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Day: December 30, 2018
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Helping Kansas City Make Better Insurance Decisions
In this Interview, you will Learn How Insurance Pros Prepares Individuals and Small Business Owners to Make the Best Insurance Decisions for Their Needs.
Chris Goodwin is the owner of Insurance Pros, an insurance broker specializing in helping individuals and small businesses find the right insurance options to meet their needs.
Insurance Pros was founded in 1999.
A lot has changed for Goodwin, the insurance industry, and small business owners over the last two decades.
We had the opportunity to chat with Goodwin about his business, how the Internet has affected how he does business, and what he loves about Kansas City.
All About Insurance Pros
Goodwin and his team at Insurance Pros work with three very specific markets to provide education and guidance during their search for the right insurance plan.
First, they work with small businesses that want to provide their employees with Kansas City group health insurance benefits. These businesses have between 2 and 25 employees.
“It’s an underserved market that typically doesn’t get the same level of attention, so we take a lot of pride in helping these companies understand the differences between all of the products in the group health insurance market, the dental, and the vision, and the short-term disability markets for smaller businesses,” says Goodwin.
Secondly, Insurance Pros works with individuals that don’t have access to group health insurance coverage.
“We regularly help our clients secure plans on HealthCare.gov, because that’s such a complicated market,” he explains.
“We have limited our exposure in this area by really just helping our existing clients, but we still do have a presence in this market.”
The last market is Kansas City Medigap insurance. Goodwin and his company work with are individuals who qualify for Medicare or who are approaching that season of their life.
“I teach classes all over our area, which is mainly Johnson county…teaching people how Medicare works.”
The Internet and the Insurance Industry
For Goodwin’s team, and really anyone working in the insurance industry, the Internet has really changed the way they do business.
While at times it’s a double-edged sword – overwhelming individuals with information or lead services – it is also an incredible source of education.
“When it comes to Medicare, we can give people rates and other market intelligence immediately. Medicare has an incredible site to help people find the right prescription drug plans and the right Medicare Advantage plans for them,” he says.
“When it comes to groups, small businesses, we’re just able to get them information quicker through quote systems that compare the various companies’ plans on an apples-to-apples basis.”
Marketing in Kansas City Through Education and Relationships
As a small business that has been operating in Kansas City for nearly 20 years, Goodwin has spent a lot of time promoting his company in the area by providing education to businesses and individuals alike.
“We have regular classes, kind of in a restaurant environment,” he explains.
“We’ll invite small businesses to come and learn about employee benefits, and what’s new in the employee benefits market.”
Goodwin and his team also offer Medicare classes to individuals at YMCAs and other community venues throughout the Kansas City area.
These classes not only help provide answers to the questions people have about insurance options, but also help Insurance Pros spread the word about the services they provide. The company also relies on Facebook and existing relationships they have built with business coaches to connect with new prospective clients in the area.
What Kansas City Entrepreneurs Need to Know About Insurance
If Goodwin could offer one piece of advice to entrepreneurs, he would want them to know that they have options for insuring themselves and their employees, and that securing coverage isn’t as overwhelming as they might think.
“Entrepreneurs should know that there are quite a few more options in the group health insurance market than in the individual market,” he says. “You can offer a plan in many cases, without any contribution for employees.”
This means that, as a small business owner, you can still provide access to group plans with only a small amount of administration fees to cover.
“That message isn’t getting to a lot of smaller businesses because going through an underwriting process is a little bit time consuming and takes more work for the broker or agent, or whomever you’re using,” Goodwin explains.
Chris Goodwin’s Kansas City Favorites
Read the Interview Transcript
Blogger Local: Welcome to the Small Business Superheroes podcast. Today our featured guest is Chris from Insurance Professionals. Welcome to the show, Chris.
Chris Goodwin: Thank you very much, Mary.
Blogger Local: First, tell us about your company, what kinds of products or services does your company provide and what makes you stand out from the crowd?
