I was having breakfast this morning with a good friend of mine, Myles, who I meet with regularly to discuss my business. He is my business sounding board and a great advisor. Myles is a very successful business person who ran an investment fund and is very active in high-end finance. For the past year we have talked about the changing benefits business and discussed firms like Zenefits and the money being invested in various technology solutions in the benefits business. When Zenefits announced that they had raised $500 million at a $4.5 billion valuation this became even a bigger topic. What he found interesting is that he and I had been talking about the Zenefits business model before he or I ever heard of Zenefits. Our breakfast this morning ended when he gave me some “between the eyes” advice which was “Joe, sometimes you just need to start”.
In today’s business world being first or at least a fast follower is important. Successful firms don’t have to solve 10 problems. They can solve just one as long as that one is important or different. And on day one of a business things may not be perfect. Firms like Amazon started by selling books. Now they are a storefront. Zappos started by selling shoes. And they had distribution issues before they got it right. Apple sold computers.
Now here we are in 2015 and Zenefits is disrupting the benefits business with a model that really has been around for some time. The difference is they are actually doing it. While others are talking they are acting. And they aren’t perfect but they started. They promised to do just one thing well and that was employee onboarding. Based on what I have heard they do that pretty well. I will guarantee next year they will be better and three years from now they will be doing much more than onboarding. In fact they are already doing more things.
Over the past few weeks I have conducted some webinars about Zenefits and what to expect from them now that they raised $500 million. (You can see the webinar by clicking here: http://www.hrtadvisors.com/AboutUs/HRTWebinars.aspx ) The last slide of the presentation quotes Steven Covey and his first habit of highly effective people which says, “Act, or Be Acted Upon”. I use this because Zenefits has been “acting upon” other benefits brokers by having written $20 million in new business over the past few years. They took that business from someone.
While I understand the apprehension some people have with trying something new, sometimes you just need to start. You don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to be perfect. And there are risks. But there are risks from not taking action too. Zenefits has had bumps, so did Zappos, and Apple, and Amazon. However, even if you aren’t prefect people will be thankful for your product or service if you are solving a big problem. I know when I need to solve a problem I often don’t need perfection. Sometimes I need “Now” and other times I may need “Cheap” and I don’t expect perfection when I need fast and/or cheap.
I think there is a way to significantly change the benefits business. Zenefits thinks so too and they are moving forward, fast. I have shared some of my ideas in other articles on this blog. But writing about it and doing it are two different things. So you know what, I am starting. I am hitting the GO button. The GO will include taking action as I said in my article “What Would Steve Jobs Do if He Were a Benefits Broker Today”. So as my friend Myles said, “START”. And for those brokers wanting to compete with Zenefits, you may need to start too. There may be bumps and it won’t be perfect, but I am willing to bet it will be a lot of fun and probably very rewarding.
Hey Joe: Just do it.. I invented Zenefits in 1995..and now its ADP!
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