To illustrate how important working with small business owners and entrepreneurs is to Cerrina Jensen, the California adviser recalls an old job where her then-supervisor essentially told her to lie to potential clients.

“I had a boss once tell me that the presentations I was trained to deliver were complicated by design. It was an intentional strategy to make it so confusing to the client,” she recalls. “And I [thought], ‘Oh my, this is so backwards thinking to me.’”

Needless to say, Jensen didn’t stay long at the job. She joined CoreMark Insurance Services in late 2012 and is now an employee benefit consultant for the full-service insurer and benefits provider firm in Sacramento.

Cerrina Jensen

“Our job is to translate all this insurance gobbledygook into plain old, everyday English that people can put to use in their day-to-day life,” says Jensen. And this is why she is one of EBA’s 2017 Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising.

To select this year’s honorees, EBA editors asked readers to submit the names of thought leaders who are making their mark on the benefit business through their unique approaches to client relations, benefits technology and/or mentoring other women. From the dozens of submissions received, the editors chose 30 benefit advisers to recognize for their outstanding achievements.

As the daughter of a housepainter, Jensen knows what’s important to small business owners who dream of starting and growing their own companies. She recalls piling into the family station wagon as a little girl and accompanying her father to Sacramento so that he could take a test to become a licensed home contractor.

“My dad was a painting contractor, so I really I buy into the entrepreneurial spirit. I want to help small businesses embark on a controlled growth strategy through a wisely developed employee benefit approach,” says the California State University – Sacramento alumnae.

She primarily works as a consultant to help small growing businesses with their workman’s compensation strategies, wellness and health programs as well as bringing new clients into the CoreMark fold. Jensen focuses on small business in the greater Sacramento area and other parts of California.

“Our service model is based on the small business entrepreneur that is in growth mode and wants to dominate their market. That's really my personal brand and I love to partner with an employer or a potential employer. I start with people when they're individuals, and then help them with their first new hire through that whole onboarding process to where they start with one employee and then move to 20 and even 50 employees.”

One small business client of Jensen’s has recently grown to nearly 70 employees. She also works with mid-market employers with more than 100 employees.

One of her biggest challenges when dealing with small business owners is helping them navigate the maze of regulations and compliance, especially for small firms that are run by two people. “A lot of times, it's the wife running the business or even the business owner themselves still running the business,” she says. “So, helping them to just deal with all of the challenges” is a big part of Jensen’s job.

When approaching small business owners, Jensen and her team emphasize their expertise in the small-group market. “We are actual insurance advisers, and not a software company with an insurance license. You're going to get the expertise, access to the market, and the personal touch because we understand your space,” she says, adding, “and you're also getting these new bells and whistles that technology is bringing to our marketspace.”

Jensen says her team aims to deliver free HR support and compliance documentation that will grow with the client. For example, she is helping one privately-owned electrical company offer benefits for the first time because they were losing talented electricians to competitors that offer benefits.

“We offer all sorts of things to help them where they are right now. As they hit their milestones and growth in terms of how many employees, revenue or how much they want to dominate their market, we help them to know what comes next.”

For example, “When you get to that 10 employee mark, what are the new rules and regulations that you're going to be subjected to? When you hit the 20 employee mark, you're going to have to go to Federal COBRA offerings,” she says.

“We're going to help you with all of those transitions so that you're never blindsided.”

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