Chris Goodwin: Okay, well thank you for asking. Our company is an insurance agency and we work in three very specific areas, the first of which is group health insurance. A lot of people would refer to that as employee benefits, and more specifically, we help businesses with fewer than 25 employees secure good health insurance benefits and ancillary lines for their employees. It’s an underserved market that typically doesn’t get the same level of attention, so we take a lot of pride in helping that market understand the differences between all of the different products in the group health market, the dental, and the vision, and the short-term disability market for smaller businesses.
The second area that we work in is the individual health insurance business, so everybody tired of Obamacare and healthcare.gov, so we regularly help our clients actually secure plans on healthcare.gov, because that’s such a complicated market. It takes a lot of time, and actually insurance companies have because of the margins, decided not to compensate brokers. We have limited our exposure to that market by really just helping our existing clients, but we still do have a presence in that market. But the third area that we work in is the Medicare market, and most of us are familiar with the fact that there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 people turning 65 every single day in this country. As people get closer to 65, they start to get a lot of mail and they become very confused and what we do is we help people understand Medicare and how it applies to them.
In fact, I teach classes all over our area, which is mainly Johnson County, but we also get into Jackson County and some other areas. Just teaching people how Medicare works and we’re also prepared with every reasonable Medicare supplement, drug plan, and Medicare Advantage plan, to help people secure the right plan for them, and then service it on an ongoing basis. So those are the three areas that we work in, group health insurance, individual health, and Medicare.
Blogger Local: Great, thanks for explaining that. Now we’re going to talk a little bit about you. Could you provide a brief history of your journey as an entrepreneur and how you got to where you are today?
Chris Goodwin: Yeah, sure. I started out in banking years and years ago. Wanted to become a broker of some sort. I really had my heart and mind set on being a stock broker. I didn’t really know why, I just wanted to do power lunches and sign my name and make deals happen, but while in commercial banking, things changed at my job, and I saw an opportunity that seemed to fit multi-lines of investments and insurance and once I got to this company that was offering that, it was really all insurance, and specifically they wanted us to all sell life insurance. While I was wading my way through that process, I came to discover health insurance, and more specifically, health insurance for businesses, and gave us the opportunity to work with people who are not using their discretionary income, and in the evening trying to push life insurance policies, but really deal with business owners who really had insurance built in as part of their overhead.
Back in 1999, I went full time with another firm that actually really specialized in health insurance, and really cut my teeth learning how to help really small businesses and then sometimes individuals who didn’t get coverage through their employers. Through that process, the company that I worked with, was really biased towards one particular carrier, and they had a favorite and they had a way of doing things that I thought, well, I feel like this could be done better. I think we can serve a wider number of people in a better way, and not really focus on one company, but really lay out all of the options for people. That’s when I … in 2008, I struck out on my own, in order to help small businesses and individuals make choices that were responsible and smart and were in their best interests. I’ve been at this totally independently as our own firm since 2008, and we’ve grown from there.
Blogger Local: Can you tell me what you love about what you do?
Chris Goodwin: Yeah, sure. I was just telling a client about this yesterday. Not yesterday, maybe a couple of days ago that what I really love about what I do is that we help people make the right decisions, and we don’t sell anything. Technically, people might say I’m a salesperson as a broker, however, I don’t feel that way, because what we lead with in virtually every case, is education. I just teach people how the markets work, what plans are out there, what the universe of plans are, what the pros and cons are of each, and then really gather their principles, and then lay out everything that’s available to them and then those people are able to make a really good and educated decision.
In many cases, I share things with people if they say that’s what I want. Okay, this is where I want to go, I really like that. I show them, I go out of my way to show them the other side, because I want them to not be ignorant of what other people might say, “Oh, you want this route, I went this route.” I don’t ever want someone to say that, “Gosh, my broker didn’t tell me about this angle.” So I just go out of my way to educate people and then people make choices, and actually we get compensated by helping people make their choices, so that’s what makes me feel great. While technically I am not a charity, we’re not a charity or we’re not a non-profit. It sometimes has that feel, because I feel like we are doing things that are really using third party governmental information to share a message and help people understand it, and every now and then, based on circumstances because someone’s too young, or because they actually have better benefits through a government plan, or spouse or just being with what they’re doing. We advise them and we don’t even get paid for it, so in that case we are really a non-profit. But that’s what really makes things feel good, is that I just share information with people and then they end up really feeling good, and really understanding it and really walking away with resources.
