What’s the Benefit? – Episode #2 – Staffing at BPI, Who’s on First

In this episode I interview Lena Jaroudi. We discuss our staff and who is the lead for each task we perform here at BPI so you know who is serving you. Lena is our longest tenured employee and we take some time to go through the history of BPI, how it’s grown and changed and what we see for the future.

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Hey everyone, Dominic Siciliano here, host of What’s the Benefit Podcast for season one, episode two. Our guest today is Lena Jaroudi, who is our director of operations at Benefit Profiles. For many of you who are listening to this podcast who know BPI, you know since we started in 2012, Lena’s been here. She’s been with us. And in this podcast, we’re going to talk about kind of the history of BPI. Cause I think it’s fun. A lot of you have worked with us kind of, I feel like you feel in a good way, like you were part of our success and you absolutely were. And I hope that comes through on this podcast today. Um, we discussed the history of BPI, kind of how we got to where we are with the ancillary, the spreadsheeting, the Aetna, the level funding, the Ben admin with Tammy, we kind of talked about the whole journey and leading up to a staff of just her and me to now a staff of over 12 and growing, you know, and then we, we actually just kind of do a rundown of the staff and who’s on first this fall and why we’re so geared up and so excited to be able to service you this fall. So that’s what this is about. If you don’t know who Benefit Profiles is, you’re new to who we are, I really hope that this will help you get a sense of who we are and what we’re all about. From a culture perspective, we’re just about creating a platform for agents, to service insurance agents, to have a great place for people to work, to really let them grow as professionals. And I hope that comes through as well. So Lena, great to have you.

Hello, everyone. 

So Lena, why don’t you start by giving everyone your background. We know that, as I mentioned, you’re our first employee ever, but why don’t you talk about BPI from your perspective and try to be professional. 

Well, like Dom said, I started back in 2012. I was working for another general agent part-time when Dom approached me with regards to Benefit Profiles. And… Starting with just Dom and I, I learned a whole other side of the business. I’d worked with agents, but not as closely as what I learned through Benefit Profiles. The task at hand right from the very beginning was always agent driven and the best customer service that we could provide. And that has just been built upon since day one, of what can we do more of, what can we do better of. And a lot of that is I have to give kudos where kudos are due, are based on the vision that you had, Dom, with what you wanted to accomplish through Benefit Profiles. 

That’s very nice of you to say, but it’s fun to talk about the old days. When you first started, you didn’t even work in the same office. You worked at a different, the other GA’s office, which happened to be fringe benefits, which no one really knows and cares about at this time. But, um, we only sold Companion Life when we first started. What were you doing before then, before you joined BPI? And you were there for a long time, so you should talk about your background with MEBS.

I had started out with MEBS: Michigan Employee Benefit Services and had been there for many years. I started out as the executive assistant to John Jacobits and Renee Maslink, and that built into a compliance officer position as HIPAA was coming around the bend. So from there, I then also worked at Associated Mutual, which was the insurance company that the Public Employee Trust owned, which was the conglomerate of unions. that owned MEVs. So it was a lot of years working with cities, schools, municipalities based on the union side of it. 

And very much Blue Cross heavy, right? 

Very Blue Cross heavy, yes. So we had been able to develop a claims system that pulled from the Blue Cross system that allowed us to do a self-funded, or it can now be viewed as level funded program, back in where we could process the claims right out of the Blue Cross system for a seamless aspect. 

It was a great background. It’s very similar to my and Tammy’s background where you were really connected with Blue Cross. And we had the reason why we met was because of Pat Siciliano, my mom. She had called on you guys and you guys had been partners. So there was a lot in common there when we first started. It’s just fun to think about in 2012 when it was just you and I, you know, what did you think we were selling Companion Life? Agent alliance had closed. We were managing agency for Blue Cross that went away. 20 employees and it was just me and you. And I would go out and tell agents to send us quotes. And hey, for all those of you who did send us quotes at that time, thank you. I think you were worried that I couldn’t feed my family, but whatever. It all worked out. What were your thoughts at the beginning? Was it just like you needed a job and I was crazy enough to think, well, his mom could do it so he could probably do it. What were you thinking then? 

