Becoming an "aggressive" organic grower

CEO talks about the key ingredients of a strong organic growth strategy

Becoming an "aggressive" organic grower

Insurance News

By Lyle Adriano

The old adage, “the best defense is a good offense,” may sound like a cliché, but for Stephen Billyard – CEO of Ontario-based brokerage Billyard Insurance Group (BIG) – offense is the main growth strategy for his company, and it is working.

Named CEO of the Year in the Insurance Business Canada Awards 2021, Billyard had some insights to share about how a brokerage can successfully grow organically in his talk with Insurance Business – and it all involves adopting a highly “aggressive” strategy.

Billyard outlined the three growth strategies available to brokerages: organic, non-organic, and priming yourself to be acquired by a larger brokerage.

Non-organic involves growing out the business through consolidations and acquisitions. The most successful brokerages relying on this tactic are usually the ones that have a lot of cash to spare, noted Billyard.

“They built impressive apparatuses that can negotiate, acquire, and close and integrate with large amounts of capital behind them,” he explained.

“And I think that’s been an incredibly successful model for brokerage growth in the last couple of decades.”

Other brokerages might instead want to position themselves to be snapped up by a larger operation, which would enable them to tap into greater resources and reach a wider consumer base than they normally could.

For Billyard, brokerages that are “growing at that 3% to 5% rate, moving along, involved with their communities, traditional advertising” are likely aiming to be acquired by the previously-mentioned consolidators.

Organic growth, which is business growth through increasing organizational output and revenue, may sound like the simplest approach by comparison. But Billyard believes otherwise.

“In order to be successful in the organic space, I think you need to be good in a lot of things,” the CEO said, “much like being successful in the consolidation space.”

Brokerages need to put in a lot of work for their organic growth strategies to take off, Billyard commented. Starting with business development, he said that brokerages need to learn how to reach out to their respective communities and form relationships with individuals such as lawyers, auto dealers, and real estate agents. Brokerages also need to be very involved with their community, he added.

“You know, we are the kind of brokerage that puts boots on the ground – and whether it’s in our churches, or in our schools, or with our colleagues in our workspaces, we are in our communities developing those leads. And that brings organic growth into the business.”

Brand is also a key component of the organic growth strategy, said Billyard.

“We want to create a brand that stands behind a broker,” he stated. “Brokers out there [are] cultivating their personal networks, but they need a strong brand to stand behind them so that they can be represented in the marketplace.”

The chief executive also indicated that having the latest technology greatly helps in engaging clients and maximizing output.

“[Brokerages should be] empowering technology to make it easier for [their] clients to do business with [them], easier for the brokers to do business so that they can better serve their customers.

Billyard also commented that advertising, both traditional and digital, remain effective ways to drive growth.

“You need to be in that space right now that generating leads. And whether it’s SEO, SEM, or traditional advertising, that needs to be a comprehensive strategy.”

One of the biggest trials in organic growth is securing the human capital required to accomplish the objectives, said Billyard. He explained that BIG had brought on about 700 agents in the last couple of years, and that it was challenging to not only cultivate their talent, but also ensure that they each had the right computer hardware to work in this time of remote working.

The leader believes that only by accomplishing all these things can a brokerage truly be successful at organic growth.

“I think you need to do all these things well in order to be an aggressive organic grower.”

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