Episode 39 Transcript: Maximizing Your Employee Benefit Selections with Heather Ryan

Brett Fellows Welcome Heather Ryan to The Retiring Entrepreneur Podcast! We’re excited to have you here today.

Heather Ryan Well, thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Brett Fellows Oh, yes. Well, you and I have known one another for a long time now. And I appreciate all the work that you do both for your clients, my clients, and even myself. We just posted our most recent podcast, which was an interview with someone who does specifically insurance for Medicare for small employers and what they add to the field of insurance. So, we have a little bit of an insurance theme today.

Brett Fellows And that’s what I’d like that I’m excited to have you about, is because you own HG Ryan benefits. And predominantly it is employee benefits, individual coverage, medical insurance coverage, and also some Medicare supplement, if I’m saying that correctly. But it was really basically the medical part is how I know you. So, I’m excited to dig into that. It’s every business owner’s favorite topic.

Heather Ryan Oh, yes. It’s, it’s a necessary evil, that’s for sure.

Brett Fellows So I’d love to start, because I actually don’t know. Tell me about your journey. How did you get to where you are today and opening your own firm?

Heather Ryan Well, I sort of fell into this business right out of college, just was looking for a job, the job market was not quite what we thought it was going to be in 1989, and I started working part time for an agent at MassMutual. She was just handling small group insurance, and so I sort of fell into it, took my insurance class, passed the exam.

Heather Ryan That turned into a full-time position, and it just has been a business that has been very good to me, and I have enjoyed helping people. So as time has gone on, I’ve made a few changes, I’ve worked for a financial planner, I’ve worked with, yeah, way back in the 90s, and that was a great relationship. Then my husband got a job back up in Charleston, so we made the move back to Charleston, and I affiliated with an agency that I had a great relationship with but decided in about 2018 that I really wanted to focus in on my groups, and you know, my individuals, and helping them, and just really being even more thoughtful and creative with solutions. So, being on my own really allowed me to have control of my time.

Brett Fellows Okay. Okay. And all those years that you spent in the industry, did you wear many hats? Did you start behind the scenes operations? Or when – did you become a producer and you were selling? Obviously, at some point, that’s how I know of you. So, tell me about that. How did you learn the ropes?

Heather Ryan Exactly. Well, I started out by basically being an assistant. Of course, the insurance industry was very different back then. We had $100 deductibles, if you, if you introduced a $500 deductible, people were like, “That’s very high.” Of course, that’s very low in today’s world that they really don’t even exist.

Heather Ryan So I learned the business by working as an assistant to an agent. So, with that, when I got my insurance license, I did start selling some individual policies, and then moved into the small group world as time went on, but I loved the customer service aspect. I love the sales aspect, just really guiding people and helping them through that process of, of getting coverage that is so important to have.

Heather Ryan So it’s an expensive process, you know, expensive undertaking, and therefore, I feel like adding value in customer service and being someone that can more thoughtfully look at options and help my clients is so important. Yeah, yeah, it’s that value. Right? You know, because with the cost of insurance, you’ve got to add value, and I can do that in my service.

Brett Fellows Gotcha. Makes sense. In 2018, let’s get back to this – just almost been about five years now. So, when you made that decision, had you been thinking about that for a long time? I’m sure that wasn’t an easy decision to make.

Heather Ryan It was very tough because I had been working, although I’ve been working very independently, you still were a part of a larger entity. So, I knew that, and I had worked so independently that I felt confident that I could do this on my own. But it was a little leap of faith, it really was, because what I learned through that process, as I had a very good parting with my prior agency, this was a situation where they were looking at retiring pretty soon. So, there were going to be a lot of changes, and I just knew that my best place would be to work with my clients independently.

Brett Fellows So you weren’t a part of their success transition, right?

Heather Ryan It just really was, I thought a lot about it. But I just knew that it made sense and was really best for my clients for me to work independently. So, as I had those conversations with some of these clients who I had worked with, since the mid 90s, I just, it was wonderful. Because just those conversations and those connections, and then basically saying, “of course, we want you to take care of us,” really just propelled me forward, and I knew I was making the right decision.

Brett Fellows And how does that work? Logistically? Do you just do an agent of record change the – if it’s mid-year through their contract? Can you just change the agent? How did that – how did you get paid, is what I’m wondering?

