Thursday, December 9, 2010

What is Valued From a Benefits Consultant

I'm going off topic a little bit here, but I think this is useful. Chances are that if you are reading this, you fall into one or more of a few categories:

  • You are a benefits consultant of some sort
  • You engage benefits consultants, at least occasionally
  • You are an internal plan administrator
  • You work with a firm that administers plans for others
  • You manage or help to manage plan assets
  • You are an attorney or an accountant in which case this may apply to you as well
  • You are bored
  • You just like my blog and enjoy reading it (I just thought I'd throw that one in on a lark)
Fact: I've never hired a benefits consultant. So, what do I know about what I would value in a benefits consultant? That's not the point here. I've worked as one and I've gotten feedback from clients and prospects.

Here are a few points that I have heard consistently over the years as being important.
  • We want experts. We do not want people consulting to us who have the same level of knowledge that we do. We want people who have deep knowledge and understanding in an area and can use that to bring us a better solution.
  • Don't miss deadlines! As a consultant, you often just don't know how critical this is. I think back to a very large former client of mine from a prior life, so to speak. I always thought we were doing well in this regard. The client was very demanding. We missed deadlines very rarely. I was having a periodic discussion with one of our key contacts to find out what we were doing well and what we could do better. She said (and while I am using quotation marks here, I am going from memory): "You are not bad at meeting deadlines." I was dumbfounded. I thought we were doing well. She went on, "You usually make your deadlines, but barely. If you promise me something on Thursday, I usually get it on Thursday ... evening. How come you never beat a deadline?" Ouch! That hurt, but it was instructional.
  • This next one applies to consultants, but to attorneys as well. We want people who understand the rules, but will help us to run our business. We don't want people who will only tell us what we can't do, we want business partners who will tell us what we can do.
  • We want communicators. As one CFO told me, "I am smart enough to learn this stuff, but I don't have time or the inclination. I want someone who can translate all this crap into my language and discuss it with me on my terms."
  • We want integrity.
  • We want creative solutions that cater to us. We don't want the same recycled solution that you gave to our competitors.
  • And finally, GET IT RIGHT.
So, there you have it. I could write more, but then you would all fall into that category of being bored. If any of you have ever used me as a consultant or should choose to in the future, I hope that I follow these guidelines.

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