New York insurance brokers may be getting questions from customers about the New York State Sick Leave (NYSSL) act, which went into effect September 30, 2020. However, employees cannot take paid sick leave through the state law until January 1, 2021, or at a time after that date if their employer requires them to accrue paid time off.
A direct result of the coronavirus pandemic to help contain the spread of the virus by encouraging employees to stay home, with pay, if they are not feeling well, the Paid Sick Leave Law mandates that employers of any size now provide paid sick leave to employees.
Unlike New York State DBL benefits or Paid Family Leave (PFL), New York State Sick Leave (NYSSL) is funded entirely by employers through payroll. It is not an insurance benefit.
However, employers may have questions about when employees can use their paid sick leave and when they need to file a claim for DBL or PFL. It helps brokers to be aware of the new legislation to reduce unnecessary or unqualified DBL and PFL claims in New York.
The duration of NYSSL is much shorter than New York State’s short-term disability coverage or PFL coverage.
Here are a few other differences between the three types of leave:
DBL or enriched DBL insurance provides partial pay to employees who are seriously ill or injured and cannot perform their normal job functions for up to 26 weeks. The DBL Center can help you bind DBL & Enriched coverage under 50 lives easily online here.
Written as a mandatory rider to statutory DBL coverage, PFL in New York provides partial pay to employees taking time off to care for an ill family member, a newborn (or newly adopted or newly fostered) child within the first year, or to manage family matters while a military spouse is deployed. The maximum duration for Paid Family Leave is 12 weeks. Learn more about New York State PFL coverage, first introduced in 2017, here.
Introduced in September 2020 and going into effect on January 1, 2021, Paid Sick Leave provides full pay for up to 56 hours (in some cases) for employees who are:
The New York State Sick Leave law (NYSSL) also covers a host of other circumstances for which employees may need time off, including:
The reason for Paid Family Leave or DBL must be documented on the appropriate claims form. On the other hand, the reasons for taking NYSSL can remain confidential. Employers may not require employees to disclose any confidential information regarding their need for sick time.
In addition, the definition of a family member as it relates to paid sick leave extends beyond the PFL definition to include siblings, grandchildren, grandparents, and the children or parents of an employee’s spouse or domestic partner.
Business owners in New York have a choice to “frontload” employees’ sick time at the beginning of the calendar year, offering paid sick leave from day one that the benefit goes into effect (January 1, 2021). Or, employers may permit employees to accrue sick time at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 or 56 hours in total – depending on the company size.
Employers with at least 100 employees must provide 56 hours paid sick leave. Employers with fewer than 100 employees or fewer than five employees but a net income of $1 million for the prior tax year must provide 40 hours paid sick leave.
Businesses with fewer than five employees but less than $1 million in net income must allow 40 hours of unpaid sick leave with no disciplinary action permitted for employees who take that time off without pay.
The decision for an employee to take paid sick time or to file a DBL or PFL claim largely comes down to the duration of the time off required and, of course, the reason. See below:
Until now, Paid Time Off remained the choice of New York State business owners. Many companies provided generous PTO while others didn’t. Some small business didn’t even have a written policy but trusted their workers not to take unnecessary time off.
By standardizing PTO under the NYSSL, and outlining specific permissible reasons for sick time, New York State has eliminated confusion, miscommunication, or gray areas surrounding PTO.
By understanding the new law, you can help your customers reduce unnecessary DBL or PFL claims and continue to act as a resource for them when it comes to managing employee benefits.
by Dawn Allcot
Because different benefits have different definitions and the devil is in the details…
As more states add legislation for paid family leave and the federal government introduces programs to help manage Covid-related disability claims, short-term disability has become more confusing than ever.
To help brokers understand the profit potential in these benefits and to help business owners sort through the “alphabet soup” of STD (short-term disability), The DBL Center offers your complete guide to short term disability offerings.
Short-term disability is the all-encompassing phrase to describe disability benefits for employees who are unable to work due to illness or injury that did not occur at work. (Workers’ compensation covers work-related illnesses and injuries.)