Heather Ryan Yes, that’s exactly how that works. And being that this was a very – this was not a situation that I had. We had discussed this with my agency, so this was it was a good transition. They understood it wasn’t – they knew that we were we were handling it this way. So yes, agent of record letters are how that change is made. But this wasn’t a situation where they didn’t know this was happening. They had agreed that we would handle it this way.

Heather Ryan So it was really wonderful, because it’s not always, it’s not always when someone moves like that, it’s not always as amicable. But this was a good situation. So, the agent of record letters were signed, which allowed me then to receive commissions, on the groups that I had been working with and had brought into the agency were the ones that went with me. So that was all done very easily.

Brett Fellows And so your first year out, did you still see a dip in what you had been making? Or because of that, were you able, were you still able to maintain your lifestyle, for lack of a better term?

Heather Ryan Well, right, I knew that it would be a dip. So it was, but it was a manageable one. Um, and, you know, I had worked on a commission only basis prior to becoming an employee of the agency that I was working for, so I understood, you know, my business deductions and being a 1099, and all of all of those, those issues.

Heather Ryan So I, it was a little bit tough that first year, but it just really took off. I did have some groups contact me that, you know, wanted to come with me later on, and I also was able to get new business. So pretty quickly, I’d say within about a year and a half, I was made whole from where I went when I left my agency.

Brett Fellows In theory, starting your own business and in a year and a half’s time to be whole from where you were prior – I mean, that’s pretty good. That’s wonderful. It had to give you a lot of confidence and lack of anxiety.

Heather Ryan It really did. And you know, it’s as I said. It’s not that this is not as typical. And a lot of time is when an agent leaves an agency like that, they leave with nothing. And then you know, this had been a little bit of a unique situation, being that I had worked with this agency and this particular agent. When I was out of college for many years, went out, worked for the financial planner, down in the Hilton Head area, gained a lot of business down there, had come back and re affiliated with them. There was a lot of mutual respect, and I think we had both brought a lot to the table.

Brett Fellows Yeah, which makes that situation different altogether. You had put in all that goodwill for all those years, all that sweat equity, so – and their willingness to do that. And so that’s a great outcome. That’s wonderful. I don’t know, how do you even, going back to 2018, do you look at it by number of clients? And let’s say, how many clients did you start with in 2018? And then what does it look like today? How has it changed?

Heather Ryan Well, I definitely have grown my book of business, and then my number of clients both on an individual and group basis. I also had started working in the large group space, which is 50 plus employees, before I left the agency that I was working for. So, I had gained – because it’s a very different ball game – the large group versus small group under 50 employees.

Heather Ryan So I had gained some of that experience, which enabled me to take on a couple of large groups. I’m very conscientious of what I take on and making sure that I have the resources to manage everything. I would never want my service to falter at all, so I’ve been very careful about that. But I’ve taken on a couple of large groups, and they’ve been wonderful to work with.

Heather Ryan It’s a different – it’s a lot different than working with individuals or small group, but it’s just fun, and it’s a new challenge. And it’s something that I always wanted to do.

Brett Fellows And so it’s still just you, at this point in time, correct? You don’t have any employees.

Heather Ryan So right now, I affiliate with a general agency, okay. I’m in Mount Pleasant, and they are fabulous. They offer a support team. Okay, so we, I have backup support from them, both technologically and just customer service wise for day to day, you know, questions and things like that. I’m still the front person, but I have that backup team.

Heather Ryan As my daughter moves into the business and hopefully decides that she likes it, and she’s excited about it. I would bring her more and more into the customer service aspects of the day to day in and out, you know, helping clients and answering questions and claims and things like that.

[15:42] Heather Ryan describes the value she adds for her clients as a one-person firm beyond pricing.

Brett Fellows Yeah, yeah, that’s what I was really curious about. Because I just know of you, especially if you’re saying you’re going to these over 50 companies, it’s a pretty commoditized space. I’m sure a lot of it’s based on price. So, what value do you add beyond just the pricing? And if it’s just yourself, I couldn’t imagine you can handle 90 employees. So, I was curious about the back-office side of it. Now that other agency, will you get support from them?

Heather Ryan Exactly. And, you know, what we’ve seen with a lot of, I believe that it is so much just support, and also the willingness to speak with employees, have a lot of one-on-one contact. I you know, I’ve worked with groups who have said that they’ve been in situations where they didn’t have access to anyone. The employees didn’t have access. It always had to go through the owner or the human resource contact.

