More advisers nationally are feeling the impact of health care reform while contemplating the market changes on the immediate horizon. For the last several months we have been discussing what the survivors are doing to morph their business models.

Many will have mastered market segmentation. They realize that they need a sustainable competitive advantage and they are focusing on unique processes. They are becoming much more strategic and consultative in their approach to client engagement. And they are adapting their business model by modifying their compensation methodology to include consulting fees, while offering clients new products and services.

So what else can you do? You can help clients to create a strategic plan to guide their tactical decisions; both their actions and reactions. And it needs to include contingency plans. To do this, you will need to become much more consultative in your approach. And you will need a formalized process, training, and tools in order to make this transition successfully. But your clients need you to do just that, and they will be demanding their adviser(s) provide this kind of counsel and expertise, or they will find a resource that will.

All of this will be independent of how they gain access to medical insurance products in the future. Your primary value proposition cannot be as the access point to products. Your clients need your expertise and you need to reinvent yourself to remain relevant.

If your clients are demanding answers, or at least counsel from someone that seems to have a process or approach to managing in this environment, then what are the implications for your business model? In all likelihood, you are beginning to get used to the potential impact of health care reform and whatever the new norm will be.


Act now

As you transition your practice to a consultancy model, one thing you can do right now is to engage all your clients in a dialogue from a strategic perspective rather than remaining on the tactical level. Simply start by asking your clients open-ended questions about what they want to accomplish with their benefits program over the next three to five years. Facilitate a strategic discussion about what they want their benefits program to look like and what elements are most important to them and their employees.

Any road will take you there if you don't know where you are going. By creating a road map you will be articulating all the important issues and strategic requirements that your client has for their benefits program, including their budgetary requirements and contingency plans.

You also need to evaluate your firm's ability to offer other HR services such as payroll and tax filing services; benefits administration; workers' compensation administration; outsourced HR consulting; regulatory compliance training and audit services; employee surveys; total compensation planning; year-round benefits communications programs; HR management training; and a myriad of other services that employers need and are increasingly being outsourced to qualified third parties.

You already are handling a portion of their needs. Shouldn't you be morphing your offerings to address your client's changing needs? If you don't, someone else will. And they won't stop until they have the total account, right?

Kwicien is managing partner at Baltimore-based consulting and advisory services firm Daymark Advisors. Reach him at

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