Small business owners spend their time in two buckets — work and family. When approaching them for their business, offer them something in one of these two areas. A panel Tuesday at the Workplace Benefits Renaissance conference in Atlantic City, N.J. offered brokers tips and insights like these from successful small business owners who care for their employees like family.

None of this is a surprise for our readers and those in attendance at the conference, many of whom are small business owners themselves. But entrepreneurs outside of the benefits field have different perspectives. Three tips for brokers to keep in mind about small business owners are:

1)      Respect how busy they are. According to Lewis Schiff of Inc. Business Owners Council, most small business owners spend at least 50 to 60 hours on their business per week — sometimes even up to 70 or 80 hours.

2)      Treat them like VIPS. Their vendors, employees, other brokers, etc., treat them very well, so pull out the red carpet for potential new business.

3)      Take the time to get to know something personal about them. Small business owner George Bresler of GB Collects in West Breslin, N.J. said at the panel that his adviser “knows I like Johnny Walker.” But joking aside, both panelists said a personal relationship is a key to success.

“At the end of the day, I like people who pitch me the options and trust that I’m going to weigh the risks,” said Debbie Madden, owner of Cyrus Innovation in New York City. “What I’m looking for is a continuous conversation, someone who knows when to approach me with new [benefits]. Someone who says, ‘alright in 2011 you decided this, but is it time to reconsider?’”

Noel Spencer, a broker with Spencer’s Financial and conference attendee said the panel made sense. Brokers need to “know what makes their clients tick, know their health issues, their family, what their parents are going through. That will make a client will remember you.”

Madden said one quality about her adviser, who she called trusted, is that he’s always available. “I talk to him a lot, and he’s available for all 55 of my employees to call, and they do,” she said. “I don’t know how he does it, but he’s also always coming to us with creative solutions and things we’re not thinking about.”

Bresler and Madden both said that the impact of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is far from their minds, and that’s due to their advisers’ assurances that not a lot will change. “One thing that caused me to terminate an adviser a few years ago was when they only came to the table right before open enrollment,” Bresler said. “Talk to me throughout the year, I don’t want to hear from you just once.”

Bresler and Madden highlighted that their success at retaining employees has been thanks to creativity on their own parts, in addition to great benefits provided by advisers. Madden and her group offer employees an option to waive a salary increase for up to six weeks of vacation in lieu of the extra bucks. Bresler takes an individualized approach with unique employees, even visiting one at home during a sick leave to ensure proper care and a return to his office.

Madden concluded by reflecting on how she got her current adviser through an instant connection: “You can’t call that selling what he did, it was one of those rare things.”

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