Heather Ryan And I just I enjoy talking to employees, getting to know them, and being as hands on as possible. It does equal a lot of time on. Yeah, not as much time off. But I just think it’s very important to provide that. Because at the end of the day, I think this is a relationship business. This is a communication business. People can be become very frustrated if they feel that something – a claim – isn’t being paid for correctly. So, it’s important for them to have that go-to person and have those connections so that they can, you know, we can get these problems resolved.

Brett Fellows So I’m sure your retention rate is quite high.

Heather Ryan Yes, I’ve been working with most of the same companies for quite some time.

Brett Fellows So what happens when – and I don’t know if it has happened for you – but if the executives leave, or there’s somebody new that comes in? But you were that other person’s person. Do they bring in their own people? Are you pretty well established where you’re able to stay?

Heather Ryan Well, in and – it does happen, and it has happened to me. I, you know, there have been situations, you know, always if you have an HR person or you know that point of contact with a business or group that moves on, and then someone else comes in, and they are used to working with XYZ company. So, it’s very common in our business, that that’s when you receive an AOR letter.

Heather Ryan Typically, I’ve been very fortunate. Most of the situations I have dealt with have just been very – I mean, luckily, none, nothing that I have done wrong, or nothing that they have been unhappy with, more of. For example, I had a group that the owner’s very good friend – he actually owned an agency out of state – the group had grown. I had started working with them, when they were about five employees.

Heather Ryan They had grown to about 30, or maybe even closer to 35, and it became a more viable group for this larger agency out of state to then want to handle and, and so I was like “oh, you know, I’ve enjoyed working with you.” They said that “you’ve been great, there’s nothing you’ve done wrong, but this is a relationship.” And you know, I understand that. These are situations that happen, and you know, you feel bad. But at the end of the day, as long as you’ve done the best you can, you just have to accept it and move on.

Brett Fellows Yes, of course, what else can you do? So, as you look at your business now, so you’ve got the individual market, you’ve got the under 50 employee market. And let’s say the over 50 employee market, how does your business breakout? is most of it in the under 50?

Heather Ryan Yes, most of it is small group.

Brett Fellows Which one do you like to work with the most?

Heather Ryan Because I have a great relationship with both of my large group contacts, I mean, a little on a little bit of a different level. I mean, that is a very competitive market space, very competitive. But I have a personal relationship with my contacts at both of those groups.

Heather Ryan So therefore, that makes that a lot more like working with some of the smaller groups where you really get to know the people, you know, the owners, you feel that stronger connection. It’s just not another piece of business. It’s people that you know, and care about, so I couldn’t really choose. Then I love working with individuals just because you’ve got that one-on-one.

[20:51] What business owners need to be aware of and avoid when it comes to medical insurance.

Brett Fellows Yes. So, let’s talk about, give the listeners a little bit of medical insurance information, some takeaways. So yeah, the 150. What are maybe three things or two things that you would say, or counselors see, or business owners need to be aware of, or make mistakes when it comes to medical insurance?

Heather Ryan I would say that it’s important for business owners, to whoever’s handling your coverage, you want to make sure that you are looking at all options possible. There’s a lot of times I’ll meet with business owners – they didn’t realize they can offer more than one one plan, even if they have a very small group. A lot of times they don’t know about level funded plans, which are basically plans that still do require some underwriting.

Heather Ryan They’re not self-funded, they’re level funded, so the employer is not carrying the burden of any claims payments, but they are – they do a lot of times, depending on the size of the group, require that applications be completed and health questions, which people don’t, aren’t used to or don’t think, you know, a lot of times realize that that even exists today.

Heather Ryan Yeah, but, you know, it’s important, I think, to explore all options. There’s a whole world now, too, with plans called ICHRA plans, which are basically individual plans that are brought under a group. And it allows employers to help employees pay for individual coverage in a way that is within the guidelines of health care reform. So just making sure that they are looking at everything out there and really finding the best solutions for their employees.

Brett Fellows And something – do the prices change that much? I mean, it’s – we seem to run quotes every year, but does it really change that much?

Heather Ryan It has not in the last couple of years, it’s been pretty steady, and the small group market space as well as in the individual market space. So next year, it might be a little bit different, where we’ll see how next year pans out. This year, in 2021, subsidies were increased on the individual market space, per some laws that were passed. And so, we’ll see how that translates for next year. Rates will be looked at this summer, so we’ll know around September what we’ll be looking at for 2023.

