Human resource and benefits professionals can learn a lot from fishing.
Many of the readers of this blog have been fishing before. Some may still be avid anglers.
I am NOT an avid angler. However, I was fortunate to go on a 1-day fishing trip in the Florida Keys with some physician friends from medical school. It was a reunion of sorts—we had not seen each other in six years.
We went out on a charter boat that needed to be booked 8 months in advance because it is THE Best Fishing Charter in Islamorada, Florida.
What makes this charter THE Best? Between commentary from my friend who is an excellent fisherman, talking with the captain and his crew and observation, I learned the following about what makes them THE Best.
Lessons learned from fishing: The same qualities that make the best charter boat, make the best HR consultants and brokers.
Be Excellent at a Handful of Differentiators
The reason this charter is THE Best is because they catch the most and the biggest fish. If that is your goal when going fishing, this is the charter for you.
- They leave early so they get to the schools of fish first. Most other charters leave between 8 and 9 AM. This charter leaves at 6:30 AM.
- They use better bait. Their first stop is to fish for live bait about half a mile off shore. Most charters use frozen, dead bait fish. This charter catches 60+ bait fish first, puts them in the live bait station and then motors out another 20 to 25 miles for the big fish. The big fish like live bait better than frozen, dead bait.
- They spot schools of fish better. The charter’s captain drove the boat from the ‘tuna tower’ or ‘fly bridge’ about 20 feet above the deck of the boat. He would spot birds that had found small fish. Those small fish would also attract the big fish we were trying to catch. Once he spotted the school, he would signal to us and his first-mate to cast our lines with the live bait.
- They bring the fish onto the boat in ‘clusters.’ They would not land the fish on the boat one-at-a-time. Once a fish was hooked, we would reel it in to about 20 feet off the back of the boat and leave it there swimming in the water. The charter did this so that the school would see the caught fish ‘still swimming’ and not be scared away and scatter. Once we had 6 to 8 fish on lines behind the boat, then we would reel them in all the way and land them on the deck.
- In summary, this charter was excellent at A) getting to the fish first; B) using better bait; C) finding the fish; D) not scaring away other fish.
How This Relates to Healthcare and Employee Benefits
In working with Compass’ approximately 2,000 employer clients and their benefit consultants/brokers, I have found a similar corollary to this fishing charter.
- Consultants and brokers who are very clear on their goal have answered the first question of “THE Best At What?”
- THE Best consultants and brokers that I’ve seen have been THE Best at serving their clients. Notice I did not write, “THE Best at lowering healthcare costs” OR “THE Best at regulatory compliance” OR “THE Best at personalized service or ease of use.”
- In my experience with employee benefits, clients have a variety of priorities, so THE Best consultants and brokers are NOT RIGID in their definition of success. Instead, their goal is closely aligned with their clients’ goals.
- The consultants and brokers that can marshal expertise from various resources within their firm and from an assortment of vendors to create a customized solution set for each client. Some groups want ‘lower healthcare costs.’ Other groups are acquiring a number of companies and need to have the new groups be regulation compliant as they assess, merge and migrate plans. Still other groups want a single source for all employee benefits, including 401K and their business insurance—hence the benefits and the property and casualty insurance can be purchased through the same brokerage firm.
You don’t have to be the best at everything to be THE Best in your marketplace. But you have to manage expectations.
- This charter Did Not have the best boat. It was rather old.
- This charter Did Not have the friendliest crew. They were gruff folks. They were not mean, but barking orders, swearing and criticizing customers was the norm.
- This charter Did Not have a nice docking facility. It was parked in a littered canal behind the captain’s house. No marina. No sign.
- However, my friend who booked the charter had fished with them before and told the rest of us about the boat, the crew and the dock in advance.
How This Relates to Healthcare and Employee Benefits
The best consultants and brokers I have seen are not the best at everything, because they can’t be the best at everything. No one can.
- However, these same consultants and brokers have managed the expectations of prospective and current clients, telling them what they are and what they are not. If a consultant/broker is excellent at cost-containment strategy, but not the best at compliance, they tell groups just that. Conversely, if another consultant/broker is excellent at compliance, but not cost-containment, they tell groups that as well.
- These non-excellent areas need to be there, they need to be adequate and the clients’ expectations can be managed accordingly.
Lessons Learned for HR and Benefits Professionals
- Employee benefits consultants and brokers that are excellent in certain areas, adequate in other areas and manage client expectations are successful.
- I have seen many consultants and brokers who are not excellent at anything.
- I have seen many consultants and brokers who are completely lacking certain resources… they simply are non-existent.
- I have seen many consultants and brokers promise the moon and not manage expectations. These consultants and brokers are less successful.
As a vendor-partner to many consultants and brokers, you have humbled me with your knowledge, expertise and teamwork with Compass and our employees.
To learn how Compass partners with consultants and brokers to provide Healthcare Navigation services to employees, visit www.compassphs.com.