When it makes sense actually we get paid and actually that customer, or our client, they don’t pay us directly. They actually pay whatever the cost is for that insurance company. Insurance companies have a built-in commission system that actually pays us, so we don’t pay attention to whose rates, who pays what commission. We’re doing the right thing for the client because we value that long-term relationship. I was probably a little loquacious, but those are the things I really love about my job is that we’re doing something for people that they need. Obviously insurance is not a [inaudible 00:08:49] They’ll pay a couple hundred dollars a month to an insurance company, it’s just clearly something that they need, and when we can help people make a responsible decision, and then they tell us later how good they feel about the education that they got, and the decision that they landed on, it just makes me feel great.
Blogger Local: It’s great to love what you do. One thing that we wanted to talk about specifically for this podcast is the internet and how it has changed the way you do business. How do you feel your business is different because of the internet or how do you feel that your business is different for your customers because of the internet?
Chris Goodwin: It’s a double-edged sword for our customers and really for us, and I’ll probably first start by saying that when it comes to let’s say Medicare in particular, that one of the first places that consumers go to maybe find out information. When those people actually go out to find, just innocently looking for information, there are a lot of little predatory practices out there, where people say, “Hey, you get insurance rates here,” and what might end up happening is those people are providing their information. They’ll ask for their address and their phone number and their email address and their date of birth. The next thing you know, those people who are innocently looking for rates are actually getting phone calls non-stop, and emails non-stop.
Because what people are doing unknowingly is they’re giving their information to a lead service. The lead service actually is selling their information at about $10 to each broker who would buy that person’s information, because they know that they’re in the market. It’s disheartening to learn that gosh, these people are just getting hammered with calls and there’s more confusion and there’s a lot of pressure. What we do, so that really a negative from the internet and what we do in our classes, in a face-to-face environment, or whether that’s a classroom environment or whether or not that is an in-office environment, we just educate people and then help them understand, now you don’t really need to go through this or, oh, this is the information and here’s everyone’s rate. By the way, now if you ever need to look at this, let us know because the opposite end of things, if you decided to go put your information out online is that you’re going to get hammered with phone calls and you might want to email address, so that’s the downside.
The upside of the internet and other things is just that we can provide information to people faster and more efficiently than we would have otherwise. When it comes to Medicare, we could give people rates and other intelligence immediately. Medicare has an incredible site to help people find the right prescription drug plans and the right Medicare Advantage plans for them. Some of the same things hold true when it comes to, let’s just say healthcare.gov. It’s a confusing site if you don’t really have the perspective on what you should be looking at. And for our existing clients, we really help them understand how to actually maneuver that site so that could actually go buy coverage that makes sense for them.
Then finally, when it comes to groups, small businesses, we’re just able to get them information quicker through quote systems that compare the various companies on an apples to apples basis. Obviously meeting software is very beneficial on some occasions, although I love seeing my clients and prospects, so anyway, those are the things that immediately come to mind. But for most businesses including ours, I think we find it hard to even conceptualize a world without using the internet for our businesses.
Blogger Local: In a similar vein, but a little bit different, what ways are you marketing to local businesses and consumers here in Kansas City?
Chris Goodwin: Great question. One of the things that we’re doing here that I really enjoy, because I’m just a face-to-face type of person, and I am an educator, and we lead with education, so how we’re interfacing with businesses in Kansas City is we’re having regular classes, kind of in a restaurant environment. Not to plug who we use. I’ll just use one as an example. We’ve had several meetings at Summit Grill, right in the heart of the city in Waldo, where we basically have a meeting room and since people, professionals are very busy, we’ll invite people of course, to come and learn about employee benefits, and what’s new in the employee benefits market. Since again, people are very busy, we provide hors d’oeuvres and lunch or what have you, depending on what time of day it is and give them an environment where they could sit there and go to an hour and a half class, learning what things that they more than likely may not be aware of when it comes to benefits. So that’s how we’re doing it.
