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Media Room

Date: 11/02/2018

The Dialogue with Kevin Kragenbrink

This feature is a question-and-answer session with a new Blount County Chamber member. So, here we go with our 123rd installment visiting with Kevin Kragenbrink, managing member of CPS Leadership, LLC/3to99, which is a is a full service employee benefits consulting and brokerage firm.
What does CPS Leadership, LLC/3to99 do? We are a service first team focused on providing small and medium sized employers with the best service, highest caliber consulting, and most effective employee benefit solutions available. Because we focus on the small business market, we are able to provide service and benefits options often neglected or overlooked by other brokerage firms.

An ideal employee benefits plan is more than a plan, it’s a partnership. For small companies with 3 to 100 employees, finding the right partner who will give you the time and attention you deserve and work for your best interests can be very difficult At CPS Leadership/3to99, we take that approach every day as we create customized plans that are tailored to both our client companies and their employees.
How did you get started? After nearly 30 years as an entrepreneur and business coach, I had an opportunity to take all that I had learned about the needs, problems and concerns of business owners and apply it to one of the most critical areas of business need, employee benefits. I came to this business from the perspective of the business owner, not the insurance sales rep or broker. I gathered a team of the most highly qualified and experienced partners I could find to create a customer focused, service oriented business that puts the business owner and her/his employees first every time.
What is your background? I teamed up with insurance industry professionals with experience in employee benefits to create a solid team. Our Sr. Benefits Advisor, Erin Pederson, came to us with more than 17 years of benefits experience in both large and small firms. Our associate producers are highly skilled professionals who bring only those cases to our firm where we know we can make a difference for the employer and the employee. We combine extensive insurance and employee benefits experience with more than 40 years of business leadership to create a firm that understands both our industry and our client's needs.
Who is your mentor? My personal mentor is Ron Hoestery. Ron has been my coach/mentor since 1984 (it seems like only yesterday). I have consulted with Ron as my coach regularly (most years monthly at least) for over 30 years. His experience in business, his wisdom, his kindness, and his friendship have given me immeasurable value. I learned from him the value of having a coach/mentor and have been blessed to serve as mentor/coach to many others building on the things Ron taught me. His values, principles, and wisdom guide me constantly to serve my clients better.
Describe your customers. Our customers are business owners and HR leaders in small and medium sized businesses. We work with clients as small as 2 employees. Our clients represent a broad array of industries and are located throughout the eastern United States.
What environments impact your business? Employers tell me every day that among their largest concerns are the cost of benefits, the value of benefits and regulatory issues that apply to benefits. The larger the employer the more critical these become. While we don't have much influence over cost, we can help employers identify benefits strategies that provide the greatest value at the lowest cost. As for regulation, the Affordable Care Act, ERISA, and HIPPA are government regulations that impact our business every day. Helping employers and employees understand their obligations under the law and their rights is one of many ways we serve our clients.
Name three things you wish you knew when you started. This is a tough one for me. I think there is a constant learning process in business and it is always true that "you don't know what you don't know." My approach has always been to make every day a learning experience. I can say that my knowledge of the insurance industry as a whole is so much stronger now than it was 4 years ago when I launched this business. I also think I have a much deeper understanding of the issues facing business owners and HR leaders as they work to create benefits strategies and implement their plans. I also think I have learned how important employee education is to the whole benefits process. When employees don't know about or understand their benefits, the entire plan becomes ineffective.
What do you enjoy about your business? This business, more than any other I have led, offers me an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of people. I am not only able to make a positive impact on the business and its bottom line. In this business I am able to help employees understand and take full advantage of their benefits. I have helped hundreds of people obtain or improve their health insurance benefits. I have seen the result when someone receives that check from their insurance company that provides the money needed to pay bills and keep the lights on at home. This business allows me to make a real difference. That's what I love the most about it.
Any additional comments? I moved to East Tennessee in 2005 when my partner and I launched the business coaching firm, Estrada Strategies. The first Chamber of Commerce I joined was the Blount County Chamber. I benefited in countless ways from that connection. I am excited and honored to be bringing my newest venture to the chamber and look forward to meeting new people through the connection.
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