Disability Benefits Law is New York’s statutory temporary disability insurance coverage. Business owners can write their policies through the state or privately. DBL pays employees 50% of their salary to a maximum of $170 per week of benefit up to 26 weeks.
Increasing benefits that extend beyond the statutory DBL (Disability Benefits Law) coverage in the form of a higher maximum benefit. It can also include shorter waiting periods or a longer maximum duration. All eligible employees must be included.
Temporary Disability Benefits cover New Jersey employees out of work for illness or injury up to 26 weeks. Effective July 1, 2020, the NJ TDB benefit increased to 85% of a worker’s average weekly salary to a maximum of $881 per week. To pay for these benefit increases, for the first time, employees are contributing premiums for the NJTDB coverage on a different taxable wage base than employers. As of 1/1/2020 employees are contributing .26% on the first $134,900 of earnings (maximum annual contribution of $350.74). Employers are contributing based on employees’ earnings capped at $35,500. As in New York, NJ business owners can write their policies privately or through the state.
New York State Paid Family Leave covers individuals up to 67% average weekly wage replacement for up to 12 weeks for the birth, adoption or foster care of a child; to care for a seriously ill family member; or to manage the household while a spouse is deployed. It’s written as a rider to DBL.
Covered individuals are eligible for no more than 26 total weeks in the aggregate of paid family and medical leave in a single benefit year under the new Massachusetts PFML (Paid Family and Medical Leave) legislation. This was introduced to cover individuals out of work to care for a newborn, adopted or foster child in the first year; to care for a family member; or to manage the household while a spouse is deployed. PFML adds medical leave, to care for a family member unable to work due to illness or injury as of July 1, 2021.
Disability Income is private disability coverage offered to individuals or sold as a group plan in states that do not mandate statutory STD. It encompasses paid sick leave, short-term disability benefits (STD), and long-term disability benefits (LTD).
Unlike the benefits above, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that guarantees an employee’s job if they are out for family or medical leave. It does not pay benefits.
The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) provides income replacement at 2/3 the regular rate of pay for up to 80 weeks for employees in quarantine as a result of Covid-19 or seeking treatment for coronavirus, and an additional 10 weeks for employees whose school or childcare provider has closed due to the pandemic. This is paid by employers, with federal tax credits to offset the costs.
The DBL Center has also created a handy slide of this information for easy reference. You can view the it below and on our LinkedIn feed.
As we prepare to enter the fourth quarter, insurance brokers have had to contend with many changes and challenges. If you run an insurance agency, it’s more important than ever to be able to manage a remote workforce and give your producers the tools they need to do their jobs – in their office or at home.
A project two years in the making could not have come at a better time. It started two years ago with the introduction of the Broker Dashboard: Net Revenue Tracker.
Today, The DBL Center is pleased to announce the introduction of the Broker Dashboard app, available in the Apple Store.
Offering all the functionality of the Broker Dashboard desktop application, the Broker Dashboard app for iPhone and iPad puts the capability to track renewals, cancellations, and commissions at your fingertips.
Follow up with client renewals while you wait in the pick-up line at your child’s elementary school. Check on incoming commissions as you oversee distance learning at your dining room table. And when you come into the office, your Broker Dashboard comes with you.
You’re always informed, giving you the means to spot profit opportunities and increase commissions by giving your customers the products and information they need – when they need it.
It’s not going to be an easy autumn for many working parents or for insurance brokers still splitting time between their homes and the office. The Broker Dashboard technology can help bring you closer to your customers, wherever you might be.
Back in April at the height of the pandemic, a Gartner survey revealed that 75% of CEOs planned to move at least 5% of their employees to full-time remote even after the pandemic. The remote workforce is here to stay and embracing technology can help us to better cope with it.
With childcare challenges facing many parents as schools are now opening with distance learning or hybrid schedules – where children may attend school a few days a week and have remote learning the rest of the time – employers may have to provide more flexibility for working parents.
