As we wrap up 2018, we askedbrokers what strategies and tools they were leaving behind, andwhat they were adding.

You're not the boss of me

One thing I left behind in 2018 is working for insurancecompanies. I work for my clients and their employees, and noproduct or bonus will affect that relationship. I've never allowedany commission/income structure to influence me,but the mindset of how we get paid has changed. It should be adirect contract with employer and consultant.

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The new idea is that employees deserve to understand the conversation we're having withtheir employer and why and how their employer is coming up with thestrategy to better serve their employees. We work so hard helpingemployers understand, yet we need employees (consumers) tounderstand. It's imperative that they have the tools needed to make better decisions andunderstand why certain decisions are being made. It's time theconversations go deeper, and include employees and theirfamilies.

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Taylor Y. Lindsey, Employee Benefits Consultants

Buh Bye, spreadsheets

The one thing I have left behind is spreadsheets. Time to moveaway from complicated spreadsheets of plans and rates. The onething I have added is a fully staffed HR area in our firm, with aSHRM-certified HR professional and three additional HR consultantsthat help our clients on a project basis.

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Barry Cohn, president & CEO, Really Great EmployeeBenefits

Bottom line decisions

I dropped spreadsheets and began focusing on long-term goals formy clients and prospects, implementing cost-containment tools. Bydoing this, we have been successful in lowering cost, allowingemployees to access quality care, improve morale and add bottomline profits for employers. It's a win for all involved.

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Marcy S. Heath, InoVentive Solutions

Doubling down

Everyone says health insurance costs as much as it does becausehealth care is expensive. I spent much of 2018 talking withhospital CFOs to create direct contracts with my clients toeliminate the middlemen and lack of transparency. It means loweroverhead for the hospital, and lower costs for my clients. That'sthe direction we all need to move in.

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What I left behind? Spreadsheeting and offering other servicesfor the purpose of deflecting from the challenge of doing what allour clients really want: to functionally and substantially lowercosts and improve health outcomes for their employees. I stillprovide those things, but they are more of a “must have” as opposedto a value proposition.

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David Contorno, founder, E Powered Benefits

Consistency is key

We have a lot of data supporting the effectiveness of ourprospect engagement but have identified that not all of ourproducers consistently follow our methodology. We are going tostreamline our prospect engagement so our brand is betterrepresented. The data that gets us is: 1. Our style of engagementgets to the issues that are causing the prospect concern. 2. Itteaches us when to discontinue and when we have a prospect that isworth our investment.

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Our sales team will experience an increased amount ofrole plays, team appointments and situational tests to seeif they're identifying key issues that our process is designed totarget. We won't have a brand if it's not shared by our people.

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Billy Potter, principal, Snellings Walters InsuranceAgency

Big changes, big goals

This year has been a big learning curve, to say the least. Onething I will abandon is attending so many networking events thatare non-revenue generating. In the past, I've said yes to everynetworking meeting, but now I'm realizing my time is valuable and Ineed to protect it.

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One thing I will start doing is hiring someone to offload somework. It's harder than I had imagined to balance revenue retentionvs revenue generating activities. Plus if I want to win BenefitsPROBroker of the Year in 2020, I need to have some crazy growth!

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Rachel Miner, founder, Thrive Benefits

No heroes here

I've added continued focus on effective calendar management—morecalls equals more quotes, which leads to more production.

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I've left behind the “hero mentality.” We're a team; we win as ateam.

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Nathan Queen, employee benefits regional VP, southernregion, OneAmerica

Personalized approaches

In the past year, we've shifted more focus to addresspersonalization for our customers. Key examples include machinelearning and AI, which now let visitors ask questions and getanswers 24/7. We've also enabled online chat for clients who wantto talk to a real person. Our communications have become morepersonalized—meeting clients when they need us during the buyingand onboarding processes. We added partners that provide ourmembers with personalized white glove experiences in key areas ofadvocacy and caregiver support.

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As we embrace personalization, we leave behind antiquatedsystems. This year, we said goodbye to our old CRM system. We'vealso replaced many internal manual processes with a suite ofproprietary tools that allow us to scale. We'll continue to investin systems that make our customer experience the best in theindustry.

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Tonia Degner, chief strategy officer, freshbenies

Educated empowerment

We began 2018 working with a business coach who has opened oureyes and has been instrumental in moving us forward.

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One new thing is educating employers on the different ways tofinance their benefits. There are many terms, trends, ideas andfads floating around out there and other brokers are using them tograb AORs, but we're using the information as knowledge. When weempower employers, they feel good about the decisions they make.There is nothing wrong with having a fully insured plan, and it canbe a good fit for many businesses. We're passionate about educationand empowerment agency and that is what I am preaching.

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I'm most excited about what I'm leaving behind. I'm not talkingabout copays anymore! This doesn't mean I will never go overanother benefit comparison, but gone are the days of being aspreadsheet advisor.

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Change is going to happen regardless. We can roll with it or getrolled over by it. The ACA has brought a hurricane of change; it'sbeen a long process helping our clients to adapt and get through itourselves, but it's time to step it up or step out.

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Jill Pedersen, partner, benefits advisor, Columbia BenefitSolutions, Inc.

Pain points

2018 has been a great year. We are very fortunate to be able tocontinue to grow our business, but the work is really justbeginning. Insurance rates continue to inflate, and everyone isfeeling the pinch. Solving that problem is what makes the industryexciting. More than ever, clients are in need of innovative ideasand strategies to help them manage health care and benefitscosts.

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We've dedicated a ton of focus and resources to primary care andprescription drugs. We've invested in several innovations, andstarted local partnerships with health care professionals andproviders to deliver value-based care to clients at a fraction ofthe cost. We believe that when people are given easy and affordableaccess to great, value-based primary care, it changes everything.We've been able to help clients with high prescription coststhrough relationships developed this year, which has had a profoundimpact on many clients.

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One thing we've left behind is the belief that nothing can bedone to fix health care. I've met and collaborated with amazingpeople in our industry who have rekindled my hope that fixing ourbroken health care system isn't just possible, but is happening.It's an honor to work with them to scale, and I can't wait to seewhat 2019 has in store.

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Josh Butler, president, Butler Benefits &Consulting

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A few other changes we saw in2018:

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