It was in the interactions that I had with you, they were different than when I had worked with your mom. You definitely had a different approach. It was the same approach that I was hoping to be able to work with. It was truly enjoy your time here. You’re here the bulk of your day, so have fun while doing it. You never would get antsy… or you’re very busy. You’re very busy. It was… a totally different atmosphere than I’ve ever been in before. The proposals, I can remember begging you to not go out for a while, to let me get caught up. The agents truly came through strongly for us during that time period. 

That’s a theme that we’ve enjoyed and experienced the whole time, isn’t it? That the agents just really support us. And for whatever reason it is, I just feel like it’s the biggest blessing we have. It’s just that support. But that… is a credit to you because they sent us the quotes and then you delivered on those. So right away, you know, it was Companion Life. Then we added MetLife and MMA, our friend Scott and Neil, Jen Fowler, Abby Nager, they gave us a shot. I still don’t know why or how they did it, but they did, you know, they took a chance with us. And then, um, so we were quoting Companion Life and MetLife and MMA. It was just you and me. We’d quote cases and follow up almost like, like a sales office or a little, like a little rap. And then we brought to you Kansas city life, right. And I think what I’d tell you at that time, when we added Kansas city life?

It’s the same that you’ve prefaced every carrier that we’ve come on is this won’t add too much to your plate. 

Great!

We’re adding a new carrier, but you shouldn’t notice a difference. So, uh, famous last words, and yet it was every carrier brought us new opportunities. 

Right, and with Kansas City Life, each time we added a carrier, like I mentioned with Matt, we added Abby Najer and Jen Fowler, who, and Abby’s really still with MetLife and really the large jumbo area, and Jen’s still, we still work with Jen to this day. With Amy and Gotti Bilbo, she was just a rep who’s been with us since day one, she still is, those of you who work with Kansas City Life know Amy well. Don’t you feel like the reps,  you know, it’s just like the agents and the rep relationships just make, like if you and I look back at our career, these people have been with us now more than 10 years, it’s pretty special.

It is. And I do count a lot of them as friends. I have a lot of fun with all of them. 

And that’s what you talk about, like trying to enjoy your day. That’s what we try to bring to the agent community too. Like when the, if you interact with Benefit Profiles, we want you to say that we got what we had to get done, but we also helped you smile or made you laugh or just brighten your day. I know it’s a little cheesy, but that’s just what Lena and I used to talk about. We just really wanted it to be an enjoyable experience for, to work and to interact with our agents and carriers. But then the big deal was Delta Dental of Michigan. Um, so we had companion, met MMA, Kansas City life, which were all great. I think at that point, did we have another employee yet? I think we did hire another employee. We’re still in this tiny little office. The office was disgusting. It was like 600 bucks a month rent. Remember that? You get to the office, there’d just be like dead bugs everywhere. I was so embarrassed, but whatever. It was fine, I guess. So we had some interns, we had some people that came and went, but I was walking into a health underwriters meeting in Kalamazoo and Dan Lovejoy, who’s now at a VP level at Delta Dental at the time was a sales rep. And he pulled me aside and he mentioned because, in that grapevine…I think one year into working with BPI, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and Dan’s wife had been a survivor and he had pulled me aside and said, hey, I’ve been going through this too. I heard that, you know, he introduced himself. It was really, really a really key moment for me. Dan’s since become a really good friend and he and a woman named Lori Wheelwright offered us a GA contract. I remember Lori asking me via email or text like, “hey, why don’t you work with Delta Dental?” And I said, we’d love to work with Delta Dental. I never thought that you guys would work with us. So when we added Delta, what changed do you think by adding them? 

The whole dynamic that to Delta was such a big name for us and the number of quotes, opportunities, that came in, the number of agents that we were able to meet. The partnership with Delta where they were introducing us to different people. 

