Whether you have experience as a captive insurance agent or you’re an independent agent looking to branch away from working for others, starting an insurance agency might make sense as your next career move.
And now’s as good a time as any to start. In fact, broker and agency revenue increased by 1.5% over the past five years—with growth expected to continue as the economy improves.
But with this growth and opportunity comes competition. The insurance industry is continuing to evolve, which means different companies—like those that use insurtech to blend insurance with technological innovations—are entering the fray and competing for market share.
To give your new agency the edge over its competition and make sure your company is viable, you need a plan—an insurance agency business plan. Let’s look at why you need this document, what it should include, and other things to consider before you present your plan and launch your agency.
What Is a Business Plan—and Why Do You Need One?
A business plan is a document that outlines your approach to starting and running your agency. This document serves as a roadmap to follow at each stage of business growth, from your initial planning stages to achieving your long-term goals.
It can include information about how to structure and fund your agency, financial projections and goals, and guidance for how to run the agency as it evolves and grows.
There are a number of reasons you should consider creating a plan for your insurance agency, including:
- Help your agency succeed: About 20% of startups fail within their first year. Though creating a business plan doesn’t guarantee your business will succeed, business owners who write out formal plans are 16% more likely to succeed than entrepreneurs who wing it without one. Why? Planning helps you lay a solid foundation for your business, giving you a step-by-step guide for how to reach your goals.
- Secure funding: Many lenders require you to provide a plan for your business if you apply for a business loan or investment. The reason? A plan can reveal how viable your business is—including if you (and your leadership) are qualified to run a successful agency, what your financial forecast is for hitting different milestones, and what your overall objectives are for achieving success. In other words, lenders and investors want to know the likelihood of you paying off your debt and earning a profit—and, if so, how soon you’ll hit both milestones. A business plan helps them get a better idea of that likelihood—information they can use to determine if they want to lend to or invest in your business.
- Inform your decisions over time: A business plan for an insurance agency is a roadmap that defines your goals and objectives—as well as how to achieve them. But as your business grows, it’s easy to lose track of your long-term plans. Being able to refer to a document that details your plans can help you remain committed, even as your team—and agency—grows.
What To Include in Your Insurance Agency Plan
Now that you know the importance of writing an insurance agency business plan, the next question is: what do you include in it?
When it comes to creating a plan for your insurance agency, there aren’t any hard requirements. In fact, your plan can be in any format you’d like (including a “lean plan,” which focuses only on key elements)—though, if you’re looking for a bank loan or investment, your plan should be as detailed as possible.
Elements you might want to consider including in a traditional business plan for insurance agencies include:
As its name implies, the executive summary is a brief overview of your plan. It should include general information about your insurance agency, though this information might change over time depending on how long your agency is operational.
For example, a startup insurance agency might include a brief mention of market competition and its planned growth strategy. On the other hand, an established agency might summarize past achievements and include information about employees.
Items to include in your executive summary are:
- Your agency name
- Your mission statement
- A high-level overview of the products or services you offer or plan to offer
- Background on you and your agency’s leadership team
- Information about your employees
- The location and market you operate or will operate in
- A brief description of your marketing plan
- Brief financial information and an overview of your growth plan, including projected costs (though you’ll expand on that later in the document)
Because your executive summary is a top-level overview of your insurance agency business plan, keep it concise and enticing.
The idea is to encourage a reader to keep reading your business plan and learn more about your agency—especially if you’re looking for funding.
In other words, the executive summary should be just that: a summary that introduces ideas you’ll expand upon later in your plan. Limit yourself to a couple of short, brief sentences for each idea and save specifics for dedicated sections of the document.
Company Description/Business Summary
The second element to include in your plan for an insurance agency is a detailed description of your company. This is your opportunity to expand upon some of the ideas you introduced in the executive summary. Here are some things to discuss:
- Legal structure of your agency: Your agency’s form of business, like a sole proprietorship, limited liability company, partnership, or S-Corp. (Not sure which structure to choose? Make sure to read the next section.)
