Industry research shows there’s a big opportunity for benefits brokers and agents who work with small business owners.

I want to dispel four myths that might be keeping you from taking advantage of this opportunity.

Myth No. 1: Small business owners aren’t interested in offering benefits.

Small business owners treat their employees like family, according to The Hartford’s 2012 Small Business Success Study. Six out of 10 small business owners offer their employees some form of benefits. In fact, 6.5 percent of all small firms said they will add a benefit within the next two years, while another 8 percent “possibly” will add a benefit, according to LIMRA’s 2012 Small World Trends in the U.S. Small Business Market Report.

Myth No. 2: Small business owners plan to cut benefits in order to lower costs.

Small business owners are trying their best to protect their employees even in these challenging and uncertain economic times, according to The Hartford’s second annual study of small business owners. Only 17 percent of small business owners said they expect to reduce employee benefits.

Myth No. 3: A company that’s relatively new or “young” won’t provide benefits.

Interestingly enough, “younger” companies are more likely than older firms to add a benefit. LIMRA found 14 percent of small businesses that are one to nine years old anticipate adding benefits compared to 2 percent of firms that were more than 20 years old.

Myth No. 4: Small business owners have already discussed benefits with an agent/broker.

Think small business owners have already discussed benefits plans with an insurance professional? Think again. LIMRA research found only half of small business owners have been contacted by an agent or broker within in the past year.

Your opportunity

You can help small business owners protect their employees from the impact of an unexpected illness or off-the-job injury.

LIMRA’s research shows there are opportunities with small businesses that are owned by women and minorities. Women own 24 percent of small businesses, and those numbers have been steadily growing. LIMRA’s small business report says this is an “under-penetrated market.” Another fast-growing segment of the marketplace is businesses owned by minorities, which are growing at twice the rate of all other businesses, according to LIMRA. Minority small business owners are also more likely to add group or retirement benefits in next two years, LIMRA’s research showed.

After you’ve decided which clients to reach out to, review their benefits packages so that you can identify any gaps in the coverage. You can also help determine what plan designs and benefit levels are most appropriate.

LIMRA’s report showed short- and long-term disability, as well as life insurance are among the top benefits that small business owners said they are thinking about adding to their benefits package.

When talking about coverage, it’s helpful to discuss what the average small business owner offers in order to attract and retain quality talent. You can also present funding options. For example, voluntary, or employee-paid benefits, can be a more affordable option for business owners to offer benefits without adding to their business expenses.

In fact, 77 percent of companies with 10 or more employees offer at least one voluntary product, according to the 2012 MarketVision™—The Employer Viewpoint after PPACA report by Eastbridge.

Hopefully with these myth-busters and action steps in mind, you can help build your business while helping your clients build theirs.