And at that time, pediatric dental was a really big deal. Do you remember that? So a lot of folks like you had a Blue Cross plan or a priority health plan. You needed that pediatric dental and Delta had that standalone. So we just wrote so much business. 

After that first year. 

Yeah, a lot of which really is still on the books for us. You know, all of our carriers, they’ve all been great partners. So. We go through that, that really puts us on the map, those four, and then we start to move on. The next big deal is we added, I think we added some more employees, we added Ease Central. It was Ease Central at the time. And that’s when we decided to add Benefit Admin, and it was still you and I and another employee, and that’s when I was doing that myself, if you can recall. So that was interesting. 

Those were great times. 

Yeah, those were interesting times. But eventually we got to a point where we actually moved to a different office. So that was a big deal. Got out of the bug infested office, got to an office nicer, probably better bathrooms. The bathroom situation at the other place was really nasty. But I was super pleased and excited to bring back Tammy Healy. Did you know Tammy before we hired her? 

I did. Yes, so we had run into each other at different events. I had also interviewed with Tammy when Agent Alliance was still… 

Oh my gosh, you sure did.

Yeah. 

So she didn’t hire you then? She didn’t like you on the team?

They actually had hired me for Dave Wilson. 

The fringe side. 

Right, they were helping him out with that aspect. So, and I think I interviewed with them just prior to the recession. So…

 Yeah, that was a really weird time in 08, 09. Yeah. Okay. So Tammy comes on. Now we’re rolling because I don’t have to do Ben Admin anymore. It’s a huge blessing. Great employees in and out. A woman named Erin Bywalec, originally Erin Ouellette, came to us as an intern. Then she left, came back, which was really cool. But take us back when you and I used to kind of talk, it was just you and I, maybe another employee, and I would tell you, like, what are some of the things I told you that panned out versus didn’t pan out from a vision perspective for BPI?

The original vision was we wanted to stay small for a while. We thought that 10 employees was going to be- 

Yeah, it was pie in the sky to dream about 10 employees, wasn’t it? “Someday we’re gonna have 10 employees.” Yeah. 

And- Um, and here we are, you know, hitting 12 employees 10 years later. I don’t know that much hasn’t panned out. Everything that was discussed, it has been achieved. 

We’ll never sell medical again because the Blue Cross thing was so bad. Did I say we would?

That’s just, it’s a bad feeling, Dom. You don’t want me to start talking about how I felt about medical coming back. And as of course, you’re right. You were right all along. 

Well, it was just, you know, the way agent Alliance ended, it was too bad. And we were an MA for blues and it was one contract and it, you know, it was pretty rough. So it was nice not to, to be in that world for a little while. But when Aetna, the opportunity for Aetna coming back in the market, it was just a cool opportunity for us. And I’m really, really pleased we did it because really that’s the third thing that, you know, we got one more big milestone, but that was probably the third milestone was adding the medical. And that changed a lot because that allowed us now to go hire a bunch of folks. And we’ll talk about that in just a bit, because I want you to run down now, bringing us up to speed to what..who we are today, what we do for insurance agents, and the folks we have to offer, the skillsets we have to offer… Why don’t you talk about this fall for the audience- we offer the same care as we discussed, but since then, since adding the ancillary side, the Ben Admin, you know, obviously Ease has been bought by Navigator now. Now we added Unum, Guardian, and these are great partners of ours, just like all the four we mentioned before with Companion Life being our oldest relationship and kind of got us started. Met Life and MMA giving us our first shot. Kansas City Life being that same partner and from the start, Delta Dental kind of helping us like really become a legitimate GA because that really kind of put us on the map at that point. And then when we added Ben Admin, the UNUM came, the Guardian came, Mutual of Omaha came. And now we kind of have changed what we do. Like we’re more like, hey, you have a carrier that you really like and we can work with them and do Ben Admin. That’s kind of like where we’ve ended up. So we can offer ancillary quoting and spreadsheeting, Ben Admin services, and then level funding with Aetna. And then we’re working on some pilot programs with other carriers. But Lena. Why are we, why do you feel good? I feel probably the best I have going into a fourth quarter. And I feel like you do too, but a lot of that has to do with your staff. So do you mind mentioning kind of how we’ve grown and who’s in what position now? 