After all, you know the rules. Employees can’t claim NYS PFL for Covid-related illness, (if they have the ability to work from home, or a lack of childcare for students undertaking distance learning). But by creating flexible employee policies and ensuring your employees can be productive wherever they are, you may be able to reduce erroneous PFL claims and also minimize Covid-related claims under the federal Families First Act. (You can read more about PFL and the FFA here.)
Just like many other businesses, the DBL Center team faces the challenges of a remote workforce and children’s school schedules that don’t coincide with typical, established workplace schedules. Through technology, resilience, and understanding, we continue to thrive and offer high levels of service to our brokers and their clients.
We’re excited to give our brokers the same opportunities to embrace change with the Broker Dashboard app and other tools.
The DBL Center provides workplace flexibility for our employees as we adapt to these times. But that doesn’t change our availability for our brokers when they need us. We are always available as your back-office staff to assist.
And now, with the Broker Dashboard app for iPhone and iPad, the tools you need are just a touch away. Watch the video to learn more about using your exclusive Broker Dashboard app here, and reach out if you have any questions.
The DBL Center marketing team “Turned the Tables” on President and CEO Michael Cohen to put Michael in the hot seat for a three-part interview. In the first and third videos, he offered tips for insurance agents and talked about the value The DBL Center provides to its network of brokers.
In this video, Michael discusses the impact the pandemic has had, the creation of the Covid-19 Claim Qualifier, and what he sees for 2021. Plus, he shares one of DBL Center Founder David Cohen’s favorite expressions. Read (and watch the video) to the end for advice from two generations of business leaders in the Cohen family.
Dawn Allcot: How did you come up with the idea for the Covid-19 Claim Qualifier to reduce the number of Covid-related claims and the financial burden on insurance carriers?
Michael Cohen: I was in actually in my son’s room near the start of the quarantine. I think it was March 24. I was speaking to my programmer. I said if there’s a way something can be tweaked, now would be the time. We took something we were already utilizing, the Broker Dashboard Net Revenue tracker, and transformed it into something that could help our preferred insurance carriers. It’s a way to help prequalify claims, to bring the number of Covid-related DBL and PFL claims down.
Everything is volume. If I’m tracking volume for businesses, I can use that same algorithm to track the volume for claims, specifically in the short-term disability segment as a result of Covid.
Dawn: You were in your son’s room, on a call with your programmer. That’s a sign of the times…
Mike: I like being able to work from home. I’ve been working from home since 2007. I’ve got friends and family members that have said to me, “It’s great; I’m not traveling. I get to see my kids.”
My wife has been a healthcare professional for 16 years. The days she would work 12-hour shifts, I was that guy at home. And still am. Nothing has really changed in that regard.
Dawn: Looking ahead, what new initiatives does the DBL Center have planned for 2021?
Mike: Franchising the technology we have created and taking it out to every Paid Family Leave state that’s available.
So, stay tuned for that. That should be a new and exciting venture, which should begin in January. We’re laying the groundwork now.
Dawn: That’s what it’s all about. We’ve been laying the groundwork for this moment for three years now, and it’s coming to fruition. It’s been fascinating to watch you, Mike, and it’s a great case study for business growth.
Mike: Think about it. With the amount of time businesses have been closed during this pandemic, if you add another hundred days onto that, it’s already Halloween.
If we’ve been doing this for three years, what’s another four months? When you’ve been up against the ropes and done what we’ve done over 36 months, with all the highs and lows and peaks and valleys. It’s a breath of fresh air to know we’ve been through all that, already. Now we know what to expect.
You give yourself a goal. And if you accomplish that, then you give yourself another goal. And once you tackle it, get that notch in your belt, you let that ride, and then move on to the next thing. Just keep building upon that and getting to the next level. You want to get to a point where the business sustains itself or you’re ready to sell it.
Dawn: What’s your advice to brokers to get through this time?
Mike: Stop talking about a potential second wave! I don’t want to hear it. It’s negative energy. Let’s just stick to what we know. And that is today.
Now’s not the time to project what will be as far as the pandemic. We don’t know. And it’s too much stress to worry.
I try to tune out a lot of the news media. And I do what’s best for my company.
