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"AgencyInc"—An Evolution of Resources

 AgencyInc is a small insurance agency focused on commercial business.  In addition to the normal business of the company—producing and maintaining new and existing accounts—a key focus is on growth through acquisitions of smaller firms,  According to the executive manager, "The main thrust is positioning the agency for the future."  In the four data collection phases they had not completed an acquisition, and no shifts were found throughout the data.  Our analysis found that the same basic categories were found throughout the four data collection phases, the only changes were in the intensity of the various resources.  The five basic resources in this company seem to be: Sales and servicing activities; Expanding the company's 'book of business' (client base); Information systems that support those activities, long–term Relationships with insurance markets that are core to the firm's success; and the company's overall Reputation.

On the first data collection phase the most salient of these seemed to be Sales and servicing activities.  The co–owner described his "focus on existing clients as major priorities," and the entrepreneur, describing two new pieces of business, expressed, "These things are dropping in our lap."  Secondly, Expanding the book of business was briefly mentioned in reference to a potential acquisition, "So, I guess it feels better.  Now [we] can really develop a relationship."  Thirdly, Information systems was acknowledged, as new enhancements were installed to the software system the week before.  Fourthly, Core relationships were mentioned by the executive manager: "If we don't maintain good relationships we can't do good business.  Finally, Reputation played a role in leveraging the new business accounts; according to the entrepreneur, "Some people ask me, 'What the h–ll are you doing to get all this business?'  We've built a good reputation. My team is critical."

 The next DCP was much more focused around the second resource, Expanding the book of business. "We're now trying to acquire business, in big bulks.  Agencies, books of business for producers," was how the Information manager described it. A servicing agent pointed out, "We're trying to improve the quality of our book of business.  That's what really helps us in the long run."  The other resources were mentioned to different extents.  Sales and servicing was hardly mentioned at all, whereas the Information systems seemed to be fairly salient, as the entrepreneur pointing to his computer screen said graphically, "Automation is a big one. This is the agency."  Core relationships remained important: Markets are core to us, They represent choice and competitive pricing" {Co–owner.}   Finally Reputation in this phase was being used to leverage the acquisition of new business–-in the eyes of the Executive manager: "It [the largest merger possibility] is just due to our good reputation.  A good reputation is worth a lot."

 On DCP 3, the most salient resource was the computer Systems and other organizational systems that support the other work in the office.  Hardware problems needed to be diagnosed and solved; a new phone system was being put in preparation for possible acquisitions, and a new accounting routine was instituted to support personal lines billing.  The salience of Sales and servicing of clients was seen in conversations about a number of specific accounts.  There were only very brief mentions of the possibilities for Expanding the book of business, and Core relationships were also mentioned in passing, mainly in the entrepreneur's assessment of the annual profit sharing.  Finally Reputation was not discussed formally in this DCP, but it was inferred in reference to the acquisition of capital to help pay for organizational systems needed in the upcoming acquisitions.

 On the final DCP, Core relationships were most salient.  "We've got the best line up of companies (markets) than just about every agency in the area" asserted the entrepreneur, and his Co–owner emphasized the importance of that, "Our biggest competitive advantage is the insurance markets we represent....We have good relationships with companies."  As before the other resources were mentioned, especially in relation to Sales and servicing activities.  As the Information specialist affirmed, "It's [the entrepreneur] really thinking through their whole program.  It's a service, a total service on their account."  Reputation again was implied, this time as a leverage point for the core relationships, which often result in offers to bid on new business.  A summary of these resources and their changes over time is shown in Exhibit 5.
 

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