How a fateful call from an employee inspired an adviser to start her own brokerage

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It was a chance meeting with an employee asking about benefits that inspired Rachel Miner to leave her job at EB Advisors of the Carolinas and start her own benefits brokerage. Anyone who has followed her career would not be surprised at the news. The 33-year-old professional has risen through the Carolina’s chapter of the National Association of Health Underwriters, as well as the Society for Human Resource Management, and was named one of EBA’s 2018 Rising Stars in Advising.

Now, as the founder and owner of Thrive Benefits, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, she is looking to grow a firm that addresses the needs of medium-sized blue collar and engineering firm clients. Employee Benefit Adviser spoke with Miner about why she started her brokerage, the partners she’ll work with and why healthcare has become too dysfunctional for employers and employees alike.

Employee Benefit Adviser: Why did you start your own brokerage? What was the aha moment that lead you to this decision?

Rachel Miner: Two years ago, I left Zywave because I saw a lot of opportunity in our market to really help employers bend the cost curve and move away from the status quo. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and have always had an idea in the back of my mind of the kind of brokerage I would open up some day.

A couple months ago I had someone reach out to me via LinkedIn to request a meeting to talk about his company’s health plan. When I accepted the meeting, I didn’t realize that he was an employee who didn’t even remotely make benefits decisions. It was super moving to me that our system has become so dysfunctional that an employee would reach out to me for help. It was right then and there that I realized that I not only wanted to help employers, but I wanted to help their employees.

EBA: Are you working solo or did you bring any co-workers from your old job?

Miner: I started this on my own, but I already have a job description for employee No. 2. I didn’t take any employees from my former firm even though they are amazing.

EBA: What skill sets are you looking for in new employees?

Miner: I’m looking for someone who is energetic and positive. I want them to be open and have a congenial personality with a drive to create success for themselves and the business. People call me crazy, but I don’t necessarily make it a prereq that they have benefits experience. I think as long as I find the right person who can follow my vision of putting the employer and the employee at the heart of everything we do, anything else can be taught.

EBA: What is the focus of your new firm? What clients are you looking to serve?

Miner: We are a benefits consulting firm that is reviving the healthcare experience — with an emphasis on “care” — so that employers and employees can thrive. What I mean by that is we want employers to be able to have strategic cost containment measures in their health plan so that they can have long term sustainability of good benefits year over year. They need good benefits in order to be able to attract and retain talent. In addition, we want to hand hold employees during the healthcare "buying" experience. We want to guide them to the highest quality of facilities at the lowest cost. Healthcare is confusing and we want to make the process simple. We are looking to partner with mid-market companies 100 to 1,500 employees, primarily self-funded, blue collar and engineering firms.

See also: Bringing a fresh set of eyes to the benefits industry

EBA: How will you differentiate yourself from other brokers including your former employer? How will you stand out?

Miner: I think my biggest differentiator is my empathy. My son has had a host of health issues and I've been the victim of a $14,000 out of pocket health plan year. I understand the financial burden medical bills and a broken system can have on a family. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm incredibly passionate about our industry and am so committed to helping to solve our healthcare crisis.

EBA: What insurers and technology providers are you partnering with? Why did you choose them?

Miner: Hmmm, TBD on the carrier side. As far as technology goes, I'm going to be using Employee Navigator for ben admin, Salesforce for CRM, MiEdge for 5500 listings, and HealthJoy for consumer advocacy. Those are the only for sure tech vendors that I'm using. Possibly Zywave, maybe Jellyvision, and I really like amino. I’ll figure that one out as I go [because] technology is so easy to plug and play.

EBA: Why is this the right time to strike out on your own? Is the market open to a new business?

Miner: I don’t think there is any right time, you know? I’m 33, have three kids, and am always super busy. So I figure, if I’m already crazy, why not build something for myself during the process? There is plenty of blue water right now. There aren’t many independent brokerage firms, and I see a lot of value in being independent and nimble. The market is crying out for change and I think I can give that to them. I’m nervous, but super excited and feel in my heart like it’s my time to make an impact on my community.

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