If I do what’s best for my company, I’m impacting my employees. And if I do what’s good for them, maybe they can take that into their real-world experiences.
I’ve got a lot of friends who are business owners, too. We’re in a bubble of what we do.
As long as we do it best, whether it’s writing or selling insurance or whatever it is, it’s that old adage my father used to say, which is, “Stick to sewing.” It means stick to what you’re good at and do not be a jack-of-all trades.
Dawn: What’s your next goal for The DBL Center?
Mike: We’re more than halfway through the year. Anything I talk about in the fall is going to be for 2021 at this point.
My goal is to be the most state-of-the-art, tech-savvy general agency in the Paid Family Leave statutory space. Case closed. End of story.
In our latest video series, The DBL Center marketing team turned the tables on Michael Cohen to interview the DBL Center President about recent initiatives and how The DBL Center has coped with the pandemic.
Now more than ever, The DBL Center remains focused on providing our brokers with free tools they can use to stay competitive and remain profitable in these challenging times.
Read on for excerpts from our three-part interview with Michael Cohen and be sure to check out the videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel to see our video content as it goes live.
Dawn Allcot: What’s been the reaction to The DBL Center’s recent marketing content – the videos, blog posts, and direct email campaigns?
Michael Cohen: Our read ratio is triple what it used to be. You always say it’s a matter of putting out good content, but it’s also a matter of not putting out redundant content. In the beginning of the [pandemic], we were getting things out quickly, but we didn’t want it to be laborious. There’s only so much people can understand about the loans and about unemployment. There has to be a shift. People got accustomed to reading the same things everywhere.
Dawn: The content we did was targeted to our audience, so it wasn’t the same things they are reading everywhere else. People can follow links to find out how to apply for the PPP loans. The Covid qualifying software you came up with really set DBL Center apart.
Michael: It’s an antiquated business and people know it. I’ll be the first to say it. These tools help set us apart. I’m happy with where we’re going, and I do think it’s going to be a unique, creative year. Everything I’ve done, and am doing, and have been building over the past 36 months has come to the point where it will be a differentiator in a very positive light. I feel very strongly about next year and I’m excited.
Dawn: On the topic of tools and resources, how does the Broker Dashboard: Net Revenue Tracker help your brokers?
Michael: No one really had a great grasp on where their business was. Because most people were elephant hunting and chasing things that my father would always tell me would be top heavy.
One of the things I’ve been able to do is use the software to help show brokers the profitability in the smaller accounts. Those are the companies that are predominantly relying on the PPP loan, and have people who have been furloughed due to unemployment. What happens when the money runs out?
The tool has been able to help brokers understand the retention aspect. Now on the cusp of unemployment maybe being a month from being over, the real question is how much of the relief and aid will stick and help the businesses survive?
Dawn: And you’re offering the Broker Dashboard completely free of charge to your brokers.
Michael: I don’t want to charge anybody so they can track their business. It’s been terrific during the pandemic in helping people know where their business is down to the dollar, because we don’t know what’s going to stick.
Dawn: Besides the Broker Dashboard: Net Revenue Tracker, what else are you doing to help your brokers thrive and grow?
Michael: I’ve been giving away free advice from friends of mine in the business who are influencers, including your interview with Kelvin Joseph from Kool Kel Marketing. The point we were trying to get across there is the power of relationships.
My business has expanded greatly in other states, predominantly because of my LinkedIn strategies and how many people I know. Between myself and my buddy Kelvin, we reach 100,000 individual touch points on LinkedIn. Every day, I get a lead in some form, that I can help give back [to our brokers].
The advice I’ve been given from my father, I’ve been able to funnel through our content marketing strategy and give back to the brokers’ community in my own words. The Broker Dashboard, LinkedIn, and our website resources are the three primary ways we’ve been able to give back for free to our brokers.
Watch the full three-part series of videos here:
In any industry, employees represent the company’s greatest resource. This is true in your insurance agency, and also for the customers you serve. The DBL Center has been heavily focused on short term disability insurance in NY State recently, as we continue into the third year of Paid Family Leave coverage while having to contend with Covid-19 related claims.