We’re in a really good spot right now where we have depth with each of the positions. We have backups that provides for continuity when things come up. We have Joel, Joel Shepherd, that we were able to hire late last year. He’s almost been here a year now from TGG. 

Yeah, he was with Next Ben, TGG, Groton Heist, and he spent about 10 years there? Sounds about right, right? 

Yep, yep. And he’d worked in the proposals in that area. So a lot of you are familiar with him. And we have Shariann Draper, who has worked with Agent Alliance in the past. For five years?

Yeah, so she, Shariann and I, Shariann’s known me since I was in college. Shariann worked for my parents. She’s been in the managing agent, general agent space for gosh, she probably would not prefer for us to talk about how long it’s been. So Tammy and Shariann and you are all folks that have worked in the family before. I think that’s a real testament to the culture, Lena. I really do. To bring Shariann back was a pretty neat experience for me. But what’s Shariann do for us? 

So Shariann right now, she is like my professional floater. So she is covering and she is our full time support in proposals right now. She is running our 2-9 proposals in house. She’s running our Delta proposals and she is sending you all the proposals that are coming in through the carriers or helping Joel. And so we do not have any delay with the proposals coming in, they’re getting sent to carriers that are necessary same day, and you are getting the proposals almost immediately as soon as we get them back from the carriers. 

Yeah. And to be able to turn those around same day at this time of the year with the volume we have, because our volume has doubled from July to September in terms of quote activity, correct? 

Correct. 

Yeah. And for us to be able to do that still same day is a huge, huge deal because when we’re in the lean times, I mean, that would get pretty tRikki. Okay. So we have Joel- tons of experience at GA level, Shariann tons of experience at the GA level helping out. Um, but Shariann also has this really cool, cool superpower where if we have an Aetna claim issue or a Delta claim issue or a Met claim issue or whatever it might be, she is just really good at calling the carrier, getting the details, putting it together in a very clear manner for the agent. That’s really her Shariann superpower. So that’s what’s cool about having her as a floater is if we need her to jump into some hairy issue, she can do that the same day, which by the way, that’s what you did for us forever. I mean, for the beginning, you were the claims person, uh, commissioned problem person, quoting person, new business implementation person, office manager, yeah, you name it…janitor, right? 

Yeah. So, yeah, those, those were great times. And we’ve been very fortunate with the people that we’ve added to allow me to spend more time on other escalated issues as well. 

Right. So we have Joel, Shariann… do you want to introduce Pamela?

Pamela Schultz who also had previously worked with Agent Alliance before she went over to Groton Heist. And she is our implementation liaison that she’s bringing your business in, she’s scrubbing it, she’s working directly with you to clean it up and get it submitted to the carrier and address any issues that come up. She’s taking that from the beginning to end. She’s also working on all of our renewals so as renewals come in she will work with you in gaining any rate relief that you may need or at least copies of what you may need that you have not received. So, uh, it has been great to have her on board with us as well with that experience. 

Yeah, that’s a role you used to play as well.

Yes.

I mean, that’s- you played that role all the way in the last fourth quarter. Which you’ll still step in and help. I mean, you step in and help proposals. Joel got sick a couple of weeks ago. You stepped in there, you know, it gets crazy. Hopefully it gets crazy with implementation this fall. You’ll step in there, but to have a very seasoned professional like Pamela. I mean, Pamela was with us at Agent Alliance. So I mean, I again, I’ve worked with Pamela a long time and she has a lot of experience at the general agent level, both with Blue Cross and now our carriers. So to have Pamela there… So you have Joel, Pamela, Shariann, that’s a lot of experience. Yeah, obviously Tammy, Tammy has all that experience as well. So we have really experienced folks who’ve been doing this a long, long time. That’s what makes me super excited to go in. And the reason why we could add these folks- Joel, Pamela and Shariann are all this year, I mean, Joel was last year, but- 

But within the 12 months, yeah.