We’re actually … through our site through other services that are connected with small businesses, through business coaches. We try to get the word out so that people are aware of it. But we’re out looking for additional ways that we can create and actually get the message out because it’s just such an important thing for small businesses. Similar in the Medicare market, we actually really … we use our Facebook presence when we can. We actually use the old traditional way because baby boomers, some baby boomers with preferred way of getting information is these old postcards, so we might send postcards out, let them know that our classes are going on, and what’s really neat about our Medicare side is that we kept great partnerships with some of the local community centers and maybe your YMCAs for instance. Places that really probably benefit and already have those populations that are actually coming through, so we actually have great partnerships with several of the local community centers.
They often have their own guides that actually have all of their programming for that city or that county, or that area, and they’re more than happy, especially when they … as they understand the service that we provide and they want it put us in their books, [inaudible 00:16:48] they can say, “Hey, if you’re approaching Medicare, you should come to this class.” So that really does get the word out, when we have a city for instance, that has a distribution of 40,000. We’re in their activities guide to make people aware of what we do.
Blogger Local: Before we switch gears and start talking about Kansas City, do you have any advice that you would want to offer would-be entrepreneurs who want to start their own local business?
Chris Goodwin: Sure. I think that local entrepreneurs who want to start their own businesses should be aware that it’s not as expensive and overwhelming as you would think to offer employee benefits. I think that not everybody knows that when it comes to offering health insurance, first of all, you as an entrepreneur, unless you have a spouse that actually has great benefits, which that’s always good to find, you might need benefits yourself and when you look at the individual market, depending on your situation, there are fewer options in the individual market and they are more expensive in many cases, than you would get being in the group market. Entrepreneurs should know that there are quite a few more options in the group health insurance market than in the individual market, and you can offer a plan in many cases, without any contribution for employees. What that means is … if your employee costs $300 a month, if they participate in the plan, it used to be if where you had to pay 50% of the benefit.
Now a lot of plans don’t require that the employer pay anything towards that benefit, so the employee is paying all $300 in that example, but the employer, you’re simply responsible for paying the whole invoice and then withholding the premium from the employee. In that case, you have some administrative costs, but really there’s not a dollar cost going on in that instance. In those case a lot of times, the employee feels like you’re still a hero because you really are giving them access to some benefits that they wouldn’t have because there’s such limitations in that individual health market. So I think that’s a really good case. I think that it’s really important for, let’s just say, employers …there’s a sub-plot to our things, but it’s important for employers to know that gosh, with four or more people, you have access to certain benefits that allow you to go through underwriting and just access significantly lower premiums than what’s available even in the group health insurance market. That message isn’t getting spread to a lot of smaller businesses because going through an underwriting process is a little bit time consuming and takes more work for the broker or agent, or whoever you’re using.
Some people on here are even sharing this message with smaller businesses, but if you have four or more people, you can access some really low rates, which really, obviously will lower your overhead costs to you and to your employees. Those are a couple hints anyway.
Blogger Local: That’s good information. Like I said, we’re going to switch gears a little bit and talk about Kansas City. What are some of your favorite things about Kansas City? Where do you like to eat, or what kind of places do you like to visit here in town?
Chris Goodwin: Oh my gosh. Well, my favorite thing about Kansas City is that I just think that being right here in the heartland, first of all I think that we have access to everything. Our central ties, though you could go in any direction, and it’s not too terribly far to get anywhere in the country. I think that the quality of life is really good here. I think that when you look at, for instance having a sports team, the Royals and the Chiefs, not everybody has two major sports organizations. You’ve got a really great college sports atmosphere with the Big 12, and the SEC of course with the Missouri Tigers. I think we just have an excellent quality of life. I think that anybody my age or older, are probably watching sports all four seasons, you just want to … a little bit of everything here. Speaking of everything, you have a lot of food choices and currently right now my favorite food that I’m really, I feel like it’s an addiction, is barbecue, I don’t know, this isn’t probably meant to apply, I don’t know if this interview is meant to plug anybody in specific, but I’m addicted … no, go ahead. Should I hold off?