But temporary disability benefits in New York should also include long-term disability insurance. If you aren’t using the DBL Center’s carrier relationships to up-sell the best long term disability insurance, you’re leaving profits on the table.
In January, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that NY state lost 1.4 million residents since 2010, and is one of only 10 states to see their population drop between 2018 and 2019. And that was before the pandemic caused many NYC residents to leave for suburban regions – in NY State or beyond.
In a recent post, Kelvin Joseph of Kool Kel Marketing discussed saving business owners money and helping them increase profitability. Long term disability insurance and other ancillary benefits packages have been shown to increase employee retention, which saves both time and money.
If your customers want to keep their top employees in New York, they need to offer the safety net and peace-of-mind long term disability insurance, or disability income (DI) insurance, provides.
Through NYS DBL, employers must provide statutory disability insurance in NY state. But the benefits fall short of the cost-of-living in most regions of the state. A benefit increase would undoubtedly result in a premium increase, and employers would bear most of this burden. Plus, short term disability runs out after 26 weeks, which may not be enough time to recover from many injuries or illnesses.
So, what’s the solution to give New York workers and business owners the long term disability income they need?
The DBL Center gives our brokers access to the best long term disability insurance available in New York. Once you get your foot in the door with an affordable, private DBL policy, upsell your customers to long term disability insurance.
You can provide a choice of plans to your customers to fit their needs and budget:
In a non-contributory plan, the executives in a company can use the benefit as a tax deduction and receive a tax free benefit if they ever need to file a long term disability insurance claim in NY State.
Plans have a benefit maximum of $15,000 per month, covering up to 60% of an individual’s salary up to age 65 if the covered executive cannot work in their own occupation. That’s a stark contrast to the NYS DBL maximum payout of $170 per week.
We offer various tiered plans for long-term disability insurance in NY State from our top preferred carrier partners:
The DBL Center works for our insurance brokers to help them increase commissions with the best long-term and temporary disability benefit plans in New York.
We manage and maintain the policies for you while you focus on expanding your book of business to increase your profits. Contact us today to find the best long term disability insurance in NY State for your customers.
Last year, Massachusetts passed the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML).
The law entitles all Massachusetts employees and some independent contractors paid family leave of up to 12 weeks to care for a family member and paid medical leave of up to 20 weeks for a non-work-related injury or illness. (Read more about paid leave in Massachusetts here.)
The law benefits employers and employees who may need to take leave for the above reasons. The benefit is shared, which means employers and employees each pay a portion of the premium. But the onus is on employers to adhere to the law and to understand the benefits available.
Benefits don’t go into effect until January 1, 2021, but Massachusetts business owners should educate themselves on the law now. They can start paying premiums for Massachusetts Paid Family Medical Leave as early as this month.
Massachusetts business owners can privatize benefits under the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, gaining personalized service and better rates. By law, private benefits must be as good – or better – than the state-funded plan.
Business owners should not go it alone. DBL Center and its vast network of brokers can help business owners understand the advantages of privatizing PFML coverage for cost savings and better service.
The new law applies to all the employers and businesses with more than one Massachusetts employee, though with limited exception.
The law covers:
Premium payments, often a combination of employer and employee contributions, depend upon the makeup of the company’s workforce.
To ensure an accurate premium bill, Massachusetts business owners should ensure they are correctly reporting the size and makeup of their workforce in Massachusetts to the Department of Family and Medical Leave. The total workforce generally includes:
Under the law, Massachusetts employers are responsible for providing coverage for all W-2 employees. However, 1099-MISC contractors are included in the total number of covered individuals only if they comprise more than 50 percent of the total workforce, which means W2 workers and 1099-MISC contractors combined. It’s also worth remembering that a contractor is considered a 1099-MISC only if they are paid a minimum of $600 in the tax year.
Employers are not required to provide Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act coverage to 1099 contractors, even if they make up 50% of the workforce.
Employers who employ 25 employees or more are required to make a contribution of 0.75 percent of eligible payroll to the Department of Family and Medical Leave.
