.  They build software that expects you to work the way they think you should.

We believe no one knows more about your business than you do. So we designed NextBroker to adapt to you. Similarly, we think you should choose who you work with, too. Which means we don’t force you to use a particular carrier or general agent. And our employee management software, NextHR, doesn’t force your clients to change how they do business or what vendors they work with. NextAgency is built to be flexible. We help you work more easily with you who want to work with.  It’s really that simple — and important.

Be realistic

We think NextAgency is pretty cool (to use the technical term). We’re confident our agency management system, NextBroker, will help you and your team sell to more prospects and deliver better service to clients. We believe NextHR, our employee management system, will save your clients time so they can focus on their real business. In short, we think we deliver on what we promise.

We also think it’s important not to overpromise. We’re a data management company. NextBroker helps you manage your agency, client and carrier information and make it accessible to your entire team, at any time from anywhere. We help you use that data to be better informed about your business and to get information where it needs to go. Put another way, we make running the business of your agency easier to you can do more business.

NextBroker make getting quotes easier, but it’s not a quoting system. It makes creating and tracking enrollment kits easier, but it’s not an enrollment platform. NextBroker helps you track commissions, but it’s not a an accounting system. When companies respect their customers they don’t overpromise. That’s why we are realistic about what we do — and don’t do.

The same goes for NextHR. It helps your clients better manage employee data and makes it easy to get time and attendance information to their payroll company. But it doesn’t process payroll. It’s a straightforward, basic employee management system, not a fancy HR information system or powerful benefit management platform.

Think of it this way, you know all those buttons and tools in Excel that you never touch (and I, for one, have no idea what they do)?  We built NextHR to be Excel without all those extra doodads and functions. If your client needs the HR equivalent of depreciation calculations using the double-declining balance method — or even a pivot table — they should check out EaseCentral, Employee Navigator or the like. If they just need to get the nuts and bolts of hiring employees and tracking their time at work, however, NextHR may be the solution. And as it’s free, we can confidentially claim it’s worth every penny you’re not paying for it — and more.

Current users frequently ask for added features and tools (of course they ask for different tools and sometimes ask that something someone else wants be removed because it’s “in the way”). Some of their ideas are great and are now part of our product road map. But we won’t overpromise. NextAgency does a lot and will do more moving forward. And what NextAgency does it does well. We simply refuse, however, to promise that it does everything.

One thing NextAgency does well is protect your and your clients’ data. More on this in Part III.

NextAgency Principles: Part I

NextAgency offers brokers two powerful platforms: NextBroker is a comprehensive agency management system.  NextHR is an employee management system brokers can give to their clients for free. We’re a new, unique solution for brokers looking to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their agency and to bring additional value to their clients.

NextAgency is available now, and we’re constantly improving it with new features and tools. The platform is expanding, too. For example, we started off supporting just employee benefit agencies. Now we have tools for brokers selling individual or group coverage, benefits or property and casualty insurance, and support a number of coverage types.

Because NextAgency is evolving, we think it’s important for you to understand the principles that guide our software development and drive the company behind the platform, Take 44, Inc. We have five key principles:

  • Start with brokers: build from brokers out.
  • Don’t interfere:  broker-client relationships are paramount.
  • Empower choice: brokers and clients choose their own vendors.
  • Be realistic: don’t overpromise.
  • Protect data: offer secure systems and clear permissions.

This post explores the first two principles. The rest are explained in Part II and Part III.

Start with brokers. 

Some vendors selling software to brokers started out as PEOs, payroll companies or HR administrators. Eventually they realized the value you deliver to your clients. They changed their marketing and grafted some broker-facing tools to their existing platforms. This was smart. At the end of the day, however, they’re still PEOs, payroll companies and HR administrators.

On the other hand, NextAgency started  as an agency management system. Everything we build is centered around helping you grow your business. No big surprise there. Three of Take 44’s founders are licensed agents (and the fourth a carrier executive). Two of us are past presidents of the National Association of Health Underwriters. We not only understand what you do, we appreciate what you do. “Your Value. Our Tech. Unbeatable.” is more than our marketing statement. It’s our reason for launching NextAgency in the first place.

This focus is why NextAgency’s core component is NextBroker, the ideal agency management system for insurance brokers. Everything else builds out from NextBroker. NextHR, our employee management system helps agencies inoculate themselves from tech-centered competitors like Zenefits and Namely. However, it does more. NextHR integrates with NextBroker in ways that make both platforms better. For example, it can take days to track down the age of the third child of the twelfth employee in a company seeking medical coverage. NextAgency gets the job done in minutes. Your clients maintain their own census data so they can get you this information in a few clicks. And that’s just one example, but it’s what happens when you start off with a focus on brokers.

Don’t interfere.

With this focus, it’s only natural we help help you strengthen your relationship with prospects and clients. This means not getting between you and them. This approach is rarer than it should be. Too many health insurance companies, for example, think they “own” the groups you bring them. They’re wrong. They are your clients. Want proof? When’s the last an employer fired their benefits broker at the suggestion of their health insurance company? Yet employers fire their carriers on the advice of brokers on the first of every month.

The same holds true with software. Too many technology companies believe that once your clients start using their product, they own them. If they want to cross-sell to your clients they will, regardless of your wishes. They’re wrong and they shouldn’t. You are your clients advisor, consultant and advocate. You have the primary relationship with them.

That’s why your agency name and contact information is front and center in NextHR. That’s why when we launch NextMarket in 2018 — an online resource with products, tools and services aimed to help you and your clients grow your businesses — you control what products your clients see. For example, say we add web designers to NextMarket. If you have a preferred source for this service, no problem. You’ll have the power to remove our vendor from what your clients see. After all, they’re your clients.

Yes, this will cost us some money. Holding to principles sometimes does that. It’s a price worth paying as it reflects who we are.

At NextAgency we start with brokers and we bolster your client relationships. One of the outcomes of this approach is that we don’t force you to change who you work with and how you work with them in order to use NextAgency. That’s the topic of Part II.