But a lot of that is because of our Aetna relationship. That was to grow the general agency. That line of coverage allowed us to really expand our reach from a people perspective. All right, so, and now let’s talk about, you know, Tammy has a team. Do you mind, let’s talk about…Hannah. Hannah’s been with us- 

So we have Hannah Stearns. She’s been here three years. 

Yep. Hannah has been with us three years. Started in customer service, but now is full-time in the Ben Admin department. What’s her job there? 

Uh, she builds a lot of her cases and gets them ready for renewals. 

Manages day to day, helps folks with membership if needed, does the connections.

Yes.

Kind of as a liaison, right? 

It is. And then we have Kristy Wilkinson who is support, customer service support, in the Ease area. She started as part-time last year and she’s doing the member management for Ease and Navigator.

So what Lena means by that is for cases that are with us that we’re the general agent on, there’s certain cases like MMA for example, Michigan Manufacturers Association, there’s not a connection to Ease or Navigator. So we’ll move that manually as part of our scope of work. So Kristy will do that. She’ll also help Hannah with reports, audits, just kinda stuff that is just needed, right? And so let’s talk about the department within Tammy’s department. You know, the big move is Ease to Employee Navigator. We’re not moving anything this fall. We’re kind of keeping stuff as is. We have 60 groups that renew on Ease 1/1, so Hannah and Tammy are gearing up for that. We have folks that can help them. We’ll talk about them in a second. But when you and Tammy talk about kind of staffing up, we are planning to do a big transition next year. So what are you all, what are your plans to support that for 2024? 

Right now we have multiple people in the office that are ready…we’ll have Shariann here… Kyle, who you’re receiving spreadsheets from will also be set up. We’ve got a, what do they call it? The tool that Navigator’s going to be setting up.

Yeah, transition tool hopefully. 

Transition tool. Yeah. That we all hope to be able to move this business seamlessly once it’s in place.

But for the audience, we know now that Navigator’s starting to fold in some stuff from Ease, like the look and feel of Ease are folding in, they wanna bring in the forms, some of the connections, the GA portal… But they have not told us how that tool is coming along. So agents have asked me, well, what are we doing? You know, a lot of folks are putting just new groups on Navigator, but there’s plenty of folks who are just putting new groups on Ease with the hopes that transition tool will be easy to use. So I’d say whatever you’re comfortable with this fourth quarter, keep going with that.
So we have Kristy, Hannah, Tammy, in the Ben Adman department in 2024. I’ve charged Tammy and Lena to say, hey, let’s go get at least one more associate, if not two, in that department to continue to take care of that book. Obviously, one thing we didn’t discuss yet is our affiliation with The Cason Group. I’m speaking with William Cason this fall about, hey, we know these cases are going to be transitioning to Navigator anyway. The Cason Group is the biggest license holder of Navigator in the country. So, could it be that we integrate with The Cason Groups Navigator team and still kind of be a sales office for them? We’re looking at all ways to kind of expand our reach, be very very good, very white glove, hands-on service, keep that going. But Lena and Tammy know, I mean, the name of the game is expansion, more employees, especially in that department next year. Okay, so we’ve mentioned all the folks.

With the exception of Rikki, we’ve got- 

Oh yeah, that’s what I was gonna say. Let’s go back to the GA services, just traditional GA services. Let’s talk about Rikki. 

So Rikki’s been with us two years and she is all things customer service. We used to use that as our entry level to get people introduced to Benefit Profiles. And this is just something that Rikki, she loves that position and she loves the people that she works with. She loves the carrier interaction. 

