For me, one of the worst things that any business can have is a sense of complacency; I have spent too many years working at places that were just way too complacent in their work, where so much time was devoted to proclaiming how everybody was so wonderful and so great. If I am so complacent in business where I think I’m so wonderful, I’m going to retire or ask someone to put me down like Old Yeller.
I don’t think any retirement plan provider can afford to be complacent. The industry is consistently changing and any change breeds more competition. Unless you’re a payroll provider TPA or one of the large consulting companies like Buck or Towers Watson, you can’t afford to hire a top-notch marketing firm. If you’re like me, you weren’t taught marketing in school. So when I say that TPAs as a whole have lousy marketing, it’s not an insult because most professional firms have lousy marketing because of a lack of resources. Heck, most law firms have lousy marketing and there are quite a few TPAs who have excellent marketing. As a whole, it needs improvement.
So when I say that TPAs as a whole have lousy marketing, I see it less as an insult and more of a challenge for TPAs to get better at communicating with plan sponsor clients and potential clients. Just saying that a TPA can’t do much because it’s a competitive business and this is just how the business they chose to go into operates is just a lazy man’s argument.
I decided long ago that I wanted to build a national ERISA practice, to work with plan sponsors, advisors, and TPAs around the country at a flat fee. I was surrounded by an attorney leadership who thought that my way was the wrong way and that is not how a law firm operates and markets itself. Of course, I went on my own and proved them wrong. I could have sat back and just written it off like Hyman Roth did in Godfather Part II by saying that this was the business I chose. If I did that, I’d hate to think where I would be now.
TPAs can just sit back and be bitter about how the TPA business has turned, but bitterness and complacency don’t get clients. Thinking outside the box, being bold, and being creative goes a long way toward getting clients. That’s why I thoroughly enjoyed speaking at TPA panels because TPAs give each other good bits of information to get more competitive. Sitting back and feeling sorry for yourself is a lot easier than doing something.