This contribution may be split between the employer contribution and employee payroll deductions. Payments will help the state of Massachusetts to fund both family and medical paid leaves.
Employers with less than 25 employees must make contributions to the Department of Family and Medical leave, but they are not responsible for paying the employer’s share. PFML in Massachusetts is fully funded by employee contributions for businesses with under 25 lives.
Employers should calculate the number of covered individuals you employ and get in touch with their accountant and payroll provider to make sure that they are prepared to start deducting premiums.
Then they should get in touch with a local broker who can help Massachusetts business owners save money by privatizing Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act coverage.
As experts in statutory disability and PFL coverage across the Northeast United States, The DBL Center is prepared to help Massachusetts brokers help employers find the best rates for PFML.
The DBL Center and our brokers are ready to deliver superior service as business owners navigate a new world under the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act.
The insurance business, especially for those involved in selling statutory benefits like NY State disability insurance (NYS DBL coverage), has always been based on relationships.
The relationships between brokers and their customers, carriers and general agencies, and the wholesale insurance agency and its brokers, all make it easier to create the best benefits packages with the lowest premiums.
Just before New York started Phase 1 of its reopening initiative, Michael Cohen, DBL Center President and CEO, sat down – remotely – with Charles Callery, Regional VP for Lincoln Financial, and Michael Pelligrino, Lincoln Financial sales representative. The three pros talked about maintaining relationships and selling NY state disability insurance in the time of Covid-19.
You can watch part 1 of the video here.
Cohen took the call to record the Remote Rep Roundtable from his Melville office before his employees had come back to work, while Callery admitted he’d been fielding video conferences from his son’s bedroom.
Pelligrino quipped, “I’m sitting here just hoping my one-year old baby doesn’t wake up crying,” reflecting one of the familiar challenges faced by parents suddenly forced into working from home, often without viable daycare for little ones.
Although they were in different locations, the NY state disability insurance experts displayed the camaraderie they’d shared over the years. They shared how they first met, and then got to talking about how they’re modifying their businesses to remain relevant – and successful – amidst the challenges of a global pandemic that requires social distancing and remote work.
Callery advised brokers and reps: “Lean into your style. Don’t do anything out of your comfort level. Don’t force it.”
Lincoln Financial began developing podcasts and increasing their social media presence, but Callery also encouraged reps to find what works for them. “The folks who were accustomed to using LinkedIn continued to do that and they enhanced their presence. We had other reps establish weekly WebEx-type meetings,” Callery said.
Pelligrino, on the ground regularly as a sales rep, said he’s seen remote work increasing over the past five to seven years, and the pandemic has accelerated the trend. “I’d been seeing a lot more offices where maybe only 50% of the people are there, because a lot more people were starting to work from home. You have to be more creative, as a rep, to get that captive audience, and WebEx is one way to do it.”
“Experiencing [the pandemic] was almost like the five stages of grieving,” said Cohen, adding that he feels the industry has entered the “acceptance” phase. “We are all entrepreneurs and driven salespeople, type A personality. Let’s get creative and figure this out, because we’re all hungry to get back to work.”
Callery said he remains optimistic about business picking up in the late third to fourth quarter. “I think we will get back to close to where we were,” he said. “I do believe some creative aspects of doing business differently will come out of this experience, for sure.”
Watch the video to learn more about the shared history between Lincoln Financial and DBL Center and to hear the rest of their tips for connecting during Covid-19.
With news of the Massachusetts Family Leave Act and PFML benefits now mandated in Massachusetts, The DBL Center is seeking ways to scale our high-touch business model and give Massachusetts brokers selling PFML even better access to our personalized service, knowledge, insight, and relationships.
Kelvin Joseph, Founder and CEO of Kool Kel Marketing, has helped companies from new startups to Fortune 500s maximize their sales by executing a marketing strategy that communicates their “Kool.” By working with Kool Kel, The DBL Center seeks to duplicate President and CEO Michael Cohen to build a legacy.