And Rikki’s good at it. She’s really good at just like basic, like what you would think is basic stuff. Like, Hey, Rikki, can you process this enrollment form for Delta dental? Or Rikki, can you send this to MMA? You’d think that’s basic stuff for Lena and me… to find someone like Rikki who’s really good at it, is very organized, sends it in, files up. I mean, that’s a big position for us. How many specific items does she touch in a month? It’s crazy, right? 

Yeah. We’re between three and 400 touches. 

Yeah. And that’s okay. I mean, keep it on, keep the pedal down, you know, and Rikki, Rikki’s going to get really, really busy December into January. That’s like when she’ll get traditionally busy, but that’s when we’ll pull Shariann because our quoting will go back down and Shariann will just float right over and help Rikki. Correct?

Yeah, that is correct.

Awesome. Okay. So we have Rikki and then we have the young bucks. 

The young bucks. Yes. These guys are…we’ve had Collin for-

Three years. 

Wow. Three years. So Collin was almost a COVID hire.

He was a COVID hire. I think he was right in the heart of 2020. 

And we truly learned with hiring Collin and the training, exactly the platform, how we wanted to do it. Cause we trained them differently than everybody else. Because as a salesperson, he couldn’t go out.

Right. So, you know, what’s cool about Benefit Profiles is you have some veterans,  four or five, six really with me, GA veterans. Extensive experience in the GA world. We also have four or five, six younger folks who learned the business from the ground up here at BPI, which as a former teacher, I’m so proud of: Rikki, Hannah, Collin, and Kyle. Kristy really. So Rikki came to us with no insurance background and Collin was the same way. We hired Collin to be a Southeast Michigan sales rep, which he is a hundred percent now in three years and he’s really getting his footing and doing such a great job. I’m just so proud of him. I’m proud of all of our team. I’m just so proud of like BPI in general, but, uh, Collin, you know, as a salesperson, it’s just so much to learn. Um, and he, we started him out at Aetna quoting right away. And that’s really what his passion lies at. And he’s good at ancillary, but I think that’s really where his passion is and where his gift is, the level funding space. So Collin’s got big news coming up on Monday. They’re inducing his first child. We’re super excited for him. And he’ll be back once things settle down at home. And then our newest employee, we just hired him this summer, Kyle Ellis. 

Kyle Ellis. 

And Kyle’s been a blast. He’s in the office. He is sales support is what I would describe him as. He helps with our marketing items. If you’ve noticed that BPI, our marketing department, has gotten really-in terms of what we put out-in terms of our look and feel, our website, all of that. We use a great consultant. His name’s Daniel Yilmaz. He helps with these podcasts. But if anyone wants to know him, he’s an amazing partner. And I’d love to refer him to anybody. He and his wife, Michelle, have been really, really important to our team. Kyle acts as a liaison to those folks. He does our spreadsheeting. He helps Collin, he helps me. He’s very good at Excel. So he’s been a really good addition to the team as well. And he can help float. So right now, he’s really solid in Excel. So he’s doing all of our spreadsheeting. So when you get a level funded case group from us, we’re gonna, as much as we can, if it’s a final rate, we’re gonna try to put it on a spreadsheet for you to help you look at what you have currently versus what Aetna can offer, some of our other carriers that we offer, can offer. Which is important because Aetna offers like 95 quotes on that quote sheet. It’s kind of a turnoff for agents. So we help with that. On the ancillary side, I would say about 20% of the agents we work with ask us to spreadsheet our offerings. And we’ve really gone to a place where our key agents, the agents that use us all the time, kind of tell us their playbook, like, hey, this is what we want you to quote. And we put that on a spreadsheet for you. And that’s. been a huge step forward for us, right, Lena? Like that’s a two year thing and it’s a lot of work, but I feel like it’s a great offer to the agent. The agents have responded very well to it. And it helps us as sales reps kind of follow up and say, hey, helps us work with the carriers. If the carriers say, how do we look on this? We could ship them off a spreadsheet. Makes everyone more efficient. That’s something that you and I have wanted to do for, gosh, eight years. And we just never had the team to do it. Again, that’s the credit to having the medical side; it helped us get some revenue going so we could hire someone like Kyle. So that’s the team. If you think all the way back, all these positions you and I did ourselves when we first started. I would just say for any of you in the audience who’s a dreamer, Lena and I used to talk, like on Friday afternoons, the week would be over and we’d do some planning, whatever, hey, roundup, how the week go, what are we doing, how are we doing on this? And I’d say someday we’re gonna have 10 more employees, someday we’re gonna be selling medical. I literally had no idea. Like Aetna was not in the market. The dreams kind of come through, the visions come through. That’s really, really cool. And I just give you a lot of credit, Lena. You’ve been a great partner. You’ve been an awesome manager for these folks, taught everybody, and you’ve been great, great for the agents. I mean, they really rely on you and they really trust you. So I think it’s been a fun journey. 