- Organizational chart: An organizational chart identifies your management team members and highlights their qualifications and expertise to determine who’s responsible for different aspects of running the agency. (You can attach resumes in an appendix to the business plan too).
- Target market: Who you plan to market to (such as individuals, businesses, or a mix of both).
- Business history: If your agency has already been established, what it’s achieved since it first opened.
- What sets you apart from the competition: For example, if you serve a wider (or more specific) target market or offer products other agencies don’t, or if you or your agents are uniquely qualified.
- SWOT analysis: A SWOT analysis identifies your core Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to give you (and your plan’s readers) an accurate and objective insight into your agency to inform future decisions, like investing in your agency startup.
What is the Best Business Structure for an Insurance Agency?
Many insurance agencies structure their business as a limited liability company (LLC), as it provides certain tax benefits and helps to protect their personal assets.
That being said, the best structure for your business will depend on a variety of factors, including your goals, number of employees, and projected revenue.
If you’re not sure how to structure your business, consider talking to a business lawyer and/or tax professional with experience in the insurance industry.
An effective insurance agency business plan should include a comprehensive list of the products and services it offers or plans to offer. Include the lines of insurance you’ll sell—like personal lines or commercial lines—as well as the specific insurance policies you sell (or plan to), like workers’ comp, life insurance or professional liability insurance.
And don’t skimp out on details. Mention the benefits of the insurance products you plan to offer, premiums and pricing, and your sales projections for each product.
You should also include which insurance carriers your agency will represent—and which policies they’re responsible for underwriting. You might also want to provide a brief description of what appointment and representation means (or, in other words, which insurance carriers allow you to sell their products and represent their companies)—especially if you’ll be using your plan to secure funding for your agency since lenders might not be entirely familiar with the insurance industry.
A major reason for creating a plan for your insurance agency is to prove that your business idea is viable. In other words, you need to demonstrate that there’s a demand for the products you offer—and that you have a competitive advantage that lets you capture enough market share to turn a profit.
And the place to do that? The market analysis section.
In this section, include detailed information about your agency’s target clients. Try to determine if there’s room for your agency. If not, look for underserved niches that you might be able to fill. At the same time, look at your market’s demographics to make sure your potential offerings meet their demands for insurance products.
For example, if you plan on selling commercial insurance, will you market specifically to construction companies and contractors or businesses in general? You might also want to limit your marketing efforts to small businesses that earn up to a certain revenue (like businesses with annual revenue between $1 million and $2.5 million).
You should also include a competitive analysis that identifies your key competitors, including their market share, target customers, and the specific products and services they offer. From there, explain how your marketing strategy will be competitive.
For example, do you plan to partner with an insurtech company to attract leads and drive conversions? Hourly combines time tracking, payroll, and workers’ compensation insurance into one easy-to-use platform. Premiums are based on real-time payroll data, so your clients can say buh-bye to those nasty audit surprises.
Finally, include the demand for your proposed offers—and your sales strategy for how your insurance products meet the needs of your potential clients.
How your agency earns money—and when you can expect it to turn a profit—is crucial for securing lending and making sure you have a stable cash flow. Your financial plan should include your:
- Projected costs: How much will it cost initially to open your agency, purchase office furniture and supplies, and hire and train agents? How much will your ongoing expenses (like rent, advertising, health insurance and other employee benefits, and salaries and commissions) cost?
- Estimated cash flow: How much money do you expect your agency to generate and spend over time—and how much of that revenue is profit?
- Break-even analysis: What is the sales forecast for how many policies you need to sell before you’ve covered the cost of opening and running your insurance agency? At what point does your agency become profitable?
Generally, your financial plan should cover at least three to five years. If your agency is already established, you should support your financial plan with balance sheets, cash flow statements, income statements, and other financial statements.
If your agency is a startup, you should include detailed estimates and projections supported by industry or competitor data.
Similarly, you might want to provide monthly or quarterly projections for your first year in business (vs. annual projections for the following years) to help explain and emphasize how viable your agency will be in its first year—as well as when you expect to break even or achieve profitability.
