Medicare Portal was started out of a lightbulb moment. Approximately 3 years ago, I received a call from a long-time friend and associate in the insurance industry and he recommended I speak with his new associate regarding the Medicare insurance business. Soon thereafter, we connected on a conference call and upon ending the call, I spent a few more minutes researching his points and potential for starting my own agency. Upon confirming many of his points, I decided to begin building a Medicare insurance agency.
Early customer acquisition and growth was solely accomplished through referrals. Having been in the industry for decades, speaking with current clients and associates led me to my initial clients. My next level of growth was marketing my services to other insurance professionals, wealth managers and financial advisors, who weren’t providing Medicare education and enrollment assistance.
The idea was validated with rapid growth.After 6 months, I was approached by a long-time friend and insurance professional who was working for a large provider of Medicare insurance solutions. The opportunity to have their resources behind my company was the gasoline I needed to throw my company into hyper growth mode. Soon thereafter, I was able to expand my sales force and increase awareness in the community of our services.
Did you have any experience/expertise in the area?
Yes,my previous venture provided me the experience of growing a sales force that was composed of independent insurance professionals. Logically, I reached out to many of these contacts, as well as other industry professionals, to identify talented sales professionals to join my organization. Initially, including me, I had 3 sales representatives. Today, I have over 20 sales professionals on my team as I continue to expand our geographic footprint to serve individuals within a 100+ mile radius of Washington, DC.
I have not raised any money to date. All funding of the business has been done by me personally.
Who is your target demographic for Medicare Portal?
Our target demographic is predominantly individuals turning 65, working past 65 or retiring after 65. Additionally, we serve individuals that are eligible for Medicare due to disability, end-stage renal disease, and those that are dual eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is a federal program; thus, qualifying for Medicare under any of the previous scenarios will allow us to aid with their Medicare insurance benefits.
I can’t identify a strange or funny customer, but I can identify clients that came to us in a state of confusion or panic as a result of trying to understand the various aspects of Medicare. The most complex case I had was a husband and wife that had COBRA health insurance, were past 65, didn’t have Parts A or B and had 4 days left to enroll or they would face an 8 month delay in their benefits and penalties that would last the rest of their lives. I was able to resolve their situation and avoid all these issues.
Any tips for finding first employees?
Yes! Keep an open mind and do not be rigid in who you hire unless it is for a specific task. Simple example is my first hire. She was a compliance writer, stay-at-home mother for 16 years, and was looking to get back in the workforce. She had no insurance experience. Today she is my Director of Operations, has an incredible entrepreneurial mindset, oversees our web presence and marketing, and manages our infrastructure team.
Tips for hiring? When I hire her or anyone, I focus on learning about their personality, talents, goals and motivators. I really want to know what they enjoy doing, what talents they want to use, what are their dreams and where they see themselves in our organization in the future. I want them to develop their work with their own fingerprint on it so they can take ownership in our growth and success. With this knowledge, I can then work with them on mastering the skills and processes we initially need. Once familiar with this, I then allow them the freedom and space to create new ideas that either innovate or improve on our existing processes. I believe everyone at my firm is an entrepreneur and I want to nurture that creativity.
Hire talent. I do not place an emphasis on having industry experience. Rather, I want people that have talent, drive, grit and determination as well as a history of success. If they are successful, they know what it takes to reach goals. Thus, I want them to apply that mentality to the business.
Did you run any companies prior?
I had run 3 companies prior to beginning Medicare Portal. My motivation to start Medicare Portal was: First, help my community by assisting seniors with their Medicare insurance benefits. Second, create a successful company where my associates can create a healthy and successful work/life balance. Lastly, provide me with financial stability while working into retirement.
When I discussed my new venture with friends, family and other professional associates, the overwhelming response was excitement, enthusiasm and oftentimes, validation of the concept. With so many people having experience with the complexities of Medicare, they saw a local resource as a great opportunity.
What motivates you when things go wrong? What is the end goal?
Motivation has never been an issue for me as I love the challenges, opportunities and excitement that every day presents. When things go wrong, my motivation oftentimes increases as the opportunity to overcome adversity or a hurdle can present new opportunities for growth and success. I embrace failure and success because in either outcome I’ve had the opportunity to learn. The end goal is always success.
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
Where do I start? For those starting out in business, don’t allow your emotions to overwhelm your vision and energy. Failure, mistakes and disappointment are part of not only life, but entrepreneurship. Learn how to overcome and adapt. Develop grit!
