Broker of the Year. That’s quite a title to achieve. There are thousands of licensed independent benefits agents, and to be selected as THE one that is considered a stand-out takes a pretty different twist on the usual in order to be selected.
This year, Benefits Selling magazine selected Mark Lacher, partner with Lacher & Associates, as their 2011 Benefits Selling Broker of the Year. There has been a lot of excitement generated about this: an on-stage presentation at 7th Annual Benefits Selling Expo in Nashville, TN, press releases, Tweets shared, and a great spread in the Benefits Selling magazine with fun photos of Mark looking quite snappy.

Now, before going any further, I need to let you know that Lacher & Associates is one of our BGN members. So, am I a bit biased? Definitely. But is he deserving of this award aside from my bias? If you believe that businesses need to evolve with the changing needs of clients and the marketplace, then yes, he is.

So what was it that got him to this place of recognition?

Thinking differently. Not being bound by the confines of the business model given to him by the traditions of the broker/agent system. Sure, it’s been a good business model for them for 53 years, but as he and his brother took over the business from their father in 2007, they brought with it a new perspective. That all businesses need help – everyone needs a coach, a mentor, an advisor, a sounding board, someone to listen and help them think through things. Good as we may be individually, thinking alone and solving all of our own issues will just not yield the same results as having some additional trusted ideas and help along the way.

That’s what Lacher is doing for clients.

He knew the benefits industry would be changing, and he knew he had to start doing things differently - and a small tweak here and there isn’t enough to save a business or an industry under attack.

Mark took the leap to radically think about his business and his clients’ businesses from a completely different perspective.

Instead of thinking,

“How can I find more clients or sell more products to make up for lost commissions resulting from healthcare reform?”,

he started asking,

“What challenges are my clients facing? What changes are they experiencing as a result of health care reform? Or the economy?”

The answers are many and varied, and they are the same challenges that Lacher himself was facing in his own business.

He had been seeking help to take his firm to a new level and drew from that same concept to use with his clients. If he needed help navigating through changes, plateaus, and being an innovator and leader, didn’t everyone else? Well, the obvious answer is Yes. And he decided to take what he had and what he knew and build upon it to grow into something that is beginning to look very different from the typical insurance broker.

So yes, Lacher’s vision for what he could do for his clients is worthy of note. But an even bigger lesson to take away from Mark’s story is the focus and speed with which they embraced the changes to their business model.

Instead of thinking about making these changes, or dabbling in a few trials here and there while waiting to see what happens as health care reform unfolds over a span of four years, he jumped in and made it happen now.

Regardless of what happens with exchanges and commissions, Lacher has squarely positioned himself and his firm to be a valuable resource to clients – medical policies & benefits packages aside. His clients turn to him for advice to help better manage the performance of their businesses.

I applaud Mark and the entire Lacher team for their foresight, tenacity, and courage to take a good business and turn it into a great business by thinking and acting differently and becoming a stand-out player in their industry!