Kelvin, a marketing strategist who has specialized in sports marketing and built relationships with C-level executives across both New York and Massachusetts, recently shared his thoughts with The DBL Center on marketing Massachusetts Family Leave Act benefits successfully.
Let’s get right to it: How do you plan to help Mike duplicate himself to build a legacy?
We’re in the relationship business. Short-term disability or PFL is mandated in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts [through the Massachusetts Family Leave Act] right now. I believe other states are going to start mandating it, too.
The DBL Center is going to have to learn how to expand into different states, where we can be as high-touch as we have been, especially here on Long Island, which is our strongest community.
What steps can The DBL Center take to bring that level of service we provide to Long Island brokers into Massachusetts and then other places?
We’re in the relationship business and Mike cannot be everywhere. It’s not possible to keep the same model we have in New York and New Jersey for every state. But this has been done before, and we have the strategic partners to help.
We’re building systems and situations to create warm leads without needing Mike to be everywhere.
How did you and Mike first meet and what made you decide to start working together?
I’ve known Mike since high school. We’re just two regular guys from Huntington who are CEOs of our own companies, and we’ve stayed friends.
We’re always talking business, but it was never the right moment [to collaborate.] What I was selling at the time was really kind of one-dimensional. My core business is sports marketing. Now, because of the pandemic, I can’t really have big events. So, I’ve been helping a lot of companies with their marketing strategy.
Can you share some of the details of the upcoming marketing strategy for The DBL Center?
I always feel like it’s better to be introduced [to someone] than to introduce yourself. That’s why referrals are so powerful. And a lot of the brokers reading this blog understand the power of referrals.
Instead of going in cold into a new market like Massachusetts, where we don’t know anybody, I actually do know about 800 people there. C-level executives.
It made sense to start with people I had some kind of relationship with and see what comes of that. We’re in the relationship business. If people already know me, and I introduce Mike, that’s a win. That’s the strategy we’re starting with – referral marketing and warm introductions.
Here’s the thing about Massachusetts: On June 15, most of the companies there are going to get a bill that they don’t understand [for Massachusetts Family Leave Act premiums]. The DBL Center knows how to help those companies save money by privatizing their state-mandated paid family leave plan in Massachusetts.
On your website and your LinkedIn, you describe a company’s “Kool” as the passion and unique value proposition that fuels consistent and reliable revenue growth. How will you help DBL Center communicate its “Kool?”
Mike not only has passion; he has a great value proposition. These benefits are mandated in New York, New Jersey, and now Massachusetts. And Mike has a way to save people money. Right now, businesses are looking to increase their revenue and reduce their expenses.
If we can reduce their expenses, we’re helping them. And it’s probably something they’re not going to be able to figure out on their own. We’re going to help them avoid that pain and get help from an expert who’s been doing this pretty much his whole life. It’s something with a lot of value.
I posted two teaser posts on Linked In over the last three days, and we already have 20,000 views on the two posts I made. I built up a strong LinkedIn base of c-level executives who also have a reach, so our message is going far. In two days to get 20,000 views is amazing. Because we know how important even one client can be.
It seems pretty obvious, but how will this benefit DBL Center brokers?
Mike knows his brokers are the lifeblood of his business. He asked me to figure out how we can help his brokers in this time. We hope they’re all using the Broker Dashboard they have. That’s a key.
A lot of brokers are entrepreneurial and driven, but don’t have the kind of marketing budget they want. I’m going to be available for consulting. When we can have events again, I’ll be able to invite some of the brokers to some of the things we’re doing together.
But the reality is, Mike knows how to take care of his people. And the more that’s on the table, the more there is to share.
What single tip would you have for brokers looking to reinvent their marketing strategy or approach this new market in Massachusetts?
I would advise brokers to make friends before you need anything. That’s super-important. How do we get people to know us, like us, and trust us?
There’s still some negativity associated with the insurance industry and insurance brokers. It’s almost a necessary evil to a certain extent.
So, if we know that our clients are trying to increase their revenue and eliminate their expenses, we have to be careful that we don’t look like an expense. Business owners are trying to eliminate expenses.