To me it is never a failure if you learn from the experience. I look at failure in a unique way. I believe failing early and often can lead to great things. Taking chances every day and getting quick feedback allows you to continue forward with the only change being direction. I am obsessed with what I call moving the football down the field every day. Whether an inch, a yard, or more, we strive to improve and grow every day.
My best advice is to never quit! Like that proverb states, if you don’t succeed the first time, try try again! Persistence is so important in finding success and keeping you motivated and focused. I believe big things happen from a series of small successes. Thus, if you continue to challenge yourself every day, you will win and lose, but you will learn and more importantly, develop grit. Persistence beats resistance every time!
What has driven the most sales?
Medicare Portal has found most of our clients through local educational events and referrals. Having the opportunity to share our knowledge in an educational environment provides the attendee the opportunity to learn not only about Medicare, but the assistance we can provide with the enrollment process. They also get to see how passionate we are about helping our community and identifying the right plans for their medical and financial needs.
Medicare Portal has grown significantly since beginning a little under 3 years ago. Our enrollments have grown from 200 in 2017, 700 in 2018, 1400 2019, and I anticipate adding 1700-2000 clients in 2020. In the next 3 years, our goal is to have 10,000 clients. Beyond that, in 10 years we anticipate serving 30,000+ clients. I continue to invest heavily in our infrastructure to handle this growth. We are excited to continue helping people understand, access and manage their Medicare benefits.
How do you protect yourself from competition?
While I am interested in what they are doing, I focus solely on the things I can control. Thus, I focus on my actions and decisions. The great John Wooden emphasized focusing on his team’s play and improving on execution. He felt that if his team played up to their potential, regardless of what the competition did, he would find success more than failure. This concept is validated by our approach at Medicare Portal. If we continue to improve and play our game, it makes it harder and harder for our competition to keep up. Like that quote says, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
What are the top 3-5 apps your business could not run without?
We could not exist without our customized CRM. With annual reviews being a large part of Medicare insurance, we’ve developed a system that allows us to track our client’s changes.
We also depend on Google. We use their email, g suite, and google drive to collaborate, communicate and develop content and services. We also work with WordPress, Canva, SiteGround, and LiveChat to deliver an industry leading website.
Additionally, each insurance company we partner with has incredible technology that allows us to perform safe and secure electronic enrollments. These applications reduce human error to an insignificant level as well as expedite the processing and enrollment of the client into their chosen plans.
What are your favorite books and podcasts?
My favorite books are written by Warren Bennis, John Wooden, and Patrick Lencioni. I enjoy reading books on leadership, business and entrepreneurship as well as coaching, which has been a passion of mine for the past 30 + years. I do not have a list of podcasts and would love any suggestions.
Acquiring knowledge and experience is important to success as an entrepreneur. Medicare Portal’s success can be rooted in the hundreds of lessons I learned from my father, college professors, and other entrepreneurs. Many of these in books, articles and in the classroom.
What’s next for us?
We are working on a lot of fronts towards customer acquisition as well as what I call the customer experience. We want to make the transition into Medicare not only a smooth process, but one where our clients can remember working with us as one of their best customer experiences of their lives. Health care is vital to a healthy community, and with seniors being our most vulnerable population, we want to make sure they can access care with the right providers at an affordable cost.
Medicare Portal strives to become more involved in our local communities. The Medicare Portal team is driven to not only become a leader in the Medicare insurance industry, but a leader in the community as it relates to employment, career development, diversity, and involvement in the local communities. To date, we have almost 50% of our workforce as women and minorities. We will continue to make hiring decisions based on identifying the most talented individuals as their skill set relates to our customers and the communities we serve.
Where do I see MP in 5 years?
What’s next for Medicare Portal? We are doing a rebuild of our website and focusing heavily on investing in our infrastructure to provide an amazing client experience. Additionally, we are investing in education and growth curriculum for our Medicare insurance agents as well as our internal support team. Lastly, we want to increase our participation in community educational events.
I see Medicare Portal being the recognized leader in providing Medicare education and enrollment services in the Mid-Atlantic region. Our growth will be fueled through our success in hiring and developing outstanding associates and supporting them as they identify new markets and opportunities. Additionally, by embracing diversity, supporting our unique entrepreneurial culture, applying our genuine enthusiasm and possessing grit, we will continue to evolve into a better organization in the future.
As for selling, I have no interest in selling today. I love what I do and can’t see me doing anything else!