Four Lessons Learned from a Career in Texas Injury Benefits
by Bill Minick, founder of PartnerSource
Since announcing my retirement from PartnerSource at the end of March, I’ve been reflecting on what has been a wild and wonderful ride. As I enjoy memories from decades in this business and think critically about what has led me to this next chapter, I see four themes that may also help you strive to be your best:
- Specialize. Starting as a general tax lawyer in 1985, it took just two years for me to feel overwhelmed by the breadth of knowledge required. My focus narrowed to the field of employee benefit plans for the next seven years, and my dream of being a big-time tax partner faded. But I was drawn to the one thing I really liked, could wrap my head around, and knew I could do well. Challenge and change can be stressful, heart breaking and scary (even for me now). But there’s a lot of merit to starting your career in a big field, then searching for the one thing you can do better than anybody else.
- Ride the tiger. Workers’ comp insurance rates were sky high in the late 1980s, but by the late 1990s, the economy was booming and insurance companies slashed premiums by paying claims with huge returns in the stock market. This meant fewer Texas employers were looking to save money by moving away from traditional workers’ comp to an injury benefit program. But I knew injury claim outcomes (like fewer and shorter periods of disability) were more important than fluctuations in insurance market pricing. So, we stayed the course through lean times, and when the dot-com bubble burst in 2000 and the events of 9/11 caused the stock market to crash further, saving money became important again. Demand for the experience and specialized skillset of PartnerSource soared. We’ve been riding this tiger of hard and soft insurance markets for three decades now, and have endured because getting better outcomes for injured workers will always be more important than chasing economic, insurance and political cycles. The lesson is that it can take time--perhaps years--before people will recognize the good opportunity you offer and believe in.
- Let your vision mature. The consulting business of PartnerSource grew rapidly in the early 2000s by selling cost savings. Although we’ve consistently achieved high marks on employee satisfaction, that was a secondary marketing pitch. Saving money sold well in a tough economy. Eventually, our superior performance on cost and outcomes compared to Texas workers’ comp created tremendous interest among national employers to take injury benefit programs to other states, and we had some ideas on how do it. That process started with passage of the Oklahoma Option in 2013, with similar laws then proposed in many states. But in 2015, Texas and Oklahoma injury benefit programs came under a well-funded (and mostly false) attack by the media seeking federalization of workers’ comp, and by special interests in the workers’ comp industry seeking to protect their turf while diverting attention away from mounting opposition they also faced in the media and from federal regulators. In spite of the stress and head-turning drama that ultimately killed the Oklahoma Option (on a non-workplace injury claim, of all things), all of the controversy inspired significant improvements in transparency, data and operation of Texas programs (like the "Innovation Series" at www.arawc.org). And we realized that saving money would take care of itself if we focused on better business coming from caring for injured employees. That’s something socially responsible employers and injured workers alike can appreciate.
- Pursue people who are smart, hardworking and fun. I’ve worked with a lot of smart, hardworking people at several companies. But PartnerSource created a culture that allows us to have fun, too. From team bowling championships to full-blown, team-costumed chili cook-offs, PartnerSource has put a premium on building comradery among the people with whom we work every day. Look no further than a PartnerSource Employers’ Conference or one of our company’s campy spoof videos to see the kind of fun environment and personality we foster here. This is a place that cares about people, including our fellow teammates, business colleagues, clients, and injured workers.
I’ve had a blast founding and working for PartnerSource. And to those smart people out there who specialize in something they love, never give up, are willing to let their vision mature, and have fun while they work, I can’t wait to hear about what you’ve learned from a gratifying career.