Scott Kirksey leads BenefitMall, one of the largest employee benefits businesses in the United States. Under his leadership, the company has aligned sales, marketing, product development, and operations.
How are you coping amid the COVID-19 crisis?
“I am very proud of how the BenefitMall team responded to the current COVID-19 crisis. The transition to get our employees out of harm’s way and working from home went very well. It required broad collaboration across all roles to find solutions to ensure we remain effective in a 100 percent work-from-home model, and it was successful. We have maintained service levels and productivity at (or higher than) pre-COVID levels.”
Did your business continuity plan work, or were there surprises?
“Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had a solid business continuity plan in place. We have activated those plans numerous times in response to localized issues (weather, system-wide internet outages, etc.) and even then, only for a relatively short period. This situation is obviously more complex. By maintaining a rigorous discipline to communication and follow-through, we were able to quickly identify roadblocks and challenges to solve them quickly. Only because we had the foundation of a solid plan that had been used and refined over multiple events, were we able to focus on the specific challenges of the crisis, knowing we had the basics covered.”
What are the short-term ramifications for your specific industry?
“The financial and economic impact of COVID-19 has been significant across the world, and BenefitMall has not been immune. We’ve spent a great deal of time consulting with carriers, brokers, and advisors to develop a picture of how our industries, markets, and client base will evolve through the summer and the rest of the year. Health coverage is a critical need, and this crisis highlights that.
“However, we primarily serve the SMB market, and even with the assistance and support provided by recently passed legislation, some of these businesses will downsize or even close. We’ve invested heavily in developing our proprietary digital technology offerings. As a result, we are better prepared to support our partners and clients during this crisis by leveraging digital tools to provide critical service and support despite the shelter-in-place environment.”
Have you found silver linings in these difficult times?
“I have been encouraged by all the ways BenefitMall employees have been working together to figure out how to effectively move forward under these trying circumstances. We recently launched an employee campaign leveraging Microsoft Yammer. Using #BeTogether, employees are using this communication channel to help us feel together, even when we are apart. From shout outs of colleagues to favorite movie quotes, and rather fancy formal Friday attire, I am so impressed and entertained by our employee spirit.
“For BenefitMall, maintaining an open and honest line of communication with employees is key during these times. There are many things about this crisis that can overwhelm an employee, or even scare them. We are creating an environment of positivity through frequent communications and outreach to all employees.”
What have you learned that may change your policies or strategies for the future?
“We are reevaluating our work from home policy. I have been pleasantly surprised by how quickly our employees adapted to the remote working conditions. Productivity has not wavered, and I am impressed with the team’s tenacity to keep projects moving even when we don’t have the benefit of collaborating face-to-face. The proficiencies we’ve all gained in using video conferences, webinars and chat has increased substantially and will carry over into the post-COVID world.”
What will things look like for your company and industry in another six months?
“Many companies in our industry are adapting their strategies and learning how to conduct business in a more digital environment. As we move into our peak selling season, BenefitMall is positioned to not only leverage technology for our own business operations, but to support our customers and partners through the use of online tools and resources.”
Do you have advice for other business leaders?
“I could not have led our company through the last few months without the guidance from my executive team and my team of advisers. The executive team is the eyes and ears of our organization, and we kept each other apprised of company morale, achievements, setbacks, and so much more. My advisors, by constantly asking ‘why?’ or ‘why not?’ have helped me maintain perspective. We are all in this together and make decisions together for the good of the company.”