Brett Fellows That was my question. When do you know about rates? I figured it had to be in the fall.

Heather Ryan Yes. So, we as agents receive most of that information or start knowing what that’s going to look like October, you know, sometimes as early as into September, but certainly in October, and then everything is released for early November. So, but the decisions are actually made during the summer. I think most insurance companies have to submit rates by the first of June.

Heather Ryan So that will, that will be, it will be interesting. And, you know, I’ll just, I brace myself and just hope that you know, it won’t be too bad. This past year, in the small group market space, not many changes were made to the plans, so having increases a little bit higher and having a lot of plan changes made to those standard plans. ACA plans that are offered for small group, is always a little bit tricky. And it’s, it’s, you know, a little challenging.

[25:07] Heather Ryan shares how small group insurance has changed in the last five to ten years.

Brett Fellows How has small group insurance changed, let’s say in the last five to ten years?

Heather Ryan Well, with the ACA, the Affordable Care Act passed – and there’s nothing affordable about it – about it. But it is, it is challenging, because we’ve – the great part is that we don’t for those plans have to go through that underwriting process – the rates are the rates, and the plans or the plans.

Brett Fellows And, I don’t mean to interrupt, but is that still a big misconception? So, I have a 65-year-old and about most of my employees are 30-year-old – so I’m thinking because of the 65, it’s going to skew my pricing. Those days are gone?

Heather Ryan Well, well. That in a way, but so what before ACA law was passed, those 30-year-olds, especially if they were males, would have been very, very economical as far as their premiums, right. But now, that’s not the case, because they are paying quite a bit more to make up for the fact that that 60-year-old is not going to be paying quite as much. So therefore, you know that those 30-year-olds, and there’s no more gender rating, could be looking at premiums around $350 a month, as opposed to $170 a month.

Heather Ryan It is challenging. I do feel that what I’ve really seen over the last year and a half has been with many, many companies, there has been a need to offer good benefits and increase benefits packages to attract and retain high quality employees. So, I do feel that there is a huge need out there for that, because I think a lot of these employees are really homing in on that when they’re looking at positions and weighing that out.

Brett Fellows And are most small employer plans now High Deductible Health Plans?

Heather Ryan There’s still a lot of high deductible health plans out there that are HSA qualified. I mean, now HSA, we thought for a while that the HSA would be gone after health care reform laws were passed, but they have stuck around. I think they’re very viable and good plans, especially for people that utilize those tax advantages with the HSA accounts. They’re not necessarily going to save a lot of money. Okay, no, not anymore.

Heather Ryan So, now you have what’s called the embedded deductible versus the aggregate. Okay. So, if you have a family, then you didn’t, and someone meets the deductible they have, they only have to meet that individual deductible rather than the whole family deductible. Gotcha. So that is part of the law. So that has, of course, not allowed the steeper discounts for those types of plans?

Brett Fellows Yes. That’s interesting. That’s it?

Heather Ryan Yeah. But they’re still very well received. You know, depending on the needs of the person.

Brett Fellows The self-funding and the level of funding, have those been the types of plans that have picked up speed? The level funded?

Heather Ryan Yes. I don’t work with many self-funded plans at all. I don’t generally larger corporations that are still very – yes, very large corporations. But the level funded has even dipped down into the space of, you know, some, and groups with five employees, we’ll even look at them. I tend to kind of stick with 10 plus. But I actually have written a group, right under 10, that fit the bill for a level funded plan.

Heather Ryan So they can work very, very well for certain groups, and they can be a great option. I would always encourage people to look at that if they thought that the demographics of their group, you know, it would make sense. Yeah. So, it is a little bit more complicated. Um, and it does require a little bit more guidance, and so that’s just something that, you know, that employers need to be aware of.

[29:53] Why Heather believes ICHRA plans are the future of medical insurance in the small employer space.

Brett Fellows And this is a difficult question, but I’m curious. What do you think the future of medical insurance will be in the small employer space? I mean, do you see any themes or anything happening?

Heather Ryan I just, I see a growth with the ICHRA plans that I mentioned earlier.

Brett Fellows Those individual plans that are set on a group platform?

Heather Ryan Yeah. I see growth in that area. I think right now the individual markets, the pricing is much lower than small group. Um, so I see a need for that, and I see an expansion of that, and I see better technology and making those easier to work with. So, I do think there’ll be a focus and that ICHRA space.