Blogger Local: No, you tell us where you like to eat barbecue. I really want to know.
Chris Goodwin: Okay, because I love Burnt End BBQ. It’s a small place. And it’s out in Overland Park. Have you heard of it?
Blogger Local: No I haven’t.
Chris Goodwin: Oh man. It’s at 119th and Metcalf, and it’s a PB&J restaurant. You’ve heard of PB&J restaurants, I probably assume.
Blogger Local: Yes I have.
Chris Goodwin: Okay, so they’re one of them, which they’ve got a lot of good restaurants anyway in that chain, that group, but Burnt End BBQ, you don’t need barbecue sauce, you don’t need anything, and it’s like … it’s incredible. The ribs, if you’re a meat eater, I mean they just fall off the bone, and they are just smoky through and through, their burnt ends are incredible, and I’m embarrassed because I’ve gone there four times in a week! But no, that’s what I’m on right now. But there’s a bunch of other choices. Interestingly, I’m normally am not at a loss for words, but with all the other things I probably enjoy eating, I can’t even think about anything but Burnt Ends BBQ right now.
Blogger Local: I’ll have to add that to our … we have a running list of date night restaurants. I’ll have to add that to our list so we can check it out.
Chris Goodwin: Just make sure you thank me later, once you actually … you have it, and you get addicted to it.
Blogger Local: All right. My husband is the … I like barbecue, but he loves it, so I will … he’ll be super excited.
Chris Goodwin: Yeah, let him know.
Blogger Local: What about businesses here in Kansas City? Is there anyone that you really admire what they’re doing?
Chris Goodwin: Yes, there are times … some of them go under the radar though, because they’re not people that … like [inaudible 00:24:35] this huge company that everybody’s aware of. I would say that … I want to say a couple of them, not a lot of people know about, but I’m in deep admiration of. One of which is Prosperity Advisers. This is a financial planning group that they just take in … I mean, what I’m impressed by is they’re just feet-on-the-ground approach, and their philosophy that will work with anyone. I’ve run across a bunch of financial advisers, and they obviously have different targets and in certain cases, well you have to have so much in assets to work with us, or you have to have this or we like this or that type of person, but if you need financial advice and then you come to Prosperity Advisers, they’ll work with you. They have all the right planning tools. They take a really solid approach. I really am in admiration of that group.
The other one I would probably … just comes to mind immediately, they’re someone I work with, that is Target Insurance. They are an insurance wholesaler, so they actually don’t even work with … typically they don’t even work with people who are consumers, whose looking for life insurance or disability insurance or long-term care. But what they do is they actually work with people like me in brokerage profession. They provide expertise to people like me if someone wants a product that I am not actually tenured in, and an expert in. So if I ever need to actually have someone with a complicated life insurance say, Target Insurance has these professionals who are basically among the top experts in the area, and they actually help you help your client, and in many cases, interface directly with your client while you’re with them. It’s just to kind of help them get the right product. What I admire most about them is just the workmanlike attitude that they have and just the humility and service that they have.
While I’m talking about it, there are two other places that I’m like, oh my gosh, this is neat. I’d have to take my employees here. Because I want my employees to see how these people work and how I admire them greatly. One is Meierotto’s Jewelry. Have you heard of them?
Blogger Local: Yes.
