Everyone needs a purpose in life. That can be one purpose or multiple purposes from different aspects of life, such as career, family, and recreation.
Call me old fashioned (prepare the arrows), but I’m admittedly old fashioned, to a fault at times. As the primary breadwinner for my family and proverbial “head of household”, I believe my purpose should be career and income centric. A utilitarian, if you will, building a solid financial foundation that my children can use to pursue their true callings in life.
This was difficult for a time as someone in the health insurance and benefits business. You see, for a long time, I didn’t understand why an agent/broker existed. I published an article to this point, Do Companies Really Need a Health Insurance Agent? Many in the business, I felt, had an over-stated view of their role. If a business was a sports team, many saw their role as head coach or general manager. I always thought the role was more like that a third assistant to the traveling secretary to what a health insurance agent should be in the overall scheme of an organization. After all, it was a perk benefit before government mandates.
I found it sad that there was an industry that promoted and sold a product that everyone hated to buy, deal with, and use. Selling “health insurance” was akin to being a clerk at the DMV, dealing with people who are perpetually angry and always changing people’s mood for the worse. It was a feeling of emptiness, apathy, and a big empty chasm of “why”. As someone who believes that part of a fulfilling career is to have a clear sense purpose and knowing that we should leave a mark on the world for the short time that we are here, I knew there had to be closer alignment of what we do and why we do it.
There were several “aha” moments that began to change my views on the role that benefits, and therefore the role of a true benefits advisor, has with employers. First, it was reflecting on my own personal experience, and second was a Forbes article written by Dave Chase titled This Job Could Save America. Having an article written about how your profession could save a country will change your perspective. Lastly, it was connecting with like-minded people through industry groups like Q4i, MADDRS, and the Health Rosetta.
Those encounters were the invisible hand that guided me to changing my perspective. But still, does what I do as a benefits consultant really matter? Well, the proof is in the in the results and relationships with the actual stars of the show, my employer clients.
Our clients began to give us feedback on what we’ve been doing with them. I have a client who started a business with his brother-in-law. They were a couple of young guys who wanted to make some money in the HVAC business. Their perspective changed when they told me their employees started coming to them saying they were able to buy a house and fund their kids’ college funds because of the job they were given.
Another client was transitioning their business to an ESOP trust and saw benefits as a way to truly invest in their employees, in an all for one, one for all approach to providing incredible benefits to the team and truly investing in their people.
Lastly, a business owner who’s fought some health insurance battles in South Carolina ranging from every conceivable account-based plan approach to participating in a co-op that eventually went belly up. This gentleman is a warrior in his quest to provide the best for his employees for the fewest dollars spent. He’s a person whose heart is too big to measure, and it shows in his concern and care for his employees.
This proved that there was a market for interest in offering truly transformational benefit plans. Maybe the majority of businesses are in the transactional business, offering insurance plans just to check the box, but I saw glimpses of what might be out there for a market that is looking to offer transformational programs, but also for those who are willing to participate on a journey to solve the systemic problems in health care financing.
I am on a journey, while often failing, to become a better person. Whatever the definition of True Catholic Gentlemen is, that’s my personal purpose, and I would like my career purpose to mirror that. Part of this journey involved home schooling our children using a faith-based curriculum. I overheard my wife working with one of my sons on his history lesson. They were discussing the Craft Guilds that existed in the middle ages. The guilds were important in 12th-16th centuries. The guilds protected merchants and customers. And, as important, they protected the craftsman themselves. If a member became ill, they took care of him and his family. They helped get the craftsman back to good health, and if that was not possible, they supported widows and orphans. The guilds built and ran hospitals and schools. They loaned money to the needy and ensured that no one could charge more than a “just price”, which was defined by reasonable cost of material plus a return for labor.
This resonated with me for several reasons. First, it means that caring for employees and family members dates back centuries. The philosophy was rooted in faith and genuine care for fellow human beings. How could that not possibly be a noble purpose? Something anyone would be proud of as having for a career. Second, the entrenched belief of “just price”. Reflecting on that aspect, it dawned on me that the crisis of purpose was not based on the larger effort of helping employers care for their employees, but rather the mechanism by which modern society promotes doing so…through an inefficient insurance model around healthcare. The crisis was not of the “what” but of the “how”.
My mission is to get back to the truth around caring for employees. Based on the “just price” adopted by the guilds and how they truly cared for members and their families, our mission is now aimed at finding truth around purpose, in value, and in pricing.
To accomplish consistency in message and mission, Benefit Advisors of Charleston has rebranded as Vero Advising with the tagline, “Truth in Benefits”.
Vero is Italian for ‘truth’, a nod to my Italian ancestry and the role that culture played in creating and spreading the guild system. Advising is what we do. We do not sugar coat, hide, or withhold information or advice to clients. Our goal is to advise on offering benefits that are true, thereby truly benefiting employees and the company that is sponsoring the plans. We consult and advise on health and welfare plans that are built upon just pricing, or truth and transparency in the exchange of healthcare services for the people that require them.
I still do not believe that we as advisors will or should rise to the level of head coach of general manager of the team, but with this mission of not just implementing and managing insurance plans, we believe in our role as assistant to the head coach and having a firm spot on the advisory team for our clients.