Brett Fellows And with that, Heather. So, in that instance, if I buy instead of right now, I’m paying my employee extra money just to buy insurance on their own on the individual, but I’ve got to run that through payroll, if I’m going with this Newt with that type of plan, you’re saying, “No, I can expense it as owner,” and they could still go get individual coverage?

Heather Ryan That’s exactly correct. You can determine I’m willing to pay X amount per month for each of my employees to purchase health insurance, it is done, you know, as a group, but the employees can then go pick the plan they want. If an employee qualifies for a subsidy after you have, you know, paid your portion as the employer, they can still be allowed to to get that subsidy, okay.

Heather Ryan So it doesn’t, you know, take that, that option away from them. And it allows them to pick and choose their plan and have you as the employer, you know, in the right way, participate in helping them pay for that rather than having to up their salary. And you’re doing it exactly the right way, but this is just a probably a better way.

Brett Fellows Yeah, absolutely. That’s a wonderful option. I mean, frankly, a shame to say I didn’t know about that.

Heather Ryan It’s not something a lot of people really do know about. And we’re trying to talk about it more. It just really rolled out a couple of years ago, but it’s taken some time to take hold. And it’s something that people need to understand and learn about. So, I’ll have to send you some information.

Brett Fellows All right back to you. So, if you’re five years into this. If it’s five years from today, Heather, and we were looking back over the last five years. What has to have happened with HG Ryan Benefits for you to feel happy with your progress?

Heather Ryan Well, I feel that I’m bringing some actual direct assistance for me, as I’m getting ready to do it just unexcited about that. I’ve got great collaboration and support with my general agency, but I want my maybe just an internal, small team, one or two people – that would be great and that would allow me more time for sales, new sales, because some of the service work would be taken care of.

Heather Ryan So I that is what I foresee, I see myself being in the business for quite a while. I’m not planning on retiring anytime soon, I enjoy it. I would like to be able to take a little bit of time off here and there. But I feel comfortable that the needs are being met for my clients. So, I’m pretty much on all the time.

Brett Fellows I was gonna ask, what’s a typical week look like for you?

Heather Ryan And just it’s a seven-to-seven day.

Brett Fellows Is it really? What percentage of your time is servicing clients? And what percentage of your time is dealing with new clients and or prospects?

Heather Ryan I would say that time for new prospects needs to increase or right now because right now, I’d say I typically am probably spending about 80 to 85% of my time on service. That being said, one thing that I also handle is online benefit platforms. So, we utilize a program called employee navigator. That, you know, so getting a group set up on an online enrollment system is a little bit of a time-consuming process.

Heather Ryan You know, we do demos that I that my general agency UPG handles, but I’m always on those calls. So just facilitating that process. But once a group gets on the online benefit enrollments platform, which is free to them, we don’t charge for that, then they’re set, then things run very smoothly. But we’ve been doing a lot of that over the last few months. So that’s taken up a chunk of my time, and I consider that to be part of the service.

Brett Fellows Which do you think is your unique ability kind of, I see two different sides. Maybe on the front end, working with new clients and strategizing or existing clients and strategizing on what to do and how to do it, is you have to have a good bit of a creative mindset. Whereas the back end, the service and all that, that’s more of a fixed mindset. A lot of follow through. Which do you think you’re better at?

Heather Ryan I love meeting with new groups, and especially when I see a group. I had a group that came to me, they could not get in touch with their agent, their agent when the extra phone calls, or they call him back a week later. They didn’t know what an online enrollment system was, and they were filling out paper applications. This was a group that had about 30 plus employees, so it was a cumbersome task.

Heather Ryan They didn’t know about utilizing a cobra admin to take all that liability off of their plate. And the fact that when we could get on an online enrollment system, all that information when they turn, someone could flow right into the Cobra admin, just so getting and then they wanted to add some benefits. So, getting this whole situation set up. Meeting with the groups – I met with them a couple of times, met a lot of the employees. It just felt so good because they were paying for a plan. Oh, when we added a dual option, they were paying for a plan, and they were getting nothing from the agent. And it just felt great. Yeah, to be able to offer all of that.

[37:23] Heather describes the largest hurdle for her when it comes to earning higher paying work.

