"Relax, all right? My old man ... has got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it." I thought of that line from the 1982 movie "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" after reading last month's EBA. In it, I found many new ideas and tools to use with my clients.

Communication tools

"Cut through benefit clutter with clear communication" set the stage. How do you get and filter information? There are a lot of great tools mentioned in this article, and you've got to be really creative to use them. I mean, a video posted to the Internet is great, and a podcast is really handy, but what happens if you don't have the talent to create them? Luckily, you can partner with outside sources for this. As an adviser with the "ultimate tool set," be prepared with communication solutions and vendors. Also, consider doing an employee survey to find out what employees prefer so that you don't waste time and money.

Swiss Army knife

I used to have this great big Swiss Army knife. It could do anything, but it was useless if I opened up every blade at once. We should look at ourselves as Swiss Army knives — don't just throw out solutions without understanding the problem. Nelson Griswold did a great job of defining what it means to be a consultative adviser. As he says, it's all about solving problems for your client — figuring out which tool works best. Spend time to find what's wrong, and then pick the right tool and use it.

I like how this article points out that often people "don't know what they don't know." The CEO you are talking to may not know that his group LTD will only replace 12% of his income, while replacing 60% of his employees' income. Their old adviser may never have used any cool benefit tools. He may have just had a hammer that he beat everything with. Ask questions, use your knowledge, and probe to find what your client may never have heard about. Teach them about what they may not even realize is a problem. It will open doors.

Get a miner's hat

The cover story, "Digging deep" was awesome! I love digging into the guts of self-funded medical plan reports. I once saved a client $10,000 in one year off of a single specialty medication prescription. So when I read about Rick McKinley and the "Decision Master" program I was hooked. Wow — custom utilization reports! Monthly meetings to talk about provider visits and patterns! Yes, I'm a benefits geek like that. I'm always ordering carrier reports for my clients. Digging into the plan can find areas for improvement, outside of the usual stop-loss premium adjustments. In the future, where we will all probably be fee for service, this strategy is a great way to show value. It's also a great way to build that client relationship.

Borrow some tools

"Mapping the road to 2014" makes an important point about PPACA. Instead of biting our nails and hoping for our place at the table, let's use parts of the legislation to our advantage. The biggest question about using the exchanges is how we get paid for our time with the client. The solution is easy: create a fee schedule for your consulting. Exchanges are coming - find ways to implement them if your clients will benefit. EBA

Reach Bryant, founder of SB&K Benefits, at toddb@sbkbenefits.com.

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