Chris Goodwin: Well, they just got a new building in north Kansas City, and I bought my wife’s wedding ring there. It’s just amazing because they are very workmanlike, they’re very efficient, they’re friendly, but they’re not flashy, but then they also have everything that you would need if you were going to be shopping for jewelry. For instance, when I bought my wife’s wedding ring, and I was looking at diamonds, we talked about different cut, clarity, weight, and basically if you narrowed it down to what you have, they go back, and then show you a dozen different diamonds on the spot that actually meet that criteria. And then they’ll educate you about the different diamonds, and the properties of them. I think what’s also impressive and it might sound silly about them, is that when they actually … there’s a police officer that’s there on site all the time. I think that it makes you feel comfortable.
Anyway, as a shopper, but also I think it helps anybody who has any bad ideas about anything they might want to accomplish at a jewelry store and know that this might ;not be the right place. I don’t know who the other jewelry stores that just always have a police officer on site. The other funny thing that about Meierotto’s, when you first get there, if you’re not already working with somebody, you walk in the door and you take a number, just an old-fashioned number and then as you’re waiting around, then they just call your number out, just like they would at an old butcher shop or something like that. Then you get to talk to somebody. Gosh, those people are knowledgeable, friendly, and efficient. That’s what we want to be. In the interests of time, I won’t say much more other than the other place that I greatly admire and think, gosh I want my employees to see how these people work is Lakebrink Dental. Lakebrink Dental is in Liberty, Missouri, and it is a beautiful dental office.
It looks like one of the coolest basements that you would ever want to be in a palace design. Everybody there is friendly, and efficient. And they all have knowledge of their jobs really well. Being in a dental office for some people is probably … gives you some anxiety, but the way they do it, it makes you, it probably would alleviate the anxiety for most people. They just do a great job. I would encourage anybody who isn’t already hooked up with a dentist to check the place out. Or just go there just to see how efficient they are if you’re interested in businesses and what makes a good business model.
Blogger Local: Thanks for sharing. One more question for you before we wrap up. Do you have any special offers, promotions, or new services on the horizon that you would like to mention?
Chris Goodwin: Yes and no. Interestingly, at Insurance Pros, we don’t really … we don’t control the cost of different things. We become aware of different things that are out there in the market, and I think probably one of the things that comes to mind is in the Medicare world, if you’re a Missouri resident, there’s a new Medicare supplement plan that is out there. What it does, is it allows you to get what’s called Silver Sneakers with your Medicare supplement. Silver Sneakers is a program that’s designed to promote the health of the member, the enrolled member and what it does is it actually allows you to go to virtually any YMCA, Curves for Women, Genesis Health Clubs, I believe Planet Fitness. Don’t hold me to that one. And Gold’s Gyms, and then most community centers throughout the area. You could go to all of those places for free, so essentially you get this incredible free membership by being signed up with the Medicare supplement plan. So there’s a Medicare supplement plan that now offers that at no additional cost. Medicare supplements actually are some of the higher cost Medicare plans, I guess, relative to Medicare Advantage plans.
Nearly all Medicare Advantage plans that you’ll find have this benefit, but a lot of people have Medicare supplements, they always want to know, what about Silver Sneakers for me, and it’s typically not something that’s available with most supplements, but now there is one, so I’ll just leave it as a cliffhanger out there for anybody to find out who has Silver Sneakers on their Medicare Supplement or somebody who catches on to this and who is very interested can contact us and we’ll give them the information. On the group side, gosh one of the really neat things that I found is there’s an insurance carrier out there that says, okay if you sign up for a certain series of insurance plans, we’re going to give all the employees Apple watches. I think that’s really incredibly neat, so when you sign up, half the people nowadays who really want one, have an Apple watch already. But it’s kind of neat when your employees sign up for a health insurance plan and then they get an Apple watch. Again, I’ll leave out the company for the time being, but if somebody wants to look it up, it’s not just focus on, but those are a couple of things that are special, but they’re things that we help people understand and become aware of.
Blogger Local: Thank you for sharing. Well, that’s all that I have, so, thanks so much for joining us, and for your contributions to Kansas City and to our local economy.
Chris Goodwin: Thank you for contacting me, I really appreciate it.
Blogger Local: Sure. Have a nice day.
Chris Goodwin: You too.
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