I really appreciate that. It has been, and we couldn’t have done it, obviously without you, but without the agent community.

Without a doubt, without their trust, for sure. Okay, so, we are ready to go for this fall. We’re ready to go. I mean, it’s busy. It’s busy for everybody in the business. We’re all working extra. It is what it is. I mean, that’s just the business, right? If you and I are not working extra in the fourth quarter, that means that something’s either wrong or we’re like, you know, we’re just kicking it and we’re done, retired. I mean, I kind of mentioned a little bit, but what’s your vision for ‘24? I mean, what do you hope to accomplish for the agents in 2024, for the firm, for BPI, and beyond?

Well, we made a commitment last year that our goal would be to hire at least two people a year.

Yeah.

To better service and to offer more. So as you’ve already pointed out, our goal is to gear up for the Navigator transition. To make that as painless as possible for everybody and to take on that stress from the agents. And we also have the ability to do more on the proposal side, you know, with the spreadsheeting and reporting. We would like to be able to take on more of a consultative role. 

Yep. And what you mean by that is kind of helping agents. We had an agent that we worked with, it’s been a long time client that kind of said, Hey, we want to be more efficient with our ancillary side. They would kind of give us all the reports or commission reports, kind of gave us a list of all their clients, who they have, which carriers they have them with. And with Kyle’s help and your help, we were able to put that into a bonus calculator, kind of show them, hey, this is where you have your business today. If we move, let’s say, these 10 to 20 groups, we can help you really pump it into one carrier, hopefully earn a little bonus, but also get more efficient. So that’s what you mean there, right? Almost being consultative with the approach to ancillary, correct?

Correct. And from that, being able to sit down and discuss the playbook that you’ve already pointed out, instead of the agents having to tell us each and every time, please quote… we do this automatically and we can build that out for you.

That’s been a, that’s a dramatic shift, paradigm shift, from where we were. It used to be, send us a quote, we’ll send you our carriers. It was like the old school GA model. That’s really been updated on the ancillary side.

To be able to be more responsive in the way that is easier for them. 

Totally agree. 

We don’t want to throw proposals at you that you’re not going to look at or… you know your clients best. So you can tell us what. 

And that’s what I learned from The Cason Group, Lena, was they are really, really good at data at The Cason Group. And that’s what we want to get good at at BPI. They keep a data on turnaround times from the carriers, from the quote to the end, service issues, how fast those get resolved, new business implementation. We wanna be able to put that in front of you all and say, hey, you know, people, maybe you haven’t considered One America, you know? Maybe you don’t know who One America is. That’s one of our carriers we’ve worked with them for a long time, or Companion Life, or, I mean, and you might say, well, why would I work with them? Sometimes it’s, you know, for a smaller carrier, you know, they don’t have the brand name, but from a service perspective or a fit perspective, they might fit your clientele. So being out that consultative approach as you shape the way you want your agency to look or feel, that’s what we, we’ve always done that, but we want to be a little bit more deliberate about that, Lena and I in 24 and 25. Personally, for the audience, what you’re going to see from me and if you have friends or you have young folks graduating college and you want them in the business, I think one thing we’re really, really good at, why I think we work really well with The Cason Group because I think The Cason Group, this is their special skill, is developing talent: hiring people, training them, launching them. We’re not as deliberate about it as The Cason Group. The Cason Group has it down pat. They’re 30 years old as an agency, so they’re a little older than we are. But my next place is I want two or three more Collins in the state of Michigan, just so we can be more present in the insurance agents’ offices, have more people touching your quotes and being more consultative. So replicating sales reps, which I know that makes you super excited, Lena, because you love how we do all of our operational reporting for you, right?