Brett Fellows Yeah. Yeah. So that type of work, obviously, in theory brings you more per hour, because it brings in new business or new plans. Whereas the backside, in theory is less per hour work, because you already have them. And that’s most probably delegable, because somebody else could do the service side. But the ability that you have on the front side, the strategizing and letting people know and your personality is higher paying per hour. So yeah, what, what has been the hurdle for you to do more higher paying work than this less paying work?

Heather Ryan Well, I definitely am someone who likes to have control. And also, I like to know when I hand something off to someone that it’s going to get done, and I don’t have to worry about it. Because if I’m constantly following up or worrying about it, I’m like, I’ll just do it myself. So that’s a retraining, and you know, that is a little bit harder for me. But having an in-house person and my support team is very, very good on the service end. But I have dealt with so much of that in the past, where some things didn’t get done exactly as they should, that I have had to really force myself to delegate as you mentioned, it’s continual.

Brett Fellows And with that, do you every year, do you set goals that you try to achieve? Or KPIs? How much do you get to spend time working on your business as opposed to just in it?

Heather Ryan Well, that is another thing – great point – that I want to carve out more time for, as I get that extra support help, because the business of theirs is the business of running the business. And it’s probably not my favorite part. As you mentioned, my favorite part is working in the business and on the front end. But yes, keeping up with profit and loss statements, and just handling all of that. I try to remind myself every month to, you know, carve out some time for that, so I don’t get too far behind. But it’s it’s like, oh, yeah, I gotta do it.

Brett Fellows You’re still doing all the financials yourself?

Heather Ryan Well, I have an accountant who helps me. I don’t go no, no, but I tried to just keep it very keep up with things so that I have a neat way of sending him everything. So, he can tell me what we need to do.

[40:23] Heather Ryan shares her exit strategy and why she believes the insurance industry is great for female entrepreneurs.

Brett Fellows So as we start to wrap up, this podcast is about retiring entrepreneurs. So, your business is very unique. And you said you would like to work until 85? And what do you see? What do you foresee utilizing your business for? Is it something that you think you can sell to help for your financial freedom? Or is it something that can just fund it all the way? And then eventually, just shut it down? Tell me how you think about the future in that regard?

Heather Ryan Well, typically, when the exit strategies, and I’m very well aware of this, having, you know, seen other people go through that process, and it’s something I’m very aware of and thinking about is, it’s the way that exit strategy typically works is if somebody does purchase your business, like say, my general agency said, well, we’ll purchase your business, then, you know, it’s a, it’s a, they’re still paying you commissions a percentage of your commissions.

Heather Ryan But if groups get lost, you know, or move out, you know, so it can be a little bit tricky. If I did not have anyone who I knew wanted to really take over and continue to work in the way that I’m working and had started to really develop those strong relationships with the clients, then, then I would probably reach out to my general agency, it’d be to handle that. But it is something that I’m aware of because it is tricky.

Heather Ryan And we are in an industry where a lot of agents are starting to retire, and not a lot of new blood is coming into this to this arena. I don’t think it’s thought of as – it’s like, “ew we don’t want to – who wants to sell insurance,” without people really understanding that there’s a lot more to it. And my daughter, in fact, would be guilty of that. I don’t think she would have ever seen herself, being she always wanted to work in higher education. Now she’s starting to understand that some of the skills that she has would be well suited to this industry.

Brett Fellows Right. But I think insurance is a wonderful industry for women. Would you agree?

Heather Ryan I agree. I do. It’s been great to me, I worked for a woman who was very successful and pioneering the way, you know? And I do absolutely agree with you on that.

Brett Fellows And it’s probably 80/20, at least, men-to-women ratio. So, with the amount of men retiring, and right 10, 20 years, what a great opportunity that would be for women to get into that industry. This would be my belief, and it’s the same for my industry – I believe it there too.

Heather Ryan I agree. I think that it’s an industry that women, really the skills that most women have, are really, can just be very successful. But in years past, I think it was a lot of, you know, let’s hit the golf course, or a little bit more good-old-boy networking. But it definitely has changed dramatically.

Brett Fellows So I know I’m taking a lot of your time, but I could talk to you all day. It’s really interesting. My Side of financial services, you know, when we met years ago used to be someone like me would sell mutual funds, and we would get commissions on the mutual funds. But now it’s the complete opposite. It’s all fee-based view, say the word commission, it’s bad. How has that changed in your world? Do you foresee that – like getting a flat fee to deal with this? Can you do that? Or is it always just commission based? I’m just curious.

