Why book an expensive motivational speaker, when you can find inspiration and enthusiasm within your own organisation?

For all its ills, a tough economy creates a favourable backdrop for retaining and motivating good people. And sharing the highs and lows of success with colleagues is a great way to refresh ideas and instil healthy competition in an organisation.

The temptation to bring in outside knowledge can often be overwhelming – especially if it comes in the form of a business celebrity validating their expertise with an appearance fee.

But in my experience, ingenuity can often be found on the shop floor. And now, more than ever, it’s the only place to get the true picture.

During these times of conflicting pressures, which are helping to prolong a soft market, it’s hard work at the front line. We expect much more from our people and from ourselves as we try to address the delicate balance between profit and pricing.

It’s tempting to close ranks in such challenging times and rely on the commentary of people at the very top. But who better to share knowledge of this fickle market than with the individuals out there tackling it every day?

At our sales conference this week – at which staff stood up and talked about their highs and their lows – it dawned on me that what I was listening to was more compelling and impressive than most of the presentations I’ve heard from high-profile, professional figures over the years. And, believe me, I’ve seen quite a few of those.

I’m not knocking the skills of these highly paid individuals, but I believe that the ‘ordinary’ employees on stage at this event, talking to their colleagues, were delivering something different and, in many ways, extraordinary.

It doesn’t need to be about the glitz or glamour but about genuine commitment and enthusiasm. Talking about the things that matter, the things that help brokers get over the finishing line and enable them to outstrip the competition.

I witnessed an audience that was energised and excited by what they had heard. Some of them were already talking about the new initiatives they would be putting in place to accommodate and encourage this energy in their businesses.

Collectively, we were learning an old lesson: that by listening to your own people you often find better answers to business challenges and competitive issues. These people are, after all, the ones who talk to your customers all day, every day. They use the systems and apply the tools the business has given them.

It’s by creating opportunities for successful people in your organisation to talk to others in words that they understand that you create a distinctive culture of people who care about your business.

We all like to make a fuss of our winners and champions, but perhaps we need to go a step further by asking our most successful staff to talk to their colleagues, including more senior ones, about topics that will make a difference, using language and examples that will make sense.

You could argue that the broking landscape is facing unique challenges right now, but we’re all facing them with the same intrigue, frustration and determination.

By knocking on your own front door, you might be surprised to hear about the innovation that’s going on right under your nose. IT

Jon Walker is chief executive of the retail division of Towergate.