How Profitable are Insurance Agencies?
Insurance agencies may see a profit margin of about 10% or more, however that number can vary widely based on agency size, where you're located, what you sell, demand, and your efficiency.
If the purpose of your insurance agency business plan is to request funding, you need to specify how much cash you need—and what you need it for. Start by outlining the type of funding you need—like a bank loan or investment funds—and how long you need the funding to last. You should also outline your preferred structure—like debt or equity—and any repayment terms.
Then nail down the details. Create a budget that stipulates how the money will be used. Make sure to also tie your request into your overall financial plan. Ideally, funding should sustain your agency until it meets its break-even point and a stable cash flow—and how you plan to do that should be clearly outlined in your business plan.
Insurance Agency Business Plan Template
Creating a business plan can seem complex at first, especially if you’ve never done it before. The good news? You don’t need to start from scratch.
This customizable template can help you get started. Just use it as an outline, fill it in with details about your business, and voila! You’ve got your plan.
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Products and services
Management team background
Brief marketing plan description
Brief financial information:
- Projected costs
- Growth plan
Product #1: Description, price, sales projections
Product #2: Description, price, sales projections
Competitive analysis: Competitor #1
- Target market
- Market share
- Products offered
- Target market
- Market share
- Products offered
Estimated cash flow
- Balance sheet/projections
- Cash flow statement/projections
- Income statement/projections
- Other financial documentation
Amount of funding required
Reason(s) for funding
Type of funding requested
How long of a period funds needs to cover
Preferred funding structure
Other Things to Do When Creating Your Plan
Now that you understand the importance and benefits of a business plan for your insurance agency, let’s jump into a few things to keep in mind while creating your plan to ensure that it sets the stage for launching a successful insurance agency:
- Define your brand identity: Your agency’s brand—its name, purpose, and values—helps it stand out from your competition and draw in new customers. Defining and committing to your agency’s identity helps you establish trustworthiness and reliability.
- Apply for licenses and permits: Small businesses are subject to local and state laws that might require you to obtain a business license, insurance coverage, and other types of licenses and permits. And because the insurance industry is so heavily regulated, check with your state’s insurance department to learn if you require any additional licenses or permits.
- Research potential funding options: When it comes to funding, there’s no one-size-fits-all. Compare and contrast different funding options—like self-funding, taking out a loan, looking for investors, or even crowdfunding—and choose what makes the most sense for your agency.
- Identify potential insurance companies to represent: Before you launch your agency, research potential insurance carrier partners to find those that align with your goals and values. Partner with insurance companies that offer the types of insurance products your ideal clients want—at the prices they’re willing to pay—and don’t dismiss the importance of exceptional customer service.
Tips for Presenting Your Business Plan
After you’ve drafted your business plan, the final step is to present it to interested lenders and investors. But how do you successfully present your plan for an insurance agency with confidence?
- Set up an in-person meeting: A face-to-face meeting helps humanize the people behind your plan—you and your management team. It also gives you a chance to establish and build credibility, field any questions, and demonstrate your excitement and passion for launching your new business. If meeting in person isn’t doable, set up a video conference to recreate the face-to-face experience.
- Use a clean, detailed, and professional layout: Your business plan should be legible, concise, and direct. Make sure it appears professional by proofreading it to correct any typos or misspellings. Include clear charts that support your claims and statements. Finally, make both digital and physical copies to distribute (and print extras—just in case!).
- Practice and rehearse your presentation: Come prepared to answer any questions that your business plan might not have covered or that a lender needs extra clarification about. That doesn’t mean you need to memorize your presentation word-for-word, but you should have a solid idea of your plan’s specifics and certain important details, like your break-even point or the amount of funding you’re requesting.
Plan to Set Yourself Up for Success
Starting a small business is hard. And in the competitive insurance space, you need every competitive advantage you can get to set yourself up for success when launching an insurance agency.
Writing an insurance agency business plan can help you outline—and commit to—your goals and objectives, giving you a clearly-defined path to success.