Heather Ryan So legally, people like myself cannot, if we are receiving commissions, we cannot charge a fee. And I have consulted with people and done things. And they’ll say, you know, “what do I owe you?” Nothing, you know, you just hope that that the time that you’re spending, you know that that will maybe lead into them giving you a referral one day. But that’s not allowed. That’s, you know, if you’re receiving commissions, you cannot charge a fee.

Heather Ryan So a lot is changing. I’m glad you mention this with the transparency of commissions. So, it’s always been in large groups that the group signs off on the commission, the agent is receiving. So, it’s always been very transparent. Also, in, you know, self-funded groups, as well. So now for small groups, part of the law that was passed last year, states that insurance companies, there has to be that transparency for small group and for individual coverages.

Heather Ryan So I’m not sure exactly, we’ve seen some information that that is basically telling us, this is what it’s going to look like. There’ll be just something that will be sent to the employer or something that will be sent to the insurer that will say, “you need to know that your agent is receiving a fee of $23 a month for for selling.” You know, just to let them know. So, you’ll probably start seeing that this year, or next year. Okay, your individual policy, okay. And businesses will start seeing this, probably, I would say next month, as they start to renew. So, if you have a group, that’s renewing, they’ll see that on their renewal.

Brett Fellows Is there an avenue where you could consult a group on which is the best and make the same money? Let’s say it’s a wash for you. And then the employer can buy it directly from the Blue Cross Blue Shields of the world. Or no, they don’t offer that they have already. Their pricing is already included in the commission.

Heather Ryan All of that’s already included. So, they you know, that is something that could change one day. I know it’s something that over the last many years, it’s been brought up and talked about. Right now, I always tell people, I mean, yes, you can go direct to the company, it’s not going to cost you any less. I mean, it’s not going to be any less going with them than with me, you know.

Heather Ryan So we’re providing a service if you don’t want to call 1-800, you know, carrier, then you know, you’re getting that extra service level and paying the same amount. But it is, as you’re saying. I mean, it is something that probably we should talk about more and maybe will be in the coming years. Because, you know, it does seem like there’s an ongoing need for change in this industry.

Brett Fellows Yeah. Interesting topic. I think it’s fascinating.

Heather Ryan It is. And it’s a little bit of a yucky subject. It’s like people, you know, don’t want to say, “Oh, I’m making this commission.” I mean, I’m happy to say, “Yeah, this is what it is.” I mean, and but I think it makes people a little bit uncomfortable. It’s like asking your doctor, “well, how much is this going to charge me?” Yeah. How much are you charging? Yeah, you should know that. Yeah, I think everybody should know.

Brett Fellows Right, right. All right. Last question. So, this podcast is also about successful entrepreneurs. But what I’ve learned in asking this question is that success means different things to different people. So, I’m curious, what would be your definition of success?

Heather Ryan Um, for me, personally, it’s working in a way that I’m fulfilling a need, helping people, guiding people, making this area easier to navigate for people. That’s what I see a success. It’s not necessarily a dollar thing or, “Oh, this is how many Metro business I have.” It’s just doing it in a way that I feel like has allowed me to grow my business. And I do, we don’t ever remember years ago, when I was first working in the field and went on an appointment with another agent.

Heather Ryan And we’re walking into a group and the agent asked me, “Well, if we sell this, how much money am I going to make?” And I was like, “Oh, well, I should probably be more aware of that.” But I said, “I don’t know, why don’t we just go in and see these people and see what we can do and worry about that later.” So anyway, but yes. Success to me is just helping people and doing the best job I can.

Brett Fellows Right. I love it. Well, thank you for sharing that, and you’re obviously doing it because you are thriving, and your business is great. And you’re bringing in family. So, you’ve got lots of new things around the corner. So, I’m excited to watch as you guys all progress.

Heather Ryan Well, thank you for your support and for allowing me to be on the podcast today. And so, I just really appreciate it. It’s great to talk to you.

Brett Fellows Yeah, we’ll be sure to have, in the show notes, links to your website. Is that the best way for if somebody wants to get in touch with you? Okay, we’ll have that in the show notes. And Heather Ryan, HD Ryan Benefits, thank you for your time today on The Retiring Entrepreneur Podcast.

Heather Ryan Well, thank you, Brett. It was great to talk to you.

Brett Fellows Have a great day.

Heather Ryan Okay, you, too. Bye bye.

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