Happy New Year everyone! OK, maybe it’s a little late to still be wishing people Happy New Year, but we’ve still got most of 2012 ahead of us and it still feels pretty ‘new’ to me.

I’m sure 2012 will have its share of surprises in store for everyone (and, I hope, mostly pleasant ones) but there are at least a couple of things we can be pretty sure of.

Unless you’ve been away – really, really far away – you know that 2012 is a year in which we’ll elect a President, 33 Senators, 11 Governors and every member of the House. Oh, be still my beating heart! I love election years like this. It’s already been fascinating and the Republican primaries have only just begun. One thing you can count on during the run-up to November 6 is that a lot of misdirection and misinformation is going to be thrown around, and a lot of that will have to do with health care and health reform.

Some of our clients are liable to get caught up in the frenzy. We need to be the voice of reason amid the noise. We need to be our clients’ fact checker. I know as brokers and consultants we often follow our clients’ leads and that’s understandable. But, whether we agree politically or not with our clients, it is our responsibility as trusted advisers to make sure that clients make informed decisions based on fact, not hyperbole. Do the research. Do the homework. Be informed and factual…then we can sit back and watch the electoral spectacle unfold.

In addition to death and taxes, the other thing we know with certainty is that health care costs will go up again. Last year was a tough one and there are probably more clients at the end of 2011 than there were at the end of 2010 who feel there just isn’t any water left in the well. What are those clients going to do when they see their health budgets increase faster than their revenues are increasing and certainly by more than the 2.8-3.0% wages are supposed to increase? Well, they’re going to look to us to tell them what they should do. Our creativity and resourcefulness are liable to be challenged more this year than ever before. Markets are continuing to shrink, so the answers more and more will need to lie within a client’s plans and employees. Strategies that may have been non-starters two years ago could suddenly have a new lease on life. We will need to be prepared to put bold and possibly even painful ideas in front of our clients. 2012 will surely not be a year to be complacent.

I’ve been in this business long enough to remember when the “slow time” of the year could be measured in months. Then it became weeks. Now it’s days. Another thing we know for certain is that we will all be cranking along in 5th gear soon enough, but for those of us who might still be benefitting from a little post-holiday ‘lull’, here are some suggestions for putting that time to good use.

Dust your office – And don’t just dust around stuff. Move it. C’mon, you know you haven’t moved that stack of papers on the corner of your desk for three months at least. You have no idea what could be lurking beneath. Clean it up. You’ll feel better.

Make a list – It doesn’t matter of what. You’ll find something. Just make a list. You’ll feel more organized. You’ll feel better.

Call a client – For no good reason. Just call one. Call several. And please…please…don’t try to sell them something. Just call to talk to them. They’ll enjoy that. You’ll feel better.

Hope your 2012 is off to a great start. (Now, where’d I put that Swiffer…….)

Lane is principal at Mercer in Washington, DC. He can be reached at george.lane@mercer.com or 202-331-5222.

 

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