Sometimes, brokers go in and start talking about how this will be good for your employees. In these times, with something like 40 million people unemployed right now, just keeping your employees employed is the best some business owners can do.
If you’re a broker, you need to be talking about how you’re either increasing revenue by passing some business along to your clients and giving them referrals, or you’re reducing expenses. You better have something in your back pocket to save them money.
The approach is: “This is the business I can bring to you.” Because insurance brokers know other companies. They should be introducing their clients to one another and helping their clients make more money.
And the other thing they should be doing is making sure they’re talking in the language a CEO can understand: Either my revenue is going up, or my expenses are going down.
Thank you for all this information, Kelvin. In closing, do you have anything you’d like to add?
I would like to say that the reason I’m working with Mike Cohen is because he thinks big, he follows through on his promises, and his humility exceeds his ability.
I think he is going places, and I think any broker reading this should understand that you need to surround yourself with the right people. I challenge you to find a DBL guy better than Mike Cohen in the whole country. That’s why I’m with him and I think brokers around the country, specifically New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, should be happy to work with him as well.
Within the first few days of the coronavirus pandemic and the New York On Pause order, DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen felt the same as many of those in the insurance business did.
“When I first got news of this being a reality in New York, which is now a hot spot, I felt like I was back up against a wall,” he recalls. “I was nervous.”
He sprung to action immediately, though. He took what he learned from his decades in the statutory insurance industry and his knowledge of what technology can accomplish to create a solution to slow the onslaught of PFL claims. “I felt I had to do something to mitigate the claims,” Cohen says.
Within days of schools and businesses closing across New York State, and shortly after, through Massachusetts and New Jersey, Cohen and The DBL Center launched the COVID-19 Pre-Screening Software for PFL Claims.
A tool for insurance carriers to manage PFL claims that may not qualify, the COVID-19 pre-screening software requires employers to answer a series of questions to determine if their PFL claim is valid before requesting a claim form from the carrier. Many statutory PFL claims actually qualify for federal help under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which was enacted April 2, 2020.
The DBL Center also created a document to help show when an employee may qualify for PFL and when an employee would qualify for FFCRA aid, instead.
“Even though the changes related to PFL and FMLA [in Massachusetts] have been clearly stated, you’re still going to have some confusion at the employer level in terms of what is a valid COVID claim and what is not a valid COVID claim,” says Charles Callery, Regional VP for Lincoln Financial, one of DBL Center’s many preferred carriers. “I thought the software was perfect for that scenario.”
He added that he also sees it having long-term applications once the pandemic ends. “In general, it can help cut down on some of the administrative costs that we incur, and that others occur, taking in paper claims. I bet the industry still sees the majority of our claims in paper form, versus electronic, and this is a good first step to enter the electronic environment. It’s something the industry could use, because it pre-qualifies a lot of claims upfront.”
The Broker Dashboard Net Revenue Tracker was the first technological innovation from The DBL Center, an electronic version of the paper and pen ledger that Founder David Cohen brought to every meeting.
Designed specifically for DBL Center brokers, the Broker Dashboard helps agencies track cancellations and pending cancellations, new policies, and commissions, at a glance. A cloud-based app that gives brokers actionable insights to improve retention rates, the Broker Dashboard brings David Cohen’s paper ledger into the digital age and delivers it to the hands of every broker.
Michael Pellegrino, Lincoln Financial sales representative, reminisced about the way DBL Center tracked revenue when he first entered the industry. “I remember I’d come into your father’s office,” he tells Michael Cohen in the latest Rep Roundtable video. “He’d put down his pen and paper. He was keeping everything in order, but how time-consuming it must have been. “The fact that you took that pen and paper ledger and made that electronic is awesome!”
In addition to discussing the technology that sets The DBL Center apart, Cohen, Callery, and Pellegrino reminisce about summer get-togethers and talk about how the economy and the industry have changed in the past 20 years. Michael Cohen also reveals his secret to surviving the pandemic … all in the latest Rep Roundtable, brought to you by The DBL Center.