Amanda Osburn is a broker associate at SullivanCurtisMonroe, aprivately-owned full-service insurance brokerage offeringcustomized solutions for commercial risk, employee benefits, andpersonal lines for over 80 years. SCM has over 150 employees andthree regional offices in southern California and has been namedone of Orange County's Best Places to Work.

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Related: 10 tips for staying relevant in a changingindustry

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Paul Wilson: How did you get yourstart in the benefits industry?

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For about 15 years, I was an HR consultant and advisor, so Iconsulted with clients and employers on various HR needs. As ACAwas approaching, we got more questions from employers who weren'thappy with their broker and wanted to make a change but didn't knowhow to start. I started to understand the amount of pain and need,and it seemed like a great opportunity for me to jumpstart the nextphase of my career.

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PW: Do you see a future for smallerindependent brokers, or will we end up with a landscape made upentirely of larger players?

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At some point, employers will have had enough with theconsolidation. You don't want to get to a point where there's notenough competition and employers are left with no options. Therecomes a tipping point where it no longer works in anyone's favor,and I think we’re getting closer to it.

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I think independent brokers and strong regional brokers stillhave a shot by being innovative and bringing solutions that areimportant to their clients. I came to a regional firm because Ihave more agility to provide resources and solutions that makesense for my clients. We can be more creative and fast moving withthe resources and solutions that we provide.

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PW: What's keeping your clients up atnight?

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How to provide creative solutions without increasing costs toemployees. We look at creative plan design and discuss self-fundingand level funding to determine whether it's a good fit. I’m alwayssurprised when they say, “We’d love to have that conversation, butour broker has never brought it up.” I think it's better to beproactive in bringing new strategies and trends to clients. Youalways want to bring the best solutions and you risk losingbusiness if you don't.

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PW: What about you as a broker? What'skeeping you up at night?

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Being a broker is almost like being someone's best friend. Toget someone to give you a chance, you have to convince them tobreak up with one of their best friends. So you have to sell yourworth before you get in the door. Doing that over an initialconversation on a cold call or at an event is difficult.

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It's also hard to balance my time—social media, on the phones,sending emails, there's just never enough time in the day. But I’mvery lucky because I get to focus my time on growing the brand.

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Related: Understanding the evolution of health insurance ina post-ACA world

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PW: What does the word “disruption”mean to you?

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I think disruption is another word for evolution. We’ve heardmore about it recently from a lot of the startups, but a lot ofthose startups in our industry are now gone. Being patient isdefinitely a virtue; don't jump at the first thing that comes up.You know, shiny object syndrome. Sometimes, it's best to sit backand see what happens.

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Our industry has everyone's attention right now and I think alot of smart companies are using that to bring in their latestgadget or portal, but benefits advising is never going to go away.That's where you’ve got to focus. Take a moment, really study theopportunity, see if it's something that's right for your client andthen analyze and advise.

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PW: What do you love about yourjob?

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Every day is different. Some mornings I may start at 6 a.m.,setting up an exhibitor booth at a conference in Universal City.Another night, I might be at a happy hour in Redondo Beach with ayoung professionals group giving career advice to budding HRprofessionals. I really like that.

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And I find the HR world fascinating. Just like benefits, it'sconstantly evolving. I like to dive right in and be a part of thatcommunity. I see some of the biggest brokers at events just sittingat their booth behind all the little tchotchkes on their table,waiting for someone to come talk to them. Meanwhile, I’m out theregiving hugs because I just saw someone at the breakfast event theday before and I’m asking, “Hey, how did soccer practice go?” I ammy client. I’m a 40-year-old working mom. I think that's somethingthat's a differentiator for me. I am my audience and I think ithelps me relate to the multiple priorities they have going on.

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PW: This industry has historicallybeen male dominated. Do you see that changing? How can it do abetter job of attracting women?

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The industry is definitely changing, and it's going to have to.The average broker is what, a 59-year-old male? We’re all going tobe out of a job if something doesn't change. It's getting moredifficult and there are fewer of us.

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We need to get the word out. I was at a career event last weekspeaking as a working mom and telling them that one of the things Ilove about my job is the flexibility. There's a great work/lifebalance and there's unlimited compensation potential and growthopportunities.

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My firm does a great job training and developing their internaltalent. Some of our best consultants started 15, 20 years ago asaccount assistants.

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Related: Women brokers celebrate success

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PW: What advice would you give a youngbroker or someone who is interested in joining theprofession?

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Be brave. It can be intimidating at first. I had been in HRconsulting a long time and I thought, “I’m a working mom,approaching 40. Do I have what it takes?” And then I said, “Theseguys aren't smarter than me, they’ve just been doing it longer. SoI’ll just pick up my pace and I can be where they are.” It's thereif you want it, but you have to ask for the opportunity.

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PW: Who are your favorite innovatorsor sources of inspiration?

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My source of inspiration is my clients. Why do I get up in themorning? Because I don't want to get that phone call saying, “Ineed help with this,”and then not be able to help them. They arethe reason we do this.

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And my kids inspire me, too. As a single working mom, I want toshow them, don't be afraid to take on a challenge. Don't be afraidof the unknown. Ask for help, ask for opportunities.

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I’m also inspired by people who bring compassion into thebusiness world. People who remember every employee, every client isa person with a family and a background and a story. When you havea claim, it's a person. Put yourself in their shoes. These are allhumans and you can't forget that.

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PW: Finish this sentence: The key tosuccess in this industry going forward is…

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Approaching challenges head on. You can't be afraid. Learn asmuch as you can, as quickly as you can, from every resource youcan. Being humble and growing the next generation of consultants.Giving back, providing internships and finding those who need amentor. Thinking beyond ourselves and giving back to the industrythat's given so much to us.

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Paul Wilson

Paul Wilson is the editor-in-chief of BenefitsPRO Magazine and BenefitsPRO.com. He has covered the insurance industry for more than a decade, including stints at Retirement Advisor Magazine and ProducersWeb.