I love all of your notes. 

Yeah, like we’re so good at all that. So really the vision is expansion. You know, The Cason Group has been a big part of that, being able to offer ICHRAs now, individual and Medicare, support on the Navigator side, enrollment services, all that’s new too, but really just expansion, being able to sell more insurance with agents across the state of Michigan, maybe in Indiana or Ohio, we don’t know, but being great partners to the carriers who’ve given us a shot, but also being a great place to work. So let me just say publicly, I really appreciate this time we’ve spent. It’s been fun to build something with someone who works so hard and cares about Benefit Profiles like you do. I think you’ve been a huge part of our culture. And… I don’t know when you plan on retiring. It’s probably what, 20, 30 years from now? You got a long way to go. Yeah, appreciate that. Cool. 

Thank you for keeping me on. 

Do you have anything else, any message of peace and love? Do not talk about U of M. We don’t need to talk about that at the moment. I know that’s what you’re- 

There’s no Gold Blue mention at all? 

Yeah, and it’s not even fun. You can’t even talk crap about Michigan State. It’s just so bad. It’s like, it’s pitiful, I know.

Again, thank you for your loyalty over the years…

Well, I had no choice if you think about it. 

I wasn’t talking so much about your loyalty. 

For a long time, like you’re the only one who worked for me. So you were kind of like, oh-

No, it’s, we’re honestly, we’re here because of your vision, but we’re here because of the agents, their staff. 

Yeah, it really is about the agents. 

The agents over the last 10 years are some of the best that I’ve ever had in my experience. 

Someone was asking me the other day, like it was, oh, I was with an agent, a good friend. And he’s like, so how’s it going? I was like, it’s going great. And I just said, man, I’ve just, I just love my job so much. I was, I have four kids as everyone knows. And I like to banter with everybody, but I was bantering with them. And I was like, I slave away all day, day and night, just to provide you guys this… whatever. I don’t know, whatever I was saying. And they’re like, “dad, you love work.” And it’s the truth, actually. And I’m happy that comes through because I absolutely love what we do. You get to work with friends all day and it means a lot. 

Just truly living the dream, huh? 

Living the dream, baby! That’s right. Well, alright, Lena. Thank you so much. And for all the agents who listen to this, if anything piqued your interest, please just reach out. Have a great fall. 

Thank you.

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Dominic Siciliano

President, Agent Consultant

Over his 18 years in the benefits business Dominic has worked in the Medicare Advantage, small group Blue Cross medical, ancillary GA and large group benefit admin space here in Michigan. His parents and biggest influences, Patricia Siciliano and John McClain, instilled in him the key pillar to GA benefits business—relationships with agents and carriers. Dominic has served as the NABIP West Michigan President twice. He’s run the golf outing several years going and he served at the Legislative Co Chair for the State Board during the passing of PPACA. His Friday morning classes, Employee Benefits 101, is highly regarded in the industry as a practical, real world introduction to the business for new folks. In short, he is passionate about our business and about seeing agents succeed. 

Dominic loves golf and basketball but as he gets older, golf more. He’s a Western grad but a State fan! He most enjoys spending time with wife Janelle and four children outdoors and Up North! From the very early days of BPI when it was just him and Lena in a tiny little office, he hasn’t changed, it’s about getting the job done for agents.