“Don’t Settle for Cookie Cutter”: Meet Nava Partner Erin Chisdak
You have years of experience helping small businesses navigate the complexities of health insurance and benefits. Can you talk a little bit about what a thoughtfully selected benefits strategy can enable for a small business?
When small businesses are able to build a plan based on their own unique needs, it can have huge impacts — from their bottom line, to employee satisfaction and engagement, to their ability to invest in future projects.
And you don’t need a large budget to build a great plan; you just need a broker who will make thoughtful recommendations. Don’t settle for a partner who will “cookie cutter” the same plans every year. They should take a close look at your employee population and find a plan that works for them.
What advice do you have for SMBs managing healthcare and benefits, especially in this competitive market?
Be open to all options. Sure, you may be hesitant to make a big change right now, but sometimes it’s what’s best. The healthcare marketplace is changing fast, and it’s impacting the quality of plans and services that carriers are able to offer.
I see a lot of small businesses who have been with the same carrier for five or ten years without shopping around — but what worked five years ago may not necessarily cut it anymore. So if you want to work with a competitive partner, you have to be okay with change every once in a while.
I also think that a lot of employers overcomplicate their benefits plan. And I get it, the sheer amount of options available can be daunting, especially for small businesses. My approach? Keep it simple. Less is more. Rather than try to offer a large range of benefits, focus on choosing an offering to meet your employees’ needs.
Brokers hold such a strong influence on our healthcare system, yet we think it goes largely unrecognized. To that end, what role do you think brokers can play in transforming healthcare?
I think brokers need to speak up and advocate for their clients. We really need to keep pushing our carrier partners to be more innovative in how they provide benefits to small businesses.
If you see a gap in the market, or if your clients have an unfulfilled need, tell the carrier. In a broker’s role as a partner to both the carrier and the client, it’s your duty to be an intermediary and give feedback.
You never know what might happen with a little bit of brainstorming and a lot of teamwork — they may end up building the solution your client needs. But first you need to establish that two-way open dialogue.
If you had to describe your approach to client service with one song, movie, or book, what would it be?
Okay, I’m kind of a nerd. The Fifth Element. I love that movie. The main character, she’s such a badass — she just comes in and cleans up shop and takes care of business. I feel like that’s my approach: to support whatever you need. No task is too small or too big. Let’s go in and ninja this thing and get it done.
At the end of the day, clients are paying us to take work off their plate and keep their employees happy. So if they need a little super hero in their back pocket, I’m happy to be their Leeloo.
We’re so thrilled to welcome you to the team. When you were learning about Nava, what was the aha moment that made you think, "okay, I want to be a part of that"?
When I was in conversations with Nava’s co-founders Brandon and Donald, at one point they said, “If it’s broken, we want to fix it.” It seemed like they had a solution for all of the tedious things that bogged me down on a day-to-day basis. Nava is all about the details.
In the brokerage space, there’s so much focus on bringing in business and building revenue — but rarely do you see brokers actively driving innovation. Nava’s not afraid to try to fix things, rather than patching up the problem or waiting for someone else to take action.
What's one aspect of employee benefits that you're most excited to reinvent?
Employee experience. It’s been forgotten. Open enrollment, for example, is the same year after year. It’s boring and it doesn’t work. Nine times out of ten the employees don’t really understand, and then they’re afraid to ask questions.
No one’s taking the time to educate the general public on how these things work. And then they get surprise bills, or they have trouble finding an in-network doctor, or they get stuck with an expensive brand name prescription when there are generic versions available.
There’s got to be a way to put some simple guardrails in place, so employees don’t fall through the cracks — but that won’t happen through the traditional open enrollment lunch-and-learn. I want to be part of the team to forge a new approach.
What do you hope to accomplish over the next five years at Nava?
Five years from now, I hope that I’ve made an impact with my clients. I want to make benefits easier for them — whether that’s by using the tools Nava develops, or by working-one-on-one. If I’ve helped these HR leaders, CFOs, and their employees become more informed about how to choose and use their benefits, then my mission will be complete.
Have a question for Erin? Reach out here.
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