ALBUQUERQUE – A panel of brokers shared their “war stories” Monday on how they manage successful practices in the midst of a turbulent health insurance market as part of the National Association of Health Underwriters annual convention.
Suzy Alberts, insurance broker with Comprehensive Benefits, credited an excellent account manager, overdelivering on client service, and her general passion for the industry and her clients among the reasons her two-producer agency has thrived.
“Overdeliver but never over-commit,” she advised. Alberts also told the brokers in the audience to be less concerned about being right, but be committed to giving the client the right answer.
Finding the “right” client and finding new business are the bedrock of David Contorno’s success as president of Lake Norman Benefits.
“Not all prospects are created equally,” he said. “You must define your ideal customer and then become the agency most attractive to that customer.”
Contorno said he determined that 80 percent of his group clients made up 17 percent of his firm’s revenue. “We dug into the remaining 20 percent and found strong relationships and real value in them.”
Mark Gaunya, co-owner of Borislow Insurance, described the way he and his business partner redefined their practice and quadrupled their business in 11 years.
“We call ourselves ‘strategic advisors’ – not brokers,” he said. “We look at ourselves as business owners.”
The current health insurance environment has led the broker community to be divided into three camps, Gaunya said. The first is what he called “expense hawks.” Their strategy is to decrease the expense side of their business and ride things out.
“This group will have a very short runway,” he said.
The second group are the “cautious optimists.” They know they need to involve and innovate, but they haven’t done much of it yet. “This group will have a slightly longer runway but not much,” he said.
The third group are the innovators. These are the ones who will do what it takes to move forward and have a long life in the business.
“You’re either growing or you’re dying,” Gaunya warned the attendees. He listed his company’s strategic imperatives as diversifying their revenue, hiring great people, having an engaged company culture and partnering with others.
Increasing productivity while conducting ongoing client outreach were among the keys to Linda Rose Koehler’s success as a health insurance benefits producer with Herzog Insurance Agency.
Koehler said her agency increased its sales of ancillary products, and did cross-selling with existing property/casualty clients and through business affiliates.
Although all four panelists showed confidence and optimism, each admitted that there is something out there that scares them.
For Koehler, that fear is increased compliance regulations. Alberts, who lived in Canada for 12 years, worries that the U.S. could adopt a single-payer health care system.
Gaunya said he fears that Congress will take action that ultimately will eliminate employer-sponsored health insurance.
Contorno feared “that our profession is adapting and changing so slowly. I want to elevate our profession.”
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents’ association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at Susan.Rupe@innfeedback.com.
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