a NAMSAP member posted a question to the membership about how he could start an
MSA business and garner the attention of insurance company and attorney
clients. I am not sure that this forum was the right place to solicit such
information since a group of competitors is probably not the best place to get
helpful information. But the question is valid and it reminds me of what has
made MEDVAL successful over the years. Here is my advice to this gentleman.
1. Be great at
what you do
– There is no substitute for experience and professionalism. Take pride in your
work, develop the skills needed to do a competent job and always seek to
improve your knowledge. The world is full of so called “experts”, be
the real thing and customers will find you.
2. Deliver exceptional
– Most businesses provide good service. But loyal clients are developed by
going above and beyond the call of duty. That means answering a phone call
after hours, working through the weekend to meet a mediation deadline and
always delivering more than you promise or the customer expects.
3. Be a problem solver – Too many people in
the world are content to let others figure out problems for them. Don’t be one
of them. If a client has a problem, YOU figure out how to help them solve it.
And most of all, don’t become the problem yourself as so many vendors in the
MSA industry have historically done to the detriment of their businesses.
4. Never stand still –
Business moves at the speed of light. While everyone is playing catch up, you need
to deliver industry leading solutions and continually push the envelope of what
is possible in your field. Innovation is possible, even in seemingly static
industries like Medicare Set-Asides, structured settlements or custodial
5. Develop a reputation
for honesty and integrity – Always tell your clients the truth even when they aren’t
going to like it. A wise lawyer once said the hardest part about practicing law
is telling a client something they do not want to hear. And always do what is
in the client’s interest even if it momentarily conflicts with your own.
Successful businesses are built over the long run and clients have very long
6. Be humble – No matter how
successful you are there is always someone doing better. Be thankful for
whatever business your clients entrust to you and appreciate the small
customers as much as the big ones. I am reminded of a structured settlement
company that always boasts about how much better they are than their competitors,
how they only do the “big” cases, yet financially underperform year
after year. Maybe their hubris clouds their judgment about what value the
market places on their services.
7. Treat your employees
like the invaluable assets they are – Great service businesses are built with great
people. Find the best people you can and pay them 10% more than the
“market” rate. Great people deliver great results and are worth the
extra money. Always appreciate that top performers have other places they can
devote their time and energy.
8. Find customers that
fit with your business philosophy – No one can be all things to all people so
don’t try. Decide what you are best at and go from there. For example, we never
participated in the “guaranteed MSA” marketing and did not seek out
clients that wanted a guarantee. Nor are we aggressively pursuing MMSEA
reporting in exchange for a Medicare Set Aside relationship, exclusive or
otherwise. That may have cost us some clients but we don’t believe our clients
best interests are served by these types of programs.
9. Treat your vendors
and partners with respect – One thing I have learned over the years is that seemingly
“unimportant” people/vendors can have a huge impact on the success of
your business. If you treat everyone fairly and with respect, there may come a
time when they are in a position to influence a potential customer to do (or
not to do) business with you. Even if that is never the case, wouldn’t you
rather have more friends than enemies?
10. Learn to run a business – You don’t need to
have an MBA from Harvard but you do need to understand the fundamentals of
business. You cannot accomplish Steps 1 – 9 if you can’t attract customers or
your paychecks always bounce. A fundamental understanding of finance, human resources,
marketing, sales and operations is critical no matter what business you are in.
Many a business has been done in by an incompetent President or CEO who
thinks that their “industry knowledge” is an adequate substitute for
sound business practices.
finally, if you don’t love what you do, then become a jewelry designer or hedge
fund manager….life is too short.
Set-Aside Allocation/Arrangement Recommendations
to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services